OPINION: The Danger to Rossmoor Trees

Looking into the Golden Rain Foundation's plans for an events center and its potential effect on trees.

Mary Anne Clark shared with Patch this letter that she sent to Walnut Creek City Manager Ken Nordhoff and other city officials.

We met briefly a few months ago during a meeting you had with several concerned residents of Rossmoor (Diane Guilfoy, Bob Dickson, Patricia Zuker and myself) when we were contesting the notification process for the proposed Rossmoor event center. My concern has always been the potential damage to the heritage oaks that exist on the site where the event center and parking lot are being planned. I am gaining a reputation in Rossmoor as "The Tree Lady", a title that is questionable in my mind but does help identify my concern for the Heritage Oaks. Currently, there are 3,000+ out of 9,000 residents (we circulated and continue to circulate a petition) who oppose this project partly because of the threat to the trees and partly because of the parking congestion that would be caused by having too many events happening simultaneously in an area not capable of handling all the traffic. 

In the latest plans for the event center that the Golden Rain Foundation Board has posted on their website, the parking lot extends to the very trunks of the oaks that have been determined to be approximately 200 years old. Also, I noticed they are calling one tree a buckeye, which is misleading because, in reality, it is a large Red Horse Chestnut, a tree that is generally planted in a landscape as an accent tree. This tree is slated to be cut down (on the map, this tree is to the right of the privet and just below a sycamore). It is a large, beautiful tree and is shown on the plan as a smaller, insignificant tree. It is concerning that the architects didn't properly identify this tree (even though there is a label on it) and are minimizing its size. There are also oak trees that are approximately 100 years old that are shown at the very corner of the event center and, although not indicated as trees that will be cut down, I don't understand how they could be so close to the building without being significantly damaged or destroyed. I see this plan and Warren Salmons' (CEO of Golden Rain Foundation) proclamations as attempts to confuse the issue of protection of the trees just as the GRFB obfuscated the issue of the event center project notification by posting the wrong address, incomplete plan and inability to notify those residents who live nearby. 

The roots of the trees extend to an area 1-1/2 times the size of the canopy. When considering the health of these magnificent trees, the pavement cannot extend to the trunk of the trees (as shown in the plan) without causing significant damage. I have consulted with one of the professors in our Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, Dr. Joe McBride, an expert in urban forestry and a CEQA expert, Arthur Dawson, from the Sonoma Ecology Center who specializes in calculating the age of valley oaks. They have each told me that paving over the roots of the heritage oaks will have dire consequences for the trees.  The asphalt will heat up and interfere with the oxygen intake of the roots and the weight of the vehicles will compact them. The oaks already have to contend with a  golf course that, when it is sufficiently watered, creates a situation of over watering and this would compound the assault on them.

I urge you to study the diagrams and put a stop to the plan, as proceeding with it will endanger some of the most beautiful trees in Rossmoor. The Golden Rain Foundation argues that they will have sufficient parking. They are claiming they will have 130 spaces. These 130 spaces are not, in reality, dedicated to the event center but would be shared with the many events planned at the Stanley Dollar Clubhouse and the Stanley Dollar Pool. The GRF Board has stated the capacity of the event center to be 400. Even if capacity is reduced by half, there will be too much traffic for the location, especially if the trees are given the space they need to be healthy, which would significantly reduce the size of the parking lot. I urge you to study very carefully the size of the event center with the number of parking spaces they are proposing.

We residents have been doing everything we can to impress the GRF Board that we don't want or need an event center in this location (especially when we have the fine Lesher Center nearby) but the board is proceeding without regard to our reasoned arguments (among the retired people opposed are engineers and contractors).  The 3,000+ residents who have signed the SOS (Save Our Stanley) petition want to stop this project in part because it would be built on one of the most beautiful spots in Rossmoor. In addition, the plan has too many flaws besides the damage that will be caused to the trees and the traffic problems that will be inherent in having it at this location. We have also suggested alternatives such as the Del Valle Theater and the Jewish Community Center but to no avail. 

This is a bad design in the wrong location and could ultimately cause injury to the residents who attend the many activities in this location. A few years ago, a golfer was killed when trying to cross Stanley Dollar Drive and we feel the traffic generated by the event center will compound traffic issues in this area.

Best regards,
Mary Anne Clark


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