A letter to Nathan Brostrom
November 20, 2007
200 California Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-1500
Dear Vice-Chancellor Brostrom:
We have just learned of plans to cut large overarching branches along Piedmont Avenue and are writing to you today with our urgent concerns about the damage such cutting would cause to historic resources.
The landscape of Piedmont Avenue is the very first street designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and as such is a historic resource of national significance. The landscape is a California Historic Landmark (#986) and has been determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The trees along the frontage of Piedmont Avenue and their overarching branches are a crucial feature of the historic landscape. In his design, Olmsted specified a close and overarching bowery of foliage as the most important vegetation element of the landscape. The east side of Piedmont Avenue between the I-House and Kleeberger parking lots represents the best surviving section of overarching landscape in the entire historic resource. This section of historic trees was described in the UC Berkeley Historic Landscape Report for Piedmont Avenue:
The fact that this land appears to have always been open space planted with large trees means that Olmsteds vision of a verdant shaded road has essentially been in place on the east side of the street for more than a century. (IV-4, Piedmont Avenue HLR, March 2006)
The overarching bowery of branches along the frontage of Piedmont Avenue is an essential character-defining feature of the historic landscape, and its loss would be devastating to the historic resource.
We recognize that the University of California faces significant concerns in the current situation with tree-sitters in the area. It is tragic that this crucial piece of history is now threatened because of the situation with the tree protest. We urge the University to seek solutions to deal with the situation that do no cause permanent damage to the historic landscape. There must be other alternatives available to the University, perhaps utilizing additional barriers, fencing or other temporary controls that would not necessitate permanent loss of historic features.
In closing, we hope the University can look to the guidance of The Secretary of the Interiors Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, which stresses the implementation of measures which do not cause permanent loss of character-defining features in cases such as this. The overarching bowery of limbs along Piedmont Avenue has taken over a century to develop and is quite simply irreplaceable in our lifetime. Its loss would be a devastating blow to the rehabilitation efforts underway for this historic landscape and a terrible loss for the City of Berkeley and University of California.
Please feel free to contact us if we can be of assistance in anyway in promoting a positive solution to this issue.