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February 10, 2023


Paloma Ave

Trees do not make a city special, people make a city special.


Me: Write three paragraphs in the style of an art and culture critique about the inherent racism of blocking change. The change involves removing more than 300 Australian eucalyptus trees along a road called El Camino Real. El Camino Real goes through the city of privilege called Burlingame.
The removal of the trees will improve the roadway and is needed to connect minority populations on both sides of Burlingame, possibly to provide better bus service.

ChatGPT: The proposed removal of more than 300 Australian eucalyptus trees along El Camino Real in Burlingame has sparked controversy, with some members of the community pushing back against the change. However, what may be overlooked in this discussion is the inherent racism of blocking necessary improvements that would benefit marginalized communities. The removal of these trees is not just about improving the roadway, but about connecting minority populations and providing better access to transportation.

For too long, marginalized communities have been cut off from vital resources due to inadequate transportation infrastructure. The removal of the eucalyptus trees along El Camino Real is a necessary step towards rectifying this injustice. Blocking this change, under the guise of preserving the natural beauty of the area, is a thinly-veiled attempt to maintain the status quo and deny marginalized communities the access and resources they need.

The resistance to change in this case is not just about the trees, but about the power dynamics at play in Burlingame. The city has long been a bastion of privilege, and the blocking of necessary improvements in the name of preservation is just another example of the inherent racism that permeates our society. It's time to acknowledge the role that this type of resistance plays in perpetuating systemic inequalities and work towards a more equitable future for all.

Me: write a counter argument that promotes saving the trees.

ChatGPT: While it is important to address the needs of marginalized communities, it is equally important to consider the long-term impact of removing over 300 Australian eucalyptus trees along El Camino Real. These trees are not only a beautiful natural resource, but they also play a vital role in the local ecosystem by providing habitats for wildlife and regulating the local climate.

Furthermore, it is not clear that removing the trees will actually solve the transportation issues faced by marginalized communities. Better bus service and improved transportation infrastructure could be achieved through alternative means, such as improving public transportation routes or implementing bike lanes.

Instead of resorting to drastic measures like cutting down hundreds of trees, we should explore more sustainable solutions that preserve the natural beauty and ecological integrity of the area while also addressing the needs of marginalized communities. We can work towards a more equitable future without sacrificing the beauty and environmental benefits of our natural resources. By finding creative solutions, we can improve the quality of life for all members of the community, both human and non-human alike.

Jennifer Pfaff

'Very impressive(!)

Haystack Calhoun

Non-native species planted racist colonialistsare stark reminders to Communities of Color that they are not welcomed. And, in some cases, trigger Slavery PTSD among African Americans. Trees were used for lynchings until recently.

joanne bennett

Oh please so now planting of trees is now racist? Give me a break!

Why not spend your time advocating for more trees in lower income neighborhoods??


Chat GPT is way smarter than Hayseed. Someone give him the URL so his comments can rise to the median.

If you want to fret about something, fret about the 5 years this project will take and how much traffic will divert to Balboa and Capuchino.


The original interspersed Elms and Euc plantings on ECR were designed by this guy:


I will leave it to our local tree wizard to elaborate, but I'm pretty sure there were no lynchings.

Haystack Calhoun

Actual lynchings may or may not have occurred. The point is the ugly legacy of the slave trade, slavery, whippings, and worse. The trees are symbolic and can trigger historical remembrances among descendants of slaves.

Haystack Calhoun

The notorious colonialist McLaren was responsible for the trees. Figures. This is the individual who destroyed SF's beautiful sand dunes and replaced with millions of non native species in what is now called Golden Gate Park. Not to mention the slaughter of the indigenous snowy plover bird population. Almost to the point of extinction. I am appalled that his statue remains in GG Park.

Handle Bard

Backpedal much?

I never had a historical remembrance of what occurred with my great-great-great grandfather.

Paloma Ave.

My great grandfather moved to Township 1 in 1878.

Do you know what Township 1 is called now?

hollyroller@ gmail.com

I hope it is not to late to comment. I did so. For some reason it never got to be posted here. Joe? Did you Censor Me? I may have made a mistake.

hollyroller@ gmail.com

I wish I would have read HC's POV before I commented....
Dear "Them/They." I enjoy dramatic "speech." I have been known to share some "Dramatic Speech" from time to time here too.

-"Tree's Equal the Hanging the of Black People."

That is F'n Awesome. Thank you for sharing.
This Years "Arbor Day" will be the best ever.
Kooky People are Fun!
I should know.

Jennifer Pfaff

Hi Paloma, well it looks like (in 1923)"Township 1" in California, was listed as both Daly City and SSF., Burlingame was Township 2 as was San Mateo, Redwood City was Township No. 3, HMB No. 4, and Pescadero was Township No. 5.



Sometimes a comment may get caught by the spam filter, but I checked and there is no record of a previous comment from you on this thread. Perhaps you forgot to hit the Post button?

There is no "censorship" on the Voice--just enforcement of the Terms of Use and frankly that is so rare it's not worth talking about.


Local columnist with a long memory, John Horgan, at the DJ walked carefully down the middle of the road regarding the Eucs yesterday:

NEW TREE FLAP SEEMS CERTAIN: Burlingame boosters like to refer to their town as the “City of Trees.” A primary example in that direction are the rows of stately eucalyptus trees that line El Camino Real through much of that burg.

The towering fauna has been a cherished part of the community for nearly 150 years, or since Scottish gardener John McClaren planted them in the 1870s. They have even gained historical status. But they have become a problem.

When Caltrans authorities revealed last week that, of the 390 eucs along the four-lane ECR route, it was estimated that 90% would have to go because they are intrusive, disruptive and dangerous, it was almost certainly the opening shot in what may well become a citywide argument.

The trees have their fans. A lot of them. Some years ago, when a single euc on Easton Drive had to be taken down because it was a clear hazard, the howls were loud and long.

It got to the point that the tree was even given a name, “Tom.” Cutting it down seemed like a savage act of “euc-a-cide.” But come down it did.

Now, with close to 360 of its cousins at collective risk, a controversy seems all but assured. Again — and on a grand scale.


I like the term euc-a-cide. Here's what Young Tom jr. looked like back in 2017:


Haystack Calhoun

Hollyroller. I believe Arbor Day should be purged from the nation's calendar in the interests of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The City of Burlingame needs to be on the right side of her-story and lead the way.


I love a good troll and Haystack has excelled. Kudos, sir, ma'am, whatever.

I forgot to note earlier that Mr. Horgan should know better than to say Burlingame boosters "like to refer" to their town as the “City of Trees.”

That ain't no nickname or slang term, Johnny. It's official:

Founded in 1976 and co-sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters and the United States Forest Service, the Tree City USA program provides a framework for communities to manage and expand their public trees. More than 3,900 communities have achieved Tree City USA status by meeting four core standards of sound urban forestry management:

maintaining a tree board or department
having a community tree ordinance
spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day.

Today, in all fifty states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico nearly 155 million Americans are living in Tree City USA towns and cities.
Friday April 28th is Arbor Day this year. Anyone want to dress up and go Superglue themselves to a Euc on El Camino? Spill some fake bloody sawdust? Pull a Julia "Butterfly" Hill tree climb?

hollyroller@ gmail.com

That was Fun revisiting Tom the Tree." Wasn't there a section of TTT cut and placed in the Burlingame Historical Museum?
(What happened to Hillsider and Bruce Dickenson?)
The trees have been here a long time. At least from my POV-without causing many problems. There have been much worse Tree Failures in Washington Park, California Drive, Bayside Park and many more that were determined to be trees that the COB is/was responsible for. We get Home, Car, Health, Attorney Insurance that hopefully never has to be used. In my opinion, CALTRANS, County and COB are searching for a solution to a problem that does not exist. When it does exist then we respond. In the meantime, take your vitamins, exercise, don't drink, (hopefully somebody will get where I am going with this) and don't EVER drive over the speed limit. There are MUCH more important issues that effect the COB everyday. If anyone is afraid, of being injured, being killed, or property damage don't live, drive or walk on ECR. What's the problem? "Lack of Common Sence, and Personal Responsibility.
Probably X Box too.

Bruce Dickinson

Holly-baby, Bruce Dickinson is alive and well! Post COVID yours truly did quite a bit of traveling to work on some re-issue projects and helped out some buddies on new stuff. It's very funny how the 1980's music is now en vogue with the young 'ins these days with fingerprints of that decade all over a lot of new stuff. Also adding a little guitar to some of the new stuff really enhances it, in a good way. Love seeing the old school come back!

Anyway, I digress. The Eucalyptus question is a tricky one... I really wish that Burlingame were more in control of the process, as the state of CA is only approaching this as on or off switch. On one hand, blue gum Eucs do have a finite lifespan, which is probably shortened by the constraints placed by the sidewalks, roads and there have been more instances of falling trees during storms and as the Eucs age this will become a bigger problem. They are really bad for fire (a bigger risk in CA nowadays) in a city that is inherently windy and the trees let off a lot of debris that negatively affects storm drains and power lines. Finally ECR is so bumpy from the roots that it's getting even more annoying to drive on it now...do you know how many carbon-fibre lips and spoilers I've replaced on my Ferraris (not to mention their cost!!!).

Given we don't have koala habitats to worry about here in the bay area, Bruce Dickinson can see the point that if you could put any mature tree along ECR, starting from scratch, would the Euc be your first choice? Probably not. The original vision of Elms interspersed with Eucs is probably the right "model" to follow as McLaren had a great sense of landscape design and his work has stood the test of time, resoundingly so. The problem is the State is in charge of ECR and will probably F this up just like everything it does!

Bruce Dickinson would be in favor of a long term, let's say 20 year plan to proactively identify sections of trees that need to be replaced and do it gradually, maybe 300-500 meters at a time. At no point should the "tunnel of trees" ever not exist aesthetically during the gradual replacement process. Yours truly doesn't know if such a City-CalTrans partnership can be forged, obviously my worry isn't from the Burlingame side.

Just in my informal conversations, I do think there is less pushback for removing the Eucs due to the reasons I mentioned, but I think all can agree that the trees should be replaced with something as (or almost as) majestic. Let's face it the reason why Burlingame commands a premium on the Peninsula is due in no small part, to it having a "Tree City USA" status. This is feature of so many high real estate value areas across the world! Comparing our stretch of ECR to neighboring cities is like comparing Lady Gaga to karaoke night singers at a bar.

Hoping something can be worked out where all sides can "win", but call me a skeptic.

Everything's Jake

When Caltrans completes their tree massacre, will they at least have the decency (and humor) to make little gnome homes and wishing-wells out of the remaining stumps?
Redwood trees seems to thrive here and would make an excellent fast growing replacement.


holly, call me a skeptic too. We will get 24 inch box trees at best and none of us will live to see the canopy we have now.


It's nice to see Mr. Dickinson grace us with a comment. I missed him. But I do have to take fact-based issue with one bit of his comment:

"Finally ECR is so bumpy from the roots that it's getting even more annoying to drive on it now"

There is ample evidence from Peninsula Ave. southbound to the hospital that the Euc roots are not the main cause of the lousy road surface. Why? Because that section of ECR is just as bad as ours and there are no Eucs. In fact, there are very few large trees in that part of San Mateo ECR and it can still jolt an expensive tire/rim.

Christopher Cooke

I agree with much of Bruce’s remarks. I would gradually replace the Eucalyptus trees, starting with the diseased ones and those that pose the biggest safety issues, with Bay Laurels or some native species that meets certain criteria: (1) aesthetically pleasing; (2) stable in high winds; and (3) root system less likely to disrupt sidewalks/roadways. Maybe no such trees exist but we don’t know unless we look.


It's one thing to "bury the lead", it's another to just avoid the elephant in the highway.


The fact that we are talking about 355 trees doesn't seem to make the cut for inclusion.........

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