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Scenic Road: City to decide if it needs more trees

- Residents, visitors may prefer to see the sea

By MARY BROWNFIELD

Published: May 21, 2010

A CLASSIC Carmel battle is shaping up over proposal by a group of tree advocates to plant nearly a dozen young Monterey cypress along Scenic Road. But after a resident of San Antonio Avenue questioned whether the public knew enough about the plan, the forest and beach commission decided to put off a decision on the tree planting until June 3 so more residents could speak their minds on the matter.

“It was on last month’s agenda, but there were some concerns about not enough people knowing about it,” city forester Mike Branson said Wednesday.

Prominent realtor Tim Allen, who lives near the beach, told commissioners he was worried about the trees’ potential negative effects on land values, according to Branson.

“I was born and raised in Carmel, and I love our trees,” Allen told The Pine Cone. “But I think the people who live down by the beach should have input.”

Friends of Carmel Forest regularly proposes tree-planting projects, with the group providing and planting the seedlings that city workers water and maintain. The idea is to provide young trees that will eventually replace some of the Scenic Road’s magnificent, mature cypress. But the young trees grow quickly and within a few years can easily block someone’s treasured view of the beach or interfere with the vistas enjoyed by the throngs of motorists along Scenic Road.

As a result, trees can’t be planted without a public hearing by the forest and beach commission — an arrangement that grew from a bit of renegade tree-planting that didn’t go over well.

“A few years ago, they just started to plant trees down there, and that created a bit of ire from the residents, who responded to the mayor and to Rich [Guillen, the city administrator],” Branson said. “So the plan was they would propose locations, and I would review them and select ones I thought would be reasonable.”

The forester whittled the number proposed for Scenic down from the Forest Friends’ original target of 16 trees.

“It’s only 10 trees, and the intent is to get some young trees going where there are just mature trees right now,” he said. The city also wants to replace a tree on Scenic that died.

“As trees get older, they get beat up by storms, so the idea is to get a little bit of a head start versus waiting for the old tree to come down,” he explained

Some 30 trees fell along Scenic during the El Niño storms of the 1990s, according to Branson.
In planning for the future, he said he tries to work with people to locate the cypress where they will have the least impact on their bay views.

But no matter where they look, residents and motorists are bound to have foliage in their field of vision.

All 10 locations proposed along Scenic between Eighth Avenue and Martin Way will be considered during the June 3 meeting in city hall.

Branson encouraged people to submit comments in writing and attend the hearing.

“I anticipate that whatever decision is reached, it might be appealed to the council, so I want to make sure we get not just the recording of the meeting itself, but comments by mail or email,” he said. “Not just calls to my office from people saying, ‘We don’t want them,’ and then hanging up.”

The meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. in council chambers at city hall on Monte Verde Street south of Ocean Avenue. Commissioners usually take a tour before holding public hearings, and Branson estimated discussion of the tree proposal would start around 2 p.m.