City Desk

Neighborhood Watch: Fenty Intervenes in Palisades Tree Massacre

blog_pepco-1The Issue: As summer began giving way to fall, idyllic life in the Palisades was shattered by a dose of cold, cruel reality from D.C. electricity provider Pepco. To improve electrical reliability, Pepco wanted to cut down about 400 trees in the neighborhood as well as (gasp!) 16 others along a few blocks of MacArthur Boulevard.

Now Hold On a Just Minute Here: When Pepco goons with chainsaws showed up and began chopping down the 400 trees, the Palisades Citizens Association (PCA) was pissed. "Pepco was springing it on the neighborhood without any prior consultation," Spence Spencer, the association president, said. He and his neighbors were concerned that losing the trees on MacArthur would "de-nude whole blocks" of a street that is one of the few in D.C. with a tree canopy. He says a letter of concern to Pepco went unanswered. It was only after Mayor Adrian Fenty made a visit to the Palisades in October that Pepco began to listen. According to Spencer, Fenty "basically" said: "Look, Pepco, you guys have gotta come up with a more tree-friendly approach." Fenty imposed a moratorium on tree work until a plan was approved by the PCA.

It's All Good: According to Pepco, the Palisades tree canopy was responsible for over 100 hours of lost power in the neighborhood in 2007 and 2008. Pepco media representative Clay Anderson said that the District asked Pepco to improve reliability, and that Pepco has been paying attention to the community all along. "We're pretty much okay with the folks out there now," he says of the beef. The company submitted two plans to the PCA last week—one that had little tree pruning on MacArthur, and one that had none.

What's Next: It's up to Palisades residents to decide. "We're evaluating what on the face looks like a positive proposal, even though it took Fenty to get them to pay attention to community," says Spencer. For the moment, Palisades folks are assuaged, according to Spencer, but "there needs to be a long-term dialogue about this. They've got a two-year cutting cycle on trees," he says, "so best case, all that we've done is forstalled what might be another round of mass cutting of trees in the Palisades two years from now."

Photograph by Darrow Montgomery.

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  • Bianca

    What an outrage! Thank you, intern, for keeping us posted on these horrific tree massacres. Unacceptable, indeed.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    When the rich white people say "jump", Adrian says, "How high?" Bury the utility lines. Only a cheap-ass country like the USA has wires above the ground everywhere. In modern, socialist European countries, utilities are buried. It's not only aesthetically pleasing, it's much better for reliability. Ice & wind storms never disrupt power.

  • Reid

    Umm, Al there are plenty of neighborhoods in DC with buried power lines that lose power periodically. I know since I live in one of them. It doesn't take a falling tree to short out a transformer.

  • Contrarian

    Old, poorly maintained buried lines were the reason all of the exploding manhole covers in Georgetown...

    Giant metal frisbees, not good to land on the family dog... or child... or adult...

  • Downtown rez

    I like buried lines better than overhead ones, but in all the clamor to bury them (a good thing!) little notice is given to the cost to the consumer for doing so. It would likely be about the same as the cost to replace a local lead line from a water meter to a house. And that would fall on the property owner, and be above and beyond any cost PEPCO would add to the electric bill to cover their side of the infrastructure.

  • U.S. Citizen

    White the white folks in Ward 3 says jump, King Fenty jumps. This is why many black D.C. voters hate Fenty's ass. He's kissing the asses of whites in D.C. and showing them favoritism. Being black is seen as being inferior in society. Some blacks marginalize other blacks at the expense of whites.

  • 1967dc

    Blame...blame...blame!! I heard the whites in DC are to blame for the 40% chance of rain on thursday......

  • rob in BsAs

    While this does reek of favoritism for the rich white part of the DC community, I must say I'm glad 400 trees were saved.

  • Anonymous

    Fenty intervened because it would have been a complete waste to allow PEPCO to proceed and both he and the city would have looked like idiots as well as opening DC up to some huge environmental lawsuit.

    The folks in Palisades are very organized, gathered all the evidence to demonstrate PEPCO's broken chain of logic, and then let Fenty make the touchdown.

    The really dumb thing that Fenty has done regarding PEPCO is to not renominate Office of the People's Counsel head Betty Noel just as PEPCO is about to ask for a huge rate increase, something Noel has successfully dealt with for years.