I lived the first 17 years of my life in Lake Oswego. Residents valued trees then. Now things have changed. Naturally, trees have to be removed to allow housing development as the city grows. But trees in residents' yards are unnecessarily giving way to lawns and pavement, which appear to be valued much more than trees by recent arrivals. The city tree code appears to be a revenue source rather than a way to slow this process.
A neighbor has cut down most of his trees, a dozen or so. The trees have been replaced by grass and concrete. The last tree cut down was a stately sequoia, easily the most beautiful tree in the entire neighborhood. The permit sign was almost impossible to see because it was behind a boat parked on the street. This seemed to violate the tree ordinance, which requires that the sign be easily seen from the street.
When I first noticed the sign, tentative approval had already been granted. The only way to object was by paying a fee to get a hearing. I sent a letter of objection to the city and asked them to revoke tentative approval to reopen the period for public comment. I sent pictures to show how hard it was to see the sign from the street. The letter was ignored. This tree was removed.
In mid-August, we applied to remove a diseased Atlas cedar, one of the ugliest trees in our neighborhood. We already had a seven-year-old spruce growing in its shadow, but when we applied for a tree-removal permit, we also submitted a mitigation plan to plant another tree. This is our first such application. The public comment period ended over three weeks ago. We have been trying to contact the city, but our calls are not returned. I finally went to city hall to try to get things moving forward; this had no apparent effect.
In the 12 years that we have lived here, we have planted several apple trees, several dogwoods, two persimmons, two plums, a spruce, and a pear, among others. We have removed half our lawn and a significant amount of concrete. All of these things decrease water runoff to our neighbors' yards and ultimately into the lake.
I have a theory about the city's quick responses to our neighbors and feet dragging with us: 1) We are cutting down too few trees and therefore are not paying the city enough in fees, 2) we have removed too much lawn and impervious surfaces and planted too many trees to be in step with the values of the city and its current residents, and 3) by reducing runoff, our landscaping is interfering with the maintenance of our lake's beautiful green color.
Andrew Goldsmith is a resident of Lake Oswego.