When Irene Beaumont was left with lasting pain after a car accident, she began daily exercise in a heated pool, which she installed in her Nevada Street home, to relieve that pain.
In order to offset the more than $400 a month Pacific Gas and Electric Company bill to heat the pool, she wanted to install solar panels on the roof of her home, but a pair of city-owned trees have halted the project.
Beaumont first attempted to install solar panels on her home in 2005 but installers told her the sycamores in front of her home block too much sunlight. Now, she may take legal action after the Redwood City Council refused Monday to remove those sycamore trees from the street in front of her property.
"We are a family with one income," Beaumont said, adding she often turns off her heat in the winter to keep electrical costs under control.
Beaumont asked the city to remove the trees, and city investigators refused, according to a report from Public Works Superintendent Gordon Mann.She appealed that decision to the City Council on Monday night, when council members voted 4-1 to keep the trees.
"The only way that it would work for them would be to completely remove the trees, because their roof line is so low," Councilmember Jeff Ira said. "It was not acceptable to cut them down and not replace them" — and replacement trees would grow just as tall.
However, Vice Mayor Rosanne Foust voted in Beaumont’s favor, in part because the city’s 1961 tree ordinance forbids sycamore trees.
Nevada Street’s sycamores appear to have been planted more recently, according to Beaumont. In addition, current tree ordinances require "liability" trees, such as sycamores, to be removed.
"They are inconsistent policies," said Foust, explaining why she supported Beaumont’s appeal.
Redwood City officials have also chosen not to pursue alternatives, such as pruning. To keep the trees from shading Beaumont’s roof, such maintenance might need to be done annually, according to Mann, whose report did not stipulate how much that maintenance would cost the city.
Beaumont isn’t the only one who has run into trouble with Redwood City’s street trees. One of her neighbors, who did not want to be identified, was fined $1,500 after he pruned trees without city permission.
"I would like to go further," Beaumont said. "I would like to find an attorney who can put an injunction against Redwood City so that they will stop planting sycamores."