Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 18, 2011

Around Town

TRUMPETING TREES ... How do Palo Altans love trees? Let us count the ways. Of the close to 650 residents who responded to the city's Urban Forest Master Plan Survey, 97 percent said trees are "important" because they provide shade and cool buildings, 95 percent said they are "beautiful," 86 percent said they reduce air pollution and 62 percent praised them for providing "edible fruits and nuts." One respondent called trees "living proof of a divine creator" while another said they "are fun to climb (maybe not so much for me anymore, but for my kid)." What do Palo Altans dislike about trees? Not that much, but damage caused by tree roots tops the list, with 51 percent of responders citing it as a top peeve. The mess from fallen leaves or fruit also creates a problem according to 35 percent of survey respondents. One person complained about "pollen all over my car" while another cited birds that "poop on my car when I park in the shade." The survey also shows that most Palo Alto residents think the city has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to managing its urban forest. Only 15 percent said the city does a "good job" in informing residents about tree regulations while 60 percent demanded that the city do a better job. The majority of responders also thought the city "needs improvement" in informing residents about tree regulations (60 percent) and about proposed tree removals (64 percent). Staff wrote in its summary of the survey results that it is clear most residents "highly value the importance of trees to the community and believe that trees add great benefit and improve and enhance the quality-of-life in Palo Alto. In short, trees matter."

GET ON THE BUS ... There's a new shuttle in town. At the end of this month, the company MV Transportation will begin shuttling Palo Altans up and down Middlefield Road. The company is taking over the operation of the Crosstown Shuttle from the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, the public agency that operates Caltrain. Joint Powers Board will continue to operate the Embarcadero Shuttle, which runs from the east side of town to the University Avenue Caltrain station and which is partially funded by the Joint Powers Board. The Crosstown Shuttle, which is funded entirely by the city, goes from Charleston Road to the University Avenue Caltrain station and serves the JLS and Jordan middle schools. City Manager James Keene said the new shuttle service will come with a GPS feature that enables residents to track the shuttles online. The buses themselves, meanwhile, will have a ring of familiarity. Keene said they will feature the same quirky design currently found on the Embarcadero buses — blown-up photos of Palo Altans next to word bubbles filled with pithy quotes. MV Transportation will take over on Feb. 28. Residents are encouraged to provide feedback at transportation@cityofpaloalto.org.

THE HARDER THEY FALL ... After months of spirited debate, the eucalyptus trees at Eleanor Pardee Park began to topple this week. The city's most controversial tree-removal operation since the California Avenue clear-cutting fiasco of 2009 began Tuesday after a yearlong debate. Palo Alto officials decided to remove the eucalyptus trees after a branch fell and landed close to a pedestrian who was taking a walk at the park more than a year ago. The tree branch led to an outcry from the Crescent Park community, which led to a series of public hearings and arborist reports, which in turn led to the city's decision to remove the majestic but ailing trees and replace them with another species. Last month, City Council decided to chop all the trees down at once, rather than in phases as staff has recommended. Not everyone is happy about this plan. J. Craig Holland attended this week's meeting of the City Council and asked city officials to stop the operation. He also submitted a letter alleging that the city acted inappropriately and failed to give enough consideration to the opinion of its Public Works arborist, who indicated that the trees could remain viable with proper care. "I hope it rains like crazy tomorrow so you can't cut the trees down," Holland told the council.

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