Park Commission puts off liquidambar tree removal for now

STEAM building construction with liquidambar trees on left (Nov. 6, 2019)

PIEDMONT — The Piedmont Park Commission on Wednesday opted to put off recommending removal of five liquidambar trees on Magnolia Avenue near the school-related construction work, deciding their canopy, and the shade it provides, is more important than saving some money by paying for the removal work now.

The five large trees, on the north side of the street between Hillside and Bonita Avenues, will  have to come out at some point in the next 18 to 24 months, city public works officials told park commissioners, as street reconstruction near the schools’ STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) building will have to be done. 

Doing the tree removal in the next few weeks, Public Works Director Chester Nakahara said, would likely save the city money, both in getting ahead of inflation and hiring contractors during the COVID-19 pandemic, when those contractors would likely submit lower bids for the work than when pandemic restrictions are lifted – and the jobs will pile up, driving up prices.

“It’s important to think about saving money, especially now,” said Park Commissioner Amber Brumfiel said. The amount that would be saved can’t be known with certainty. 

Other commissioners said they would miss the trees along that stretch between the schools and the Piedmont Recreation Department building. And Nakahara said planting young trees — autumnblaze maples have been recommended as replacements — while a “robust construction project” is going on around them could harm the young trees.

The longer this discussion went, the less support there was for removing the five old liquidambars sooner rather than later. “If there’s a substantial savings to go ahead (now), I’m not opposed,” Commissioner Betsy Goodman said. “But I don’t have enough information to make a decision.” 

What is known is that the five old trees are on borrowed time. Nakahara said they’ll need to come out as part of the construction. The work would almost certainly damage large tree roots, destabilizing them. And those same roots could damage new sidewalks, as they have done to the old sidewalks.

The Parks Commision will take up removal of these five trees at a later date.

Contact Sam Richards at

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