New spot for rare Cotati tree?
SMART offers to move famous tree to location on its property
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By Dave Williams  June 13, 2014 12:00 am

The now famous Albino Chimera Coast Redwood tree in Cotati won’t be moved to the Veronda-Falletti Ranch after all.

Instead, SMART has been investigating a new site on its own property to relocate the tree. The alternative site is on the east side of the railroad tracks in Cotati, across from the future SMART depot. During her report, Cotati City Manager Dianne Thompson told the Cotati City Council at the June 10 meeting that SMART had informed the city it would not be logistically feasible to move the tree to the ranch right across the street from City Hall.

“Moving the tree would require key construction and rebuilding of 25 power cable locations across East Cotati Avenue,” Thompson said. “Comcast and PG&E said they would not be able to assemble enough staff to do that kind of work in a timely manner. We’d have large numbers of people without power for an extended period of time.”

The tree must be moved because it stands too close to the SMART railroad tracks and is considered a potential hazard. Also, it would not be prudent to transport the tree on its side; it should be standing upright at all junctures of the move. To get it to the council’s first choice for relocation would put it in contact with overhead power cable lines.

The tree issue will be brought before the Cotati City Council at its next meeting on June 24. It will be on the agenda only as an informational item because, technically, the tree belongs to SMART. Thompson said SMART will provide additional information at the next meeting. 

When contacted by The Community Voice on Wednesday, spokesman Matt Stevens confirmed SMART will be at the next council meeting but said no concrete decisions have been made. He said SMART is still looking into all the logistics of moving the tree, including the cost.

Cotati historian Prue Draper, founder of the Cotati Historical Society, enthusiastically supported the locale to where SMART hopes to move the tree. Draper has been the most public face on the effort to save the rare 52-foot tree, the tallest of its kind. These types of trees normally grow to 15 feet. The tree in Cotati is one of only 10 in existence in the world. The tree is unique because it contains two sets of DNA in one plant, having both normal chlorophyll producing green needles and white, albino needles on the same branch. The Cotati albino tree is the only known mature tree to exhibit this unusual condition.

“I think it’s a wonderful solution,” Draper said. “It’s kind of a tourist attraction. I know a lot of people who came from out of town called me said, ‘Help me find that tree.’ And we put out maps so people could find the tree. I think having it next to the SMART station, next to the railroad track is a win-win. I’m pleased SMART would do that for the City of Cotati. They could have just said, ‘the heck with it, we’re going to cut it down, it’s in our way and we don’t care about it.’ I praise them for it and I’m really happy with the outcome.”

Local arborist Tom Stapleton, who also has been a leading advocate for saving the tree since 2012, is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Thompson was in agreement with Draper.

“I would support the recommendation because it seems like a reasonable solution,” Thompson said. “The tree would be highly visible from the train, it would be accessible to the public and it would be taken care of at least initially by SMART.”

Because SMART will be relocating the tree onto its own property, there will be no cost to Cotati.

Mayor John Dell’Osso knows of another person who’ll be ecstatic about the decision.

“Mrs. (Louise) Santero, who lives across from the tree, actually saw the guy planting the tree over 60 years ago,” Dell’Osso said. “And I remember her saying, ‘I want that tree staying right here so I can keep an eye on it.’ She’s going to get her wish because it’s going to the other side of the road.”


Post Your Comments:
George Barich
June 13, 2014
That's not what the City Manager said when it was decided weeks ago. She said the newest location for the tree would not be highly visible or accessible to the public given being placed in the middle of speeding traffic on the outskirts of town. Draper also argued against this newest location weeks ago. How quickly these people contradict themselves or are simply losing their minds. And, if the tree is indeed SMART property and the issue should not be place on a future city council meeting agenda, why was the matter placed on the city agenda to begin with?

These people at City Hall are out of control or incompetent. And who cares whether or not Mrs. Santero can keep an eye on the tree or not? This is insanity and political pandering at it's worst. This tree has already cost the city thousands of dollars in staff time. SMART has admitted it has decided nothing. Yet the city now has now abandoned it's own plan to move the tree that was voted on and passed by five votes. It is clear now they did not do their homework and wasted valuable time. Now, without ANY public input, from behind closed doors, the city takes it upon themselves to circumvent proper procedure when this is hardly an emergency situation. This is clearly government run amuck. Any responsible city would simply place the item back on the agenda, notice the public to weigh in and have an intelligent discussion, and vote on it. But not in Cotati as they continue to demonstrate they refuse to do things the right way.
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