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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Debating mature Sycamore trees

Uploaded: Sep 13, 2012
Having lived in the valley for more than 50 years, I've witnessed major changes since Pleasanton was a farming community of 3,000 residents and you could buy a home in Dublin for $10,000 with $100 down on the VA plan.
I've had to chuckle watching the San Ramon City Council wrestle with how to deal with a legitimate public safety issue on Bollinger Canyon Road with residents considering "mature" Sycamore trees as if they were historic California oak trees.
The stretch of road at issue runs at four lanes from Alcosta Boulevard up the hill to where it widens to six lanes once it clears what was the original approval for the Canyon Lakes development. The Blackhawk developers processed that 3,100-unit project, bringing a mixture of condos and single-family homes to the hillsides. The Dougherty Valley developments on the Gumpert and Gale ranches were the next big plans looming.
The Sycamore trees in the median strip were planted in the 1980s, the same timing as those in the medians of Hopyard Road in Pleasanton. Developers and their landscape architects like the Sycamores because they grow fast, are attractive and can flourish in the relatively narrow median strips.
So, it's interesting to hear residents protest to the San Ramon City Council about potentially removing those "mature" trees. Unlike the magnificent oaks, the newly planted sycamores will rapidly grow back.
If you want to see truly magnificent mature Sycamores, check out the native California trees in Sycamore Grove Park in Livermore or along some of the valley's arroyos. These are a different variety than the ones that developers plant by the thousands and mature much more slowly into striking trees.
The interesting behind-the-scenes story was why a thoroughfare serving as one of the three major entrances to an area that eventually will be home to about 30,000 people goes from six lanes through Bishop Ranch to four lanes in the Canyon Lakes area and back to six lanes in the Dougherty Valley.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved the project in 1984 and was eager to see the increased density from the condos and the apartments because Bishop Ranch Business Park was now moving ahead as an employment center with both the Chevron and Pac Bell complexes in the mix.
When the development company sold the off various parcels to homebuilders, the requirement was that Bollinger Canyon Road be constructed exactly as approved. That limited the width to two lanes in each direction with the bridge for the golf carts spanning it.
With the ever-present environmental groups closely monitoring what happened and intensely opposed to the potentially growth-inducing six-lane configuration (that would have been the logical width), the four lanes were constructed with the median strip and the trees. Limiting the capacity of infrastructure was a standard environmental group tactic to try to restrict land use options.
Incidentally, one knowledgeable insider points out that the lanes on Bollinger are actually wider than those on the Golden Gate Bridge which carries a whole lot more traffic than does Bollinger.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Casanova_Frankenstein, a resident of Old Towne,
on Sep 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Casanova_Frankenstein is a registered user.

Konichiwa, kemosabes! It is I, Casanova Frankenstein!

Like Tim Hunt, I too have had to chuckle as I watch these chuckleheads debate whether or not to cut down some trees. In fact, in reading Tim Hunt's scoop on this breaking story, I came to feel as if he and I were sitting side by side as this tale of high political drama unfolded before us. I imagine the conversation between us would have gone something like this:

I, Casanova Frankenstein: "Why are we chuckling again?"
Tim Hunt: (Chuckling)"Because these dorks don't know sycamores the way I, Tim Hunt, know sycamores."
I, Casanova Frankenstein: (laughing) "Ha! What a bunch of San Ramorons!"
Tim Hunt: "See what union labor gets you?"
I, Casanova Frankenstein: "Uh, so why are we watching a city council meeting in San Ramon?"
Tim Hunt: "Fight the nanny state!"

Good times. Good, good times...

Auf weiderhuren, dudes!

Posted by Justin D, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Justin D is a registered user.

It's a beautiful country we live in where people can share their opinion publically without having a full picture. Ahhh the freedom of speech. Where your comments are completely off base is its not just about the trees. The issue is the city refuses to slow the traffic down ad their have been severe accidents and even a fatality. The homeowners in the immediate area requested:
1) put up a pedestrian barrier (as already outlined by consultants employed by the city).
2) install "rumble strips" similar to the Bay Bridge in an effort to make people aware of the S-curve where people speed excessively.
3) enforce the speed limit and potentially reduce it by 5 mph.
Instead the city wants to widen the lanes. To do this it means the median goes along with the trees. Anyone who knows anything about traffic patterns, professional driving or common sense will know that with wider lanes people will feel more comfortable thereby increasing their speed further over the posted 40 mph. I drive that hill daily and I can guarantee if 100 cars were tracked at least 80+% would be going 50 mph or faster. By widening the lanes and with 80% of traffic at say 45 mph on average (speed assessment) thus the city would increase the speed limit. Then magically determine there isn't enough lanes (which by the way the lanes already meet both state and federal guidelines) thus adding a lane or two. This quickly becomes a slippery slope as I and my fellow homeowners that live in the Bollinger Canyon impacted do not want a freeway outside of our homes. As it stands right now you can't even have a conversation when walking up/down the street during even moderate traffic flow let alone rush hour. So it's not just about the trees, it's about the fact that Shapell Homes, the City of San Ramon and others poorly planned for adequate traffic throughput into and out of the Windemere / Dougherty Valley Area. Whoops maybe that's why they want more lanes. More money in their pockets by selling more homes which equals more cars but hey those of us that live in the area get killed by cars speeding on an s-curve uphill raceway.

The Lorax

Posted by Justin D, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 13, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Justin D is a registered user.

iPhone auto correct stinks. Please forgive the "ad" and "their"...

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