Redwood City’s focus on trees starts to take root 

Keeping the city’s streets lined with trees is a tall order, and with the lack of resources for continuous planting, the city is branching out with new ideas.

Redwood City, named for the redwoods that once thrived in the city, has roughly 5,000 sites — mostly along curbs — where trees could be planted. But time and resources may mean it will be 20 years before all those empty curbs are forested, Public Works Superintendent Gordon Mann said.

In many cases, planting strips will need to be widened before trees can beput in place — a time-consuming and expensive proposition. Redwood City sets aside $90,000 per year for its urban forest of 18,000 street trees; $10,000 is used to plant new trees, while the remainder goes toward watering existing timber, Mann said.

"Tree-lined streets add to the aesthetic value of the city," said Derby Davidson, a member of the ad hoc tree task force that recently produced new recommendations for the city’s trees, including a recommended-tree list. "Some neighborhoods are just fine, but in others it would be nice if they had more greenery to soften the look."

Trees are planted by City Trees volunteers and maintained by public works staff and volunteers, Mann said. Redwood City also spends $1 million per year on sidewalk replacement, which pays for some tree maintenance and root pruning.

When City Trees plants new trees, as it will do on Fulton Street in April and Maryland Street in May, it will be following the new recommended-tree list adopted by the City Council on Feb. 26. The list, developed by the task force, aims to recommend trees that grow well in Northern California without damaging sidewalks, curbs and streets.

The task force also recommended creating a dedicated tree commission — a board Redwood City plans to establish this year, Mann said. The appointed body would hear complaints and update tree policies as needed, according to Mann.

City Trees, founded six years ago, holds tree-planting sessions six or seven times a year that draw 30 to 40 volunteers, according to co-founder Jane Taylor.

The group has worked tirelessly to fill gaps in the urban forest, and many keep coming back because the work is so satisfying. Volunteers with City Trees have been working since 2000 and have reduced those vacancies from 7,500 to the current 5,000.

"There’s something to show for your hard work, and it’s a living thing that you’re nurturing," Taylor said.

However, not everyone in Redwood City seems to love trees. Some residents have removed public trees — even though it is illegal to do so — because they can be seen as sappy, leaf-dropping, allergy-provoking nuisances, according to Davidson.

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Beth Winegarner

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