Berkeley officials focusing on safety, vegetation growing around 60 traffic circles

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Berkeley is weighing the value of trees in their traffic circles versus safety and line of sight issues after settling a lawsuit.

The intersection at Stuart and Ellsworth has a tree that a driver claimed obstructed their vision three years ago. A woman was seriously injured in a crosswalk and sued. Now the city is analyzing all 60 traffic circles and the vegetation growing in them.

Driving through many Berkeley neighborhoods is an odyssey of sorts. Every block or two, cars have to navigate around traffic circles in the intersections. Some have two-way stops and some have four-way stops, so it can get confusing.

Half of the 60 traffic circles have trees including palm trees, oak trees and redwoods. Some have full-on gardens lavished with attention by volunteer neighborhood caretakers like Suzy Cortes. She said, "I love the trees. I love the plants. We have people on every corner taking care of it and watering it."

But other traffic circles look abandoned with weeds and what the city thinks could potentially be trees that block line of sight. So Berkeley's Public Works Department is stepping in to evaluate safety block by block.

Berkeley spokesperson Matthai Chakko said, "We'll evaluate each one on a case-by-case basis. There may be some trees that need to go. "

He emphasized that the city intends to cooperate and collaborate with neighbors.

Some, like Rosemary Northcraft, want the city to take over maintenance. She said, "I think they have to monitor the vegetation and the sight lines. That's a step in the right direction."

Others firmly believe maintenance should be left in the hands of neighbors. Neighbor George Harter said, "It's hard to believe they'd do a better job than what you see right here."
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