Tree removal agreement forged

Tree removal agreement forged
The root system of the sweetgum trees is starting to lift and crack the sidewalks in the San Elijo Hills community. Courtesy photo

SAN MARCOS — When developers built the San Elijo Hills community in the early 2000s, they purposely lined the streets with sweetgum trees, whose leaves change colors during the fall, to give the community a quaint, small-town feel.

More than a decade later, the decision to plant the trees has become problematic, as the root system of the trees is starting to lift and crack the sidewalks.

To that end, San Marcos and San Elijo Hills officials have forged an agreement to remove and replace more than 30 of the trees and repair the sidewalks that they have damaged.

There are nearly 500 such trees throughout the community, and the plan is to remove them over time and replace them with a tree with a less aggressive root structure.

The City Council adopted the cost-sharing agreement with the San Elijo Hills Community Association at the March 22 City Council meeting. It starts with 31 trees identified as the most problematic, and is anticipated to cost $200,000.

San Elijo Hills under the agreement is responsible for paying for the removal and replacement of existing Trees, the installation of root barriers and drip irrigation, the removal and abandonment of the existing electrical system and for fifty percent of the traffic control costs.

The city agreed to pay for the removal and replacement of the sidewalk and other hardscape, as well as securing the contract for the entire project.

San Elijo Hills is a master-planned community that when completed will have 3,400 units of housing, from condos along the main road to single-family homes in gated communities. All but about 500 housing units remain undeveloped.

HomeFed Corp., which was the master plan developer, originally planted the trees along the sidewalks, which are owned by the city, and the community association was responsible for irrigating and maintaining the trees.

According to city staff reports, the city and the association disputed who was responsible for the removal of the trees before coming to an agreement in which both parties shared responsibility.

The trees will likely be replaced with a species with a less invasive root structure, such as Chinese Pistache and Crape Myrtle.

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