A group of trees at a park under construction in downtown San Jose is now the source of some controversy. Community members who gave input on the project to renovate Pellier Park, which is finally back underway at the corner of West St. James Street and Terraine Street after lengthy delays, were told that three Mexican fan palm trees at the park were going to be moved to the entrance to the park. That is the opposite of what happened. According to Mercury News, two of the trees were chopped down and cut up.
While one of the trees was left standing, a prosecutor with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office was able to contact the city and ask why two of the trees had been destroyed. David Pandori, who is also a former San Jose City Councilman, told Mercury News that the landscape architect behind the project made certain that the trees would be moved and not cut down. But according to wording in the Pellier Park master plan, the trees were only going to be relocated “if it was feasible.” Apparently, it wasn’t. The city claims it was more expensive to move the trees than it was to replace them with California fan palms.
The city is also pointing to an ordinance that bars it from installing invasive plants which the Mexican palm qualifies. But Pandori tells Mercury News that the rule does not apply to Pellier Park because the site is officially labeled a historical site. He says that neighbors were not expecting the trees to be cut so when the removal tags were placed on the trees, everyone just thought it was part of the process to move them not chop them up. San Jose’s parks and rec director Jon Cicirelli told Mercury News, “In retrospect, we should have done this check-in with the community before proceeding with any tree removal.”
With one tree still standing, the city of San Jose is expected to hold a community meeting on Thursday to talk about how much it would cost to relocate it. Mercury News reports that doing anything other than cutting down the last tree would require the city to delay the construction for several extra months and alter the master plan for the park which could cost more than $200,000 in various fees. That is money that the city simply does not have.