Council grants ‘Tom’ temporary reprieve 

"Tom," a hearty eucalyptus at the heart of the city's most recent arboreal controversy, will live on, at least until May.

Residents who pleaded with the City Council for hours on Tuesday to let the tree on Easton Drive remain scored a small victory after the council decided 3-2 to let it live, at least until city staff can identify cheaper alternatives to its removal.

City Manager Jim Nantell expects the issue to come back to the council at a May meeting.

The Tasmanian blue gum tree, located at the corner of Easton Drive and Cabrillo Avenue, has polarized the community and even the council.

Some say the tree’s roots, which have extended far into a lane of traffic, present a safety problem for drivers and can cause significant damage to sewer and storm drains. Others say Burlingame would be sliding down a slippery slope by allowing a healthy heritage tree to be removed.

City staff members, who Nantell said have spent hundreds of hours on this issue, will examine options such as removing asphalt around the tree roots, X-raying the tree to determine where its strongest points are and posting signs to alert drivers of the bump in the road.

Assistant Public Works Director Syed Murtuza presented several other options, including leaving the tree as is, at the Tuesday meeting. Nantell said those ideas are still on the table.

In conjunction with the work on possible removal, staff is also looking into determining whether any changes should be made to the newly adopted Easton Drive reforestation plan. Residents at the meeting said that the plan, which serves as a guideline for replanting towering trees that approach the end of their lives, was not specific enough.

Sometime in February, the council will also determine whether detailed evaluations of individual trees should be included in the reforestation plan, Nantell said.

E-mail Tara Ramroop at

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