Fees, fines urged to guard trees 

A city task force is recommending increases in a number of tree-related fees, including some parking fines, in order to pay for an expanded maintenance program for local trees and sidewalks.

The 25-member tree task force was formed last March in response to ongoing concerns about the city’s maintenance program, especially the severe pruning of tree roots to make room for new sidewalk panels that subsequently caused several trees to topple over.

The group delivered its findings and recommendations to the City Council in December, earning plenty of kudos and some skepticism about how certain recommendations would fly with residents. "We would like to increase the penalties for tree removal by repeat offenders," task force member Isila Oliver said. Current penalties include a $500 fine and replacement of the tree, no matter how many times a person damages trees.

On behalf of the task force, Oliver also recommended that the city enforce traffic laws that forbid people from parking on curbs. Many of Redwood City’s curbs include planting strips with bushes or trees that are damaged by cars, she said.

Some City Council members resisted the suggestion.

"Some of our streets are just too narrow," Councilman Jeff Ira said. "You’d be giving residents a double punishment if you fined them." "

The city could also begin charging a fee each time a resident wants a permit to prune trees on private property, the task force recommended. Then Redwood City could use the money to maintain its public trees and replace city sidewalks on a 20-year cycle, rather than the current 30-year cycle, Oliver said.

Locals should not be fined for removing trees that are causing property damage, resident Susan Swope said.

"A lot of problems are caused by people planting the wrong trees in the wrong places," such as next to a house’s foundation, Swope said. "I don’t think property owners should be penalized for removing trees that shouldn’t be put there in the first place."

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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Beth Winegarner

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Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016

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