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January 23, 2020


Jennifer Pfaff

Thanks for posting this. You pretty much described it properly, except the plan does include several recommended tree types meant to emulate the look we have now, but with a much smaller girth for improved visibility. These are citriodoras, and elm hybrids (comprising the majority) and others: cork oak, sycamore, brisbane box, zelkovas. The biggest improvement is the intent is to bury all the utility lines-- much safer and more attractive, but a lot can happen between then and now. It's very expensive to do.

As good as the plan could be, future generations will find themselves right back to where we are now, if there is not a rock solid contract of some sort in place between Caltrans and this city, particularly with regard to maintenance, so that when little saplings are run over, vandalized, or simply wash away, they are replaced promptly, and in a timely manner. These issues haven't been Caltrans' strong suit.

Bruce Dickinson

Putting power lines underground sounds like a lot of digging, and a lot of digging means existing trees are more vulnerable. Bruce Dickinson hopes this isn't part of a disguised "Grand Boulevard Initiative" with the ultimate goal of turning El Camino into the traffic engineer's dream, which is what Millbrae and San Mateo are, but are also quality-of-life nightmares not to mention complete eyesores. Remember the whole left turn at Floribunda thing which Caltrans took as an excuse to rip out a far too excessive number of trees, as if salivating for any small opportunity to take back some "turf" for their not-so-grand plans.

Bruce Dickinson and my talented assemblage of able-bodied staff will be taking a very close look at these proposals and any attempts to railroad any GBI nonsense down our throats will be met with swift and decisive battles. I hope our City Council will match the perseverance and fortitude of someone who is almost eight decades old, but I would be remiss if I didn't say, that admittedly, I am setting a high, yes very high, bar.

Also, Jen-baby, please keep us updated with your opinions of the proposals. Bruce Dickinson feels you have a very even-keeled perspective on these matters and of course we all recognize your prescience years ago in working to have the tunnel of trees along ECR as a historical resource.

We are well aware of Caltrans' historical agenda and past actions and must do everything to protect what makes Burlingame special!

Barking Dog

Good Luck Jennifer, sounds like its gonna be a tough negotiation. Much thanks for your efforts!


Thanks, Jen. As we discussed in the meeting with the mayor, the REAL QUESTION is do we really have to do the full project as envisioned by Caltrans which involves cutting down all of the original Eucs (correct me if I am wrong here, please) and starting over with a planned replacement by one or more other species. If they could bend the rules and just fix drainage (call RotoRooter) and pavement that might just, maybe, could be...enough.

Jennifer Pfaff

Yes, that is indeed the real question. I would have been much more comfortable with a "pilot project" area, first, for a number of reasons-- not the least of which would be to see if they could improve their heretofore abysmal record of followthrough and maintenance.

If you say you are going to replace sick, missing or otherwise damaged trees, and ground out huge stumps so replanting can happen, then it needs to get done. It's not that the maintenance people (should I say "person") aren't trying their best, it's just that they don't have enough people in this region and are too stretched. We cannot fix that for them.

So, if they are unable to be good stewards now, it's really hard to imagine a much larger, major undertaking being better.

And yeah, a "Renewal" project intended for all infrastructure elements: sewer, sidewalk, roadbed, by default means we will lose most of the sentinel trees because their root systems probably will become compromised during all the construction.

It's a real bummer, and because the transparency with this government agency (and most agencies) is poor, and their staff frequently changes, it is not a good foundation for trust.

Thank you Bruce for the comments. Regarding the former widening proposal at Floribunda, they finally have officially tabled that one, seeing that the accident rate dropped with the No Left turn. That one was a no brainer--

But even to negotiate (in fact, force the issue) to get them to consider a sign installation, rather than a 3.5 Million project that would permanently make the area devoid of trees, took years, and lots of moxie from TSP, staff, our Council, and in particular Mayor Brownrigg.

This huge undertaking is going to be very challenging to negotiate and get right, so that we aren't left with a future landscape devoid of trees, because they couldn't (or wouldn't) keep their end of the deal.


One reason there are @200 less trees being planted are the "COB Special Interest Groups." The City of Burlingame Special Interest Groups" take an inordinate amount of R&P Management's time for "Their Special Needs: Soccer, Softball, Field Maintenance, Dog Park, Bocce Ball Soil, etc.now all kinds of new R&P things. Great Job COB Management.
HOWEVER- The City of Burlingame "People" believe, for the most part, Trees Grow By Themselves. They do not.(in an Urban Environment)
Take care of your COB Gift. You will never regret it.
PS Calm Down Everybody.

Jennifer Pfaff

Holly, I actually am referring to the El Camino Real replacement trees lacking, and that is the responsibility of Caltrans, since it is their property.

But as far as the general public taking our street tree canopy for granted, I definitely agree with you. Particularly when the trees are newly planted, or in drought years where they'd need help (and a hose), it's really sad. Typically, our Parks Dept. goes the extra mile in warm weather with the hand-watering truck, and it shows...


Straight from Caltrans funding document. Project budget and milestones. Anticipated start of construction is August 2024.

Project 0K810

In the cities of San Mateo and Burlingame, from East Santa Inez Avenue to Murchison Drive. Rehabilitate roadway, improve drainage, and upgrade existing curb ramps and sidewalks to ADA standards.

Complete prelim design/environmental 11/1/2021
Complete design/ROW certification 11/1/2023
Advertise Contract 2/1/2024
Begin Construction 8/1/2024


Construction Cost: $86 M
Total Project Cost: $121M (including design, right of way, environmental, construction engineering)

Source - Caltrans 2018 SHOPP (p 381 of 409)

J. Mir

As one who recently sacrificed a car to the angry ECR gods RIGHT AT Floribunda, I promise it it still isn’t safe. Nor the ECR sidewalks there fit for pedestrian use ($1000 medical bills for my kids broken foot). Traversing this piece of paradise is now my worst nightmare - it’s to me same as rolling through a lush yet tiger-infested jungle with a dune-buggy, or walking through a rainforest unawares that one is about to be squeezed to death by a giant python and swallowed, slowly (that’s what 10 weeks in a foot cast feels like). But, the Tunnel-o-Trees is more important.


You pretty much got the full story in this January post, but Jennifer Pfaff had a chance to correct some of Sue Lempert's errors in her DJ column, so here is a snip and the link:

After my recent column on trees and roads I received an email from Jennifer Pfaff , the Burlingame resident who has led the fight to save those eucalyptus trees and get them on the National Historic Register. Pfaff questioned some of my figures and we agreed to talk for a full update from her perspective.

Without getting into all the details, and there are many, Pfaff indicated there were several scenarios Caltrans and the city were considering. One is to keep the existing four lanes or reduce them to two with a passing lane. The final product will include rehabilitated sidewalks and road. The second is to underground the utilities to facilitate new tree plantings and help preserve some of the existing trees. Aesthetically, it will mean both sides of El Camino Real can be treated the same. Undergrounding utilities is an expensive undertaking. Burlingame has invested in below-rate underground utility credits to help with costs to bury overhead wires, which will accommodate more trees of significant size.

The city’s Pacific Gas and Electric credits now amount to $18 million to help pay for some of this. Not enough to cover the probable cost of an estimated $25 million.



Did anyone notice how Suzy Lempert never got around to saying what SHE got wrong and fixing it?

Handle Bard

Lempert wrote some past column about Burlingame's trees on El Camino but had to Google Jennifer Pfaff. That pretty much defines "phoning it in". Why does Mays still run her drivel?


There are so many variables when replacing trees on a State of CA. Highway. There never will be the tree canopy like the tree canopy here now.
Street Composition, Electrical, Sewage, Water, Gas, Effect on wildlife-Birds, Frogs, Squirrels, Bike-Pedestrian access, the effect of Sunlight/Wind/Air Moisture on properties and Cars, air quality, tree maintenance, etc.
The Burlingame Eucalyptus Grove is a once in a "lifetime" gift. Very Rare.
There will Never be a tree like the ones we have now. Not in a hundred or two hundred years.
Leave the Trees, or move the road.
Or pay with Taxpayer Funds to litigate for 10 years.
Whatever a Plan is developed it will be "Wrong."


Dammit. I am in the totally uncomfortable position of agreeing with hollyroller. What is happening? Did the sun go down in the East?

Peter Garrison

Dang it. I second the motion.


Sorry, I can't second that emotion.

Those trees are butt ugly, a huge hazard, non native (colonizers), and should be removed. That will be expensive - but what's not at this point?

What really bothers me about this heritage sentimentality to these trees is that it is being expressed by people I suspect don't give a damn about the real destruction of our western civilization that is being ruined. They probably vote for Jackie Speier and that type.

That's not to say that people like Jennifer aren't well meaning and nice. She is on both accounts.


"Destruction of Western Civilization?"
Holy Cow.
Please share with us the other predictions you have learned.
Regarding Jackie Speier:
She took a Bullet to help US Citizens get away from Jim Jones.
You probably have NO idea what happened in Guyana. Do you.
People like you, most likely "Trumpers," have and continue to build a Foundation that is bringing the US down.
You my friend are only thinking of yourself. I am Sad for you MBGA.


"She took a Bullet to help US Citizens get away from Jim Jones."

Holy, I've always suspected from all your comments that you might have been one of those Jonestown types. Glad you escaped. You lucked out and took the differently spiked Koolaid?

Me a Trumper? You betcha.

Back to the trees: I don't blame the city or the state when a tree falls (especially when I don't hear it) but I worry that people are going to die from those hideous eucs one day. But I guess it's quicker than the rona. Everybody dies.

And in fact civilizations die, so I'm coming full circle. Bring it on. Vote Democrat.

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