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Let the city staff hear your thoughts about heritage tree


For the last 13 years, we have taken our neighborhood morning walk. Alongside the lake, there is a magnificent oak tree that we’ve always noticed from the bridge over the years as it changes with the seasons. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - This heritage tree in Lake Oswego is coming down.

Likely more than 100 years old, the oak has been lakeside much longer than we have been alive. The chest-high circumference of a tree this size, with its canopy and breadth, is 120 inches around, if you can envision this.

So, what happens next is now a common story. The original house on the property was torn down. The property owners are planning a 4,700-square-foot home. Their landscape plan won’t include this amazing heritage tree that could likely live another 100 years, even though it’s on the outside edge of the property.

They are going to cut the tree down.

We spoke with the property owners. They politely explained their plan. They own the property. They have permits and a zoning right to do this. As they said, “People before trees ... some things just gotta go.”

But this is a community and our actions affect others.

We had a meeting with Lake Oswego city planners, who were balanced and helpful, to try to save this tree. We wanted to understand the zoning codes with heritage trees and this growing tear-down trend in Lake Oswego. They explained that the current zoning rules will not allow the city to use the tree code to save even heritage-quality trees where original houses are torn down. Property owners with new construction can build up to the edge of the property and clear out whatever obstructs their development plan. Ironically, homeowners with existing homes have more rules about trees than those who have torn down the original house and want to clear the lot to build these super-sized new homes.

We wrote to the developer. We explained that, as neighbors, we didn’t want to request a public hearing since it would be negative and divisive, but instead we asked: Could they please see the value of saving this amazing tree that walkers and boaters and neighbors like us have loved for years? Incorporate it into their landscape plan? No response.

So, now this slow-growing, irreplaceable, historic tree is wrapped, not in the yellow cloth LO drapes around its Century trees to honor them, but in yellow construction tape to be cut down.

The issue is not just about one rare and fantastic oak. It is about this current rush in Lake Oswego to tear down and cut down, without enough regard for history, preservation, renovation, charm or even the national trend toward single-story, smaller homes.

The city said it might review the current zoning code in 2014. Staff members said they don’t often hear from citizens like us who object to this tear-down trend and our heritage trees being lost. They hear mostly from developers who are requesting permits for these huge houses that now seem to be overtaking our neighborhoods.

So, come and see this heritage oak. It’s in our neighborhood (near Cardinal Drive just southwest of Oswego Lake). But it’s in yours, too. And it won’t be with us long. It’s to be cut down like so much firewood in favor of yet another new house a few feet from its neighbors.

Let the city planners know your opinion. They need to hear from us. And they do listen.

Contact: Associate City Planner Andrew Gulizia at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Amy Holbrook is a resident of Lake Oswego.