Battle brews over plans to cut down 100-year-old cypress tree in Dillon Beach


DILLON BEACH, Marin County — Storm damage and downed trees across the Bay Area are causing local residents to argue over which trees need to be removed and which can remain in their neighborhoods.

It gets even more complicated when a tree is located within several property lines. A San Francisco resident’s fight to save a tree is hours away but so close to home.

Cameron Martin’s tiny cottage near Dillon Beach is nicknamed the “tree house” for a reason.

“It has been known as a tree house for 40 years. It has three mature trees and a working tree house,” Martin said.

She’s run a preschool in San Francisco for decades, working to pay off her mortgage and planning her retirement in Dillon Beach, where she can escape the city noise.

“It is simply beautiful. You come up here and you want to look at all the trees,” Martin said.

But storm-damaged trees are brewing fierce battles. A neighbor’s complaint about a fallen branch near Martin’s property prompted the county to hire an arborist to take a closer look.

“It has been identified as a known hazard and it would be our responsibility to mitigate that hazard,” said Michael Frost of the Marin County Department of Public Works.

Public Works tagged the old cypress tree, believed to be around 100 years old, and told Martin it was coming down. The problem is that the county hasn’t determined if part of the tree is on private property.

“It could become a legal issue if we’re not allowed on the property,” Frost said.

“We would need to work with the resident to gain access rights to remove the tree if it is partially on their property and determine if the owner would allow us to do so,” Frost said.

KPIX asked independent, certified arborists to inspect the tree.

“The coastal cypress can live up to 300 years, but after the first 100 to 120 years it goes into decline,” said arborist Forest Kirk of Forest Tree Services.

“Sometimes you can run wires in this situation,” said certified arborist Natalie Carey of The Small World Tree Company. “You can keep two of the stems and wire them up.”

As a compromise, Martin is asking the county to trim it down for safety reasons instead of bringing it all the way to the stump.

“I don’t believe in my heart that this tree needs to be felled,” Martin said.

Martin fetches The Lorax from Dr. Seuss, a book she has been reading to her preschoolers for decades.

“At the end of the story he’s sitting there on the stump. There’s nothing there. Everything’s cut down and it just says ‘unless,'” Martin said.

“If I have to cut down my tree, I just carve into it, unless,” Martin said.

We contacted the neighbor several times who complained about the tree but didn’t hear anything.

The county says the public works are dealing with a high number of downed trees due to the recent storms, adding that the tree near Martin’s property will not fall immediately once they look into the matter more deeply.

Kenny Choi