Somerville Ave. Tree Removal Hearing

Wednesday, May 2

News flash - Word is just in that a half hour has been tacked on to the front of the meeting announced below (starting at 5:30 at the same location) to talk about a tree removal project planned for Prospect Hill Park.  More details on that one will be provided here soon.

A hearing has been scheduled from 6-8 PM on May 2 in the Academy room of the Public Safety Building (220 Washington Street) concerning the planned removal of trees along Somerville Avenue from the central plaza area of the Square on both sides of the street to Medford Street (in front of the Target store).  This operation is part of the Somerville Ave. Utility and Streetscape Improvements Project which was approved in December of 2017.  Any objections to their removal must be submitted in writing prior to or during the hearing.  They can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  You can, and probably should, send a copy of your letter to the following:

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Mayor Joseph Curtatone)
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (all members of the Somerville Board of Aldermen)
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Brad Rawson, head of Somerville Transportation & Infrastructure)
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Chris Dwan, see below - maintaining a record of submissions on this issue)


Here's what This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. posted about this project to our USNC-public mailing list on March 30:

Hello all -

...No sugarcoating it: the construction will undoubtedly be very disruptive - it's ~3 years of heavy construction along Somerville Ave., from Union Square to Target. And indeed the project will unfortunately involve cutting down a number of mature trees. As Gary mentions, the project will ultimately result in a net gain in trees (which will be planted in "Silva cells," which are apparently devices that greatly enhance tree growth and strength in urban environments by supporting greater root growth), as well as a much improved streetscape, including fully protected bike lanes. The city's arborist, Vanessa Boukili, has been very good about answering residents questions, so please do feel free to contact her directly if you'd like to know more details than I can give.

And of course, the overall goal of the project is to radically upgrade our stormwater/flooding mitigation sewer system, which is certainly a worthwhile goal...


Report by Gary Trujillo:

Eighteen people attended a similar presentation on April 23 at the public safety building regarding the six remaining trees of 37 that were removed without final approval along Beacon Street, including USNC members Tori Antonino and Gary Trujillo, as well as Ward Two Alderman J.T. Scott. There was a general feeling in the room that this hearing was primarily for the purpose of informing the public what las, in reality, already been decided (even if it has not yet been put into written form), rather than to permit reasoned opposition to the undertaking to influence a yet-to-be-made decision that appears to rest in the hands of city staffers which really takes into serious account objections that have been raised and that substantially addresses the concerns upon which those objections are based. Among the reasons attendees of this meeting gave for their opposition to the project are:

  • loss of shading and health effects provided by mature trees
  • substantial decrease in property values
  • decades required for saplings planned for planting following construction to reach the size of those planned to be removed

The upcoming hearing concerning the removal of a similar number of trees along Somerville Ave., in preparation for multi-year work to separate storm drain flow from sewer lines, would seem likely to have this same character, since it is being run by the same people whose mandate appears to be more about smoothing the way for doing things in a way they appear to admit is seriously flawed (they seem to be claiming that decisions that resulted in the current plan were made before they were installed in their present positions, and that there is so much inertia in the system that plans based upon those decisions cannot now be halted without serious consequences).

One of those in the room, Mr Chris Dwan, who lives just off Beacon Street, has created an FAQ page which could be a useful resource in support of whatever efforts anyone might care to make to influence the decision about tree removal along Somerville Ave, though his principal concern at this point is the removal of the remaining trees on Beacon Street.  He has also done a blog posting in which he reports on the hearing held on Monday, April 24th and in which he provides an excerpt of a letter he sent to Mayor Joe Curtatone.  More recently, Chris posted an article in which he offers a summary of the main issues pertaining to the way in which the City is conducting the process.  Chris also posted a thoughtful analysis  which he submitted to the city tree warden prior to the Monday hearing.  In that letter, Chris writes: A 9 inch diameter tree is probably between 20 and 50 years old.  The saplings being planted along Beacon Street this year will reach that level of maturity between 2038 and 2060.

Another of the attendees of the Monday hearing, real estate broker Sara Cohen, also shared a letter she wrote and sent to the mayor on this matter.

Thanks go to Joe Beckmann for passing along the following recent articles on this subject, which put the matter in a larger perspective: