Tree Hearings for Somerville Ave and Prospect Hill

There were tree hearings for work to be done on Somerville Ave and Prospect Hill this past Wednesday. I attended, along with a number of new friends and neighbors.

I came away surprised and impressed at the difference between these projects and our experience with the Beacon Street reconstruction. The city staff did a great job. They presented not only the work to be done, but also the effort that had gone into planning the work in a thoughtful and balanced way. They showed site maps and street cross sections, and explained the history that led to the necessity to access and replace various services.

As I said in my comments at the hearing – my first experience with this process started with October’s surprise clear-cut of Beacon. Because of that, I do not have a lot of trust or faith in our system. This hearing was a beginning, for me, of building trust with the city around how we plan and execute these projects.

The next steps in the process are governed by Chapter 87 of state law. Because objections were raised, the city staff will now make a recommendation to Mayor Curtatone, who will decide either to proceed or to change the plans.

I still believe that some changes are in order:

  • The city needs to place even more emphasis on preserving and working around our healthy, mature trees.
  • We should increase the budget for planting new trees to at least match the biomass that we are losing to sickness, construction, and all other causes.
  • We should emphasize continually refreshing our trees, rather than clear-cutting and replanting a street at a time. This will lead to a diversity of age among the trees, meaning that we never have a window like we have now on Beacon, with no mature trees for decades.
  • Wherever possible, the city should manage its own projects. The contrast between this city-led process and the State-led work on Beacon Street was like night and day.

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