Bilingual Warning Tape No Match for Chainsaw in Battle Over West Drew Street Tree

Tree in front of 501 W. Drew St. at Whitney, East Montrose, Houston

Tree in front of 501 W. Drew St. at Whitney, East Montrose, HoustonUpdate, 5/22: Swamplot has now confirmed that the tree was a Chinese Tallow, not an oak, as neighbors, and Swamplot, had originally reported.

Oh, those East Montrosians and their continuing tree battles. Here’s a photo of the street tree that once stood in more more leafly fashion in front of the property at 501 W. Drew St. The gentle warning tape wrapped around it appears not to have made much difference to the chainsaw operators who cut off its limbs last week, though. Had the tape been attached by a tree-hugging neighbor? Not exactly:


A little help from a passer-by was needed. “[I] ran out there at about midnight,” the tree-wrapper tells Swamplot, “in what could pass for P.J.’s, standing in an anthill, trying to get my arms around the trees.” And then:

I tried flagging down two gals who parked nearby and were headed toward the bars, but they thought I was a Montrose Kook. Eventually a very tipsy fellow stumbled down the street, and was kind enough to hold one end of the tape so I could ring it around the largest tree.

Tree in front of 501 W. Drew St. at Whitney, East Montrose, HoustonBut the tape, which bore direct, anti-saw directives in 2 languages, failed its mission: The tree was left as the tall stump pictured above for a few days. And a neighbor now reports it’s been removed entirely. At left is a photo of the same tree in better days last year, before the former apartment house behind it was removed. Drake Custom Homes is currently building a 6-unit townhome complex behind it, on the corner of W. Drew and Whitney.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

The Giving Up Tree

29 Comment

  • I’m not surprised.

    I was the last resident of that house before it was sold. The landlord didn’t even tell me he’d sold it until I asked him about a lease renewal and he couldn’t avoid the subject anymore. The porch had a great view of tops of the downtown skyline, and while I lived there I used that tree to hang a bike frame I was repainting. I’m sad to see it go, but I guess that building around it would have been too inconvenient.

  • Drake Custom Homes…..We cut down the exiting trees so you can put in a tree after you buy the house and wait 20 years before the trees you plant are anywhere close to what we cut down……but hey, look at all that sunlight streaming into your house…..don’t worry we put in a cheap AC unit that will give out in a few years so you can bask in that warm glow while you wait for the ac repair guys. In all seriousness….isn’t this illegal…I thought that that you had to have a permit from the city to cut down a tree in the ROW that is over a certain diameter?

  • I hope a tree stands guard at the Pearly Gates.

  • That is CLEARLY in the City ROW and in good condition (no rot). I hope whomever cut it down knows what they are in store for…

    We have a City of Houston tree surgeon who works with the planning & development department who might disapprove… Jus sayin’

  • There was a case in California where a post office paid a contractor to trim trees because they didn’t like the bird droppings from the nesting herons falling on their vehicles. The contracting company sent the branches–nests and baby herons, too–through the wood chipper. A fine and revocation of license could be in store for the contractors in that case, I think. There are federal protections against harming migratory birds while nesting and this includes not cutting down or trimming trees during nesting season. I would not be surprised if Texas has none. I think the only birds not protected are rock doves (pigeons), starlings and house sparrows because they are non native species. If this is the case, can this buy time for targeted trees (not to mention their feathered residents)? Someone out there in Swamplot land may know more. . .

  • Perhaps the tree-cutter spoke neither English nor Spanish? Yeah, I know…a bit far fetched.

  • Wow, if the city is made aware of this major fines for Drake Homes. We have historic oak trees within 10 feet of the street and as a result are city protected. The picture indicate there’s no rot, and it doesn’t even appear they’re building out to the lot line – so why on earth would they have the tree cut? Hopefully media pulls their name through the mud for being so irresponsible.

  • Of course it will never happen, but this would be a great opportunity to fine the &*%^$# out of Drake Homes.
    A VERY hefty fine would make it less likely this kind of “oversight” happens again.
    Money is the only thing the vultures understand.

  • @matx We had this issue in Houston Heights. Developer cut down a 100+ oak where yellow crowned night herons seasonally nest (which are on the federal list of protected bird species). I got the Houston Audubon prez to weigh in back then:
    “I am not aware of any legal course of action. The nesting habitat isn’t protected unless the nests are active. And even then, getting enforcement to act is an uphill battle. The Yellow-crowns will find new trees to nest in and that stately oak is on private property. A conversation with the neighbor is about all I can think to do at this point.”

  • Get over yourselves people, it’s a tree, not an arm, it’ll grow back.

    Maybe the city approved a driveway in it’s place or new sewer tap or something.

  • It doesn’t look like a tallow from that photo but if it is, good job.

  • “Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away…”

    -John Muir

  • Chinese tallows are an invasive species of tree and should be removed if possible.

  • Yay! One less Tallow marring the Houston landscape. I cut down one of those nasty invasive trees several years back. A few neighbors got angry, despite the fact that the tree was hollow inside. I planted two red maples in its place. Today, they are gorgeous trees, providing plenty of shade.

    Not all tree cutting is bad. Some improves the land. Cutting Chinese Tallows is good. Even the City approves.

  • A bit of a nonsequitur, but the Texas Secretary of State is kind of asleep at the wheel as the builder who sliced the tree is Drake Custom Homes, Ltd. and the builder doing a bunch of work on part of the old steel mill site on W 26th in the Heights is Drake Homes, Inc. One does business as Drake Custom Homes, the other is just Drake Homes. I see a cease and desist letter going from one to the other at some point in the near future.

  • I rescind my snarky comment. Since it has been updated that the tree was a tallow then it is a great thing that they cut it down.

  • Whatever kind of tree it was, it does not appear to be hollow inside and it was located in the ROW. I wonder if the necessary permits were pulled… .

  • Glad to hear they cut down that invasive species of tree, should never have been there in the first place:

  • Thank you Chief and ChainsawBob.

  • what kind of idiot working for the city would fine someone over cutting a tree down yet ignore all the homeowner infractions of not maintaining or providing adequate sidewalks that exists all over the city. this kind of money-making and lack of respect for safety above all else would just prove the point of how backwards people priorities are around here.

  • I’m glad to see a Chinese tallow bite the dust, but what really worries me is why a tree so close to the street, and in the ROW, had to be cut down. Does that mean they’re going to build all the way to the street? My Magic 8 Ball says probably yes. I’m willing to bet that the sidewalk won’t survive either. *smh*

  • I’m all for saving trees, but yeah of this was a Tallow; good riddance

  • Hahaha….$6.8B?! Yes people, that is Billion with a ‘b’ in construction permit fees for the second year in a row!!! And our streets, sidewalks, landscaping, traffic signals, fire hydrants/parking meters (in the middle of sidewalks)… Seriously? I mean, seriously… WTF people?! Wake up and call/write your council members and Planning & Development officials! If not, WE ARE SCREWED and the next administration will blame it on the last…

    My commercial and residential clients are PI**ED! Can’t blame em, $36k dollar water fees?! Say what…

    I’m over the tree issue now?!

  • Joel- you want to fine homeowners whose sidewalks decomposed in front of their houses, but not the greedy vultures who intentionally and willfully destroy public property without permission? Interesting priorities.

  • Why is everyone so quick to assume the ” greedy developer” had some sinister plan? Is it not reasonable to assume that someone functionally illiterate sawed that tree up? I find it quite tiresome that so many on this board are so trigger happy with their assumptions that developers are greedy, evil boors. In the absence of any restrictions from the City of Houston, why would anyone who is in business to make a profit not try to maximize his return?
    Aren’t we all greedy pigs trying to buy a house for less than asking price or using a coupon or haggling with the auto dealer? Why are we so much more noble trying to screw someone out of a buck than a developer trying to squeeze an extra buck out of his investment?

  • JT’s comment should be a Comment of the Day, but it won’t since Swamplot loves to boost its page click count by fanning the “evil developer” flames.

  • That is not a very effective warning tape… scotch tape with 1/2 inch of paper on one spot :( That tree was worth a whole yellow strip of tape.You can even yellow warning tape at the dollar store!

  • I don’t think all developers are evil, just the evil ones. My comment was in response to Joel’s comment, calling for the heads of homeowners that don’t repair the sidewalks in front of their house: “what kind of idiot working for the city would fine someone over cutting a tree down yet ignore all the homeowner infractions of not maintaining or providing adequate sidewalks that exists all over the city. this kind of money-making and lack of respect for safety above all else would just prove the point of how backwards people priorities are around here.”