Tree sitter comes down after city explains legal reasoning for cutting trees

PORTLAND, Ore. - After getting a better explanation from the city about why cutting down trees in the Richmond neighborhood was legal and what can be done to change the rules, a 35-year-old professor at Lewis and Clark College climbed down from a Douglas fir Monday afternoon.

Elizabeth Bennett climbed 50 feet into the tree at 7 a.m. to try to keep it from being cut down to make room for new construction in the neighborhood at Southeast 41st and Clinton Street.

Protesters are hoping to save the centuries-old trees in Southeast Portland.

No more trees came down on Monday. The developer, Everett Custom Homes, said it may be months before they decide to cut down more trees. If that happens, neighbors said they'll be back to protest.

"I think there are lots of tradeoffs and tough issues Portland is facing right now," Bennett, a professor of international affairs, said. "I think people felt like what they wanted to take on here was preventing huge old trees very much on the edge of a property from being removed for development. It seems like we could have construction and new homes and still leave the trees."

KATU interviewed Bennett while she was in the tree by running up a microphone to her on a pulley system.

Everett Custom Homes has plans to build homes on the lot. The president of the company told KATU they went through all the proper channels to get approval for cutting down the trees.

Right now there's no definite plan to take down either of the two Douglas firs still standing, but it could happen, though.

Bennett said she was ready to stay up in that tree for the long haul.

"I've got a peanut butter sandwich, some granola bars and some water and mittens," she said.

But she didn't need all of those snacks. She came down in the afternoon after the city explained the tree code that made it legal for those trees to be cut down and gave neighbors hope they could change the rules to protect other trees in the future.

The developer paid about $2,400 to the city to get permission to remove the trees.

The city is also working on technical fixes to the tree code. Neighbors say they will be working with the city on improving the code to prevent tree removal like this.

Meanwhile, dozens of Eastmoreland neighbors showed up Monday to protest large sequoia trees being cut down on Southeast 36th and Martins Avenue. The neighborhood association said it was negotiating with Everett Custom Homes to find a way to build around the trees on the property. But the company decided to cut them anyway.

The protesters erupted into applause when the tree cutters decided to leave. But they know they will be back. Neighbors said it's unnecessary to cut the sequoias and that they hope common sense will prevail.

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