37 red maple trees planted along Solano Avenue

A recently-planted red maple on Solano Avenue. Eventually, more than 40 will line the blocks from The Alameda to Ensenada.

Laurie Capitelli showed up at Peet’s Coffee on Solano Avenue at 7:30 a.m. on Friday to wait for some trees – 37 of them in fact.

After two years of bureaucratic wrangling involving numerous agencies, including the city of Berkeley Forestry and Public Works departments, Caltrans, Alameda County Transportation Department, the Solano Avenue Business Improvement District, and some utility companies, Councilman Capitelli was itching to see a set of red maple trees be planted along Solano Avenue. His hopes were realized around 9:30 a.m. when a city of Berkeley truck drove up with a set of trees ready to go into the ground.

When the 37 trees are planted, they will join four others on a stretch from The Alameda to Ensenada, eventually forming a 30-40 foot high string of green along the street.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Robin Dalrymple, the owner of iScream ice cream parlor on Solano. “It will add some ambiance to the street, especially as they grow. They will make the street more pedestrian oriented. The street is moving along.”

A Berkeley worker cuts into a sidewalk on Solano to make room for a new red maple tree. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Berkeley public works officials had blocked off the parking spots on the north side of Solano Avenue by 8:00 a.m. and were using a machine with a spinning disk to slice into the sidewalk. Around 9:30 a.m., a city of Berkeley truck towing a trailer with nine trees arrived. They will be planted on Friday, with more to come in the coming weeks.

Caltrans paid the $55,000 cost for the trees, part of a mitigation payment to Berkeley for widening a highway, according to Capitelli. Merchants in the Solano Avenue Business Improvement District are paying about $250 each for irrigation.

The trees are the latest in a beautification and improvement process that began a few years ago, Capitelli said. Zoning regulations were redone to allow businesses to open more quickly. Bulb-outs, paid for by Alameda County’s Safe Route for Transit program, were added to provide sidewalk seating and other amenities. A bike shelter will be installed soon at Solano and Colusa.

Busted! (Drilling for the maple trees) by Ira Serkes

Trees and seating focus for Solano Avenue improvements [08.16.12]

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  • guest

    Why does no one think of planting Bay Area native trees here? Trees support a whole biosystem, which fails with non-native plantings.

  • The Sharkey

    Well, a lot of native trees don’t do so well when used for sidewalk planting.
    Many of them tend to be slow-growing, or have strong, invasive root systems that tear up sidewalks.

  • anonymous

    Planting rows of identical trees risks epidemics like Dutch elm disease, sudden oak death and many others.  This Capitelli sounds like a swell guy, though, maybe he should run for office sometime since he’s getting such great write-ups in your paper.  Is there an election coming up?

  • Isabelle Gaston

    It’s Friday before Election Day, and you do a puff piece on one of the candidates in the most hotly contested council race in the city?  Berkeleyside, you should be embarrassed…..

  • Anns

    That’s great. I love the new trees. I think it’s nice when trees of the same species are planted along a block or in a neighborhood, such as the Camphor trees that line Colusa. It helps to create sense of place and identity. Thank you.

  • The Sharkey

    The trees were planted today, so they’re reporting on it today.

    Considering that it’s taken two years of bureaucratic gobbledygook for this to finally happen, I don’t think this is an election-related stunt.

    If anyone should be embarrassed it’s you, for not reading the story and for making baseless accusations about one of the best media outlets in this city.

  • animalcracker

    Like what for instance, Coyote Bush and Manzanita?  Coastal Live Oak wouldn’t do so well on the sidewalk.

    Please note, the City DOES plant natives where it’s appropriate.  On the University Ave median for example you will find Ceanothus ‘Concha’ and Quercus agrifolia .. 

  • animalcracker

    When the tree-planting program was launched some of the species were not as disease tolerant as the ones they use today.  For instance, the red plum .. I had one in front my house rot and fall over.  I think the swapped that one our for a different hybrid. 

    37 trees on Solano doesn’t sound like large-scale monoculture to me however, so I think your risk is rather minimal.

  • animalcracker

    That said, the abundant, mature Sycamores on my street are a major pain in the ass.  They all have anthracnose and drop their leaves in the spring along with irritating fuzz. 

  • Jude

    Does anyone know where the highway will be widened in Berkeley?

  • another BUSD parent

    Kudos to everyone involved-it looks great!

  •  I believe the city was trying to plant trees whose canopy would grow higher than the stores’ outdoor signs, so as not to block them. The bottom of the maples’ canopies will be about ten feet high.

  •  It was payment for widening done in the past. I am not sure which highway, but it is not for any future work, I believe.

  • Julie Holcomb

    A great day for Solano Avenue and for Solano neighbors! I’m going to walk over today to see the trees and buy a book at Pegasus and burnt caramel ice cream from iScream (the best!). Maybe I will pick up a DVD at Five Star Video.

    Isabelle, I understand that this news is inconvenient for your candidate, who would like to paint her opponent as a “do nothing” Council member who is “unresponsive to the community,” but as you are President of NEBA, which is well known for its opposition to tax and bond measures and its desire to curtail government spending, I would think you would be as thrilled as any of us that this tree planting is happening without expenditure of City funds. Your candidate says she wants to “transform Solano into a vibrant Main Street for North Berkeley.” That’s already happening – you should celebrate it, and so should she. Under Laurie Capitelli’s leadership, thousands of people have contributed to this effort over several years, including: the 1500 people who took the time to participate in the survey; Council Member Capitelli’s staff and interns who evaluated the results and worked with him to craft a plan to implement the community’s vision; residents who attend ongoing planning meetings; and Solano business owners who, through their Business Improvement District (reconstituted under Laurie’s leadership) participated in the planning and are paying to have the trees irrigated for the first three dry seasons (after that they will be self-sufficient). And because of Laurie Capitelli’s work, there’s a new member of the BID, because it took Five Star Video only 2 days to get their permit to move in and do business, as opposed to the months that it would have taken previously! This is all good for everybody, and everybody should applaud it, just as Chris Christie applauded Obama’s vigorous and effective response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

    This article shows why we need to support Berkeleyside. We want and need this kind of attention to local events. The planting of trees on Solano is a big deal for North Berkeley. Isabelle Gaston should be embarrassed for chastising Berkeleyside for covering it. It’s silly to think they shouldn’t have covered it out of consideration for the aspirations of her candidate. The trees were planted on Solano on Friday! Yay!

  • Mbfarrel

     Probably I 80, done what, 12 years ago? I guess this is what is left of the “Living Soundwall.” LOL!

  • Zelda Bronstein

    Speaking of inconvenient news for a candidate, last Tuesday the city’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission received a well-documented letter from former Mayor Shirley Dean stating that Laurie Capitelli had violated California law by having a uniformed police officer appear in one of his campaign mailers.

    An account of Dean’s charge appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet:


    Berkeleyside has yet to cover this story. At the very least, in the interest of “balance,” the headline on Berkeleyside’s Friday piece about the District 5 incumbent could have read “Capitelli Plants Trees on Solano, Ignores Charge that He Violated State Campaign Law.”

  • Zelda Bronstein

    Forgot to mention that the reason Capitelli put out that legally dubious mailer with the photo of him and the police officer (presumably his son, though not a member of the Berkeley Police Department) is that, as he stated in the mailer, Berkeley Police Officers Association and the Berkeley Firefighters Association are both supporting Sophie Hahn.

  • Julie Holcomb

    Zelda, it is not actually a violation of California law to have a
    uniformed California Police officer appear on one’s campaign materials. The law, as
    quoted by the Daily Planet, states that “No officer or employee of a
    local agency shall participate in political activities of any kind while
    in uniform.” If there is an infraction, it cannot be construed to have
    been on the part of Laurie Capitelli or his campaign, but would rather
    have to have been on the part of Matt, Laurie’s son, whose appearance in uniform on the
    mailer only illustrates the factual statement that Laurie is
    the father of a police officer and paramedic. The example that Shirley
    Dean cites in her complaint demonstrates the point: it references a
    sheriff who “admitted that he broke state law by ‘making a political
    endorsement while in uniform.’” In any case, the law in question is not
    election law per se, and would not come under the jurisdiction of the
    FCPC anyway. It would be up to the jurisdiction in which Matt serves to
    discipline him if they feel his corroboration of his father’s paternity
    constitutes political activity.

    Shirley Dean alleges that
    picturing a uniformed police officer on the mailer is “misleading.” In
    what regard? It simply is not possible to make the case that the
    campaign piece intends to mislead Berkeley voters into thinking that
    Berkeley police officers have endorsed Laurie Capitelli, as there is a
    large headline on the mailer that states: “In the past, Berkeley police
    and firefighters endorsed me. This year they did not. Why?”

    Anyone can file a complaint. That does not mean
    that their filing has any merit. This one has none. It is obviously only
    a political tactic. Coverage by the Daily Planet does not make it news.

    the other hand, Sophie Hahn’s distribution of garden plants to voters
    along with her campaign materials is indisputably a violation of both
    State and Federal Campaign law. This is widely known and also has not
    been covered as a story by Berkeleyside. Nor by the Daily Planet.

    police officers just finished difficult negotiations in which they
    made concessions, as everyone (including residents) must. The
    firefighters are up next. There is no other issue regarding police or
    firefighters before the community at this time. The voters can come to
    their own conclusions as to what is up with their endorsement of Sophie
    Hahn and the very energetic activities of the Firefighters Association
    PAC on her behalf.

  • Berkeley Resident

     1. That issue (Capitelli mailer) has been covered ad infinitum.  No need for more press on that issue.

    2.  If you think it needs more press, Op Ed is an option.

    3.  By using the headline you suggest, the Berkeleyside article would drag the trees into the melee. And trees are special and don’t handle politics well.

    4.  The article was, for me, a breath of fresh air and since Berkeleyside is not a political blog like The Planet, but is a hyperlocal news source, trees was news.

  • Isabelle Gaston

    Hi Julie,

    You are correct, NEBA is very concerned about the overall financial health of our city. With 1.2 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities, this why we support Measure V, the FACTS initiative.  NEBA does not endorse candidates; however, I have personally endorsed Ms. Hahn because I believe she has a far better handle on the fiscal challenges than Mr. Capitelli.  I also personally support Ms. McCormick for Mayor because of her stance on getting Berkeley back on track in terms of fiscal accountability.  The Oakland Tribune and the Daily Cal, hardly conservative organizations, have also recently endorsed Hahn and McCormick.

    However, you are incorrect in saying the planting of the trees occurred without city funds unless the city worker in the photo above is working pro bono (somehow I doubt that), Capitelli’s staff, and all the city agencies working on this project over the last 2 years were as well.  

    Don’t get me wrong Julie, I love trees but that’s not the issue I was trying to raise.  Sorry you have to be so unfriendly in your comments.  Maybe after the election we can have tea (I’ll treat) :)

    Many thanks, 

  • Julie Holcomb

    Isabelle, you’re right that the City worker is not working pro bono,. He’s not, but the City will be reimbursed from the grants for all expenditures, including the hours spent by the person pictured. I don’t think anyone would suggest that a Council member’s staff expenses should be reimbursed for such efforts, though. Advocating for and implementing community improvements are part of what we pay them to do. And Laurie’s staff does it very well.

    I don’t see what you find to be so unfriendly about my suggestion that you celebrate what is an accomplishment for all of us, instead of saying that the article was a “puff piece” and that Berkeleyside “should be embarrassed” for running it. That is the only issue you raised.

  • EBGuy

    Nice to see LC at least trying. My current thinking on Upper Solano is that it does not have enough density or renters to thrive and support all the storefronts.  

  • hilldah

    Complain, complain.  Some people are never satisfied.

  • hilldah

    Those few that bother reading the Daily Planet, can rejoice.  Get over it Zelda and try to say something good about a good person even if that person is not your desired candidate.  What is it like to live in negativity all the time?

  • hilldah


  • hilldah

    More blather.  Your candidate would like to spend more money and that is why the Fire Dept. is backing her.  

  • Charles_Siegel

     Hildah raises an important point.  If Sophie Hahn is so fiscally responsible, why has the fire department endorsed her? 

  • serkes

    Well said, The Sharkey (El Grande Sharkowski?)

    I’ve learned that some people aren’t happy unless they’re not happy


  • serkes

    Some people aren’t happy unless they’re not happy


  • The Sharkey

    Does it bother you at all that Sophie Hahn is a hypocrite when it comes to her statements about supporting local business? Does it bother you that Sophie Hahn uses innuendo to try to make it seem like Capitelli is anti-abortion?

    I notice you didn’t make a comment on the article where Berkeleyside reported  that Sophie Hahn spent 99.9% of her campaign money outside
    of Berkeley.


  • The Sharkey

    Anyone can file a complaint. That does not mean that their filing has any merit. This one has none. It is obviously only a political tactic. Coverage by the Daily Planet does not make it news.

    Zelda is very familiar with that tactic.


  • Mbfarrel

     Ceanothus is great if short lived, but Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak) is problematic for University. As they mature they spread and develop their characteristic broad heavy limbed form. Not great in a narrow median on a street with lots of traffic, especially trucks.
    In about 15 years there will be much hue and cry to “Save the University Avenue Oaks”
    The City has shot itself in the foot with this choice.

  • anon

    What? Fire Dept = fiscally irresponsible?
    If there’s anything we need public $$ spent on, it’s firefighting.

  • Charles_Siegel

     think pension reform.

  • EBGuy

     NYC firefighters start at less than $50k.  City of Berkeley firefighters have a starting salary of $80k.  Wait, let me guess, your solution is to fill another pool with dirt.

  • Completely_Serious


    It’s not unusual for people in Berkeley to disagree.  A common complaint during election season is the theft and vandalism of lawn signs supportING a candidate or cause or proposition.  But the stifling of dissent has taken a new low, or should we say, height.  Last night, every single newly-planted elm tree was uprooted.  Some were chopped up, some were found in dumpsters this morning, and some stuffed down sewer drains. 

    Fans of the elm trees immediately blamed supports of oaks, spruce, birch and even the invasive eucalyptus.  “We all know in Berkeley that one position will do anything it can to stifle any other side that disagrees.  We’ve seen elms pulled up all over town, even in public space where they are allowed to grow,” said a Solano business owner who wished to remain anonmymous out of fear her business would be vandalized.  “It’s a real shame that some people opposed to elm trees would do this.  We were looking forward for a place for the Measure S kids to have something to lean against.”

    Berkeley Police Department had no clues, but noted that in other parts of the city, oaks, spruce and even acacia have been uprooted, while elms remain untouched.

    “Elms have no place in this city.  We came here in the 60s for a city full of oak, redwood and eucalyptus.  Now, landlords and conservatives are trying to plant elms everywhere.  We won’t stand for it,” said one old hippie with a grey ponytail, driving a 1969 BMW 2002 that he bought new with trust fund money just after he moved to Berkeley upon his graduation from Brown.  “If people can’t respect the legacy of Berkeley as anti-elm, we’ll just have to shout them down.”  The old hippie drove away in a cloud of blue smoke belching from the car.  The “No on T” sticker was just visible through the haze.  Police noted that the four digit personalized license plate may be the old hippie’s co-op number, but weren’t sure.

    Berkeley Police Department also noted that every tree-planting season, similar acts of vandalism occur.

  • Chris

    I do love the Canothus and Quercus in the medians, but I’m curious – why did they plant those tall street trees on University sidewalks that drop sap everywhere and look like they are covered in sooty mold for most of the summer?

    Was it a poor planting choice or just poor maintenance of sick trees?

    Thanks for any info!