Not only did the Palo Alto Public Works Department fail to communicate a plan to cut down 63 mature trees on California Avenue last week, it ignored a 14-day waiting period imposed by the Planning Department, according to a city document.
Project Engineer Woojae Kim submitted a request and plans for a "minor architectural review" (requiring only staff approval) to the city's Planning Department for an array of California Avenue "streetscape" improvements, including replacement of all trees.
The plan was conditionally approved by planning staff on Monday, Sept. 14.
But staff Planner Clare Campbell specified in boldface type in her Sept. 14 letter to Kim that the approval would only become final 14 days "following the post mark date of this letter," unless an appeal is filed.
Instead, city-contracted crews began felling the trees on the same day and apparently had already posted paper notices at California Avenue businesses outlining the project's scope, in cooperation with the California Avenue Area Development Association (CAADA).
The 14-day wait period was to allow for an appeal of the streetscape plan and tree removal. It also would have allowed time for staff to notify the public of the decision, which it did this week -- on the Architectural Review Board's Sept. 24 agenda.
If the tree cutting had not started until Sept. 28, when the approval would have been finalized, the public would have had at least four days to challenge the plan.
City Manager James Keene Monday night apologized to the City Council and residents for failing to notify the public adequately about the tree removals. He pledged to inform the community about future California Avenue beautification efforts.
Public Works Director Glenn Roberts on Monday called the snafu an "unacceptable mistake."