CNPS East Bay Chapter and Mountain View Cemetery Reach Settlement Protecting Live Oaks and Funding Woodland Restoration

Oaks in the Olmstead Historic Area
A single oak, like this one in the cemetery’s Olmstead historic area, can support hundreds of mammals, birds, and insects.

Settlement Helps Put the “Oak” Back in Oakland

 OAKLAND – Apr. 3, 2018 – The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) East Bay Chapter has reached an agreement with Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery that will add protection for several hundred coast live oak trees and provide a financial boost for oak woodland conservation.  The settlement clears the final legal obstacle for Mountain View Cemetery’s planned expansion project to proceed in 2018.

As part of the agreement, CNPS will withdraw its appeal of an earlier 3-2 decision by the Oakland Planning Commission to approve the cemetery’s expansion project.  In return, Mountain View Cemetery has agreed to implement measures to protect at-risk oak trees during grading and construction, fund an independent arborist to monitor those activities, and plant additional oak trees on-site if more trees than the permitted number are lost.  The cemetery will also make a significant financial contribution to off-site oak woodland conservation and restoration.

“We are pleased that the cemetery has agreed to these additional measures to protect the majestic native oak trees on the cemetery property, and to provide funding for off-site conservation, preservation and restoration of local oak woodlands,” said East Bay CNPS Vice President, Judy Schwartz.

Oaks are highly valued resources.  A single oak tree can support hundreds of mammals, birds and insects.  Oak woodlands have higher levels of biodiversity than virtually any other terrestrial ecosystem in California.  The heavy wood of oaks also stores more carbon than many other trees, meaning they capture the carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.

Attorney Martin D. Bern of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP represented CNPS pro bono in the matter. “CNPS is already identifying local projects where funds provided by this settlement will be used to protect and restore oak woodlands locally,” Mr. Bern said.  “We hope that these efforts will preserve these iconic trees for generations to come, as well as increase awareness of their environmental importance.”

The cemetery, originally designed by landscape architect and journalist Frederick Law Olmsted, received approval from the Oakland Planning Department in November 2017 to proceed with the development of 6,300 new burial sites, many of which will have unobstructed views of San Francisco Bay.  Prior to receiving approval, and in response to comments submitted during the environmental review process by CNPS and other members of the public, the cemetery made changes to its construction plans that will save 20 “protected” oak trees, some more than 100 years in age, from removal.

CNPS appealed the Planning Department’s decision to the Oakland City Council, however, arguing that the environmental review of the project did not sufficiently analyze the impact that construction could have on hundreds of “at risk” protected coast live oak trees.  With the appeal pending, the cemetery’s expansion plans were placed on hold until this month’s settlement.

“Trees are an important part of the natural setting provided to our visitors, and we will be planting many more young coast live oaks than required by the City of Oakland’s tree ordinance to compensate for trees that will be removed,” Mountain View Cemetery General Manager Jeff Lindeman said. “We also have worked with the city, CNPS and the public to save as many mature coast live oaks as practicable, while still proceeding with this important expansion.”

For more information, contact:

CNPS East Bay Chapter Contact:
Judy Schwartz
(510) 847-3399

Martin D. Bern, Esq.
Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP
(415) 512-4021

MVCA Contact
Richard Williams, Esq.
General Counsel
Gray Duffy, LLP
(650) 365-7343

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