Mountain View Cemetery, a famously beautiful location for contemplation and recreation in the City of Oakland, also harbors many old- growth Oak trees (Quercus agrifolia) that face the chopping block in the cemetery’s expansion plans. Comments  on Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) were due August 1, 2016, plus an extension. Read EBCNPS comments.

Recent other media coverage: East Bay Times: Mountain View Cemetery Seeks to Ax Oakland Oaks (Conservation Committee Chair Jean Robertson, photo credit Mark Hedin)

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Established in 1863 and encompassing 226 acres of rolling hills at the head of Piedmont Avenue, the main portion of the Mountain View Cemetery was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The cemetery plans to greatly expand the developed area, involving massive land moving, removal of at least 190 mature oak trees, and potential impacts on many more mature oaks. These trees and the oak woodland habitat provide an oasis of natural serenity within the urban setting. EBCNPS commented that the proposed project fails to fully describe impacts on the oaks and woodland, provides inadequate protections for remaining oaks on the site, and urged adoption of a less-impacting alternative.

The planning commissioners and the City of Oakland Staff received many more comments from the public (over 100 e-mails and phone calls), expressing support for retaining the native trees, which include many large individual trees as well as entire swaths and groves. We are all currently in a waiting period, as the comments on the Draft EIR are officially processed. The response to comments can come as early as October, or perhaps up to three more months away.

We encouraged those who learned about the project from EBCNPS, to copy my email address conservation@ebcnps.org when submitting their comments. The following is a thank you letter EBCNPS sent out to those passionate citizens on August 31, 2016.

 

Thank You to Supporters of the Mountain View Cemetery Live Oak Trees:  

The East Bay California Native Plant Society (EBCNPS) would like to take this opportunity to thank you for submitting comments to the City of Oakland, regarding the proposed expansion project at Mountain View Cemetery.  As the Conservation Analyst for EBCNPS, I also submitted suggestions and objections on behalf of our organization. We focused most on the potential removal of 190 or more coastal live oak trees (scientific name, Quercus agrifolia).

Perhaps you first heard of the project from one of your friends. We know that not everyone copied my email address when rushing to make sure their message reached Catherine Payne, of the Oakland Planning Department. All of our impact together surely resounded in the inboxes of the Oakland City Planning Commissioners and the Mayor. You raised important points ranging from your love of oak trees, desire to save habitat for wildlife, and wish to conserve water and other environmental issues. I was touched to read heartfelt emails from people who have family buried at Mountain View Cemetery, and from those who enjoy it as a refuge for solitude, bird watching and walking.  It was obvious: we all love Oakland. Specifically, we showed we care about this peaceful parcel of land with the magnificent live oak trees.

So, what happens next? In a public process such as this, we can expect the City of Oakland to take time to read through our submissions, and hopefully, make revisions to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). All those who submitted comments  should receive notice of the next public distribution and comment period regarding this proposed project EIR (even if your comments were submitted after the August 1, 2016 deadline).

City of Oakland Planning and Zoning Commission: Mountain View Cemetery Proposed Expansion Project 2016, and future updates posted on this City of Oakland website. The City may take 3 to 6 months to respond to all the comments submitted.

Are you interested in remaining on my email list, specific to upcoming Mountain View Cemetery proposed expansion project developments? Do you belong to a foundation or organization that would also like to submit their opinion? Could you assist with lobbying? Part of the EBCNPS plan includes greater media coverage for this project.

We are also considering arranging meetings with public officials in order to gain favor for requiring large changes to this project proposal, or even, rejecting it altogether. If we can count on you to be ready to support the next steps to save the live oak trees, and for news specific to the Mountain View Cemetery expansion proposal, please email me directly at conservation@ebcnps.org.

Karen Whitestone

 

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