San Francisco Russian Hill resident wins first step in landmark tree status

 

San Francisco Russian Hill resident Meri Jaye secured the unanimous vote of the San Francisco Landmark Tree Committee on March 24 to grant landmark status to the redwood tree she planted in her backyard nearly 55 years ago.

A fight over the redwood tree has divided neighbors in the iconic San Francisco neighborhood, with some alleging the tree blocks views and poses a safety hazard.

The Landmark Tree Committee already approved the tree’s landmark nomination in October, but the vote was vacated after a letter was submitted from the Montclair Terrace Association accusing the committee of violating the Brown Act, part of the California code which grants the public the right to attend meetings of local legislative bodies.

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Russian Hill resident Meri Jaye and her redwood tree, pictured above in a 360-degree photo, captured on a Samsung Gear 360 camera. (Kelly Swanson/Peninsula Press)

The letter accuses Landmark Tree Committee Members of conducting their onsite evaluations of the tree without notifying the public and only in the presence of Jaye, 96, who is the tree’s nominator for landmark status. The committee decided at that private meeting, the letter alleges, to approve the nomination of landmark status and then held a public meeting on Oct. 6 to notify the public of its decision.

“This is exactly the type of situation the Brown Act was intended to avoid — i.e., private meeting with a proponent, followed by a publicly accessible sham meeting to formally decide what was discussed and essentially decided at the private meeting,” the letter reads.

The Landmark Tree Committee voted on Feb 28. to vacate its previous recommendation and restart the process of evaluating the tree which requires members of the committee to visit the tree and submit a written report. Although the committee members agreed that they did not agree with the accusations in the letter, they decided it was best to restart the evaluation process, “out of an abundance of caution.”

“I don’t see the purpose on voting on this, but it is a good thing that the city is meeting on this to try and cure the alleged violation,” Rose Hillson, a member of the Landmark Tree Committee, said at the Feb. 28 meeting.

Restarting the evaluation process, five members of the Landmark Tree Committee conducted a second evaluation of the redwood at 4 Montclair Terrace and unanimously voted that the tree should be granted landmark status on March 24.

Next, the tree must receive approval from the board of supervisors, the final step in making it a landmark. A date for that meeting has not been released.