Santa Rosa is divided on an issue of reunification. A project long approved by the city council, but only recently fast tracked due to an increased city budget and the exuberance of downtown business owners, plans to reunify Courthouse Square.
Courthouse Square, at the center of downtown Santa Rosa, was split in two in 1966 with the construction of Mendocino Avenue. The new plan will reunify the square by reinstalling side streets Hinton and Exchange Avenues, constructing diagonal parking on either side, and planting grass at the location of the original courthouse.
The plan, enthusiastically endorsed by city council, has one key issue that has garnered it varying levels of support: the removal of 91 of 144 trees, most notably eight of 30 redwoods. The trees, considered “heritage,” were expedited for removal in order to prevent birds from nesting in them prior to their demise.
Many Sonoma County citizens took issue with the removal of the trees, which have long been used in the traditional downtown Christmas tree lighting ceremony, citing their age and history as reasons to spare them. Several protests have been held by concerned parties since the reveal of the new plan for the square, which resulted in a possible compromise being reached to save three additional trees.
In the end, 22 of the redwoods were saved, along with the historic bunyan tree. Approximately 100 new shade and flowering trees will be planted.
According to the Santa Rosa City website, construction is projected to begin late May or early June, and the project finished in mid November 2016.