The first efforts by the Burlingame government to preserve trees took place almost as soon as there was a Burlingame government. In May 1908, the city voted to incorporate. On September 3, 1908, at the urging of the Burlingame Woman’s Club, an ordinance “prohibiting the cutting, injuring or destroying trees” was passed by the newly elected board of trustees. Under this ordinance, trees could only be removed with permission.
The Burlingame Woman’s Club was the city’s earliest organization, founded before the incorporation of Burlingame. This group of women concerned with civic affairs first met in the waiting room of the Southern Pacific station on May 31, 1907. In addition to other civic goals, the club aimed to increase the number of trees in Burlingame. On Arbor Day, 1908, they gave more than 600 trees to be planted in various parts of the city.
Among the trees planted at various times were acacia, European sycamore, Dracaena indivisa, double pink hawthorne, pink locust, white locust, magnolia, ash, walnut, Norway maple, red flower, eucalyptus, pepper, and Oregon maple. Over the years, tree preservation became an important ongoing concern.
Trees Both Loved and Despised
The devotion of some factions to the city’s trees seems to have waned by 1916, when the mayor and town trustees discussed adopting a resolution that favored cutting all of the gum (eucalyptus) trees on public streets in Burlingame. According to news reports of the time, “there is so much complaint and so many aplications [sic] to cut trees that the city might well make one job of it and contract for the cutting of all the trees.” The mayor stated that it was unfair to allow one person to cut trees and refuse another, and that this measure would ensure fairness to all, not to mention the reduced cost in contracting to have them all cut at once.
However, this opinion was far from universal at the time. Newspapers announced how the Burlingame streets were winning fame from travelers far and wide for the beauty of their trees. In the end, the tree removal plan was opposed on the basis of the protection the trees provided to “the sunshine suburb” from the mighty winds that tore through from Millbrae to San Mateo.
By 1919, after the addition of North Burlingame to the city, a second civic organization, the North Burlingame Community Club, was born, and it shared with the Burlingame Woman’s Club the goal of preserving the city’s eucalyptus trees. After purchasing the lot for their clubhouse on Easton Drive (today’s Easton branch of the Burlingame Public Library), one of their first acts, in 1923, was to plant a tree on it. Throughout the 1920s, the club’s hot-button issue was to protest the cutting of trees on Easton Drive. However, during that same decade, the eucalyptus trees on the commercial strip of Broadway Avenue were felled to make way for businesses.