A majestic oak tree is at the heart of a battle between a San Jose neighborhood group and a developer.
Residents of the East Hills neighborhood are working to stop Gary King Construction from ripping down the 80-foot tree. Neighbors said removing the tree would mean losing part of the neighborhood's identity.
Many homeowners on East Hills Drive said they were happy when this corner lot was sold for development, calling the old house an "eyesore." But the mood changed when residents said they were told by the construction company it planned to tear down the oak tree and rocks next.
"This has been here for 70 years and it's a very majestic and very healthy looking tree that sits near the easement on the street," resident Dennis Burt said. "So there's absolutely no reason to tear this down."
Neighbors called the Santa Clara Land Development Office to oppose the developer's plans. County inspectors on Monday visited the neighborhood to check operating permits. The inspector found that the developer is only permitted to demolish a house on the corner lot, but residents were skeptical.
To make sure the developer would not tear down the tree some neighbors used their cars to block the rocks and oak tree.
"Now we're in kind of a desperate situation...and we had to take measure of parking our cars here to prevent them from demolishing this hillside and the oak tree," Burt said. Until we can get some kind of emergency injunction to halt everything going on here."
Gary King, who owns the construction company, said there was confusion by the county on whether the rocks and trees were covered by the current permit. King emphasized he is sensitive to the residents' concerns and will apply for a grading permit and go along with whatever the county requires.
Since the permit requires a grading plan, any decision on the tree will be delayed for about four months.