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City-owned Noe Valley tree chopped illegally, neighbors furious

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“I almost cried when I saw it.”

Stump of the Clipper Street tree.

Residents and neighbors of the apartment building at 610-660 Clipper Street woke up to a nasty shock Thursday, as the towering Juniper tree on the corner of Clipper and Douglass (right across the street from the Douglass Playground) was gone, leaving nothing but the melancholic smell of fresh sawdust.

Contractors removed the trunk Thursday morning, apparently at the behest of the building.

This unfortunate felling could turn into a big problem. The chopped tree was owned by the city. It was also allegedly one of the oldest and tallest public trees in Noe Valley. Cutting it down could incur a fine of up to $10,000.

A four-story Juniper tree in front of an apartment building.
The Clipper Street juniper in better days.
Image via Google Street Views

“The tree was taller than the building and was here before the building was built in the 1960s,” a building resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told Curbed SF. “The tree was not diseased or harming the building or the wires in any way.”

“I almost cried when I saw it,” adds the resident. “The stump looks [...] almost bloody.”

The city’s Open TreeMap identifies the tree in that spot as a silver dollar gum eucalyptus, but that appears to be a mistake, as it was almost certainly a juniper. [Update: One reader identifies it as a Monterey cypress instead.]

Trees line the entire facade of the circa 1964 midcentury apartment complex. However, none were as tall or as visible as this one. In fact, the same tree features prominently on the apartment building’s website.

A company called Green Tree Property manages the building, which is rather unfortunate under the circumstances. No one with building management was immediately available for comment.

Department of Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon confirmed that the old juniper was the property of DPW and that no one obtained a permit for its removal.

“It was a really nice tree,” she told Curbed SF, sounding rather put-out about the affair. Gordon adds that the contractor should have checked for a permit before doing the work.

Now that it’s gone, the building owner (listed under an LLC) could be on the hook for its assessed value, perhaps as much as $10,000.

And Clipper Street residents are left with a fresh stump as their own poignant The Lorax and/or The Giving Tree-style testament to the destructive effects of thoughtlessness.

It does seem odd to have a publicly owned tree this close to a private building, but DPW says the trunk was indeed theirs