“anything we can do to save the beautiful tree?”

Exhibit - tree

“Dear PoPville,

We were very saddened to learn recently that a big black walnut tree in the backyard of a neighboring lot at 1453 Girard Street NW is scheduled to be chopped down. The tree is gorgeous, very old, and healthy. I’m attaching a photograph of it here.

The lot on which the tree sits at 1453 Girard Street NW can support two parking spots, but the developers who bought the lot and the developers who bought the neighboring lot at 1451 Girard Street NW each want to pop up to 5 units, which requires 3 parking spots per lot. The only way 1451 and 1453 Girard Street NW can support 3 parking spots each instead of 2 parking spots each is for the two lots to share a driveway easement where the tree sits, and to chop down the tree.

The D.C. Urban Forestry Administration has advised us as follows:

The healthy Black Walnut tree behind address 1453 Girard St NW has a current TOPS application (#8186) for Special Tree Removal and the permit application is currently in the Approved (Pending Payment) status. The neighboring property representative, Sima Tessema [a land developer] at 1451 Girard St NW, has permission from the manager/owner 1453 Girard St NW, Amit Vora of SHG Development LLC. to submit application to remove the tree. The tree requires compensation due to its good health. As per the Urban Forest Preservation Act, this is the procedure to be followed for trees above 55’’ circumference on private property that an owner wishes to remove.

We are wondering, do you know of anything we can do to save the beautiful tree?

47 Comment

  • NIMBY the hell out of the developers.

  • They’ve applied for and been granted the permit to remove it so I would say there really isn’t much that can be done. Unlike a lot of other DC agencies, I haven’t found Urban Forestry to be all that liberal with the granting of permits so I doubt they did this lightly.

    That being said, I’m sure they need some sort of zoning approval for the driveway easement so you could try to fight that maybe and if they don’t get the zoning approval for that, there wouldn’t be a need to cut down the tree….maybe.

  • SouthwestDC

    Ask Casey Trees if there’s anything you can do. Unfortunately if the developer is willing to follow procedures and pay the fee I don’t think there’s much that can be done.

  • I don’t really agree that it’s critically necessary to save this tree, provided there’s compensation that goes towards offsetting the loss environmentally.
    .
    BUT this also a reason why parking minimums are dumb. These buildings are four blocks from a metro station and surrounded by bus lines; surely they’d find tenants/buyers who are happy to have a tree and one less parking space.

    • No way. There’s big money attached to cramming as many parking spots as possible here. These will easily sell for $35K each (or boost the price of the new apartment by that much). I promise you, the parking minimums have nothing to do with this.

      • You might be right, but you can’t actually be as sure as you’re purporting to be.

      • Also, I’m skeptical that three spaces per building is actually “cramming as many parking spots as possible here.” Maybe the tree is low-hanging fruit for additional parking and would’ve been added anyway, but it’s certainly a point against your claim that they’re precisely meeting the mandatory minimums by doing this.

      • If spots are $35k each, and this tree needs to be chopped down to create two new spots, then you should be able to offer the developer $70k to save this tree. Probably cheaper to use the political process.

  • If the tree sits inside the property line and the developer is willing to pay the permit price for the removal of a special tree (a couple thousand $$$ for something this size), then there is probably nothing you can do. They have clearly determined that the penalty is worth the value they can get out of the land it sits on (and really we’re talking an order of magnitude difference here!). Follow up with UFA to make sure they pay the fee/fine. Oh, and find a woodworker to take all of that black walnut a least! Ensure at least something good comes out of it.

    • I would love to have the lumber from that tree. I just don’t have a good space to dry it, yet…

    • silver lining: you won’t have to deal with the mess/damage from the falling black walnuts anymore! there are two on our property and I do love and respect mature trees but I’d almost be willing to cut them down (if it weren’t for the cost) so not to have to deal with the walnuts.

      • SouthwestDC

        What kind of damage have the walnuts caused for you? I have a glass patio table and I’ve been expecting to see a crack in it one of these years, but it hasn’t happened yet.

        • It depends on the tree. Some have root systems that can destroy foundations. Some roots grow around them.

  • They want 5 units on each property? The new R-4 zoning requirements need 900 square feet per unit and zillow lists the lot size as only 2600 sf. Was this construction approved before the new requirements?

  • I bet if you yarn-bomb the sucker nobody will touch it!

    • I certainly wouldn’t ;^0
      Maybe the tree can be pollarded— that is, the branches cut way back and the trunk left, to create a pollard (like you see in van Gogh drawings)?

  • Offer them your parking space for free instead? Seems like they’ve gone through the right channels for removing it, and are paying to do so, so no, probably nothing you can do.

  • Quietly place a bald eagle’s nest in the branches, then chain yourself to the tree and make it an endangered species issue!

  • Or else, claim that the acorns are WMDs and part of an ISIS plot. Then the whole tree will be sent to Guantanamo!

  • Sure, put your money where your mouth is and pay to have it transplanted to your property

  • You should spread the word in places and on forums where people might be looking to purchase trees. Mature trees are expensive and there are lots of people who would prefer a healthy, mature tree like this one. You don’t have to buy it yourself, but you might be able to make market forces work for the good of this tree if you can figure out the cost of transportation, the cost of purchasing a comparable tree, and find someone who is willing to pay for transport. I’m not sure how much time you have until the tree is taken down, but it might be worth the effort. DC isn’t all that far away from places where people have room for trees in neighborhood a where this would help balance out the puny little trees developers put in.

  • Stop making developers include parking

  • Why don’t you buy both properties and then don’t build on them and let the tree live. Otherwise, let the owners do what they want with THEIR property.

    • The person came here for advice, not rudeness. But of course, you’re “Anon” for this, so you can be a jackass with impunity.

      Go run for office.

  • Someone seriously thinks saving a tree is worth sacrificing new housing?

    • I’d rather have a tree than most of the new residents I meet…

    • As someone who lives in a converted row house, I’d rather a view of a tree than an alley from my bedroom.

      • You probably don’t want a massive tree anywhere near your foundation. I know I don’t.

        • Its hard to tell from the photo, but its looks to be a good way back from the house. I know next to nothing about tree root issues though – how far would a tree like this need to be from a house to limit the risk of issues to your foundation?

          • SouthwestDC

            The root system is pretty extensive– I think a general rule of thumb is that the roots extend out as wide as the tree is tall! But they find ways to go around obstructions.

      • SouthwestDC

        I have a tree like this one in my alley. Every morning I watch the squirrels scurrying around on it while I brush my teeth, and in the summer I love gazing up at it and listening to the birds when I sit in the backyard. I’ve even had guests comment on how beautiful the tree is. It actually does bring a lot of joy into my life, and I’m dreading the day when it gets too big and starts encroaching on one of the neighbor’s houses. So I completely understand why the OP is so adamant about keeping their black walnut. I own a car, and if someone gave me the option of having a parking space or keeping the tree I’d definitely keep the tree.

    • It’s not sacrificing new housing, the plan is to cut down the tree in order to add additional parking spaces

  • And of course people have to post a whole bunch of dismissive comments/impractical suggestions instead of answering the OP’s question. Jeez.

    • What is your post accomplishing, then? The answer has already been provided numerous times. There is nothing the OP can do.

      • Au contraire. I recommended making a pollard out of the thing, which is a legitimate option and a direct answer to the question.

        • “I recommended making a pollard out of the thing, which is a legitimate option and a direct answer to the question.”
          .
          I’m pretty sure that the trunk needs to be removed to make way for the parking space, and creating a pollard does not accomplish this.

  • If only the zoning rewrite had passed a long time ago instead of being talked about for eight years. Actions have consequences. More required parking means fewer trees (at the margin,)

  • “Mine mine mine mine” is not in fact a good way to keep DC from looking like the surface of the fricking moon in about 10 years.

    I sympathize with the original poster, especially for having to read the responses to their polite and unobjectionable post.

    It’s hard to hate the snarky thing-a-tarian residents of DC enough, even if one gets up really early.

    • And what does protecting every single tree lead to? A metro area that sprawls out to Ohio? Is that better?

  • Seems like the environmental benefit of accommodating additional housing in the walkable urban core will easily offset the loss of one tree. Additional resident in the urban core will live in smaller (and hence more energy efficient) units and drive less than they otherwise would.

    • SouthwestDC

      But fewer trees make the urban core less walkable and housing units less energy efficient. It’s always a trade-off.

    • It isn’t trees over housing, it is trees over the additional parking spaces

    • Over 100 acres of trees are cut down every day across the Chesapeake Bay watershed, mostly for suburban development. It’s better that 2-4 units are added in DC, where they’ll kill 1 tree, than in the suburbs where four houses would kill 200 trees (e.g., one acre of woods).

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