By Sasha Marguiles, iHeart Media
April 25, 2022
Sam Shane: A new project could uproot hundreds of trees from the State Capitol Park. KFBK’s Aubrey Keaton has been doing some digging on this story, and this is just a project that’s planned right now. Aubrey, good morning, tell us a little about the project first of all, and the concerns about the trees in the park.
Aubrey Aquino: The park next to the Capitol building in Sacramento houses nearly 1,000 unique trees. However, this new construction plan seeks to relocate and/or remove some of these special trees, and also demolish the East Capitol Annex building. Urban Ecologist, Paula Peper explains that puts hundreds of California’s historic trees in danger.
Paula Peper: These (trees) store up to 4.1 million pounds of carbon in their wood. Every year they absorb, from the air, the equivalent of 804 tanks of gasoline from our cars.
Aquino: She fears any attempts to relocate many of the trees will not be successful, especially for the historic palms which date back to the 1890 because of their massive height and loose soils. Peper says the project also calls for the excavation of the West Steps in favor of a new Visitor’s Center and underground parking garage that would span between N to L street, along the 12th street corridor.
Cristina Mendonsa: Aubrey, any other reasons people are opposing the construction plans?
Aquino: The working group, “Save Our Capitol," believes this plan could erase a significant part of California History by, you know, possibly removing or getting rid some of these trees—and that’s on top of the nearly 15% of trees already lost because of severe drought, as well as a lack of budget to maintain the Capitol Park. Another concern Peper points to is that this planned project doesn’t meet the regulations to which other projects would be subjected.
Peper: It has been extremely secretive, and it was planned that way. Everybody who came to speak to us when I was a member of the Historic State Capitol Commission, they were under non-disclosure agreements and couldn’t share anything with us—and yet we were supposed to advise the Legislature on all aspects of historic preservation.
Aquino: She also believes that it contradicts the legislature’s concerns about climate change and sustainability when underground parking and new construction threatens more than a quarter of the park’s trees which include gifted trees from every major country in the world, trees that memorialize important figures, and Coastal Redwoods planted from seeds sent to the moon on the Apollo mission.
Shane: Okay, Aubrey, thank you very much. We appreciate you reporting on that.
Mendonsa: Yeah, that’s disturbing about the secretive nature of the construction project. I mean, that is the people’s house of California, and why are we not privy to why they are doing it and what they’re doing.
Shane: There are like four lawsuits already pending on this deal. They want to get going on this by 2025. My gut tells me—given what they’re doing over there, if it’s that secretive—this is going to get held up quickly. That’s a big project they’re talking about—
Mendonsa: It’s huge! And it’s a major change to the Capitol, and why? They need more parking underground?
Shane: That’s what they seem to think? And they need a Visitor’s Center? Why?
Mendonsa: I know. You can just walk right through the doors and—
Shane: You can go into the Capitol and—
Mendonsa: Visit it. It’s beautiful.
Shane: Visit the Capitol, it’s your building.