96-year-old woman wants landmark status for tree near Lombard Street

A neighborhood controversy is swirling near a popular San Francisco tourist attraction— the crooked section of Lombard Street, and is now spilling over into City Hall.

In 1962, 96-year-old Meri Jaye planted a redwood tree in her yard as a tribute to her husband and children who died in a plane crash.

I lost my husband and my children and I planted it in memory of them. So it’s over 50 years and it is a great wonder," said Meri Jaye.

She also says she chose a redwood because her husband proposed to her in the redwood-filled Muir Woods, but the tree has grown to 96-feet tall.
It's part of the view from the crooked section of Lombard Street less than a block away.

"To have this growing in the heart of the city, you don't think that is fantastic?" Jaye said.

But not fantastic for everyone.
The tree has caused controversy in the neighborhood and made its way to City Hall.

Jaye and her supporters have asked the city to declare the tree a city landmark, making it almost impossible to remove or alter it.
That idea does not sit well with some of Jaye's neighbors.

The family across the street says the tree blocks their view of Coit Tower and North Beach.

But their main concern is safety.

"There are risks and hazards. You don't know when something might happen, but a tree so much bigger that can pose a hazard is something we worry about," said neighbor, Christine Zimbardo.

Jaye and a host of supporters want to ensure the tree is preserved when future owners come in.

Opponents worry landmark status would limit options for the tree in the future.
"If the next person buys that house and has that tree landmarked, it will be difficult to trim, prune or remove it," said Zimbardo.

The San Francisco Urban Forestry Council is expected to vote on whether to recommend landmark status at its meeting March 24th.

If it votes thumbs up, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will then have final say.