Neighbors opposed the plan, among other reasons, because they wanted to preserve five tall shisham trees planted some 60 years ago in the front of the building on Netzah Yisrael.
By Ilan Lior

The two developers who purchased a historical building in Tel Aviv three years ago could never have imagined how much trouble a few trees could cause them.

Former director general of the Mifal Hapayis national lottery Yaakov Bardugo and attorney Ron Ba’or purchased the building, which is slated for conservation, on the corner of Netzah Yisrael Street and Chen Boulevard in Tel Aviv. Eventually they wanted to build another story and add underground parking and storerooms.
Saving trees – Moti Milrod

Snait Gisis, Effi Eyal and Naomi Kool standing by the trees they fought to save.
Photo by: Moti Milrod

But neighbors opposed the plan, among other reasons, because they wanted to preserve five tall shisham trees planted some 60 years ago in the front of the building on Netzah Yisrael. The neighbors were also worried what construction would do to three cypress trees and four fiddlewood trees in neighboring yards.

The Tel Aviv Planning and Building Committee approved the construction plan, but decided to leave the shisham trees in place and therefore excluded part of the planned parking area from the plan.

But the neighbors were concerned that even construction of the limited parking area would harm the roots of the other trees. Therefore they appealed the decision to the District Planning and Building Committee. The latter ordered the size of the parking area to be reduced further.

Although the district committee ruled that the neighbors had no standing as far as the shisham trees were concerned, it ordered the developers last week to move the trees elsewhere on the property during construction to protect them and return them afterward to their original location.

The committee said that if the vegetation surrounding a conserved building is considered integral to it from the time of its construction, it should be preserved. Based on that criterion, the committee said it doubted the need to conserve the shisham trees, which it said concealed the building and therefore did not fulfill the goals of conservation. However, the committee accepted the position of the municipal agronomist and the city’s conservation department and ordered the trees preserved.

The cost of moving and treating the trees could reach tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of shekels.

Dr. Snait Gisis, who is leading the neighbors’ fight to preserve the trees said the district committee’s decision “recognizes that public interests can overcome property rights … I’m glad they also took the trees in the neighboring yards into consideration, and they can’t do just what they want …”

However, Gisis said she was not pleased with the committee’s order to move the trees. “It’s not at all clear that trees of this age can withstand the whole procedure,” she said. “These trees are nature in the middle of Tel Aviv, said Effi Eyal, who lives 0across the street. “If we didn’t fight for them, nobody would pay attention. All they were interested in was the building. Our war saved these poor trees.”

Bardugo, the developer, says he is pleased with the district committee’s decision, despite the high cost of transplanting the trees. As for the neighbors, he said, “The trees did not interest them at any time. We are the only ones in Tel Aviv taking this action of moving the trees and it’s costing us a huge amount of money. Instead of praising us for respecting the law, some people are critical.”