Another massive oak removal

For the second time in less than two years, a developer has removed more than 100 oak trees to make room for a housing development in Chico.

Last year Andrew Meghdadi took out 110 oaks from his Terra Bella project in southeast Chico and was roundly criticized by the community and slapped by the Chico City Council (although a lawsuit has set aside that punishment).

Last month developer Greg Webb removed more than 150 oaks on his project in west Chico between West 11th and 12th avenues.

Webb employed arborist Meg Burgin, who also worked briefly on the Meghdadi project, to inventory the property in February of this year and she reported that it was “unusual to find this many trees in such good condition on a relatively small site.” Burgin counted 180 native oak trees and 89 saplings.

The differences in the projects—and perhaps the lack community outcry—include the fact that Webb’s project was launched under Butte County jurisdiction, where standards and conditions are not the same as in the city and the removal conformed to an approved plan. The property was annexed into the city last month.

About two dozen of the 180 oaks—ranging in diameter from 6 to 18 inches—were retained on the project. Burgin reported to Webb that “trees such as these should be evaluated as assets, rather than obstacles,” and at her suggestion Webb replanted some of the saplings in a temporary nursery until construction is completed. Replanting the oaks is likely as much a financial decision as it is environmental; the oaks could increase property value by as much as $2,500 per tree.

Finally, the trees Webb took out were smaller and younger than the 300-year-old oaks that grew on Meghdadi’s property.

Still, some found it hard to believe that such a large-scale oak tree removal would take place in Chico so soon after the Meghdadi incident. Even Chico City Manager Tom Lando was incredulous that the trees removed were indeed oaks and alleged that they were probably walnuts or almonds. Webb confirmed that he did “think they’re all oak.”

For now, neighbors are stuck with a stark landscape until the trees begin to grow again. Don and Linda Jones have lived in the neighborhood next to the oaks for the past 28 years. Linda said that up until about two weeks ago, “it was a beautiful orchard.” Don, half-kidding, suggested that losing the trees has “probably raised the temperature in our backyard five degrees.”

They are sad to see the trees go, but are pleased that Webb will replant some of them.