Cultural arts district property owners can get a tree in front of their building for $75

Benefits include traffic calming, urban cooling

Property owners in Eureka’s cultural arts district, the bounds of which are illustrated on this map, can get a tree planted in front of their properties for $75 by volunteer group Keep Eureka Beautiful. (Courtesy of the city of Eureka)
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Property owners in Eureka’s cultural arts district can get a tree installed in front of their building for $75 starting this spring.

The property owner can choose a tree from a list of dozens and have volunteers plant it for them. They would only be expected to cover $75 of the $100 fee for the city to cut a hole in the sidewalk for the tree, according to the Cultural Arts District Street Tree Master Plan that was presented to the Eureka City Council on Tuesday.

“There are about 200 addresses where there is room for about 250 trees,” said Michele McKeegan, of volunteer group Keep Eureka Beautiful, which plants trees in the city. “The spots do meet the city requirements for setbacks … but they may not work in terms of underground lines.”

Some owners may also not want a tree in front of their building for other reasons, such as not wanting to clean up leaves, so McKeegan said it would ultimately be much fewer than 200 trees.

Property owners would be expected to maintain the trees by watering them every spring and Keep Eureka Beautiful would send out postcards around that time to let them know to do so.

The goal is to plant or replace 50 trees in the district between fall 2020 and spring 2021 followed by another 50 trees between fall 2022 and spring 2023, said Swan Asbury, an associate planner with the city’s Economic Development Department.

The only real hiccup in the street tree master plan is a longstanding dispute between Caltrans and the city about whose responsibility it is to maintain various aspects of Broadway, including tree maintenance.

That dispute has lasted for more than a decade, but Public Works and Building Director Brian Gerving said the two entities have made a lot of headway recently and have been working on a draft agreement that he expects to be finalized within roughly six months.

“We were making really good progress over the course of this year,” Gerving said, but the October meetings had to be canceled because of the Pacific Gas & Electric public safety power shutoffs, and November and December are tricky because people tend to go on vacation.

Gerving said it’s taken a long time because Caltrans and the city have been working through not just who’s responsible for tree maintenance, but also sidewalks, paying for electricity for traffic signals, and painting crosswalks on Broadway and the streets adjacent to it.

In order to plant trees, the property owners would have to apply for an encroachment permit from Caltrans in order to do that, so the city is working with Caltrans on a standing batch encroachment permit that needs to be developed from scratch.

The varieties of trees that could be planted on Broadway would be much more limited, however, because they would need to be on both the city and Caltrans’ list of acceptable street trees.

“It will be a relatively small number of species – less than 10 – that are available,” Gerving said, “but still a pretty good variety and things that are also relatively popular.”

City officials and councilmembers noted a variety of benefits to planting trees, including urban cooling, traffic calming and combating climate change.

Asbury also noted there are economic benefits to planting trees in business districts, including the fact that shoppers spend more time and money in areas with more trees.

For more information, visit keepeurekabeautiful.com.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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