They Might Kill Giants

A local author joins the fight to save the great Sequoias of Eastmoreland.

WW Giants shot

I SPEAK FOR THE TREES: Arthur Bradford with some seriously large sequoias that soon might not exist. – IMAGE: Carrie Wilson

Last night two drunks came to visit the trees. It was 3 am, and they parked their car so the headlights shone on the massive trunks as they stumbled around, gazing skyward.

“These things are fucking huge, man.”

“We can’t let them cut ’em down…”

They woke me up, and I stood at our bedroom window tempted to tell them to shut up. But the thing is, I sympathize with those guys. The trees are indeed huge, over 150 feet tall. There are three of them, all planted in a neat row supposedly back in the 1800s, giant sequoias with trunks so thick you could drive a small car through them, just like they do in those national parks on the California coast. It would indeed be a shame to cut them down, especially just to make room for one more big house that no one in particular has asked for.

Even Vic Remmers, the developer who plans to build  it, agrees with the drunk guys, to a certain extent. “I really wish we could find another solution,” he wrote me.

By “another solution,” Remmers means he’d like to get his invested money back, plus a $250,000 profit. His company, Everett Custom Homes, bought the land four months ago—two city lots, one of them empty but for the trees, and the other with a modest house that was being pushed over by the roots of the giant sequoias next door. We live on the other side of the trees and had hoped to buy the tree lot back when it was put up for sale. We didn’t really have the money, though, and Everett Custom Homes swooped in with $650,000 cash for both lots.

We thought perhaps they’d have trouble getting a permit to cut down the trees and might work around them instead. The name of the company was “Custom Homes,” after all. But it turned out there was nothing custom about the huge Tudor-style houses it planned to drop on the land. And the company had no trouble getting permits to cut down every single tree on both lots. Prior to a newly adopted tree ordinance, a Portland resident would have had to pay about $80,000 to cut down those trees.

Now developers merely pay a small, uniform fine into a “tree mitigation fund.” Remmers and his company ponied up $2,400 for the right to cut everything down. The traditional 35-day waiting period for public input on their plans was waived.

A crane would be brought in, we were told, and workers would first limb each tree so they could be rendered enormous spiky poles. Then they’d shear the trees down in small chunks that could be lowered carefully to the ground. These chunks, useless as lumber, would have to be chopped into chips for the landfill.

But the night before this was to happen, a posse of news trucks camped out on our street. Hundreds of protesters arrived in the morning, and the TV reporters gave live updates, waiting for a showdown. In the days leading up, some neighbors had made a last-ditch effort to buy the land from Remmers. It wasn’t until those news trucks and protesters showed up that he offered to cut a deal. A meeting was set at a local coffeehouse for later that morning.

A small group of us waited for the developer, some having just met that very morning. Remmers strolled in late, a tall, former Oregon State University basketball player, in his early 30s. He sat down, and right away the head of our neighborhood association berated him with threats of lawsuits and protesters endlessly blocking his way.

Read more at the link above~~


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