The trees in question are located in a median near Bollinger Canyon Road and Canyon Lakes Drive, and also at the center of a public safety debate. The median not only divides the road, but the decision on whether or not to tear it out and widen it to make the road safer, is quite literally dividing city leaders and the former city mayor.
"They promised me and the rest of the residents that they would not touch this road," Abram Wilson told ABC7 News. When Wilson was mayor of San Ramon, he was faced with two issues on Bollinger Canyon Road: ensuring the safety of drivers and pedestrians, and preserving the beauty of the more than 80 sycamore trees that line the median. "Five years ago, when the council came and said, 'The county's demanding that we make it a full six lanes,' I said no," he recalled.
Wilson says his decision to make the wider four lanes into a narrow six was predicated on the fact that area residents love the trees. City Manager Greg Rogers says that because of that decision, city leaders are faced once again with the same, if not bigger, issue. "We had eight accidents in that area where cars went off the side of the road," he said.
In March, the city council was set to proceed with a roughly $1 million road safety improvement project. The plan was to remove the median and trees, and widen the road. Notification signs alerted area residents of the plan and ignited opposition. More than 800 citizens signed a petition to keep the trees.
"There was a number of neighbors that complained about the tree removal, so the council asked us to take another look at the project," Rogers said. Two months later, there are now five alternate plans put together by city engineers, consulting arborists, architects, and traffic safety engineers. Those will be presented at Tuesday night's meeting.
Howeve, the former mayor thinks the only solution is to keep the road as it is. "If you widen the road, people will speed more. It's just common sense," Wilson says.
The meeting is at 7 p.m. not at the city council, but at a larger venue, the Dougherty Station Community Center which can accommodate the anticipated crowd.