Residents of the Monta Loma neighborhood were surprised this week to see the number of trees chopped down around the former Mayfield Mall at Google's request.
With no new buildings planned for the site, the number of trees being cut for the renovation of the Mayfield property caught Monta Lomans by surprise, said former Monta Loma Neighborhood Association president Elna Tymes in an email.
"We thought the development agreement was that diseased trees would be cut down, along with a few required to accommodate the new development, but certainly not as many as have now been cut," she told the Voice. "We had assumed that most of the trees would remain."
Birds had been nesting in the removed trees, she said.
A Google spokesperson did not provide an explanation for why the trees were removed. "Since we know how important the trees are to the community, our team worked with an arborist and the city to establish which trees were to be removed and which should be protected. The protected trees remain fenced off on the job site," she said.
The site has two streets that connect to the neighborhood, and the removed trees were once prominent along one of them, Nita Avenue. Monta Loma residents spent years fighting off a housing development on the site that would have brought several hundred homes, citing a loss of site's many trees as a main reason for their opposition.
As the housing was never built, Hewlett Packard sold the 1960s indoor mall-turned-office building to a firm now leasing the site to Google.
It is unclear how many trees were removed, but plans from 2012 had the number at 120 large heritage trees, 92 of which were in poor condition.
The city's new zoning administrator, Gerry Beaudin, was still coming up to speed on the situation but said that the city has been processing applications for tree removals at the site since 2012 and "each of these applications involved review of arborist reports, and other site considerations. Our goals include preserving trees where feasible and based on sound technical and practical evaluations," Beaudin said.