Noe Valley Voice April 2007

It's Not Easy Staying Green

By Corrie M. Anders

Tree lovers in Noe Valley had some good news and bad news last month.

First the bad news: Person or persons unknown fatally mangled at least five young trees sometime in February. The trees were among the 66 that the Noe Valley Association (also known as the 24th Street Community Benefit District) planted around the neighborhood last fall.

NVA Executive Director Debra Niemann says the three London plane trees planted on the Sanchez Street side of St. Clair's liquor store on 24th Street were attacked deliberately. The London planes usually mature into a large green canopy of leaves.

"Someone has been methodically tearing off bits and pieces of the trees to the point that nothing will grow," she says.

Vandals also lopped off the top of a Tristania sapling in front of Tuggey's Hardware Store at 3835 24th Street. So much of the ornamental tree was sheared that Niemann says it "could never grow."

The fifth casualty, a non-fruit-bearing strawberry tree, was located in front of an apartment building in the same 3800 block of 24th Street. It was cut down at mid-trunk.

"All the trees were so severely damaged, we ended up having to take them out completely," Niemann says. "Now we'll have to replant and put cages around them to try to deter people."

She says she has no idea why someone would harm the neighborhood's new trees. "None whatsoever," she says. "We've put up signs saying that it is against the law to destroy this tree."

Undaunted, the association will plant another batch of 66 trees in April--that's the good news--and is looking for volunteers to help get the job done.

"We need 66 volunteers, one per tree, and you can bring your kids," says Niemann. "Kids love to dig in dirt."

Volunteers will gather at 8 a.m., Saturday, April 14, at the parking lot adjacent to the Bank of America, to assemble trees, posts, and straps. An hour or so later, Friends of the Urban Forest will train helpers on how to successfully plant the trees. The actual planting will last about three hours, and will be followed by a pizza feed at the community room of St. Philip's Church.

"This is a great opportunity for our community to come together and improve the quality of air and life for all of us in Noe Valley," says Niemann.

The trees will be staked at two locations: along Castro Street from Elizabeth Street to Jersey Street, and along 24th Street between Castro and Diamond streets. The plantings include a mixture of five species--Tristania, Callery pear, double-cherry, Little Gem magnolias, and non-fruit-bearing strawberry. They're all small decorative trees with nice foliages and blossoms.

The city of San Francisco awarded the association a Community Challenge grant to help defray the $175-per-tree cost of the 132 trees. The grant covered $100 of the price, and the remainder was financed through the association's budget, Niemann says.