Menlo Drive residents, city seek to resolve tree dispute
Residents of Southwest Menlo Drive say they are closer to agreement with Beaverton city officials about saving some old trees while the city moves ahead with plans for sidewalks between Allen Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue.
A half-dozen residents made their case on Sept. 4 to Mayor Denny Doyle and city councilors, who appeared surprised at their opposition to city plans.
The current city budget has set aside $1 million for the project, which has been in the works for several years and which the city has already spent an estimated $500,000. But some residents said there was no communication from city officials about the project since a neighborhood meeting in April 2017 — until they found a number of trees with white "X' marks indicating their likely removal. Up to two dozen trees may be affected.
Three of those trees — a white oak estimated at 120 years old, and two Douglas firs around 100 years old — sit in the city right of way, but also in front of the home of Karen Smith at Menlo Drive and 3rd Street.
"It is incomprehensible to me that one would remove healthy, significant, fully developed trees in order to put in what was defined as a planter with two curb trees," Smith said at a council meeting Sept. 4. "We will never see the likes of these trees in the next hundred years.
"I am not opposed to putting in a sidewalk. I doubt many of us are… but I don't want two little trees in my front yard that will grow only to 30 feet."
Terry Glickman, who lives around the corner on 3rd Street, led a petition drive that drew more than 60 signatures.
"We're proud of the fact that Menlo Drive is one of the oldest and most historic streets in downtown Beaverton," she said. "We all agree that we need a sidewalk and safe passage for pedestrians… But please do not remove historic trees in the name of progress."
After the meeting, Doyle told The Times:
"I will be sitting down with the staff over each of the issues that was raised and look at potential solutions and try to find a compromise. We want everybody to be happy. That's been the way I try to operate… They did not fall on deaf ears."
During a discussion on a city policy proposed to tailor street design to neighborhoods — the item came up after the residents left — Councilor Mark Fagin said it was "disheartening" that communication between the city staff and some Menlo Drive neighborhood residents broke down.
"The city has worked under the trust of the community. Community trust and transparency have grown," said Fagin, who has been on the council since 2013. "I am concerned that as we move forward with projects that we are trying to get community input for, we understand how important it is and how lucky we are to have that trust — and how easily we can blow it if we are not careful."
The council earlier this year adopted a multimillion-dollar plan that calls for more spending on sidewalks, bicycle paths, traffic signals and other improvements for "active transportation."
Gilckman said a subsequent meeting Sept. 6 between Karen Smith and two city officials — Luke Pelz, senior transportation planner, and Jim Brink, project engineer — apparently made progress on saving some of the trees.
Many residents, she said, still prefer to have the sidewalk on the west side of Menlo Drive, where there is already multifamily housing, utility poles and some sidewalk segments.
Glickman, in a follow-up email to Doyle and the City Council, also urged the city to schedule another meeting with neighbors.
"We would also like to offer insight from the resident/homeowner perspective that the city may find helpful in the implementation of future projects in other neighborhoods," she wrote.