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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Sherwin Williams Tree Fight Over, Trees Saved

Two Year Fight: Sherwin Williams Trees Saved

Staff Reverses Finding that Required Removal

"Embarrassed" Mayor Medina Apologizes for Earlier Vote to Cut All the Trees 

An entire block of street trees at the Sherwin Williams development project on Horton Street have been saved from the developer's chainsaw by a unanimous City Council vote on Tuesday September 17th following a standing recommendation from the city staff to cut the trees dating back from April 2018. Up until the latest vote, it’s been a divided Council with two wanting to save the trees and two wanting to cut them.
A year and a half after Emeryville City Hall and the developer of the Sherwin Williams project together determined that every street tree alongside that nascent development project would have to be cut down because of ‘undergrounding’ of utilities necessary under the sidewalk, at the newest Council meeting, the City staff suddenly reversed their finding.

At the 2018 Council meeting, without giving evidence, the staff told the Council they really had no choice on the trees.   Planning Department Chief Charlie Bryant and Sherwin Williams developer Kevin Ma, said the 11 existing street trees fronting the project, the entire block, would have to be removed because the underground pipes would have to be placed under the sidewalk owing to the fact that space under the street is “too crowded” with other utilities.
Inexplicably, the staff added that if the Council voted to save the trees alongside the project (on the west side of the street), the undergrounding of the utilities in the street could result in a cutting of trees on BOTH sides of the street.  The Council never asked for a clarification of that logic and the whole Sherwin Williams tree issue was continued.

By September of 2019, Planning Director Bryant’s views had changed.  His staff rechecked and they found out there IS space enough under the street for the cables after all and the trees can be saved he told the Council.  And with that, the City Council voted to place the utility wires under Horton Street and save all but one tree they say that has to be cut to accommodate a specific utility box in the sidewalk.

And so it would appear a very contentious and ongoing issue has finally been put to rest for the Council who had been fiercely divided on the cutting of the Sherwin trees.

Mayor Ally Medina
Misled by the staff.

Initially she voted to cut all the trees.
At the September 17th Council meeting

 she apologized for that vote. 
The tree issue before the Tuesday September 17th meeting has been somewhat of a Rorschach test for the City Council, half the Council eagerly believing the developer and the staff and the other not believing them.
Staff and developer claims that the trees must be cut brought skepticism from Council members Scott Donahue and Christian Patz whereas members Dianne Martinez and Ally Medina simply accepted the staff's findings at face value.  The normally perspicacious Ally Medina indicated she was so eager to cut the trees down, she didn’t even want to accept a continuance of the April 2018 meeting that was ultimately dangled in front of the Councilors by the staff.  No, she said, the trees must be cut down, so let’s get on with it, she said.  The two to two split at that 2018 meeting forced the staff to bring the issue back before the Council a year and a half later (after they initially told the Council a continuance was impossible and the vote had to happen that night).

Councilmember John Bauters lives within 500 feet of the Sherwin Williams project and is by law, not allowed to vote on it.

Mr Patz and Mr Donahue had reason for their disbelieving of the staff.  At the initial April 2018 meeting, the staff publically misrepresented the health of the trees.  Attempting to coerce the Councilors, the staff said the City arborist had determined the trees to be “unhealthy”- a direct contradiction of the actual arborist’s report which indicated the trees were “healthy”.  Planning Director Bryant later apologized for the false statement following a Tattler exposé on the issue.
Additionally, the staff recommended cutting the mature existing trees along Sherwin Street (also abutting the project) offering visual aesthetics as a what for; that the species would clash with the proposed new trees to be planted along Sherwin Street they said.  The actual reason for the removal of the mature trees along Sherwin Street was specified as “hindering the creation of a unified streetscape”, a finding not supported by the City’s Unified Urban Forestry Ordinance (UFO).  The staff’s recommendation thus was improper but helped show their disdain for saving trees….as has been the  79 to 2 record of killing trees over saving them as recommended by the staff since the inception of the UFO.

The Horton Street trees are now saved but staff, leaving the door cracked just a smidge, got the last word.  Once the contractor digs the street up, there's always a possibility they could be wrong in their latest assessment they said and there may not be enough room under the street.  There's a chance the trees may still have to be cut down yet, they cautioned.
The Trees in Question
Saved From the Chainsaw
Developers have to spend money saving street trees.
It's cheaper to just cut them all down and plant lollipops.
The staff has been trying everything they can to get
these leafy profit reducing nuisances removed. 


  1. How much money do we pay these staff employees?

  2. You need to find out why Medina voted that way. It's not good enough to just say sorry after. And about the staff, they're doing the job the council likes. If they weren't they'd be fired. Thats how you can say the council cares more about the developers than the trees. except for the two that showed with their votes.The others? Yeah, they don't care about trees.

  3. Again, Charlie Bryant. In any other town, a department head lying to the council would end up getting fired. What's up Emeryville?

  4. It seems like a lot of people got really upset over a few trees. The developer is willing to replant new ones so whats the big deal?

    1. The "big deal" is that we don't want our publicly owned trees cut down unless they have to be. Protecting a developer's profit is not included in reasons we have to cut down our trees. And we're not happy having, let alone paying, for a staff that's working in the interests of developers. $100,000 to $200,000 per year City Hall public staff members lying to the decision makers to help a private developer's interests is still considered a 'big deal' over here at the Tattler.