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Cotati City Council backs moving rare tree

Prue Draper, left, of the Cotati Historical Society and Louise Santero, a longtime Cotati resident, stand next to an rare chimera redwood tree near the railroad track at East Cotati Avenue in 2014. (PD FILE, 2014)

Prue Draper, left, of the Cotati Historical Society and Louise Santero, a longtime Cotati resident, stand next to an rare chimera redwood tree near the railroad track at East Cotati Avenue in 2014. (PD FILE, 2014)


Cotati has always been known as a special little town, and City Council members think saving a rare chimera redwood tree and planting it near City Hall may be the perfect addition to that image.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to help relocate an unusual green and white coast redwood tree from near the SMART railroad tracks to a parcel of open space across from city offices.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency says the tree is in the way of a second side track that is planned for the location, just north of the Cotati depot, where SMART plans commuter rail service as early as 2016.

SMART, saying the tree will be too close to the tracks to meet federal safety standards, planned to cut the tree down but has postponed a decision pending additional arborist input.

Cotati’s pledged adoption of the tree returns the focus to SMART.

SMART representatives could not be reached Wednesday. They have said they don’t have a timeframe for making a decision about the tree.

In addition to vowing to accept the tree should SMART allow it, Cotati council members Tuesday selected the Veronda-Falletti Ranch for replanting the 52-foot-tall tree, which has grown since at least 1947 along the railroad tracks at East Cotati Avenue.

The Veronda-Falletti land is a vacant piece of land that has county Open Space District protection. It is an example of local history, agricultural study and land stewardship in Cotati, City Manager Dianne Thompson said.

“I wanted to do it at the Veronda-Falletti farm because it’s preserved open space, so if there is any future development, it won’t take place there,” said Councilwoman Wendy Skillman.

“It will have long-term protection. Also, in the longer term, we want to turn that into more of an educational facility,” she said. “It’s another way to make Cotati a unique place.”

The unusual tree is called a chimera because it exhibits both albino and normal green foliage from separate sets of DNA. Arborists who study such chlorophyll-deficient redwoods say the tree may be one of only about 10 chimeras in existence, and possibly the only mature specimen producing male and female cones — an invaluable scientific resource.

Cotati also committed to watering and maintaining the tree to help it become reestablished. City costs are expected to be less than $10,000 and would come from an existing park fee fund.

Arborist Tom Stapleton, who has spearheaded the effort to save the tree, submitted several bids by tree movers to relocate the tree.

He said public sentiment — including more than 700 signatures on a Change.org petition and a Facebook page dedicated to saving the tree — should persuade SMART to allow the relocation. A local sign company donated a banner supporting its relocation. The banner is at the site now.

“Cotati sees the economic value, how it can improve the city — so many benefits all of them recognize,” Stapleton said. “SMART needs to right their wrong, do the right thing and move this tree.”

Four bids submitted to SMART for the relocation vary widely in their cost estimates, from about $17,000 to $89,000. SMART officials haven’t said whether the agency would fund the move.

“It’s up to them,” Skillman said, adding that the city has committed to maintenance and irrigation costs. “We’re hoping they will step up and pay for that.”

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

3 Responses to “Cotati City Council backs moving rare tree”

  1. Steveguy says:

    Greg, you are correct. I was thinking easy and simple task to move a tree, not what the bureaucracies involved would siphon off as is their wont and greedy need. The tree is not worth over $30 K.

    It reminds me of something that I saw years ago. Where Fountaingrove Parkway crosses the freeway and drops down to Cleveland Avenue the Santa Rosa PD would give tickets to those ‘squeezing by’ on the right of the line of cars waiting to go straight or left. There was ample room for the maneuver except for an island that intruded on a full lane. The island or curb there is for the ones turning right to enter southbound 101. At the time I was contracting with the City and proposed a $6,000 fix. They scoffed. It ended up they spent over $20,000 ( plus any other ” hidden costs” that someone made a bundle off of.

    Just for knocking out a bit of curb/gutter and rebuilding it 3-4 feet back. Then stripe it. Simple task and I would have made a decent profit.

    I have many questions that don’t seem to have an answer that I should file for record requests. For instance- where is the $20 Million for the Airport runway and other work ” Environmental Mitigation Fees ” going to ? The ” Fees ” are about 1/3 of the the whole contract cost ! Somebody is getting rich, and I would like to know whose palms were greased or wined and dined.

    I would also like to expose the Marconi Conference Center in Marshall for what it is- a ‘private’ resort for our politicians and agency schemers to scheme at what they see as their own Retreat/Resort.

  2. Steve…

    I filed a public records request and saw four widely differing bids to move this tree: $18,000, $59,000, $69,000, and $84,000. Choose one of these bids, add in the less than $10,000 Cotati says it will incur t6o maintain the tree, add the consultant and staff time SMART has already spent, then top it off with the costs of the additional studies they will conduct before making a decision. Given the way public agencies squander other people’s money, this could easily approach a $100,000 project.

    But what is the tree actually worth? It’s rare, but is it valuable? Redwoods that are 100% albino produce no chlorophyll and are forced to live as parasites that drain the life from healthy trees nearby. This tree is only 35% albino, and has no neighboring trees. This explains its shorter than normal height and girth for a tree its age.

    Can it teach valuable lessons? Even the arborist who is most passionate about saving it admits the tree’s greatest worth may be in teaching us how to prevent other trees from acquiring the same condition.

    So given the fact that SMART is already a massive waste of money, why waste even more on a tree that has no real value other than being the victim du jour of a group of emotional progressives?

  3. Steveguy says:

    SMART should pay for the move. I would figure that $20,000 should do the job well. Whoever came up with the $89,000 bid should not be allowed any work at taxpayer expense. Really.

    SMART always says that it costs ” this much” for their little train plan, yet the cities along the way are footing the bills for many aspects of this boondoggle. Like making cities pay for stations.

    That tree is worth the $20,000 cost. Most trees aren’t. Pay up SMART.

    By the way Lori, or anyone- what is the distance of ” too close to the tracks to meet federal safety standards ” ? Many times it ends up that ” Federal Standards ” are ludicrous and arbitrary, yet are never disputed or CAN’T be disputed.