After residents called for immediate action to mitigate fire risk in El Granada, San Mateo County is set to spend $500,000 of Measure K funding to remove up to 220 eucalyptus trees in the medians in El Granada.
If the funds are approved at the county’s budget hearing this week, the project could begin within the next two months and be completed by the end of the year, county Department of Public Works Deputy Director Khoa Vo said in a presentation to the Midcoast Community Council last week.
The first priority would be removing all 44 trees in the circular “C-1” and “C-2” zones along Avenue Cabrillo at the Columbus Street and The Alameda intersections. The county would pay contractors to cut down the trees, haul off the remnants, grind down the stumps and cover the medians with mulch. Then, contractors would move to the “R” zones, first removing branches that hang over roadways followed by any dead limbs that are two inches or wider. If funds remain, the next priority would be thinning dense clusters of trees within the “R” zones.
Vo said leaders from Cal Fire, the Parks Department, and the Department of Public Works worked together to map and prioritize zones that would be more critical in stopping progress of a fire from moving from Quarry Park into the main avenues of El Granada.
“If there is no break, the fire would continue on its path from the park through the community,” Vo said. “Just based on that evaluation, and looking at aerials, we felt and we believe this would be the best area to address in terms of reducing the potential of fire.”
Vo said contractors estimate that it may take two to three days and $10,000 to remove each tree. After the trees are gone, the area would be seeded with native plants and covered with mulch.
The funding is a one-time source, but it’s not the only project in the works for fire prevention in Quarry Park. County Parks has dedicated $1.2 million to fuel management on 218 acres of Quarry Park in the next five years, and the San Mateo Resource Conservation District is spearheading a fuel management study of the entire community.
While some MCC members worried about the aesthetics of clearing trees from the neighborhood, most agreed that fire prevention is more important than the visual impact on El Granada. The one-time funding would not cover ongoing maintenance of the medians or future replanting.
“Personally, I don't care about the aesthetics,” MCC member Gregg Dieguez said. “I want the fire safety first. I would like to see every dime spent on reducing the fire risk.”
Although Granada Community Services District has a contract to use the median space for parks and recreation facilities, GCSD leaders said at the MCC meeting that the district doesn’t have jurisdiction over the spaces and wouldn’t be responsible for replanting or maintaining them.
“Unless we can find the connection to recreation and parks, it will be difficult to find a way for GCSD to play a role here,” said Barbara Dye, who serves on the GCSD board but spoke at the meeting as a resident of El Granada.