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February 04, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, February 04, 2005

Downtown trees to be uprooted Downtown trees to be uprooted (February 04, 2005)

Three new species to decorate Castro Street

By Allison Gerard

Castro Street will get a new look this month when the city begins replacing 170 downtown trees.

"I think it's great. ... They have chosen nice trees that are more colorful and will line the alleyways of the street," said Nick Chaput, president of the Mountain View Central Business Association, which represents downtown businesses.

Last May, the Mountain View City Council approved the urban forestry board's recommendation to plant sycamore, Chinese pistache and crape myrtle trees as replacements for the currant Idaho locust trees.

The existing downtown trees have not performed as the city expected due to problems such as brittle branches, weak limb attachments and loss of trees in high winds.

"The problem is with the tree itself and the way the branch attaches to the tree," said Bruce Hurlburt, parks section manager. The narrow angle of this attachment causes the branches to break easily, he said.

The decision to plant the existing trees was part of the redesign of Castro Street in the late 1980s. The Idaho locust was chosen because it is a drought-tolerant, flowering tree that would enhance the pedestrian-friendly environment envisioned for downtown.

The two-phase project also includes the lowering of the metal tree guards that mark on-street parking spots.

"The guard is doing the job it's designed to do, protect the trees from cars, but they are very tall and are causing damage to the trees," Hurlburt said.

The first phase of the project is scheduled to begin later this month and will replace 85 trees, with the second phase starting in winter 2006.

The city's urban forestry board chose the three tree species that would add to the ambiance of Castro Street by providing more shade and color.

The sycamore is the largest of the three trees and is estimated to reach 40 to 60 feet when mature. The plan calls for the trees to be planted in the 100 through 300 blocks and 800 through 900 blocks.

The Chinese pistache has yellow-orange foliage and will be planted in the 400 through 800 blocks. The crape myrtle will be planted as accent trees at specific locations throughout downtown and will bloom in the summer.

The estimated total cost of the project, including the tree-guard alterations, is $96,000. The money is coming from the city's downtown revitalization fund.

"This amount may be less depending on the bids," Hurlburt said.

E-mail Allison Gerard at [email protected]

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