Fremont wants to leave the trees to the residents

May 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Trees are at the center of a heated debate in Fremont. The fight is over who controls them and who should pay for them, especially when they are city sidewalks. Now, Fremont says the buck should stop with homeowners.

Fremont takes pride in its tree-lined streets. However, now the city says it can't maintain all of its 46,000 trees and it wants homeowners to pay to take care of them and the sidewalks around them.

"Why should I pay for the city to maintain their sidewalks? If I had my way, I wouldn't have a side walk," says homeowner Kathryn Smith.

The idea is outraging homeowners, but city advisors insist they simply cannot afford it anymore. They also point out homeowners have been getting a free ride for years.

"Even though state law says it is the property owners' responsibility to maintain street trees and sidewalks, the city of Fremont many years has provided those services as a benefit to the community," says Jim Pierson from Fremont's Maintenance and Operation Department.

"It's one of the victims of our economy," says Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman.

Fremont fired five tree trimmers last year to save $300,000. Now, there are only two left.

Homeowners could be required to hire a trimmer, which will cost hundreds and residents would be liable if someone falls on a sidewalk that's damaged by tree roots.

"They want to give me the liability, but they won't let me control the tree in any way. I can't trim it myself, I can't take it out," says homeowner Milton Nolan.

"I don't care about having to do the work, it's more about having the responsibility," says homeowner Israel Sannes.

Sannes got tired of waiting for the city to trim this tree so he took a chainsaw to it himself. If the ordinance passes, he could be fined up to $1,000.

The council unanimously passed the ordinance, but this was only the first reading. The final vote will be next month.


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