A recently-planted red maple on Solano Avenue. Eventually, more than 40 will line the blocks from The Alameda to Ensenada.

Laurie Capitelli showed up at Peet’s Coffee on Solano Avenue at 7:30 a.m. on Friday to wait for some trees – 37 of them in fact.

After two years of bureaucratic wrangling involving numerous agencies, including the city of Berkeley Forestry and Public Works departments, Caltrans, Alameda County Transportation Department, the Solano Avenue Business Improvement District, and some utility companies, Councilman Capitelli was itching to see a set of red maple trees be planted along Solano Avenue. His hopes were realized around 9:30 a.m. when a city of Berkeley truck drove up with a set of trees ready to go into the ground.

When the 37 trees are planted, they will join four others on a stretch from The Alameda to Ensenada, eventually forming a 30-40 foot high string of green along the street.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Robin Dalrymple, the owner of iScream ice cream parlor on Solano. “It will add some ambiance to the street, especially as they grow. They will make the street more pedestrian oriented. The street is moving along.”

A Berkeley worker cuts into a sidewalk on Solano to make room for a new red maple tree. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Berkeley public works officials had blocked off the parking spots on the north side of Solano Avenue by 8:00 a.m. and were using a machine with a spinning disk to slice into the sidewalk. Around 9:30 a.m., a city of Berkeley truck towing a trailer with nine trees arrived. They will be planted on Friday, with more to come in the coming weeks.

Caltrans paid the $55,000 cost for the trees, part of a mitigation payment to Berkeley for widening a highway, according to Capitelli. Merchants in the Solano Avenue Business Improvement District are paying about $250 each for irrigation.

The trees are the latest in a beautification and improvement process that began a few years ago, Capitelli said. Zoning regulations were redone to allow businesses to open more quickly. Bulb-outs, paid for by Alameda County’s Safe Route for Transit program, were added to provide sidewalk seating and other amenities. A bike shelter will be installed soon at Solano and Colusa.

Busted! (Drilling for the maple trees) by Ira Serkes

Trees and seating focus for Solano Avenue improvements [08.16.12]

Would you like a digest of the day’s Berkeley news in your inbox at the end of your working day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.

Avatar photo

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...