A judge sided with neighbors who were upset about the removal of about 200 trees from the College of San Mateo, a loss of the natural barrier from noise, traffic and buildings.
In January 2011, 201 large trees were removed from the ridgeline of the College of San Mateo campus. Neighbors in Hillsborough, joined together under the moniker Citizens For a Green San Mateo, followed with conversations with the San Mateo County Community College District in hopes of mitigating the impacts. They then filed a lawsuit last summer claiming that the district failed to conduct an environmental review before removing the trees, installing new lights in the parking lots and reconfiguring the roads. Each act, the lawsuit added, affected the adjacent Hillsborough neighborhood by increasing light and noise pollution as well as exposing college buildings previously not visible.
Last month, a judge agreed with the neighbors.
Barbara Christensen, director of community and government relations for the district, said the district is aware of the judgment but has yet to decide how to proceed.
The group sought to block further tree removal on the ridge at the College of San Mateo and require an environmental review for plans involving cutting trees, new light fixtures, parking lots and roads, according to the lawsuit. The judge agreed that mitigation was possible through a study of the timing and location of lights and roads, which should be reviewed before further action, according to the December judgment.
The district removed 201 trees under the supervision of an arborist as part of a woodland/wildfire management program, she said. Trees were removed for the following reasons: 48 percent were a fire hazard; 30 percent were diseased, dying or dead; 7 percent were impinging on native trees; 3 percent had poor structural integrity; and 11 percent opened up scenic corridors.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.