Construction; uproot trees

The site of construction on campus is nothing new and soon the trucks and workers will be moving into another area of campus, but it is what will be coming out, that is of concern.

The Automotive Expansion Project is set to construct a 21,000 square feet automotive tech building at the old Maintenance and Operations building site on El Rancho Drive and Mason Avenue. At the Pierce College Council meeting on Oct. 27, Project Director Ed Cadena presented the council with an update on the project that included the need to remove some of the trees in the area to ease construction efforts.

Members of the council voiced their concern about the removal of the trees because they think it is being done without forethought and proper reasons. One of these council members is Fernando Oleas, chair of the Modern Languages Department.

“I’m always looking for a reasonable explanation,” Oleas said. “Logical, reasonable that will help us to make the right conclusions. With the tree removal, I was not satisfied with the initial justifications, dropping needles and the water issues were not so much a priority for me.”

Oleas’ questioning of the reasoning led to a discussion on the topic by the council. After the discussion, a straw poll passed in favor of the tree removal 18-1 with two abstentions.

The trees are nearing the end of their life-cycles and could become a liability in the coming years due to falling limbs. According to Cadena, the roots could possibly damage the foundation of the building. Also, the trees could be negatively impacted by the raising of the dirt to level out the build site.

Timing is an issue for the removal of the trees as well. From March through August the trees are a protected nesting area for local birds and can not be removed, according to Cadena. So perhaps they will be seeking a tree maintenance company for removal over this period, so work can get started as soon as possible in the months where the nest protection rules aren’t enforced.

According to groundskeeper Rodolfo Covarrubias, there are six specific pine trees that are to be removed. Covarrubias sees the current debate as an issue of being “caught between the political agenda and community needs.”

Oleas remembers previous tree removals on campus. He specifically remembers a tree that a red-tailed hawk would call home in the mornings.

“I remember because I used to work at 8 a.m.,” Oleas said. “The trees were removed over by the bull [statue]. Back then, with a different president, we didn’t have much of a discussion about the removal of trees. We’ve stepped it up in the past years, making sure all the decisions that are made at the college pass through shared governance.”

The project was originally a part of the Pierce College Master Plan from 2010, which mapped out construction plans for the campus through 2015. In 2011, the PCC prioritized Automotive Technology as the top construction project for completion. Other projects in consideration at the time were the Horticulture and Green Technology buildings.