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Neighbors concerned over tree removal at Claremont DMV

on August 16, 2011

On Saturday, to the surprise and outrage of some neighbors, 14 trees and two shrubs were removed from the California Department of Motor Vehicles office parking lot on Claremont Avenue.

Some of the DMV office’s neighbors heard tree trimmers buzzing Saturday morning, and walked over to investigate. They found cranes, bulldozers, chainsaws, chippers and workers in trees, said Misti Groves, who lives across the street from the office on Miles Avenue. Some of the neighbors asked why the trees were being removed and why they hadn’t been alerted, and some monitored the progress till the project finished at 5 p.m.

“Since then, we’ve just been trying to figure out what happened,” Groves said.

According to DMV spokesperson Jaime Garza, the trees were removed because they were a safety hazard and will be replaced. Garza said the trees had a history of dropping branches and damaging personal and state property, and noted that the City of Oakland had recently removed three trees from the area after a branch fell on a car. Garza said a state arborist found many of the trees on the property were diseased and infested with beetles. After an attempt to save the trees was unsuccessful, Garza said, the arborist recommended some of them be removed.

“The reason this happened was because [the trees] were posing a danger, plain and simple,” Garza said. “Because they were mature trees, we did everything in our power to figure out how to save these trees.”

Groves said the trees were an asset to the community, providing shade for visitors to the Sunday farmer’s market, and a nice setting for people who walk their dogs in the area or stop to have lunch. “You could sit under the shade and enjoy the creek with your family and friends, and that’s destroyed,” she said. “You will never have that kind of feeling again, and I think that’s so upsetting. Maybe those trees had to come down, but the DMV did a very poor job of justifying why they needed to be cut rather than trimmed.”

Groves also said neighbors were upset because they felt they hadn’t been properly warned. But Garza said that city leaders and neighborhood groups had been contacted, including the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, the Rockridge District Association and the Rockridge Community Planning Council.

However, Councilmember Jane Brunner (District 1) was not informed, said staff member Elinor Buchen. Brunner became aware that the trees were gone at the farmer’s market the next day. “The councilmember was at the farmer’s market and saw what was happening just like everyone else,” Buchen said.

Groves and her husband, David Groves, passed out 250 fliers at the farmer’s market, and spoke with dozens of people concerned about the trees being removed. “There was just this overwhelming sense of sadness,” Misti Groves said of the reaction she saw from people at the farmer’s market. “Several people were outraged by the process, I think they felt it was such a big change in the landscape that it would have been done a different way.”

Now people in the neighborhood just want to see some trees replanted, Groves said. “I think there has to be trees there, but I think they have to be planted in a smart way,” she said. “Maybe a landscape architect needs to come out there.”

Garza said the DMV agrees that trees should be replanted, and that staffers are working on a plan with Brunner’s office. He said the agency hopes to plant “trees that will be much healthier and not pose a threat, trees that will be perfect for this environment and this area.”

But, he pointed out, the soil in the area where new trees would be planted is currently damaged and has a high acidity level. He said the arborist recommended that the DMV either wait one year to plant new trees, or remove 10 yards of soil and mix in topsoil to prevent new trees from dying. “The DMV is going to be working with Jane Brunner and the city to determine which trees would be most appropriate to replace those trees with,” Garza said.

Groves said the neighbors just want the area to look nice again, and welcome the chance to give their input. “This can really be an opportunity now to add character to the area where the trees were cut down,” she said.


  1. Marty Price on August 16, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    I was shocked driving past Sunday. What concerns me is that the DMV , and also the Oakalnd Housing authority do not seem to answer to the same standards as we citizens do in so far as tree removal goes We have to post a pemit, a notice, and it seems they do not. They are gone now and this is an opportunity to put some decent soil in, no more Eucalyptus, anda replant native , Buckeyes, and Oaks.

  2. David Cohn on August 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Good story. I too went to the farmer’s market on Sunday and was unpleasantly surprised by the chainsaws and tree cutting. Some of those trees were beautifully old.


  3. Rockridge Advocate on August 16, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    The DMV never gave notice to FROG, the Friends of the $Rockridge-Temescal Greenbelt, about this removal, and certainly not to any neighbors. They removed some of the shrubs we planted along the creek in 2006, funded by Oakland’s Measure D, which were perfectly healthy. We have asked the DMV to remove the huge p9iles of eucalyptus chips, which render the soil unfit for anything, and develop an appropriate re-planting plan, including replacing the shrubs they removed from the park.

  4. denise simard on August 16, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    “Groves also said neighbors were upset because they felt they hadn’t been properly warned. But Garza said that city leaders and neighborhood groups had been contacted, including the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, the Rockridge District Association and the Rockridge Community Planning Council.”

    Um how about Temescal neighbors?

  5. Teeews on August 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

    My experience is that most Rockridge residents are more concerned about the loss of trees in their neighborhood than the loss of lives in other neighborhoods in Oakland. If that energy could be harnessed to the benefit of the entire City, Oakland could be a far more healthy, safe and prosperous place to live.

    • Stephen Stewf Coles on August 22, 2011 at 1:46 am

      A sobering point, Teeews, and well made. I sympathize with those disappointed with the loss of trees. Trees are one of the best solutions for urban blight and rising city temperatures, plus they raise local pride and wellbeing. But Oakland has problems that deserve more noise than this.

    • Stephen Stewf Coles on August 22, 2011 at 2:02 am

      On the other hand, I gotta say I’m thrilled that Oakland North is reporting on these issues (big and small). It’s the kind of ultra-local stuff that gets no action in area press and it does deserve coverage.

  6. Virginia Browning on August 21, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Pretty mature trees (including natives to the area that would grow in this soil) can be bought at

    I am very sad to hear about this! It’s happening all over. Cities don’t have money for maintenance, so they clearcut. Couldn’t they have cut some now, planted, cut others later IF they had to cut any?

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