Giant trees to be removed from San Francisco's Washington Square park

As much as San Francisco loves, nurtures and protects its trees, it will soon have to remove a very visible grove of them right in the middle of one of its busiest and most famous squares.     

The nine-decade old trees, which weigh many tons each, are now an official hazard. The towering Canary Island pines in San Francisco's North Beach Washington Square Park will soon be gone.

The City says it's because the contractors who aer building a new children's park effectively weakened the trees and made them dangerous when digging into their roots to put in park apparatus. The City says, and the contractor verifies, that the contractor's arborist approved cutting the roots of the trees, apparently believing the trees would not be harmed. Big mistake. 

"That absolutely was not supposed to happen under both the written specifications of the contract as well as numerous meetings we've had with them for the construction project. They knew they had to have written permission for anything having to do with trees," said San Francisco Public Works Department spokeswoman Rachel Gordon.

Neighbors have complained and the city's arborist concluded that the trees were now unsafe for a children's playground, something even the contractor told me his arborist verified.

"There were potentially other remedies to deal with this," said Gordon. The problem with root compromised trees is that, eventually, they may fall over and that would be bad news, not only for the people inside the park, but for the many buildings, cars and people within their falling distance.

Neighbors who use the park are not happy, even though these trees will be replaced with mature trees instead of saplings. 

"I love the park and I love the trees the way they are. I walk an hour a day for exercise here and I love it," said North Beach resident Benjamin Flores.

These trees are getting old and a falling branch from one such tree, two years ago, severely injured a woman when she was struck by it. So, this may hurry the inevitable.