How disheartening to read of the Planning Commission's approval of plans for a huge English manor in the Palo Alto foothills. Aside from aesthetic issues, two troubling concerns are the plans to extensively landscape with palm trees and to bury part of a wild creek.
Palm trees are alien to this site. I suspect that most people would rather look at a house than see it screened by a grove of palms planted in an oak woodland. This is the kind of irresponsible landscaping that has degraded and destroyed much of our natural ecosystem and its attendant biodiversity.
Native flora forms the base of a food web that supports native fauna. Our native birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects did not coevolve with palm trees. In contrast, oaks, like our Coast Live Oak, support hundreds of species of native insects, which in turn provide the primary food source for baby songbirds.
Burying Buckeye Creek in a culvert sounds ominous.
In recent years both Palo Alto and Portola Valley have made substantial efforts to "daylight" and restore creeks that were once buried in culverts. Portions of Sausal Creek and an Arastradero Creek tributary have been naturalized to provide habitat for wildlife such as threatened amphibians.
Some comments by commissioners politely alluded to potential landscaping and creek grading problems. Yet the project received a glowing endorsement and unanimous approval. It's unfortunate the commission lacked a sense of place, a better appreciation of nature, and a sharper awareness of the consequences of their actions.
El Centro Street
Compost not so green
It's a very sad day for Palo Alto when we are willing to put power plants and digesters on parkland in a sensitive environmental area. Thank heavens that some council members understand how devastating this composting facility will be to the park. A proposal of compensating the loss of parkland with dedication of other already protected areas fails to address the severe impacts of this industrial-composting facility on the adjoining park. This facility is a 24/7 operation and will generate truck traffic, noise, odors and dust immediately upwind of our pastoral open space park — despite all the talk about a green roof cave and enclosed digesters.
Food-rich garbage will need to be dropped off, sorted and ground in a huge building. Tractors will need to fill and empty the digesters with their ever-present backup beepers interrupting the supposed tranquility of the park. Piles of material disgorged from the digesters will need to age in the open for 30 days before being hauled to who knows where.
About 30 percent of the food rich garbage will need to be transported to a landfill, probably Kirby Canyon. Most sewage sludge digestate is used for landfill cover — again far away. Meanwhile the generators burning the methane will be chugging away like a locomotive.
If this facility is built, it will be by a private operator over whom the city will have little control if it fails to meet environmental conditions. And, of course, when this council is willing to throw out years of planning as well as permit requirements from the past, what hope is there that any future council will even care?
Emily M. Renzel
Baylands Conservation Committee
Kudos to Stanford
Accolades to Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment climate scientists Terry Root and Meg Caldwell for the excellent and timely "Coping with Climate Change: Life After Copenhagen" offered by Stanford Continuing Studies.
As far as I know, this is the best university-level class offered about this important topic in the Palo Alto area. Outstanding climate scientists shared the latest information in varied and easily understandable formats. For example:
Ben Santer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, presented a PowerPoint presentation that illustrated how "climate scientists are being subject to slanderous attacks by demagogues in high office and the global warming disinformation campaign" (Climate Science Watch, Dec. 1, 2009).
Jon Krosnick, Woods Institute, well-known for his surveys illuminating Americans' views on energy and climate change, shared his recent study, "Featuring Skeptics in News Media Stories About Global Warming Reduces Public Beliefs in the Seriousness of Global Warming." He commented that "despite recent news reports questioning the credibility of climate science, the vast majority of Americans continue to trust the scientists who say global warming is real."
I believe we live in "Green Mecca." However, we live in challenging times, and are fortunate to have Stanford University, an innovative business community and the local governments in the surrounding area dedicated to finding solutions to address the challenges. This dedication and a well informed public supporting them will help us avoid the consequences the deniers will consign us to if they prevail.