Mayor helps neighbors, developer strike deal to temporarily save - KPTV - FOX 12

Mayor helps neighbors, developer strike deal to temporarily save giant Sequoias in SE Portland

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Mayor Charlie Hales stepped in to help strike a deal between a developer trying to cut down a group of giant Sequoias in southeast Portland and the protesters attempting to block their removal.

Police roped off the area around Southeast 36th Avenue and Martins Street Thursday morning as they cleared out the group of protesters camping out under the trees.

One protester, however, was situated high in the branches of one of the Sequoias and refused to come down.

Neighbors are trying to prevent developer Vic Remmers from cutting down the three giant Sequoias to make way for new housing. Neighbors said they've tried for months to work out a deal with Remmers that would save the trees.

On Thursday, Mayor Charlie Hales' office said a "tentative structure of a deal" was set up to keep the trees in place, at least for now.

Specific details of the deal have not been released, but neighbors say they need to raise another $200,000 to buy the land from Remmers, who owns Everett Custom Homes. This money is in addition to the $500,000 they've already raised.

Several neighbors say they are staying at their protest site to ensure the trees are not cut down before they can raise the funds. 

Matt Stone, the co-creator of 'South Park,' will be donating to the effort. 

Stone has worked with Arthur Bradford, a neighbor who has worked to save the trees.

Bradford, who lives next to the giant Sequoias, could not help but get emotional talking about the deal.

"I will tell you something that is absolutely for certain," he said. "If there was not a young man sitting in that tree, if there were not dedicated people that stood under those trees and were willing to get arrested for them, these trees would be cut down. Right now, they would be gone."

After earlier discussions with Remmers broke down, the removal crews arrived to fell the trees this week and neighbors began protesting.

Police officers cleared the protesters in front of the trees Thursday morning, while the protester in the tree, who neighbors referred to as Dave, remained in place. Police remained on scene throughout the day, but left by late afternoon.

Mayor Hales' Chief of Staff worked with both sides to come to an agreement early in the day.

In the afternoon, crews driving two pickups carrying chainsaws and other tools attempted to drive onto the lot, but protestors blocked them and the crews left.

After that, negotiations resumed, until a deal was struck. A different developer, Ethan Beck, plans to build a small home on part of the land, and the neighbors would buy the land with the trees for a public park, according to Bradford.

Remmers told Fox 12 via phone Thursday that as long as the neighbors come through with the money in the next week, the trees will not be cut down.

This protest was the second this week where a protester climbed a tree in southeast Portland. On Monday, a protester scaled a tree at the corner of Southeast 41st Avenue and Clinton Street.

That tree also was slated to be cut down to make room for new development. The protester came down later that evening.

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