Saratoga residents will not have to pay the city money to cut down blue gum gum trees for the next two and a half months. The trees reportedly caused about $250,000 in damage in last month’s storms.
The Saratoga City Council voted April 5 to waive the $130 fee to remove blue gum gum trees through June 30 after the storm caused damage to public and private property. Blue gum gum trees that came to California from Australia have shallow roots and studies show that they are more prone to falling.
The city, which has fairly strict protections for its trees, continues to require applicants to replace the removed trees. The council added the requirement after some residents raised concerns that replacement of the trees removed was not guaranteed in the original draft emergency regulation suspending permit fees.
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“The city has suffered significant damage from trees falling in the storms, the vast majority of it from eucalyptus trees on city properties and reports on private properties,” said Attorney Richard Taylor.
Tree removal can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the tree’s size and circumstances, employees said. The council hopes that removing permit fees will provide an incentive for residents to remove damaged or unstable trees on their property.
Saratoga’s award-winning tree canopy has shrunk after a turbulent winter, with dozens of trees damaged or falling. The steady stream of rain weakened the stability of the soil in the area and coupled with the strong winds that swept through the region, eucalyptus trees were particularly vulnerable to toppling.
“I understand the security challenges we have suffered and safety comes first,” Councilor Tina Walia said. “If we don’t replant trees, we will lose our treetops. … It is vitally important that trees are replanted.”
Saratoga has been named a Tree City USA every year since 2006, a title that provides communities with a four-tiered framework for preserving and growing their tree populations.
Five people were killed by falling trees in the Bay Area during the March 21-22 storm, and Saratoga employees say there is a risk of trees falling until the soils dry out in May and the winds in June ease up.