The Future of the Sabin Giant Sequoia Remains Uncertain
by Genna Golden (SCA and NECN member)
Trees don’t participate in human disputes. The majestic Sequoia near NE 12th and Mason, standing over 100 feet tall, formerly silent and unconcerned, has been physically brought into a battle nonetheless. As many Sabin residents are aware, our neighbors Claire Bollinger and Shayan Rohani have been in an ongoing battle with the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS), Urban Forestry and their neighbors Carole Johnson-Smith and Theo Smith, with whom the Giant Sequoia straddles the property line.
On February 24th, Claire and Shayan learned that the Sequoia had been intentionally poisoned with glyphosate, commonly known as “Round Up“, poured into five holes drilled into its trunk on the neighbor’s side of the tree. The tree’s limbs, now house large sections which are clearly brown and damaged. The tree, which originated on Shayan and Claire’s property, is now considered a shared or “boundary tree” as it has grown past the property line. The trunk sits inches from the neighbor’s exterior house wall. Boundary trees require both property owner’s permission to remove.
Two Sides of the Story
Claire and Shayan want to preserve the tree. They see the neighboring property as a derelict, long neglected, uninhabitable property and feel the owners previously acted as absentee landlords. They claim the owner/neighbor purchased the house with full knowledge of the tree root issue. Although their neighbors filed a permit to repair the foundation damaged by the Sequoia’s roots, the work was never completed.The couple feels that their neighbors manipulated city bureaucracies to avoid completing the repair, and in 2019 they redirected the city from forcing the repairs on the house to naming the tree as the problem. They feel that with neighborly communications, for which they say there was extremely little, a solution could have been found. They also feel that Urban Forestry ruled in favor of removing the tree, ignoring its own tree canopy preservation laws. Since the house is now on shoring, they feel it’s an ideal time to move it out of the root zone.
Carole and Theo, the owners of the adjacent property, have a different view on the story. The Sequoia tree roots pushed through their basement wall causing substantial damage. This growth, documented in 2017, caused the city to deem the house uninhabitable and a fire hazard. (Fire hazard due to the electric panel being located on the damaged foundation wall). Having no option at that point to either rent or live in the house, the owners have been trying to resolve the problem. BDS asked them to repair the basement wall to make the structure livable. Structural engineers said there was no sense repairing the foundation, as the tree roots would continue to grow into it. It was the typical cart before the horse dilemma. They addressed moving the house, and opened a permit to move it, but ultimately decided it was cost prohibitive. Former property reports of tall grass and weeds, as well as minor interior infractions are documented with the city. The tenants they had moved out around the time the basement foundation issues came into play. In their opinion, the word “derelict” is regularly misused in order to manipulate the public. They state they put a new roof on in 2015 and although the house could use some updating, it is perfectly habitable. Carole emphasizes, “. . . the tree impacting our foundation: That is the only reason the house is not livable.” After years of bureaucratic back and forth, in 2019 they got BDS and Urban Forestry together. The parties put together a “Stipulated Agreement” stating that if they stabilized the house by placing it on shoring, it would indicate a commitment to repair the foundation, and the city would tag the tree for removal. They raised the house, and Urban Forestry tagged the Sequoia a “tree nuisance”.
When Public Support Almost Led to a Happy Ending
The 2019 tagging, unacceptable to Claire and Shayan, was addressed head on by their grass roots efforts uniting public support. They appealed the decision to remove the tree. The next hearing is scheduled for June 25th in circuit court. They posted information outside their house, started a Go Fund Me campaign through sequoiastanding.org and garnered public support and awareness via postcards and letters sent en masse from concerned tree loving citizens to city commissioners including the mayor and former head of parks.
While the appeal remains in place, with the help of Carole and Theo’s third lawyer, Jeff Kleinman, and property developer Ethan Beck, (who previously worked with Save the Giants on a lot near Reed College) save-the-giants.org, a deal was brokered. Their property would be purchased for $375K under a development plan that would preserve the tree. Claire and Shayan would contribute $75K of those funds with personal and fundraiser monies.
It was near the end of Ethan’s due diligence process that Claire and Shayan learned that the tree had been poisoned. The deal fell apart.
The Poisoning, and Who Benefits?
Both parties reported the crime to the police, who have little interest in investigating. Both parties spoke immediately with their respective arborists. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is investigating the crime and determined the tree was poisoned with glyphosate. Who would do it is the obvious question? While Carole and Theo have harbored resentment against their neighbors for not agreeing to the tree removal, they stood to benefit from the brokered deal. With their lot being purchased for $75,000 more than market value, they stood to gain. The money was going to be in their pockets in a matter of days. Carole says, “We were happy that Ethan wanted to buy the house because honestly we were so done.“ But if the deal fell through, there was still an outstanding appeal determining the tree’s fate. The sale was contingent on preserving the tree. A dead tree would make its removal imminent and potentially change the conditions under which they needed to repair the house. Carole and Theo claim to have no idea who did it and that they were looking forward to ending years of financial drain and pain to get rid of the house.
Financial drain and angst have been a part of Claire and Shayan’s lives for years as well. A dead tree puts countless hours of organizing efforts and hard-fought solutions down the drain. Previous to the tree’s poisoning, it could not be saved without changing ownership of the neighbor’s house. It is not possible to determine the exact date of the poisoning. Perhaps it was poisoned prior to the sale agreement. It could have been poisoned during the due diligence phase of the sale. Shayan states, “whoever poisoned the tree got exactly what they wanted. They broke that contract”. Should the tree survive and Shayan and Claire win the appeal, they could circle back to developing the lot with Ethan Beck, look at developing a pocket park, or continue searching for creative solutions that preserve the tree.
Will the Tree Survive?
Experts contend that we will not know if the giant will survive until a year after it’s poisoning. The large brown patches indicate the tree is “compartmentalizing” or killing off the bad parts so that other sections may survive.
The SCA endorses saving the tree. (full disclosure: Shayan and Claire are members of the SCA) The NECN has also offered contingent support should the tree live. But can the tree save itself? One can’t help but want something as old, beautiful and undoubtedly supportive of myriads of other life forms to live. The majesty of a tall tree in the landscape, and the awe it can fill in an onlooker is transformative. Few people would say “boo, hiss, cut down that majestic icon!” On the other hand, Sequoiadendron Giganteum is the most massive tree type in existence. Their trunks can grow to 26ft in diameter and their stems to a height of 300 feet. This tree may be only halfway through its natural life. A maturing Sequoia in a standard urban lot will always be a challenge. As gardeners like to say, “right plant, wrong place.”
If the tree survives, and is allowed to live, it will remain unconcerned with the direction of its roots, the houses or the human created bureaucracies far below. Its job will be simply to continue to grow; to grow as old as human and natural circumstances allow it.
Anyone with information regarding the poisoning can contact Portland Audubon at 503 380 9728 or call Portland Police Detective Division at 503 823 0400
To Donate and learn more: sequoiastanding.org
Urban Forestry. Case #19-205171-000-00-UF.
Due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Sabin Community Association's board meeting at 7 PM on Monday, April 13 will be by telephone only. The board will NOT be meeting in person.
Any interested members of the public are welcome to join by telephone:
Call-in number: 1-866-226-4650
Passcode: 503 294 9403
Thanks to the dedication of some committed NET members and PF&R at Fire Station 14 there are some excellent training opportunities available in support of participation in the Oregon Great ShakeOut! You do not need to be a NET member to participate, so please forward the invitation on to others that might be interested.
As part of efforts to coordinate more closely NET training & activities with Fire Station 14 and across our Fire Management Area (FMA), there two scenarios planned with Fire Station 14 on the October 17 Oregon Great ShakeOut (outlined below) and two trainings in September to help those at high-risk unreinforced masonry buildings prepare to work together in the event of a real earthquake. The highest risk schools in the area are Sabin, Vernon, King & Woodlawn Elementaries, Beaumont Middle School, & Concordia University.
Trainings are listed below. Most are RSVP, so please visit individual links or email contacts for more information.
SCHOOL STAFF & PARENTS
Please RSVP for the following four trainings or let us know if you have questions about participating. Please also forward this to school staff & parents who may be interested.
September 19: Search & Rescue Training
September 23: School Trauma Triage Training
October 17: School Earthquake Damage Assessment Drill & Vernon Elem S&R & Trauma Triage Drill
As a pilot project to empower school staff, parents, & neighboring Neighborhood Emergency Teams, Concordia/Vernon/Woodlawn NET, Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, and Portland Fire & Rescue Fire Station 14 are working together to offer four very practical trainings for NET Team members and school staff and parents who may have to respond to an earthquake emergency at the highest risk unreinforced masonry school buildings in Fire Management Area 14: Sabin, Vernon, King & Woodlawn Elementaries, Beaumont Middle School, & Concordia University. We are offering these trainings because in a major earthquake it is likely some or all of these schools would be at very high risk for mass injuries and among the most vulnerable population who will need rapid and effective assistance -- which will initially have to come from staff and parents because fire & ambulance responders will likely be quite delayed.
Assistant Team Leader & Training & Education Coordinator & 10/17 FMA 14 Great ShakeOut Scenario Developer & Coordinator
Concordia/Vernon/Woodlawn Neighborhood Emergency Team
NET WEBSITE: https://portlandprepares.org/net-teams/northeast/concordia-vernon-woodlawn/
PBEM WEBSITE: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem/31667
1) Urban Search & Rescue Course
NET Training Unit 5a: Thursday, 9/19/19, 5:00-7:00 pm
NET Training Unit 5b: Friday, 9/20/19, 5:00-7:00 pm
Location: Fire Station 2, 4800 NE 122nd Ave, Portland, OR
2) School Earthquake Trauma Triage & Trauma First Aid Training
Instructor: Lt. Damon Simmons, Fire Station 14 Commander & Paramedic
Asst Instructors: Kirsten Savoie, Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Bart Church, Certified Wilderness First Responder & CERT/NET Trainer
Location: Concordia University Student Activity & Event Center
2811 NE Holman St., Portland, OR
Please RSVP by 9/20 so we can be sure to have enough supplies & equipment for everyone to practice with. This event is for parents & We are grateful to Concordia University Public Safety Dept and Fire Station 14 for co-hosting this training with the Concordia/Vernon/Woodlawn NET.
3) FMA 14 School Damage & Injury Assessment Drill
10:17 am - 12:00 pm
Location: Sabin, Vernon, Woodlawn, or King Elementary or Beaumont Middle School or Concordia University & then bike to Alberta Park
Scenario: At 10:17 am there will be a mock earthquake all over the state of Oregon & NET members who live near one of the high-risk unreinforced masonry school buildings listed above will meet another NET team member who also lives near the school & go to their school & pick up an envelope with mock damage & injury information & transfer this to a Damage Assessment Form. They will then use an FRS radio tuned to channel 3 to report the damage & injuries to the FMA NET Incident Commander. If they cannot communicate via radio, they will bike to the Incident Command Center at Alberta Park (next to Fire Station 14) and deliver their Damage Assessment Form. After the FMA Incident Commander receives Damage Assessment Forms from all six high risk school buildings, he will summarize this information & radio or deliver this to the Fire Station 14 Commander on Duty. Then all participants in the exercise will do a hotwash to see how communications worked & how they might be improved in future.
NOTE: When you RSVP you will be asked to sign up for either a slot doing damage assessment at a particular school or to join the Incident Command team at Alberta Park (i.e., FMA Incident Commander, FMA Operations Chief, FMA ARO, FMA Incident Command Scribe, Bike Runner).
4) Vernon Elementary Joint Search & Rescue, Trauma Triage/Treatment/Transport Drill
Location: Vernon Elementary, 2044 NE Killingsworth St, Portland
Scenario: NET Search & Rescue & Medical & Transport Teams backed up by 2 EMT/Firefighers will conduct a mock Search & Rescue, Trauma Triage/Treatment, & Patient Transport Drill with 6-10 children (& their parents) at Vernon Elementary, assisted by Vernon staff. Search & Rescue, Trauma Triage & Treatment, & Patient Transport will be done by NET Team Members, but non-NET volunteers (especially school staff & parents) are welcome to assist in the scenario as scribes, runners, & patient care assistants. All volunteers participating in the drill MUST register at least a week before the drill as Portland Public School volunteers and go through a PPS background check. Any volunteers participating in Search & Rescue, Medical, or Patient Transport duties must be physically capable of kneeling, & helping to lift & transport patients, which will be done by teams of 6 NET team volunteers. We will review proper lifting techniques before the drill begins. We certainly can use volunteers who do not have the ability to lift & move patients to play other crucial roles.
If you are concerned about School Earthquake Resiliency but not quite sure where to start in turning your concern into action, please contact:
Bart Church, Assistant Team Leader & Training & Education Coordinator & 10/17 FMA 14 Great ShakeOut Scenario Developer & Coordinator
Concordia/Vernon/Woodlawn Neighborhood Emergency Team
NET WEBSITE: https://portlandprepares.org/net-teams/northeast/concordia-vernon-woodlawn/
PBEM WEBSITE: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem/31667
Please join the Sabin Community Association for its general meeting on May 13, 2019, at Sabin School auditorium (4013 NE 18th Ave). Dinner and mingling begins at 6:30pm, followed by a 7pm talk titled “Cats, Crows and Coyotes: Coexisting with Wildlife in the Sabin Neighborhood,” by Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director of the Audubon Society of Portland.
The evening will include stories, natural history, and a few words of advice about the creatures that share our urban landscape. Cats, coyotes, and crows are among the most interesting and controversial animals in our urban landscape, and they can be found in virtually every neighborhood in the city. Each has their fans and detractors and can tell us about the ecological health of communities. Sallinger has been working on urban conservation issues in Portland for more than 25 years. He lives just beyond the western edge of Sabin Neighborhood with his family, dogs, goats, and assorted other animals.
SCA board elections will take place at 8:15pm after Sallinger’s talk.
On behalf of the SCA, we would like to salute longtime Sabin neighbor Diane Benson, who started the Sabin Garden Tour. She recently relocated to another state and will most likely be sharing her garden knowledge with her new neighbors there. She encouraged a lot of us to plant more pollinator friendly and native plants in our yards, and created a sense of connection through our landscapes. My yard is filled with many plants that she gifted to me from her own yard.
Winter is a great time to plan for our springtime gardens and the Backyard Habitat Certification Program (brought to us by the Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Land Trust and Friends of Tryon Creek) is a great way to learn more about creating native habitat in our yards. The East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District is having a Native Plant sale right now, where you can order many plants for just $3. The Audobon will also have a native plant sale in April.
Let's carry on Diane's vision of making Sabin full of beautiful yards which help our vital pollinators thrive. A big thank you to Diane Benson for all the hard work she did while living in Sabin. We will think of you often as we enjoy the beautiful, buzzing yards in Sabin.
Sabin School is making a bold move this year by eliminating its annual auction, an event that raised significant funds for the school but was also cost-prohibitive for many families to attend. This year, fundraising events will be spread throughout the year with activities that will help build a stronger sense of community.
The school is excited to announce its third annual RUN FOR SABIN SCHOOL, which will be held on Friday, October 26, 2018. Parents, teachers, staff, and students are excited to participate again in this school-wide event. Sabin has a set an ambitious goal to raise $50,000 to promote educational excellence and support the success of ALL Sabin students.
Funds raised will go toward reading and math interventions, restorative justice, educational assistants to support kids with special needs, and a family support services fund for those who struggle to cover basic needs.
Run for Sabin School organizers are looking to the community to find supporters for this event. In addition to sponsorship forms for individual children, the school is also hoping to have corporate and business sponsorships. Are you a local business owner who would like to support Sabin School? All donations are tax deductible, and perks include advertisement on event materials, social media, and the school's immense gratitude.
For more information on sponsorship information and coordinator contact inform, please download the Run for Sabin School sponsorship letter.
This article originally appeared in the Sabin Community Association June 2018 newsletter.
On Saturday, June 2, 2018, about 75 volunteers gathered to participate in creating Sabin’s newest intersection painting at NE 17th Avenue and Failing Street. Sabin’s Junior Girl Scout Troop 45157 chose the site for their community project, because they were aware that traffic around the school moves too fast at times, and they wanted to connect the school with the broader Sabin community. The troop of seventeen fifth grade girls, led by Sara Lockman and Lisa Johnston-Smith, has been together since the first grade (2014).
The intersection painting is the girls’ capstone project for the prestigious Girl Scout Bronze Award. The Bronze Award is the highest honor a Junior scout can achieve and requires at least twenty hours of building a team, exploring the community, planning a project, and taking action on that plan. Troop members Andi Bell and Esperanza Walsh took the initial lead on the project. Andi described the significance of the project: “Part of the Girl Scout law is try to make the world a better place, and that is basically what the bronze award is trying to do.”
Starting in September 2017, the troop came up with the idea and worked with City Repair’s Village Building Convergence to design and secure approval for the intersection painting — a project aimed at creating community space, slowing traffic, and bringing the community closer together. The troop worked to raise funds to pay for the cost of paint, supplies, permits, and other general expenses through a bake sale, bike raffle, and online donation site.
The design, titled “Sabin Wild Roses,” features a wild rose at the center, representing the beauty of nature, children growing and developing, and the connections between us all. The bee and star represent Sabin School’s tickle bees and star mascot, and the trefoil is a nod to the Girl Scouts.
When asked what they learned during the project, Andi said, “I’ve realized that we are way more capable sometimes than we give ourselves credit for. We all did an amazing job!” Esperanza discovered that she didn’t know all of her neighbors, stating “this was a neat opportunity to meet them.”
According to the Girl Scouts of America: “When you go for the Bronze Award, you represent what Girl Scouts can achieve in their communities.” The Sabin Community Association is honored to have these girls as members of our community and looks forward following their great work in the future.
Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 12 for Sabin's 2018 spring cleanup event. See the ad below for details, or visit our Cleanup page for a full list of what to bring and what not to bring.
Reading through past years of Sabin Community Association files, we found an early print copy of the Sabin Community Association news bulletin — what would eventually become the Sabin Community Association Newsletter (SCAN) — that was mailed to neighbors in the summer of 1977.
The five-page newsletter, typed on legal-size paper, featured a number of topics including an SCA survey stating three goals: 1) “to improve neighborhood communication through a newsletter and neighborhood hotline”; 2) “to support Sabin School in educational activities as well as other groups which strive to improve the community”; and 3) “to upgrade home improvements, beautification of neighborhood streets, lights, parks, and neighborhood facilities.”
Although community issues have changed and evolved over the years, SCA’s goals remain on point with those of the early SCA board. We have made available this 1977 newsletter on SCA’s website, www.SabinPDX.org/newsletter-archives. It is an interesting snapshot into Sabin history from over forty years ago.