As Jaime Perez carefully steered a yellow front-end loader Tuesday morning to demolish the home at 1011 Lisbon St. in Coral Gables, a bright orange safety fence set off a large oak tree that looms over the property and the street.
His work has been interrupted several times a day, he said, as neighbors and city officials come up to talk to him and check that the tree remains untouched.
“The tree is not being damaged,” he said. Behind him, an 18-wheel semitrailer was parked to create a barrier between his work — knocking down a two-story home built in 1925 — and the live oak.
About 60 neighbors have raised concerns about the safety of the tree after the developer who owns the property started advertising a 2,300-square-foot home on the 5,250-square-foot lot where the tree stands. The live oak is 45 feet tall with trunks 9 feet in diameter.
Residents are worried that the math won’t add up without having to tear down or mutilate the tree. But city officials and the developer have said the live oak will stand.
Jorey Friedman, an architect who has lived in the same block as the tree for nine years, is among the neighbors who are concerned about the oak.
“We’re worried that the single lot is unbuildable,” she said.
The property is owned by Palmcorp Development Group LLC, a Miami-based company.
Carlos Tosca, one of Palmcorp’s owners, told the Miami Herald that the tree will not be knocked down, as architects were instructed to work around it.
“We’re putting the house behind the tree,” he said, adding that plans were recently submitted to the city’s board of architects.
In a Feb. 14 letter to Friedman, Charles Wu, an assistant development services director notes that the city supports keeping the tree standing.
“While perpetual preservation of the tree is not guaranteed, both the Miami-Dade County Code and the city of Coral Gables strongly support the preservation of trees such as this one. Additional permit applications would need to be filed before the owner of the property containing the tree could proceed with any plans affecting the tree,” he wrote.
Earlier this month, Friedman and about 60 other homeowners signed a petition to emphasize their opposition to any plan that could threaten the tree.
Julio Otazo, an architect who owns a home across the street from the tree, signed the petition, and said although he wants the tree to remain, he wouldn’t mind seeing it trimmed a little.
“The canopy is too dense,” he said. “A hurricane could cause damage.”