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San Jose Trims Trees Ahead Of Winter Weather

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Trees planted along a street in San Jose. (City of San Jose website)

Trees planted along a street in San Jose. (City of San Jose website)

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SAN JOSE (KCBS) – The City of San Jose launched an aggressive tree trimming project, in response to a tragic arbor accident last winter. The public-private partnership planned to work on nearly a thousand trees before the end of the year.

City workers used cherry pickers to cut down and shred hundreds of palm fronds on Monday. It was labor intensive work that, in many cases, simply wasn’t done last year.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

In fact, dozens of trees fell in San Jose last winter. Tragically, one elm that toppled fell onto a pickup truck and killed a 2-year-old boy inside.

Authorities later determined that the elm that killed Mateo Ortiz had root rot.

“Property owners were not aware that it’s their responsibility to maintain the street trees,” explained Eric Hahn with the San Jose Downtown Association. “So they kind of found out the hard way.”

“A lot of these trees haven’t been maintained in a number of years, so we want to get to this before another incident occurs.”

That incident was reason enough, said Hahn, for San Jose to partner with his association to pay for the maintenance of nearly 1,000 street trees before the end of the year. The estimated cost for the project was roughly $110,000.

A majority of funding was expected to come from property owner assessments.

“Very unnecessary,” responded downtown resident Scott Kinser. “I mean, they could be spending money on virtually anything else than a 50 ft. tree that isn’t really affecting anybody.”

“They could be fixing huge potholes that are messing up people’s cars,” reasoned Kinser, as he watched a row of palm trees being trimmed across the street from his house.

“This is the money the city was going to spend anyway on trees,” explained Hahn. “So it’s not like it’s money they can reallocate to potholes.”

However, he added that San Jose didn’t have the resources to bear the burden alone.

“In 2008 the city no longer had the tree trimming program.”

It wasn’t until last winter’s tragedy that many homeowners knew what their responsibilities were, with respect to the street trees.

“Even if the city plants the trees, it becomes their responsibility because it’s part of their property,” Hahn said.

“That would have been the homeowner’s responsibility,” he said of the root rot blamed for the toddler’s death. “And unfortunately because of that incident, that’s what brought it to light.”

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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