Living in Richmond has convinced me that when it comes to one issue in particular, the world can be divided simply into two distinct groups of people: those who love trees, foliage, gardens, and green spaces, and those who don't.
And if what is transpiring in our neighbourhood represents what the future will look like in our residential areas, then one can only conclude the City of Richmond has decided to ignore the values and concerns of the former and pander to the interests and demands of the latter.
Every new mega pseudo-mansion ensures the removal of at least one mature tree. Far too many of those are destroyed simply for the purpose of allowing the addition of a third garage space, many of which simply end-up being storage areas.
The footprint of these buildings is such that front lawns, large trees and shrubbery, complementary gardens and backyards are made irrelevant.
The concepts of the space around a home being an interactive, integral part of the living environment as well as an important dimension of its aesthetic qualities have been almost totally abandoned in the city's apparent desire to fill its residential neighbourhoods with treeless lots and empty, tax-generating, out-of-scale houses.
Of course, if people choose to concentrate most of their lives indoors and ignore any aspect of living around their homes, that is their right and privilege. But there seems to be an almost total lack of concern for the fact that the presence or absence of mature trees and foliage not only plays an important role in affecting the personality of an entire neighbourhood, but also the character and quality of the lives of those who reside in it.
A tree is not just removed from a lot, it is removed from the lives of neighbours who love its existence, love its beauty, love the birds that nest in it, love the shade it casts on hot days, love the privacy it might facilitate, love the ways in which it enhances the view through a window, love the ways in which it softens the impact of brutal architecture, and love the ways in which it reminds us that it is nature that has always nurtured us, not our technologies.
Call me a tree-hugger if you like, but in an either/ or world, I would much rather look up at a beautiful tree than the massive face of yet another property line-crowding mega house and would prefer to walk by open lawns than stone walls, iron gates, and expansive brick driveways, and I gladly accept the raking of leaves in the fall as the small price I have to pay to enjoy the proximity of beautiful greenery.
And, most certainly, I would rather have faith in the city departments that are supposed to protect our trees rather than be constantly disappointed and enraged by their half-hearted attempts at doing so.
But those are the things that differentiate my values and priorities from those who seem to have gained the favour of Richmond's mayor and council. It is they who have managed to reduce the issue to simple black and white (or green and grey) terms.
Ray Arnold Richmond