Atascadero won’t be able to save five of the decades-old trees around the city’s historic Administration Building.
The trees are among seven that dot the lawn around the landmark building between Lewis and Palma avenues. Using old photos, city leaders estimate the six deodar cedars and one Italian cypress were planted within the first 10 years of the building’s completion in 1917.
But the years have taken a toll on the historic trees, and the city arborist recently determined five would likely not survive the extensive pruning required to accommodate the exterior scaffolding needed to perform repairs to the earthquake-damaged building.
The City Council in August decided to approve removal of the trees. City staff must now revise and recirculate a 2006 environmental report to the public that said the trees would be preserved when Atascadero repairs its Administration Building that sustained damage in the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake.
The revision would allow the removal of all but two of the trees surrounding the building. Two deodar cedars on Palma Avenue face the Sunken Gardens and are said to add to the historic character of the building.
As for the other trees, the city arborist determined that they have a degree of thinning, are growing into one another, or are unhealthy or touching the building.
The trees to be removed also block the view of City Hall rather than enhance it, according to city staff.
City officials said they do not yet know how much it will cost to remove the trees or when it is likely to happen.
Work to fix the cracked and broken Administration Building begins in September.
The city arborist also estimates that the deodar cedars typically have a life span of about 130 years.
Deodar cedar and Italian cypress trees are not native trees to Atascadero, according to the city, and therefore don’t fall under the city’s tree-protection ordinance.
Because they are part of the historic setting of the building, staff said, they are covered under the National Register of Historic Places designation and removing them needs to be addressed in the report revision under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The public has 30 days to review the revised report. It’s then set to go back to the council for final approval, likely in October, officials said.
Work to restore the building is estimated to cost $43 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to pay $16 million for the project, slated for completion in 2013. The city will take on a sum of up to $18 million and is still lobbying FEMA to raise its contribution to $28 million.
The four-story building most recently housed city offices, City Council chambers and the Atascadero Historical Society museum before it closed after the quake. It had a rich history of various uses in the early and mid-1900s, including a public library, post office, civic center and three private schools.