Uploaded: Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 9:23 am
Palo Alto to remove five trees as part of California Avenue project
Trees in conflict with design, construction
The City of Palo Alto Tuesday posted 14-day notices on five trees along California Avenue that will be removed as part of the area's massive streetscape project.
The five trees, one of which is dead, are in "direct conflict with the new construction work," a statement from the city reads. Some trees are located in areas where the sidewalk will be widened; others would create a safety hazard to a reconfigured right-hand turn lane, according to the city.
Two trees (including the dead one) are located in front of Technology Credit Union on the north side of California Avenue. Another is on the south side in front of Lotus Thai Bistro. Two others are at the north and south corners of Ash Street, one in front of Avalon Yoga Center and the other next to the "Go Mama" art sculpture.
The five trees include two valley oaks, one southern live oak and two Shumard oaks.
"This is something that we've always shared during the whole design and outreach process," city Transportation Engineer Shahla Yazdy said about the tree removal.
"We really did try as part of the design to try to save as many trees as we could," she added.
In 2009, the city faced uproar from the community over the removal of 50 mature holly oak trees along California Avenue as part of a beautification project.
For the current streetscape project, which broke ground in March, the city plans to plant 49 new trees, bringing California Avenue's total number of trees to more than 100, according to the city. Silver Linden trees will be planted on the stretch of street between Ash and Birch streets, where the sidewalk will be widened by 10 feet. The trees will match the existing ones.
Yazdy said she doesn't have an exact date for the five trees' removal, but it will be after the week of July 8.
Posted by Fred Balin,
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm
Fred Balin is a registered user.
Only one Valley Oak is coming down, not two; the city has replied that its announcement was incorrect on that point. Two others remain: one outside Izzy's, one aside Mollie Stones.
The toll therefore will be 1 Valley Oak (dead); 2 Southern Live Oaks, 2 Shumard Oaks (alive and well).
Natives are not always the best choice for street trees according to independent and highly respected arborist Barrie Coate, who spoke at a resident-sponored "teach in" shortly after the 2009 clearcut.
It was Dave Muffly, another independent arborist and brought in by Canopy, who put Silver Linden into the mix as one of two primary "unifier" trees. (The other is Southern Live Oak.) " At the time, Muffly wrote that "Silver Linden … has been selected due to its deep rooting habit, beautiful foliage, good fall color, good drought adaptation, consistent growth in Palo Alto, low debris, and upright growth habit. It is a species which has been used and loved in European and Eurasian cities for millennia, and is native to areas with nearly Mediterranean climates."
The Lindens are doing very well, and I have yet to see or hear of dead bees falling around them. Muffly replied to me yesterday with regard to the contradictory material in the Wikipedia link posted above. He writes: "There is a huge danger studying plants on the Internet. The planet is covered with thousands of climate zones, which are often radically different. Plants behave very differently in different zones….Silver Linden is from a near Mediterranean climate. .. Here? They grow beautifully... Careful local observation trumps the Internet every time."
Cal Ave Employe raised the reasonable question of transplanting the four healthy trees slated for removal. I relayed this idea to the city, Canopy, and Muffly. Walter Passmore, the city's Urban Forrester writes: "Transplanting under normal circumstances removes significant root mass, in some cases 75-90% of the fine absorbing roots. The structural soil these trees are growing in will make the process of salvaging a viable root mass more difficult. More impact to the root system decreases the chance of survival and increases the after-care required for the trees to regrow roots. If the trees survive they would probably not equal a new tree in vitality or growth for many years, if ever."
As for the reverse, a quick infusion of mature trees to the Cal Ave site, it was brought up numerous times after the clearcut. Muffly, however, who "lived" among the oaks at Stanford, going back to his days as part of Magic, a local non-profit, public service organization, pointed to downsides.
Mr. Recycle is quite correct about people's justifiable sensitivity even today considering what led up to the events of Sept 14-16, 2009 and not without reason.
Three years after the clearcut, plans were in process to allow Citibank at the Cal Ave / El Camino corner to cut down two tall redwoods in deference to a water pipe. In contrast to 2009, however, a 14-day notice was posted on the trees. Word got out, residents complained, and City Manager James Keene wisely stepped in to call "Time Out" and "Regroup". Citibank soon agreed to reroute its water pipe, and the tall redwoods thankfully still stand. Good work all around.
A year ago, residents were again on alert when we read about plans for the removal of 6 trees, dropped into a staff report on the Cal Ave Transit Corridor Hub Project to the Architectural Review Board. The late Alan Weller, a family law attorney on Cal Ave for decades, asked for and received the species, location, and reasoning from Transportation Engineer Shahla Yazdy.
Since then the total has been reduced to five. Yazdy wrote this week that the first in the row of 6 mature Pistache trees still standing in the plaza area was close to the pipes and drains for the new fountain, but they were able to modify the drainage design and avoid this tree from being removed.
The five trees to be removed are due to an extended right-hand turn lane onto El Camino Real; new bulbouts, crosswalk alignments, ADA curb ramps; and a reconfiguration of parking stalls.
They are a victim of a process that came up with a redesigned streetscape AFTER the re-planting of the trees. However in view of the nearly five-year period starting with clearcut through streetscape engagement, planning, lawsuits, revisions, bids, and finally, the start of construction, it is clear that the city made the right decision to go ahead with replanting as soon as possible and risk the need for some tree removals later.
It is also clear that the city has been very sensitive to concerns with regard to minimizing the loss of young trees. And that includes potential damage during construction. Yazdy writes yesterday, "The contractor is aware of the importance of the existing trees and all protections are in place in order to avoid any tree damage during construction."
And 49 new trees will be added.
Which is very good, but, of course, leads to new questions. What will they be, outside of the 5 new Lindens on the south side of Cal Ave, which the ARB approved last year and was noted by the city in its recent announcement?
What of the other 44? Weller and I wanted to know.
And we also wondered what Muffly would think about the choices. But by then, he had met the one person who could fully appreciate and respond to his genius. Steve Jobs had hired Dave Muffly in 2011 as lead arborist for the Apple Campus 2, with responsibility for the selection and planting of over 6,000 trees and the disposition of 4,500 already on the site.
But as luck would have it, there he was outdoors at Printers Cafe surveying the street over coffee, and he called out to me to say hello as I was walking out. He was on vacation, yet he came with Weller and I into the planning department offices to review the choices:
- Muskogee Crepe Myrtles at the cross-walkways
- New Bradford Pear at various "focal points"
- Blue Ice Arizona Cypress as a holiday tree in the Plaza area
- Japanese Blueberry Tree
- Additional Southern Live Oaks
Muffly spoke at length; Weller asked questions; I took notes, which I submitted to the city. I do not believe the final decisions have been posted.
While certainly not perfect, I feel good about the tree replanting process and decisions and plans made to date, but true to the "Zeitgeist" of Cal Ave and the surrounding areas, I also see it as my duty to leave at leave some new items for potential controversy.
So have at it, and don't forget to support the local Cal Ave businesses especially now during this period of construction.
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