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Friends of El Cerrito Trees offers concerns and recommendations for El Cerrito Landscape Management study/plan

To: El Cerrito City Council Members, Park and Recreation Commissioners,
Scott Hanin, Monica Kortz, Dan Clark, and Jill Keimach

Cc: Marcia Vallier, Vallier Associates, The Journal, El Cerrito Wire, East Bay Express, Contra Costa Times

From: Friends of El Cerrito Trees

RE: Landscape Management Study and Plan Concerns & Recommendations

Dear City Council Members, Park & Recreation Commissioners, Scott Hanin, Dan Clark, Monica Kortz, and Jill Keimach:

The Friends of El Cerrito Trees is writing this letter to express our sincere concern and alarm about the landscape management study and plan currently being undertaken by Vallier Associates, because the study/plan is neglecting to include analysis or recommendations on the planting of trees and vegetation in El Cerrito’s parks. During a Park and Recreation Commission meeting on June 26, Ms. Marcia Vallier stated, and Monica Kortz confirmed, that the study that Vallier Associates is undertaking for El Cerrito DOES NOT AND WILL NOT INCLUDE TREE AND VEGETATION PLANTING OR REPLACEMENT. THEY STATED THAT THE PLAN IS AND WILL BE EXCLUSIVELY FOCUSED ON CUTTING DOWN AND TRIMMING the trees and vegetation with virtually no consideration of re-planting. They also stated that the City’s budget does not include any funds for planting trees, and only includes funds for removing and trimming trees and plants in El Cerrito.

We believe this neglect and oversight of tree planing is irresponsible, short-sighted, inappropriate, and against the interest of El Cerrito citizens and government. By leaving out tree and vegetation replenishment, the study and plan will be seriously flawed and will be unconstructive. This oversight will miss a great opportunity to improve our city’s landscape, beauty, health and environmental and economic value.

We urge you to TAKE ACTION NOW, as the study is being undertaken, to direct Vallier Associates to ensure that the study and the management plan fully incorporate recommendations for planting trees in El Cerrito’s public land. IT IS NOT TOO LATE: Please use this opportunity to ensure that the plan is completed properly and responsibly by including planting trees -- for the restoration and enhancement of the landscape and for the benefit of the entire city and citizens. It would be irresponsible and a waste of money if the plan is focused only on cutting/trimming and neglects this essential replenishment and enhancement part of the plan. We also urge you to allocate funds in the City budget for the planting of trees and vegetation, not merely for removal and trimming of trees.

During the meeting, Ms. Vallier also said that her original proposal and contract with the City did not include planting of trees. City staff present said they agreed. However, after the meeting, we discovered that this statement is not true. The original Vallier proposal includes plans for “landscape renovation” (Task 3, page 3), which inevitably requires tree and vegetation planting, and also identifies “replacement planting” in the list of tasks (p. 6). Therefore, if the contractors and city now say that their plan leaves out tree planting, they would transgress the agreement.

Moreover, the citizens who were originally interested in this plan feel they would be betrayed if this plan leaves out tree planting. Earlier in the year, we were satisfied when the City Council said that a study and plan would be done and was expected to comprehensively address many issues related to tree health, removal, trimming, and planting. However, our trust is eroded and undermined when we hear and see this oversight of the essential planting element in this study.

We are also concerned that the process of public comment in this study is insufficient: For example, citizens never had a chance to comment on the initial “Request for Proposals.” Moreover, the first meeting during the Park & Rec Commission about this plan, held on April 9, was surprisingly described by Vallier as a “public comment” meeting. However, the meeting was not announced to the public in any way. (A very small group of citizens found out about that meeting through an individual who had the agenda.) During that meeting, several citizens expressed concern about the apparent lack of consideration of tree planting, but that dimension still is being overlooked, so public input is apparently being given little attention. We also believe that the plan should identify not only “objectives” and “priorities,” but also the overall vision of the plan and the expected results or outcomes from the recommended actions.

Our group wants to be helpful and constructive in providing feedback in this process, and in working with the City and Consultant. For example, we are happy to provide suggestions on the Survey to be undertaken by Vallier Associates, and we were given a draft of that survey. Our comments and suggested modifications on that survey are attached (Editor's note: see below). However, our ability to be helpful is limited if a fundamental element of the study is missing.

We appreciate your immediate attention to this matter, to correct the problems and to ensure that the study/plan is modified to include a comprehensive analysis, recommended plans, and budget allocations for the planting of trees and vegetation in the City’s parks. We look forward to hearing from you.


Friends of El Cerrito Trees
http://www.ectrees.org or info@ectrees.org
Address: c/o 5930 Fern Street, El Cerrito, CA 94530
Contacts: Ann Thrupp, PhD, Director 510-965-1110
or Deborah Difruscia, Communications Manager 510-527-2402

Suggestions on survey:

Comments and Recommendations for the Draft Landscape Survey
From: Friends of El Cerrito Trees
Date: July 3, 2002

1. We believe that the survey questions should be focused mainly on landscape and vegetation issues, since the purpose of the survey is to elicit opinions on those landscape management factors. In the current draft survey prepared by Vallier Associates, many of the questions are about facilities, hours of the park and other factors that are not related to the landscape. Including questions on the non-landscape factors is not the purpose of this survey. It therefore makes sense to leave off those items, or to place them as secondary items only.

2. Please ask a question about reasons for park enjoyment, such as the following:

What are reasons for your use and enjoyment of the parks. (Check more than one if desired)
___ Play on the recreational equipment (for children)
___ Enjoy the shade of trees
___ Enjoy the birds and wildlife in the trees and park
___ Use courts or playing fields for playing games/sports
___ Having Picnics
___ Walking or jogging
___ Be in a Peaceful environment
___ Other __________________________________

3. State more explicit questions on the trees and vegetation, including the following:

a. What is your perspective on the trees in the park(s) that you visit in El Cerrito:
___ I love the trees (Please state why …. _______________________________________________
___ I like the trees (Please state why…. _______________________________________________
___ I have no opinion on the trees
___ I’ve never noticed the trees
___ I think there are too many trees (State why ….. _______________________________________
___ I don’t like certain types of trees (State which & why… _________________________________

b. What is your perspective on the maintenance of trees and vegetation:
Well maintained___ Adequately maintained ____ Poorly maintained ____ Cut too often ___
Do you have other comments on maintenance? ________________________________________________________________________________

c. What is your opinion on the condition and maintenance of turf (lawns)
Excellent ___ Good ___ Medium____ Poor ____ No opinion ____ Haven’t noticed ___

d. Please state your view on the following statements:
Strongly agree Agree Neutral Strongly disagree
Trees & vegetation help beautify parks and the city ____ ____ ____ ____
Trees and vegetation help clean the air ____ ____ ____ ____
Trees and vegetation provide homes for birds ____ ____ ____ ____
Trees and vegetation buffer noise from traffic ____ ____ ____ ____
Trees and vegetation are messy in parks ____ ____ ____ ____
Trees and vegetation cause hazards in parks ____ ____ ____ ____

e. The City currently spends about $85,000 per year for the removal and trimming of trees and vegetation in the City’s parks and other public lands, but has no funds budgeted for planting of trees in the coming year. Would you like to have some funds used for planting of trees and vegetation (as well as tree removal and maintenance)? Yes _____ No ____ Don’t care ____ If so, how much? _______________
Comments: ___________________________________________________________________

d. Do you have suggestions for improving the management of El Cerrito’s park vegetation and trees? If so, please state them:

Run dates: 2002-07-05 - 2002-07-26

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