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Apr 23

Weekly Report: April 30, 2023


  • On Friday evening, we arrived home after dinner to find that one of the large Modesto Ash trees in our front yard had split in two. The split half was being precariously held up by the branch of another tree, and that branch was the only thing preventing everything from collapsing. Nonetheless, the whole tree was now tilting like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and hanging over the sidewalk like a gigantic Sword of Damocles for people taking their evening walks.
  • I quickly printed out a couple warning signs and stuck them to the tree. But now what?
  • We had actually realized the tree was in the process of dying a couple months ago and called an arborist. After tapping the trunk and several branches with a pen, he recommended we take the tree down, but there wasn’t any rush as the winter storm season had passed. We signed a contract with them ($1,500 for the removal, plus more for stump grinding) a couple weeks ago, but then they strangely ghosted us, despite multiple follow ups. A call to their emergency line went unanswered.
  • In any event, after Googling, it turns out that even when a tree of this size is clearly dead, you need a tree permit from the city to remove it. Tree permits take about 10 days to process, unless it’s an emergency. Two problems: the permitting office was closed since the weekend had basically started, and the tree permit required an arborist’s report for submission.
  • We didn’t feel comfortable waiting until Monday, and it was a toss up who would collapse first over the weekend: First Republic Bank, the Warriors, or our tree.
  • Susanne got some quotes from other arborists through Yelp. We were surprised to get several immediate responses. Some were willing to come out on Saturday to give us a quote. One asked for $2,000 off the bat (ouch).
  • I called the city works department, which was closed, but a recorded message pointed me to an emergency line for issues like burst water mains and leaking sewer lines. The person who answered was as helpful as they could be — they didn’t know who would handle our issue, but took down my contact details and promised to get back to me.
  • Not knowing how long that would take, I then turned to Nextdoor and a few helpful neighbors suggested I call the non-emergency line for the police. (I later read in the city ordinances that the police can authorize a tree being removed if it’s a safety threat.) After calling, we were told someone else had apparently reported the issue already (it wasn’t our earlier call to the works department), and they would be sending someone around to inspect.
  • About an hour later, we got a knock on the door from a city worker. We took him to the tree. He shone his torch on the trunk, “Hmm, yeah I can see the split.” Then we directed him to look into the canopy where the other tree was supporting its half-fallen compatriot like a drunken sailor. “Oh. Oh yeah. That’s not safe. That’s not safe. I didn’t even see that. This is a tree on your property, but we’re going to call someone out to take some of these branches down because it’s not safe. We can cut it up but we can’t haul the debris away for you.”
  • Not a problem with us! We had already planned to pay for that, and now the city was telling us they were going to do it for free. We asked how long that would take, expecting it to be some time the next day, but were amazed to learn a crew would be out within the hour. (He was actually apologetic, “Well the guys have got to go and pick up the equipment they need first.”)
  • Sure enough, a guy with a cherry picker and a chainsaw showed up and spent the next couple of hours cutting down the tree, one chunk at a time. He was done just before midnight and we were super appreciative.
  • Because bureaucracy is bureaucracy, he told us we still needed to file for an emergency tree permit for the removal. “However, it shouldn’t be a problem because this was an emergency situation and my boss is the person who approves those permits.”

Further Observations

  • First Republic Bank is going the way of Silicon Valley Bank. A lot of the VCs that were extremely vocal on Twitter about saving Silicon Valley Bank depositors when the bank was melting down have been strangely silent. “The government has to save all the depositors or the regional banking sector is going to die!” But this weekend, not a peep from the Twitterati. Not hard to figure out why.
  • H-1B visas are the most common form of visa for international students looking to stay in the U.S. to work. If you have a master’s degree, there are only 85,000 available each year. This April there were over 780,000 applications. Yikes. When I applied for my H-1B back in 2010, the silver lining of being in the depths of the great financial crisis was that there were more than enough H-1Bs to go around.


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