City will replace 70-foot destroyed redwood with oak tree

A mature Cork Oak Photo: Wikipedia

A mature Cork Oak of the type that the West Branch Library is expected to plant in lieu of a removed redwood. Photo: Wikipedia

Two months after a contractor irreparably damaged the root system of a towering redwood tree that was slated to be the centerpiece of the garden at the West Branch library, the trustees of the Berkeley Public Library Board are on the verge of selecting another species to take its place.

The BOLT Board is expected on Wednesday night to select a Cork Oak tree to be the “signature” tree in the garden of the West Branch Library at 1125 University Avenue, currently being rebuilt. The Cork Oak , a native of Portugal, can grow about 40 feet high and 40 feet wide, according to John N. Roberts, a landscape architect working with Harley Ellis Devereaux, the architects on the branch reconstruction project.

“It has this incredibly interesting bark from which cork is made,” said Roberts. “It’s sculptural and very deeply textured. It will make it a particularly interesting tree to look at.”

A close up of the bark of a Cork Oak. Photo: Wikipedia

The bark of a Cork Oak. Photo: Wikipedia

BOLT asked Roberts to select a new tree for the garden after West Bay Builders so damaged the root system of the 70-foot tall redwood in October that it had to be taken down. The contract with West Bay Builders required the company to take precautions to preserve the root structure of the redwood during construction of the new library building, but those measures were not followed, according to a letter Donna Corbeil, the director of library services. The contractor damaged the roots while excavating around the tree, jeopardizing the stability of the tree.

Neighbors were upset about the damage to the tree, particularly since the landscape design required the removal of a small clump of redwoods that had stood behind the old West Branch Library for years. Suddenly, a shaded green area was gone, replaced by a clear view to the street and more traffic noise.

Roberts said the city had to remove the clump of redwoods because they were growing too close together and were not thriving. They were also in the way of the new building.


The redwood tree that used to be at the West Branch Library

But city officials had planned to preserve the signature redwood tree. Now that it is gone, they hope to put in a tree that will do better on the site.

Roberts was informed Berkeley did not want to put a native Coast Oak on the site, he said. Corbeil said the city does not have a formal policy against planting native oaks, but noted they are a protected species that requires permission to move. So he selected the Cork Oak, which is similar to a Coast Oak. It is drought tolerant, does not require much water and will thrive in this climate.

Roberts has been looking around for a mature Cork Oak and may have found one in a nursery in Mountain View, he said. It’s about 30-feet tall and costs about $22,000. The city would probably wait until the construction of the West Branch Library is further along before installing the tree, he said. The library is scheduled to be completed in mid to late 2013.

The city plans to ask West Bay Builders to pay for purchase and installation of a new tree, said Corbeil. The company already paid to take down the redwood tree.

A number of Berkeleyside readers suggested that Berkeley sell the wood of the redwood tree to bring in money. That wasn’t practical, said Corbeil. While redwood wood is valuable, its not economical to bring just one tree to a mill, she said.

The library did save some wood from the redwood and will incorporate it somehow into the new building, she said.

Contractor mistake damages lone redwood tree at library [10.11.12]

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  • bgal4

    Specular oak!

  • Apthorp

    This may qualify as the saddest thought of the year…”clump of redwoods…in the way of the new building.” Of course, they had to go. Great design, great execution, dead redwoods. That’s the futility of man’s efforts in a nutshell.

  • Tizzielish

    I wish this story told us whether the contractor that negligently disregarded his contractually agreed duty to excavate in a way that would protect the old redwood’s root system will pay damages, hopefully significant damages. That contractor should have to pay all the costs associated with the new tree, the landscape architect’s time, staff time to find the new tree, staff time to prepare the decision for the library board, staff time to install the new tree. The contractor should have to pay for added time to construction planning, any added architect fees to cope with the damage the contractor did. And then, after making sure the contractor paid absolutely every cent of damage he caused, he should have to pay punitive damages for his gross negligence and derelection of his duty in the contract.

    Can a reporter find out how much the contractor is paying for their negligence and failure to perform according to the contract?

    The contractor should be held accountable for the damage, including punitive damage. I have read that this contractor has pulled similar stunts before: they bid low to get the job and then they excavate cheaply, destroying existing landscaping. This contractor should never, ever, get another Berkeley public contract either.

    Hold people accountable for acts of negligence against the commons.

  • joshua a

    Cork Oaks are beautiful trees and will have good scenic and wildlife value, but I am curious about the decision not to go with a native oak. Was it because the tree is protected and the city thinks it will be a headache to remove later if they need to? Or were there other reasons? If it was to avoid complications because of the heritage tree ordinance, it would be a kind of sad and ironic twist to the Berkeley law.

  • Bruce_Mc

    “The contractor should have to pay … and pay … and pay”

    .. or they could plant a few small redwoods. Redwood trees grow fast.

  • The Sharkey

    I agree. I care less about what kind of tree is used as a replacement and more about holding the contractor accountable for killing an irreplaceable tree that was older than any of us can ever hope to be.

  • The Sharkey

    Not fast enough that it would reach that size before probably all of us posting here are dead.

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

    The BOLT board intends to make sure the contractor pays for the added costs associated with taking down the old tree, finding a replacement, and installing it, according to the library director. The entire bill has not yet been determined and probably won’t be for a while, according to Corbeil. No one anticipates there will be any significant delay because of this.

    The contractor already paid for taking down the redwood tree, said Corbeil. I stated in the article and the previous one that the contractor neglected to take the steps necessary to protect the roots of the redwood tree.

  • The Sharkey

    From the way the article is written, it sounds like you are correct and the City is purposefully not using a native tree because of the heritage tree ordinance! Sadly ironic indeed.

  • Bruce_Mc

    It’s true, planting Redwoods is not something that is done for instant gratification. It’s a moot point anyway; apparently replacing a redwood with redwoods is not under consideration.

    If replacing the redwood is not considered appropriate, I wonder if those running this project were less than enthusiastic about keeping it in the first place. I doubt if the words, “make it look like an accident” were ever spoken, but I wonder if some people aren’t just a bit relieved to see the tree go. If so, I wouldn’t expect the contractor to suffer very much.

  • Mbfarrel

    Beware of becoming a protected class.

  • Mbfarrel

    Beware of becoming a protected class.

  • Mbfarrel

    I very much doubt it was “probably older than any of us…..” young Coast Redwood trees grow about 4-6′ a year, 75 to 90′ in 25 years. I think it likely that this redwood was planted during the “Save the Redwoods” era in the 70’s. Of course sequoia sempervirens species were not threatened, but rather the old growth redwoods.

    Example of relatively recent plantings are at the intersection of Shattuck and Adeline. Others of the same era are in the narrow planter on top of the large retaining wall separating Tunnel Road. They will be removed either before or, this being Berkeley, after they destroy that wall.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    too bad this didn’t happen sooner…they could have transplanted one of the oaks they cut down at memorial stadium but then dumpster muffin and running mouth wolf wouldn’t have anything to do for the months they lived in the tree’s sending buckets of human waste down to waiting eager friends!

  • Peggy

    Having a cork oak is a wonderful thing at a library. Ferdinand the Bull sat peacefully under a cork tree, and that is a beloved children’s book. Ferdinand loved peace and didn’t want to hurt anyone.

  • bgal4

    Wrong choice in the first place.

    Redwoods are Easily Stressed on Small Lots.
    Redwoods have Roots that are Easily Damaged. Redwoods have shallow root
    systems. Roots are wide-spreading (up to 50’) with no taproot and can be damaged
    from soil compaction in areas of heavy foot or vehicular traffic. The roots take over
    the landscape, precluding families from using their yards without damaging the trees.
    Redwoods Suffer Dramatically from Even Brief Environmental Stress.
    Redwoods suffer substantial dieback when their high water demands are not met for
    even a short period of time. When planted outside of their native range,
    redwoods will eventually outgrow the available water supply, leading to chronic water
    stress, where no realistic irrigation schedule can supply the amount of water needed.
    Chronically-stressed redwoods are susceptible to disease that causes extensive canopy
    dieback which further degrades its condition and increases the risk of sudden

  • Tom Jacobs

    For all the carbon emissions fanatics out there… this is a direct quote from a 1991 book written by a top NGO (non-governmental org) that provides guidance to the United Nations. The UN’s two financial arms are the World Bank (created by two communists) and the International Monetary Fund (owned by central bankers who comprise the top 1% of the top 1%)

    According to “The First Global Revolution,” divided nations require common enemies to unite them, “either a real one or else one invented for the purpose.” Because of the sudden absence of traditional enemies, “new enemies must be identified.”

    “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill….All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”

    Let the tree die. Who gives a hoot? Really? If you want trees, go to Canada. There are endless trees there. Endless…

  • The Sharkey

    You’re right. I guess the redwoods tend to look a lot bigger than they really are when they’re situated around 2-story buildings instead of other trees.

    Still, the negligence of the contractor lead to a death and they should be held fully accountable. I hope the replacement the City buys is mature, and very expensive, and that they pass the entire cost along to the contractor.

  • The Sharkey

    Perhaps they can move in to the new tree once it’s planted, and act as resident fecal artists for the City.

  • The Sharkey

    If we all had attitudes like that it wouldn’t be long before there wouldn’t be “endless” swaths of trees anywhere.

  • The Sharkey

    I see plenty of healthy redwoods here in Berkeley (thanks to our frequent foggy mornings) and I think I’ll trust my firsthand experience more than a vaguely trollish and obviously biased rant from a Palo Alto Hills neighborhood group.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “the World Bank (created by two communists) and the International
    Monetary Fund (owned by central bankers who comprise the top 1% of the
    top 1%)”

    Those communists and bankers have always worked together. And a 1991 book is the best source of the latest global warming science. And I am the queen of Romania.

  • Tom Jacobs

    Trees replaced with fanatical, easily manipulated carbon-sensitive weirdos. All who work for free on behalf of the top 0.00001% that they proclaim to be against. Talk about BIZARRE!!!!

  • bgal4

    OK you dismiss outright a paper with dozens of research citations about trees for landscape purposes. you can locate plenty of other sources of information explaining the same facts.

  • Howie Mencken

    BERKELEY’S REDWOODS ARE COLONIAL WEEDS. Every one was planted by the hands of a white settler. For eons Berkeley’s native landscape consisted of great oaks and grass land.

    After the University was established, romantics wanting to bring the wildness home began transplanting these forlorn giants all over the city. Imagine you (and all your neighbors) going on safari and bringing home baby elephants. Fun at first. Then things get out of hand.

    In their natural habitat, redwoods are among God’s greatest gifts. In towns where the backyards can hardly contain them they are at best, a sad example of man’s vain desire to own beauty, whatever the cost. At worst, they steal sunlight, suppress the native species and obscure the vistas that should be available to us all.

    (b4gal…once again you bring useful knowledge instead of mere opinion)

  • Howie Mencken

    Tom…I agree. People are the problem, and we keep making more of them. Make love, not kids!

  • Mbfarrel

    Well yes… if you put much emphasis on being HERE and not THERE. If not in Berkeley then where?
    I do agree that they are a tough fit in most of Berkeley. Especially those blocking my view!

  • Howie Mencken

    What little HERE we have is slipping into THERE. Redwoods belong everywhere except where man puts them. Same with elephants.

  • The Sharkey

    I dismiss it because it was written by people who wanted to ban redwood trees, and because it is location-specific to Palo Alto rather than Berkeley.

    Some of what they say is true (in particular the bits about the root systems) but redwoods do well in Berkeley because of our regular morning fog in the flatland areas.

  • The Sharkey

    I can’t tell if your postings are satire, or if you’re really a nut job.

  • The Sharkey

    If we follow that logic to the extreme, everyone except Ohlone indians should be kicked out of Berkeley and every building should be burned down.

  • The Sharkey

    Shhhh! Get out of here with that history stuff! As far as I’m concerned anything before 1906 never happened! :-P

  • Howie Mencken

    Sharkey…No. If you follow that logic to the extreme you avoid planting giant invasive species in your back yard. Learn, don’t just opine. See b4gal’s informative post below.

  • Mbfarrel

    Paging Chairman Bob

  • Charles_Siegel

    I think Sharkey was talking about following to the extreme the logic that says we shouldn’t have redwoods because “Every one was planted by the hands of a white settler.”

    If we got rid of everything introduced to America by white settlers, we would have to get rid of both me and Howie Mencken. And at least one of those would be a great loss to the city. (Joke: I know Howie has a good sense of humor.)

    When it comes to redwoods, I agree that they should not be planted in small yards; I thought this was common knowledge. On the other hand, I do like the redwoods on the banks of Strawberry Creek on campus, where there is enough room to plant clusters of them.

  • Mark7897897983

    I believe it was because you can’t buy and move a coastal oak because they are protected. You could plant one, but that might take a while…

  • Mark9797897897

    Probably low skilled employees making mistakes. Should they be jailed? Don’t think so… that isn’t how law works. They pay the damages. Punitive? You have to be kidding.

  • Mbfarrel

    About 25 years will get a ~ 20 x 20 Coast Live Oak with character. No longer A tree but THAT tree.
    However planting a live oak is a bit risky with the expanding infection of Sudden Oak Death Syndrome. We’ll see how a cork oak fares

  • Mbfarrel

    Asians and Africans don’t plant trees?

  • The Sharkey

    I almost feel like planting a redwood out of spite.

  • Howie Mencken

    MbF…Of course Asians and Africans plant trees! They probably planted most of the redwoods in the picture I attached; Planted them under the vigorous direction of romantic white hands. Hence the term “colonial” weeds.

  • Howie Mencken

    Chas…I’m only half white. As my mother used to say; “We had a civilization here, while your father’s people (northern europeans) still had tails.”

  • Charles_Siegel

    Are you half native American? I got the impression from your use of language that you (or your ancestors) were from the south. Maybe that is the white half.

    I am curious which group of Indians your mother was from. The Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas had civilizations.

    Note that if we had gotten rid of your father because he was introduced to America by colonial white settlers, that would also eliminate you.

  • Howie Mencken

    Just the white half Chas…

  • Charles_Siegel

    We could deal with the problem using a method similar to what one of my ancestors famously suggested about 3000 years ago: cut you in half, so we can keep one half here and send one half back to Europe.

  • Howie Mencken

    Perhaps this short quiz will clarify the point…

    1. A house next door sells to a ham radio buff.
    2. She starts putting up a 70′ foot antenna on top of her roof.
    3. You see the workpersons setting the rigging.
    4. Asking where the permit is posted you’re told: “There isn’t one.”

    A. Call City Hall to report this outrage.
    B. Text Berkeleyside to report this outrage.
    C. Make a note to put an extra layer of foil under your baseball cap.
    D. Subscribe to “Ham Radio Today”.
    (answer is A,B, and C)

    Lonely giant redwoods don’t belong in Berkeley back yards. They block the light, kill the views and suppress the natives (plant species.)

  • Howie Mencken

    Last word.

  • Nicholas Littlejohn

    The careless contractor should be banned from future bids and pay for the replacement tree, of course.