What we won, what we lost, and what remains... by Kathleen McElroy

Dec. 16, 2009
  • their attention (no small feat)
  • the discovery of many delightful neighbors of like mind and like values, with a shared passion for citizen activism and for protecting the rustic nature of our valley

The issue here appears to have been city access to the sanitary sewer. We asked in our “Friends of the Greenway” proposal that they “reconsider the scale of access required for maintenance and repair, and develop access options appropriate to a narrow ravine running between long-established private home back yards”. They appear to have figured out how to access the sewer without creating a road through the valley.

No 12-ton, big green Vactor truck will be traveling through our back yards.


We asked “Save the trees”. We appear to have saved trees that the city originally planned to cut down.

Under the option offered us which is likely to be implemented, Option #2, we appear to save about 250 inventoried living trees out of the 304 trees identified as being within the possible/permissible construction zone.

( Remember, however, that the arborist was instructed to inventory only trees 3" or larger. The smaller trees, not included in the inventory, are the future of this valley. So the tree loss, once one includes small trees, will be greater than the 54 which the city has identified.

( However, by the same reasoning, we will also be saving the small trees outside the Option #2-defined construction zone, trees not included in the inventory. So the number of saved trees is larger than the estimated 250 trees inventoried.

Other major tree-saving achievements:
  • Lining two major sewer branches (the original plan included replacing these branches) running through three residents’ yards. We asked “add a liner to the sewer pipe”. The city’s choice to line at least the two branches saves ancient oak trees, and several other major trees. The oaks are original inhabitants of the oak savanna which was here before the houses were built.    Lining the sewer branches also saves extensive homeowner landscaping within those yards.
  • No construction of a new sewer branch (included in the original plan) built between 4338 Upland (our property) and 205 Midvale. That sewer branch would have destroyed 8 trees, a fence, and a shed.
  • Six of seven mature honeysuckles at the end of the valley are saved. (The original plan was to cut them down.) These provide screening from Midvale for the homeowners there, as well as for property owners farther down the valley.
  • A defined construction path that appears to be more narrow than originally planned, saving innumerable trees. 
We asked for “a single-lane construction path”. A careful analysis of the city’s original plan vs. the November 30th Option #2 suggests that the construction path is intermittently narrowed. Because few trees were identified on the map of the plan first offered us months ago, it is difficult to identify the number of trees saved by the narrowing of the construction zone – but the number appears to be significant (thank you, Engineering).

It is unclear whether the contract bid will specify single-path construction. The section detail presented by the city at the bottom of the Option #2 map suggests that the city can choose to use single-path construction (instead of creating a construction road parallel to the installation channel) to replace the sewer and install the water channel.

* A contractor-obvious designation of the construction parameters (perhaps a snow fence) will be installed by the city (per an email to David Newby from Alder Chris Schmidt on December 12th.). This will help assure that contractors do not stray outside the agreed-upon construction zone and damage additional trees and plantings on the hillsides.


We asked “keep the open water flowing.”

Our storm water will not be forced into an underground pipe. The nature of the resulting (very welcome) water flow is undetermined. So there is much work to do yet to assure that our valley hosts a congenial, aesthetically pleasing storm water flow. We do not want ragged-edge, ugly riprap dumped the length of the open water stream.


We asked “stop any remaining erosion problems within city-owned property and easements.”

The city appears confident that the installation of a well-built storm water riprap channel will correct the erosion problems within city property. City responsibility for, and action concerning, the collapse of easement-area and private property hillsides because of the erosion in the city-owned property has yet to be resolved.



We asked that the city line the sanitary sewer and repair any defects, including replacing the fill washed away from the buried pipe and laterals. This would avoid the necessity of the significant environmental damage resulting from open-cut wholesale sewer replacement. And, if done professionally and well, lining and repair would have given us a healthy, well-functioning sewer for years to come.

The city appeared to make no serious effort to present an option to us that, through repair rather than replacement, would create a reliable, effectively-functioning main sewer. (Examination of the current laterals found them to be generally sound.)

We had little choice but to select an option that included replacement of the sewer pipe and laterals – a choice that will bring significant destruction to our valley. (“Open-cut” means a large, deep construction gash in the valley, and up the sides of the hills where the laterals will be replaced. ) At least 54 trees will be lost, including 31 of them from the dense stand at the west end of the valley. This is the stand of trees that protects much of the valley from the sight and sound of Midvale Blvd. Without these trees, the significant and increasing sound of Midvale traffic will roll right up the valley.


We left the November 30th meeting with significant unanswered questions and incomplete plans for the future of our valley. These issues can be summarized under:
  •  storm water management
  •  erosion control
  •  tree preservation
  •  landscaping, remediation, and habitat restoration 
There will be another community meeting (per an email to David Newby from Alder Chris Schmidt). I have been hearing from you about the outstanding and unresolved issues, and the action agenda that remains. David Thompson has been doing some especially detailed work on this.

Based on what I have been hearing, I expect to be assembling a consensus proposal on these issues from Friends of the Hillcrest Upland Greenway I will circulate it to you for your review, comment and approval – and will then, with revisions based on your comments, submit it to the city prior to the next community meeting.

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