LINCOLN SQUARE — Lincoln Square neighbors were confused and upset this week after they spotted city crews cutting down what they thought were healthy trees on their block Wednesday morning.
“I work from home and I heard all this noise,” said Grace Amandes, who lives near North Ravenswood and West Winnemac avenues and decided to pop outside to see what was happening.
That’s when she and other neighbors saw a city crew removing trees from the parkway in the 1800 block of West Winnemac Avenue.
Chris Jones lives across the street from where the trees were cut. When he heard the noise yesterday he initially thought the city crew was there to just trim the neighborhood’s trees again.
“They were just out here a few months ago to trim, so I went to a worker and asked what the plan was today,” he said. “When they said the trees were coming down, I wanted to know why.”
Amandes and Jones began chatting with neighbors and city workers and learned that a resident had apparently called Ald. Pat O’Connor’s 40th Ward office to ask that the trees in the parkway be removed.
The property owners at a home on the block had reached out to them repeatedly “over a long period of time” to complain about the five trees alongside their building, a representative for the alderman’s office said.
According to Zillow, the owners of the 4,300-square-foot home are selling it for $1.3 million.
“[The] five trees in front of their building were causing damage to their property and wanted all five removed. The city came out and trimmed all five trees as best they could but were not able to trim them enough to stop causing damage to the building for fear that the trees would become unbalanced and unsafe,” the email from the alderman’s office read. “At that time, the decision was made to cut down only the two most damaging trees, one of which was diseased.”
The property owner declined to comment.
“We thought that was crazy and I just don’t understand how one resident who doesn’t like the trees can have them cut down,” said Amandes. “When you want a city tree taken down it should be the same kind of process like getting a speed bump installed. These easily had to be 25 or 30-year-old trees.”
In some city wards a petition must be circulated among residents before a speed bump can be installed.
“Getting a speed bump installed in another place I used to live was a whole complicated process,” she said. “And so hearing this person just called to complain to remove the trees was surprising.”
Chicago’s rules for parkways, the little plots of greenery between the sidewalk and the street, are a bit complicated. The Chicago landscape ordinance requires that one high quality, nursery-grown tree be planted per 25 linear feet of frontage on a public right-of-way.
“Tree and plantings, key elements in the streetscape, improve air quality with the cooling effects and reduce storm water burden to the city’s sewer line,” according to a release from the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation. “A national study found that people are willing to spend 12 percent more to shop in large cities’ districts with mature trees and landscaping.”
The city’s ordinance mostly focuses on specific requirements property developers must follow regarding the landscaping of city parkways when building a new project, but doesn’t have rules regarding the removal of healthy trees. However residents who want dead or damaged trees removed can go online and put a request for service.
O’Connor’s office also said that they can provide assistance to residents regarding things like tree removals, but added that there is no additional action needed like petitions and that the official intake system for all city requests, including tree inspections, is 311.