Redwood City residents rallying to save 350-year-old tree near Woodside Plaza

A developer is proposing to remove this 350-year-old oak tree at 1266 Connecticut Drive in Redwood City. Photo is from a petition being circulated to save the tree.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

Redwood City residents are trying to save a 350-year-old oak tree in the Woodside Plaza neighborhood, submitting a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the city council yesterday.

The local development company, Thomas James Homes, is planning to build a home at 1266 Connecticut Drive, which has an oak tree that passers-by and residents have been admiring since before there was a Redwood City.

“That tree was there when our neighborhood was rolling grass hills and Native Americans were foraging the area for food. Thomas James sent us a drawing of the house they’re going to build there and the trees are gone. I’ve stood in my yard and looked mesmerized at that tree for 26 years,” next-door neighbor Matt Soderer posted on social media on Sunday.

Johanna Rasmussen, a family friend of Soderer, saw his post and decided to make a petition she sent the City Council.

“I can’t imagine that in any community on the Peninsula people would say ‘fine, cut that tree down,” Rasmussen said.

The tree is healthy, according to a post that Rasmussen quoted on her petition from someone who used to live at the house.

Thomas James Homes submitted a proposal to the city on Thursday, according to the city’s online planning permit tracker. The application is still under review. Messages left for Thomas James Homes at its Redwood City office were not returned.

Some residents say Thomas James Homes has been taking advantage of Redwood City’s lack of design guidelines that prevent “tear-downs” — when a developer buys a home, tears it down and then rebuilds it so it covers more of the lot, and sells it for double the purchasing price as a result. Burlingame and San Carlos have guidelines to protect neighborhoods from teardowns.

Thomas James Homes has done or has applied to do such tear-downs at 15 locations around Redwood City, according to resident Kris Johnson, who keeps an eye on development issues.

Before the tree is cut down, it must be looked at by an arborist or someone sent out by the city, according to the city’s code relating to trees.

It may be possible for the city to establish that tree as a heritage tree, as under the 1972 ordinance, the city’s parks and recreation commission must declare a tree to be a heritage tree if it fits one of three conditions:

• Has a historical significance,
• Is indigenous to the area, or
• It is one of a group of trees that are dependent on each other for survival.

Residents who have signed Rasmussen’s petition shared memories about the tree and opined on the idea of chopping the tree in general.

“I’ve spent many a summer Sunday afternoon under this tree as we built community by exchanging produce under it. I’m sure the tree could tell many other stories. Trees, and especially mature trees, are critical as oxygen sinks. Cutting this down is part of destroying our community,” wrote Claire Felong.

“Thomas James Homes is a disease,” wrote Clifton Smoot.

“We should preserve these ancient trees. A house remodel can be adapted to fit with the tree. But a tree cut down is simply gone!” wrote Sara Ajayi-Dopemu.

“This a heritage tree. If a resident of the home tried to have a healthy heritage tree removed, it would never be allowed. Somehow, developers seem to think they don’t have to abide by the rules,” wrote Dan Ponti.

13 Comments

  1. I am saddened to see this story, which was about a community that came together to gather over 1K signatures in 48 hours, to help Matt preserve the tree became an anti-development piece. Especially after making it clear that the folks involved with this were simply in it to help Matt, with no other agendas. It is my privilege to help Matt, and I thank every one of the 1190 people who have signed the petition.

  2. Wow, that is a beautiful tree. Gorgeous picture. I hope that Redwood City finds a way to save this tree. Hard to see how a new mansion is better than that beautiful tree and its 350 year old heritage. With that said, RWC could still choose to follow the quick money with this developer they work closely with to reshape traditional homes into lot-covering mansions with greater square footage and higher assessments. What RWC may not realize is that trees like these actually create more long term economic value than a 2020 mansion would because these trees increase the value of all the homes nearby.

  3. Where is the link to the petition?!? I love this tree. The home was just on the market and snapped up in short order like most in this area. My wife and I even considered selling our home and buying this one mostly because of that tree! Please, no!

    • Are you being ironic? Or just representing the developer’s viewpoint? How about a City Council that creates actual policies that preserve heritage trees AND keeps developers like Thomas James Homes essentially building zero-lot-line “mcmansions” that exacerbate an already chronic housing problem?

  4. We really must save tgese historically important trees! In 1972, my husband and I bought a home on Howard Ave. San Carlos. Our oak was 15.5 feet circumference. It had survived a house being built on the lot, but a major limb was removed. Despite my preservation efforts, the tree eventually was so dangerous that it had to be removed. We took our kids out of town that week so that we wouldn’t have to witness its demise. Please protect this RC tree and ensure that anything built on the property gives it room to thrive and inspire future Peninsulans.

  5. We will not permit a money driven home building company to destroy such emblematic tree,United we will stop such atrocitie,and send a strong,message to corporations we as residents of redwood city will fight till the end to preserve one of many natures biggest miracles(trees

    • I was shocked after seeing they cut down all the old trees in the Woodside plaza parking lot on the Luckys side.. growing there long before when I first rode my bike to Swensons Ice cream and the toy store in 1971
      …was wondering how the hell the area residents let that happen..

  6. I would love to sign the petition, can we make it a historical monument, please we must save this tree 350 years old come on

  7. Heartwarming story, I hope the petition prevails. Heads up,city of mountain view has allowed 100s of heritage trees to be cut down by developers by charging an extra fee to do so.
    Walking around my MV area and reading posted building notes from the city, I’ve seen such numbers. So beware, Redwood City, that something like this doesn’t become part of the okay plan for developments in your fair city. Absolutely Disgusting IMHO.

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