Readers Respond to a Portland Family’s Tree Removal From Hell

“We have six large nukes just waiting to fall on us, from across the street like if it were a WWF character doing a flying clothesline.”

Last week, WW introduced Portland to the Bond family, who now have a Douglas fir where their second-story bathroom used to be. The story quickly became a sensation, in no small part because the city’s Urban Forestry division had denied the Bonds a permit to cut down the tree before it fell, and then demanded the family obtain a permit to remove the stump (“Schrödinger’s Cat,” Jan. 24). By the weekend, most local news outlets had discovered the Bonds, or similar tales, and on Jan. 30, City Commissioner Dan Ryan waived all tree removal and replanting fees stemming from the storm. Here’s what our readers had to say:

cloverthewonderkitty, via reddit: “I have worked as an arborist assistant in Portland and Lake Oswego. The permitting system for removing trees is excessive, and leans towards protecting trees that are still safety hazards. I have been told, ‘I can’t permit that tree this year, but maybe it’ll degrade enough by next year.’ That is a recipe for disaster in my book, as we are also limited on how much canopy we can prune away to try and improve safety conditions. We’re arborists, we love trees, and we want to take care of them and be good stewards of this land. So when my climber gets up in those trees and sees stuff you can’t see from the ground and requests a removal permit, best believe that tree is dangerous.”

SourJellyBeans, via wweek.com: “Portland’s tree removal rules are absolutely draconian.

“This needs a class action lawsuit against the Urban Forestry department to represent anyone who has applied for a tree removal permit and had it denied, only for said tree to damage property or harm someone later.

“I love trees, the look of a tree-lined street, and the shade they bring in the heat, but UF’s denial of permits is so wanton it borderlines on dereliction of duty and endangering public safety.”

MB, via wweek.com: “The audacity of the Urban Forestry division to suggest the Bonds would need to apply for a retroactive permit is beyond belief.”

PSLFredux, via Reddit: “This is our fear. Across the street from Mount Scott where two massive blokes toppled over in the park. We have six large nukes just waiting to fall on us, from across the street like if it were a WWF character doing a flying clothesline.

“If any of them fall, we def have a chance of dying.

“So what do we do? Ask the city to chop down all these beautiful trees out of fear that they will fall? Lord, that won’t work. Guess we just hope and pray it doesn’t happen.”

@marisamorby, via Twitter: “I feel very sorry for this family. I’m happy they’re safe and hope their insurance completely covers them. I also don’t think they should have to pay any additional money for removals or planting. However, this is the type of reaction I worry about after major storms. If we choose to live in a place full of trees, we do assume risk that even a healthy tree may fall. If we’re worried about having a tree fall on our house, it’s better to choose an area where there are no trees.

“We had a huge limb from a neighbor’s oak fall this past storm. It missed the back of the house, but just barely. I’m aware that in a future storm, the living room may get taken out by a tree or limb. It’s scary. Climate change is scary. It’s unpredictable. But the answer isn’t to start clear-cutting neighborhoods. Severe weather is becoming more drastic and more frequent. But protecting our canopy is better in the long run for our community and environment. We’re now living in a world where we need to grapple with knowing that no matter where we go, there’s an increased risk of damage due to weather.

“I hope insurance covers everything. I’m happy the family is safe. I understand the abject fear around their safety. But we need healthy trees to weather the larger global storm, and each tree is important. Conversations like these are also extremely hard because people are hurting, we all feel out of control (because we are), and each of us just wants to be safe. It’s difficult to navigate environmental protection along with personal safety concerns.”

Larry Davis, via wweek.com: “Doug firs are not good neighborhood trees. They will continue to grow until they are 4 to 5 feet in diameter jacking up whatever is in their way. Or they fall over.

“I think they are beautiful trees. But they don’t belong in cities. A lot of better choices.”

Vincent Gallagher, in reply: “One could posit: Cities don’t belong where there are Douglas firs. The trees will be here long after you and the rest are gone. You and your fellows are just passing through and the culture within which you dwell is terminal.”

LETTERS to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: P.O. Box 10770, Portland, OR 97296 Email: mzusman@wweek.com

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.