Two Lowell Avenue redwood trees, toppled after months of effort by the Bonomi family, weren't the only protected trees doomed by a doctor's note in Palo Alto this summer.
Mark Grossman and Lauren Janov submitted a note July 9 from the same physician -- Dr. Manjul Dixit of the Menlo Medical Clinic -- who had said Lauren Bonomi's allergies necessitated the removal of her two redwood trees.
In response, the city issued Grossman and Janov a permit to remove four of six redwood trees from their Byron Street yard on Aug. 15, the same day the Bonomis received their permit.
But news of the allergy-based removals didn't seep out of City Hall until after Aug. 29, the last day to appeal the decisions.
In the future, however, neighbors and Canopy -- Palo Alto's tree-advocacy nonprofit -- will be informed whenever a tree removal permit is issued, City Arborist Dave Dockter said Wednesday.
"We're going to ensure there is a provision for notifying people," Dockter said.
Currently, someone would have to know about a tree-removal request to find out if it had been accepted, Dockter said.
The Bonomis' no-holds-barred attempts to cut down their two redwood trees had attracted attention earlier this year. When the City Council rejected their appeal May 8, many people believed the issue had been resolved.
But the Bonomis -- and later Grossman and Janov -- quietly submitted a doctor's note testifying to the presence of allergies. Without the expertise or desire to evaluate medical claims, the city issued the permits.
That angered some residents and worried Canopy's Executive Director Catherine Martineau.
"We are concerned. We want to see how to stop that," she said.
Martineau doesn't think allergies are an acceptable reason.
"Pollens are carried by the wind," she said. "Let's say somebody is allergic to a specific tree and his or her neighbor has this tree. We're not going to cut down the neighbor's tree, are we?"
The Bonomis had provided numerous reasons -- danger of falling limbs, sap stains and expense -- to remove the trees before they mentioned allergies.
And Grossman and Janov listed allergies, and submitted the doctor's note, almost as a footnote to their original removal application, Dockter said. They cited damage to their house and crowding of the trees.
Two of the six redwood trees will remain, despite Grossman's allergies, Dockter said. The property also has an immense gray pine, which produces much more pollen than a redwood, he added.
With only three allergy-based redwood removals in two years, Planning and Community Environment Director Steve Emslie said he doesn't believe there is a problem.
"If it looks like we're getting a spike in requests of this nature, then ... we would evaluate it," Emslie said. The city could consider requiring notes from two doctors, he said.
Mature redwood trees were added to the city's list of "protected" trees in 2001. Coast live oaks and valley oaks were listed as protected in 1996.
To remove a protected tree, even on private property, an owner must submit an application.
Dockter said he approved all 40 requests to remove redwoods received in 2006. Redwoods are not inherently more dangerous than any other tree, Dockter said, disputing one of the Bonomis' original reasons to cut down the tree.
The debate, a conflict between property rights and community environment, is a tough one for Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto.
"Obviously, the best thing, if you are aware, is not to move into a property that has something that you're allergic to," she said.