January 27, 2008
Trees on Kirby may be doomed after all

This is a bummer.

Despite a compromise that reclaimed 7 feet of paved width from a plan to revamp Kirby Drive, it now appears that all of the trees between Richmond Avenue and Westheimer Road will be lost to construction.

Houston foresters told a group of about 30 residents Thursday that after walking the site Dec. 7, it was determined that even with a roadway that is 73 feet across, the majority of trees will be unable to survive.

City Forester Victor Cordova said only eight trees within the area have a "realistic chance" of surviving, and that is because they are relatively small rather than in a viable location. He called moving those trees "a very expensive venture."

At an often-heated meeting Sept. 15, about 150 residents were told by an Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority (TIRZ) arborist that plans to widen Kirby to 80 feet would mean the removal of all 143 live oaks and 18 smaller trees from the area.

However, at a follow-up meeting Oct. 4 a compromise was announced between the TIRZ and the nonprofit Trees of Houston that was intended to save "as many trees as possible." However, no numbers were provided.

"Give us another 3 feet on either side and we can talk," Cordova said of the logistics for the drainage project that will include pedestrian-friendly amenities and buried power lines.

Unfortunately, for those who hoped to see at least some of the present trees remain, traffic ordinances and safety issues preclude Kirby from being rebuilt at its present 66-foot width.

Link via David Crossley. That story is from a couple of days ago - the Chron has a story on it today. It's ironic that this news came out around the same time as Mayor White's State of the City address, because one of the items in his address is this:

For the rest of the State of the City I would like to simply talk to you about some of the obvious and then more difficult choices that we can make to improve our quality of life in the face of incredible growth. Let's start with four obvious choices.

More trees. The City of Houston has proposed a five year tree-planting budget with $2 million per year for new tree planting and maintenance. We challenge other governmental entities and the private sector to match that amount. This program will allow us to plant 100,000 new trees. I would ask the Quality of Life Coalition, the Greater Houston Partnership, and Trees for Houston, Harris and Ft. Bend Counties and our philanthropic community to assist us in this investment which will improve our City's appearance, absorb more greenhouse gasses, and cool down the surface temperatures of our city.

One would hope that given this laudable goal, the Mayor would prefer not to start out the year by seeing over 150 mature trees being chopped down in the name of street-widening, especially when stakeholders were given the impression that those trees were going to be saved. Surely there's something that can be done about this.

For some background on this story, see here, here, and here. Construction starts in April, so there's no time to waste.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 27, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
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