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Friends of Trees No Friends in My Neighborhood

Each year the "Friends of Trees" leave fliers around Portland, offering "city approved trees" to be planted in parking strips.
This is a particularly volatile issue this year, as stories about homeowners being dinged with $2,500 bills for city repair of sidewalks, unless they undertake the job of replacing or repairing sidewalk damaged by roots themselves.

I love trees, but I think the Friends of Trees are doing homeowners and the city a disservice by encouraging tree planting where grass medians (between the sidewalk and the street) are too small to accomodate them in the long run.

The strip in front my house (and all along the 2 mile street that runs in front of it) is only 2' wide. The branches of trees that were planted by the Friends of Trees in the last three years are already hanging over the sidewalk and making it difficult for people to park on the street. Several have been taken out by cars already. When the tree matures, the roots will have nowhere to go but under the sidewalk. It would make much more sense to promote the planting of groundcovers or small flowering bushes or shrubs.

Friends of Trees provides a website URL on its flier and I went there, hoping to leave a comment encouraging them not to distribute literature in neighborhoods like mine because of the repercussions, but their website does not exist. It is a dead link "under construction."

My next step is to write the City and give them a "heads up" as well.

Is this happening in other neighborhoods, or is it only Arbor Lodge?

Plant a Japanese Maple.... 11.Nov.2004 13:36


or something other than an OAK. Oaks and several other varieties are known for sidewalk killing while others have small root patterns. Get to know your trees and your choices...something that Friends of Trees is there to help with by providing information.

Ignorance is what kills trees, sidewalks, and good ideas.

Get informed.

Wrong trees are the problem 11.Nov.2004 13:37

Tree Nut

There are only a few species of trees approved for the parking strips which in most cases belong to the city, not the property owner living there. If you use these trees you will not likely have any problems. If branches are too low, cut them. This is a no brainer. Trees are a nuisance, but very valuable for many reasons and well worth the chores to maintain them in the city. Look at what makes the difference between attractive neighborhoods and ugly ones. For the most part it is the trees. So can the bitching. If you want to live in a treeless environment go live in a Tigard apartment project or a Gresham trailer park.

... 11.Nov.2004 13:37


Smash the state and rip up the street/sidewalk...plant trees fucking EVERYWHERE! maybe not the most practical solution, but an option none-the-less. No more pesky fees!

What a pity.... 11.Nov.2004 14:31


that you should have such difficulty with your home.

Maybe home ownership is too much for you to handle?

I only wish I had your problems. It seems that simple upkeep of a home would be easy compared with the difficulty that I have had just obtaining a home.

I guess that it is all relative but I just cannot support you in your plight cause I don't share the same concerns.

It is doubtful that you are much concerned with my difficulties either.

WHo needs em 11.Nov.2004 14:32


Who needs trees? They just get in the way of the mower and drop a bunch of leaves to rake up. Shade is over-rated. Hell in my burb we dont need no stinkin sidewalks. I just drive my Burb everywhere. Walkin is for sissies.

tree's on parking strip 11.Nov.2004 14:34


you can not plant your own tree on the planting strip without getting urban forester approval from what I understand in PDX. They come out and mark the area where you are allowed to plant with a white paint mark.

When we had our tree planted last year we asked Friends of trees about the root and sidewalk issue and were told that in the past some of the trees the city allowed on the planting strip were to big (hense the root problem) but that in the past few years these problems have been corrected with the new offering of trees for even small (3") planting areas. So, please don't dis this group unless you have some info that trees planted in the last 3-4 years are showing sidewalk/root problems.

FoT said they had NO reports of probems with the current batch of tree's being offered (which includes native trees for the NW) in the last few years.


I thought this article was going to be a complaint 11.Nov.2004 14:35

about the city process of "approving" trees

and I was all ready to get behind you. However, the article turned out to be a rather mundane, if practical, complaint about the difficulty of incorporating nature into rigid metropolitan structures. Of course that's going to be difficult, developing cities has historically been about clearing land at the fastest rate and selling it for the highest price. I don't agree with the city charging homeowners for irregularities in the sidewalks in front of their houses, and I doubt their aggressively trying to get sidewalks repaired in the poorer parts ot town, but that sounds like the logical conclusion of a chain of liabilities that the legal system imposes on our society.

I'm more concerned with the fact that the city "approves" some trees and not others. Fruit trees, for example, are never approved for public planting, even though they provide some of the best shade and scenery, and even nutrition for the people of the city when they bear fruit! Imagine such a simple and elegant support for the nourishment of the people being approved by the city fathers! Not in many lifetimes, alas.

Website for FofT 11.Nov.2004 14:56



That's why God made Google.

more trees, less cars and "parking" lots and spaces 11.Nov.2004 17:07

think about it

I remember what NW Portland looked like before they cut the trees down on Quimby and Pettygrove and put those ugly condos in, scrapped the street-side trees away. Shade and protection, a sense of place, now replaced by parking spaces and dessicated soil. Soul-killing, body-killing commodification of our commons--trees near the roads--so wonderful! Park the car and walk, lose weight, feel better, get off the Prozac, and save the squirrels!

Flexibility 11.Nov.2004 17:08

North Portlander

I am a renter and do not have the option of approving the planting of trees on the grass strip in front of my house, anyway. I have lots of trees in my front and backyard - an aelanthus (sp?), two plums trees, a lilac bush, and (until a recent wind storm) an old apple tree. There is a holly tree, a willow and a dogwood in the front yard. There are a lot of trees in my neighborhood. It's not an arrid wasteland here.

I certainly agree that trees add to a neighborhood environment - where there is adequate room for them to flourish - but if there is not, why not offer city-approved flowering shrubs or bushes?

One of my friends who is disabled has a terrible time passing the two trees planted during the past two years on the 2' grass strip in front of my neighbor's house after it has rained. She's soaked. To remove the branches that extend into the sidewalk would destroy half the tree. This will probably not be an issue when the tree grows large enough to drop its lower branches, but that may be some time. Many of the houses in my neighborhood do not have garages. When people have to park on the street, they have difficulty getting out of the passenger's door as well.

Situating beautiful, young, living trees in a 2' patch of grass between two slabs of concrete is like putting a houseplant into a tiny pot and not repotting as it grows larger. Is that kind to the plant?

. . . 11.Nov.2004 17:13

North Portlander

By the way, I not only don't own the house I live in, I don't own a car either.

trees-yes and no 11.Nov.2004 18:01


As a gardener by trade I can tell you that there are definitely problems with the city's tree policies but they are not malicious bureaucrats and could use your valid complaints like the one about the disabled neighbor's. Not all trees pull up sidewalks but the city made some mistakes in the past with their recommendations. Fruit trees in that space would most likely uptake petroleum products from the soil under the street and the air, the same as the roadside blackberries you are cautioned about eating. People in my neighborhood have fruit trees in their strips, maybe planted illegally. It may also be OK to replace your sidewalk with pavers which allow water to percolate into the soil and would make it easier to control roots.

Right Tree in the Right Place... 12.Nov.2004 19:09

Beth White bethw@friendsoftrees.org

...I don't think there's such a thing as a wrong tree, but there is DEFINITELY the wrong place for certain trees.

We have a problem with invasive plants choking out natives that would otherwise thrive here --- one example of the wrong place for certain species.

We live within the constraints of our urban setting. The 3' planting strip as others have said, is the wrong place for an oak.

I work at Friends of Trees. I work closely with the city and homeowners to ensure that we are planting the right tree in the right place. What a sad, untreed city we would live in if we never planted trees in planting strips. I choose to put energy into getting trees that work in those planting strips.

I welcome anyone to contact me at Friends of Trees: 503-282-8846 x 19,  bethw@friendsoftrees.org

"If you are thinking a year ahead sow a seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking 100 years ahead, educate the people." - Kuan Tzu, 500

503-282-8846 x 19