Laurelhurst's urban forest is an integral part of our neighborhood. As soon as the neighborhood's curving streets were platted in 1909, the founders began planting trees. Many of our two thousand street trees are are old or older than the houses around them. This tree canopy covers 34% of the neighborhood, providing shade, shelter for people, birds, and animals, oxygen and well-being.
Did you know that the city of Portland maintains an inventory of all 3,694 of Laurelhurst's trees? The most recent report, from 2014, can be read here. The findings won't surprise most of us.
"Many of the stately trees and their towering canopies are from 100-year old plantings when the area was first developed."
"Laurelhurst’s street trees produce about $742,000 annually in environmental and aesthetic benefts. The replacement value of this resource is more than $28.6 million."
"street trees provide multiple economic, environmental, and social benefts such as cleaner air and water, cooler summer temperatures, safer streets, and increased property values."
Laurelhurst's trees are counted, cataloged, and even individually mapped.
Our trees are loved, both by Laurelhurst's residents and by all the Portlanders who walk through Laurelhurst and its park to enjoy the verdant streets and views.
Trees are strong and long-lived, and we care for them, pruning and inoculating, even watering when needed. With our help they can survive harsh winters and windstorms for centuries.
But no tree can survive a saw. Laurelhurst's trees are not protected from development.
When a developer demolishes a historic building to construct an infill building, the trees are usually cut down too. Even street trees, that don't live where the building footprint will go, are killed for the developer's convenience.
This has been happening all over Portland. The infill site shown below was surrounded by dozens of beautiful, mature street trees. All were killed.
(Photos of trees cut during demolition of Caldwell's Funeral Home on NE Sandy, by Scott Tice.)
This is happening in Laurelhurst. Most recently, a 100 year old, 100 foot tall sequoia was cut down on NE Hazelfern, during "site preparation" for the newest McMansion.
(Photos of 100 ft 100 year old sequoia cut for infill development on NE Hazelfern, by John Deodato).
How can this happen? Normally, trees are protected against wanton removal. But not when developers are demolishing houses and infilling the sites. During demolition or site development, even the biggest, oldest, healthiest, most loved trees are cut down, without permits or permission, under city code 11.40.020, 11.40.030, 11.50.050. In the few cases when trees are supposed to be protected, developers cut them illegally and pay a cursory fine (less than $3,000).
"1. The following development activities are exempt from the on-
site tree density standards:
e. Work conducted under Demolition, Site Development, or Zoning Permits."
Our trees and our houses go hand in hand. Laurelhurst's big, magnificent urban trees were born with the historic houses that they shelter. When the houses are demolished, their trees are killed with them. By protecting Laurelhurst's historic houses, we can protect Laurelhurst's urban forest.