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City Had to Remove A Heritage Tree on West Las Positas That Was Breaking Down Sound Wall

"Since the wall is on public property and there were no maintenance agreements created when the wall was built assigning responsibility, the city owns the wall."

It was early in 2011, I noticed the sound wall along West Las Positas Blvd., between Muirwood Drive and Foothill Road, was leaning out into the sidewalk area — that it was being pushed out by a giant Eucalyptus tree growing out against it from the other side of the sound wall.

I had been walking and jogging through this area quite often and each time I went by, the sound wall seemed to be leaning further into the sidewalk area with a greater angle.

The first week of July 2011, knowing that this was a "Heritage Tree," I brought the matter of this Eucalyptus tree pushing down the sound wall to the attention of Michael Fulford, the City's Landscape Architect, in charge of the Heritage Tree Program, and his assistant.

They drove out to assess the situation. They later gave me a follow-up phone call to inform me that they had written a work order to the operations center to correct the situation.

I spoke with the operations center about mid-August 2011. They could not locate a work order in their system. Somehow that work order fell through the cracks. They promised to look into it further and give me a call back. Well, they did not.

I contacted Michael Fulford again November 15, 2011 with an email regarding this sound wall. I explained, this wall was leaning very precariously out into the sidewalk area.

I was concerned about it because I had observed a young mother pushing her small child in a carriage along the sidewalk in front of where this sound wall was leaning into it.

Another six weeks or so later in early January 2012, I started taking photos of the giant Eucalyptus tree pushing the sound wall out into the sidewalk. I continued to take photos regularly over several months.

Then suddenly, in April 2012, there was activity around the sound wall and the giant Eucalyptus tree. They were getting ready to take the sound wall down.

It took several days to knock the wall down. It took about a week to get the tree cut down. it was huge. Now the last week of April 2012, they are putting up a new sound wall.

I continued taking photos as they took the wall down and cut the tree down and continuing as they put up a new wall. Many of the photos taken over a period of several months are posted along with this blog.

Before the city could take any action on this problem, it was necessary that they determined ownership and responsibility. According to City Engineer, Steve Kirkpatrick, it took some time for city staff to research and determine ownership and responsibility for this wall as it relates to the tree.

This involved reviewing construction drawings, reviewing multiple development agreements, researching old aerial photographs, reviewing land surveys, etc.

Once they learned the particular history of this wall and the tree at issue, they then planned a course of action, determined how to pay for this unbudgeted work, got approval to remove the "Heritage Tree," and obtained permission from the adjacent property owners to enter their property to allow the work. 

They then scheduled the tree removal over the spring break period in order to be minimally disruptive as possible. All the time they continued to monitor the condition of the wall and had previously closed off the sidewalk to pedestrian traffic.

According to city records, the wall was built in 1985. It was built adjacent to the already developed housing tract to the north, and within the public right-of-way which contains West Las Positas Blvd., and associated improvements.

It was paid for with North Pleasanton Improvement District (NPID) funds associated with the development of the Hacienda Business Park.

It was built to mitigate noise impacts associated with increased traffic from the then planned freeway ramps to be built at West Las Positas Blvd. and I-580.

Since the wall is on public property and there were no maintenance agreements created when the wall was built assigning responsibility, the city owns the wall.

The total cost to remove and replace the wall was $16,470. The cost to remove the tree was approximately $3,600.

I asked where the funds to pay for this project were acquired from?

Also, I asked if future funding would be sought after to replace other sections of this wall that are currently under duress with "Heritage Tree" growing out against them.

As this blog went to my editor, the two questions had not been answered. If we get the answers, we will post those in the comments section underneath this entry.

Note from the editor: According to the city, in 2011, maintenance crews responded to more than 6,600 calls for service to repair and maintain streets, sidewalks, sewer lines, water lines, city vehicles, city facilities, street lights and signs, and parks (of which there are 42). This is with a staff of about 75, plus some contract services.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Californicus May 01, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Was the tree on the public property? Even so, wouldn't whatever is on their side of the wall constitute adverse possession?
Michael Austin May 01, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Good morning Californicus The City Engineer explained that their research showed the tree to be on public property including public easement aslo the location of tree. Also the action was uncontested, and in fact property owner granted permission to enter the property for the purpose of removing the tree and replacing the wall.
timothy May 02, 2012 at 10:57 PM
People are worried about the already over-populating turkey vultures? They should be controlled and hunted if their population is too high (such as NOW). Also, eucalyptus trees are Heritage trees? Who wrote that into law? Pot smokers? Those trees are not natural to this area and cause nothing but problems. Who is making these stupid decisions?
Michael Austin May 02, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Hi Timothy, Turkey Vulture is a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. "In Recent Years" the Turkey Vulture population has increased by 1.79%. Any tree within the City limits of Pleasanton that measures 55 inches in circumverence at a point 4.5 feet from the ground and is at least 35 feet high or higher is a Heritage tree.
timothy May 03, 2012 at 04:51 AM
But that is still rediculous, those birds are everywhere pooping everywhere along with the geese. 1918? It is outdated from my perspective. So is the Heritage law. But that's drugged-out California politics in action, sorry, inaction.

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