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Grass-roots effort mounts to save Middlefield trees

Original post made on Aug 8, 2008

A coalition of residents, walkers and bicyclists calling themselves Friends of Reasonable Expressway Design (FRED) are mobilizing to preserve landscaped strips and trees slated for removal on Middlefield Road in Palo Alto.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 8, 2008, 10:04 AM

Comments (39)

Posted by save the trees, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 8, 2008 at 3:01 pm

i strongly agree that the trees and area need to be preserved as is for safety reasons at the very least. but just to clarify: just over 900 students attend jordan middle school, not 2,000.

Posted by a long time resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2008 at 3:23 pm

What may be needed is a ballot measure to vote on widening all of Middlefield to 4 lanes N. of Oregon Expressway.

Or making Oregon-Page Mill a full fledged Freeway to Hwy 280. This would benifit the entire city to take traffic off of residential streets. Oregon Expressway has no driveways backing on to it.

Posted by Tree Huggers Unite!, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2008 at 10:01 pm

I know of some unemployed tree-sitters from Berkeley in need of work - they work for granola and water and have all the necessary equipment already, including "poop pails."

Posted by trudy, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2008 at 6:23 am

The planet needs trees a lot more than it needs more road surface.

Posted by sarlat, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2008 at 7:02 am

The person who came out with the idea to widen the road and strip the trip ought to be...well, I don't want the editor to remove my post, so I won't say what should be done to him. This idea is astoundingly stupid. We need more trees and less traffic and we certainly don't need to look like Burbank.

Posted by Ruth, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 10, 2008 at 8:38 am

Palo Alto should ADD green strips to as many streets as possible and remove NONE. The North California Ave section between Middlefield and Embarcadero should be a prime candidate, since it's used by hundreds of students during the school year. The plan to eliminate the landscape strip on Middlefield in order to expand the road is so absurd that initially I thought it was a practical joke. This idea seems like it was taken out of one of Nikoli Gogol's mad and brilliant satires such as 'The Inspector General' or 'A diary of a Madman'.

Posted by Resident, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2008 at 9:48 am

Trees have a finite life, they can be replaced and grow tall just like the trees that are removed.

Posted by Gerald, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2008 at 11:05 am

It appears that Santa Clara County is the only county in the nation with a surplus. It seems like idiotic bureaucrats are straining their little brains to come up with the most inane and stupid rational to spend that surplus. There's just too much money in this Valley, and too much money often has the same effect as too much rain-an excess of weeds.

Posted by McShame=3rdBushTerm, a resident of Stanford
on Aug 10, 2008 at 11:14 am

The Bush Regime in its extreme cruelty, incompetence, hubrism and corruption, has set unprecedented low standards of same in local governments in the last 8 years. It's the only explanation I have for the utterly ridiculous idea of removing green strips and replacing them with more concrete. My 3 year old little daughter, upon hearing of this nonsense had a perfect reaction:"Why are so many adults so stupid, daddy?"

Posted by Shame on You, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 10, 2008 at 1:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Bertold, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 10, 2008 at 3:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by a long time resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2008 at 3:58 pm

I didn't hear these tree huggers when the Ricky's site was cleared of probably a hundred mature redwoods and other trees or at the JCC site that had another 100 trees and is now probably 95% concrete surface and in a flood zone.

Widening a couple hundred or less for a turning lane is so insufiginant.
What about the 100% coverage of new buildings downtown where no trees or setbacks are required?

Who do you thing runs this city. ? It isn't tree huggers when it comes to businesses and developers any thing goes. Another 10,000 commuters to Stanford Research Park are coming with 100's of thousands of new office space approved in the last few years.

The light at Bryant and Oregon is crazy. With no traffic or bikes or people crossing it stays red for Oregon traffic for minutes at a time.

Will the county build a new underpass at the train tracks/Park Ave? Sure needs to be widened to six lanes.

Posted by Eric The Red, a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2008 at 6:05 pm

The best answer to trafic congestion there is to widen Middlefield to six lanes on both sides of Oregan Expressway and put in a giant overpass with cloverleaf ramps at all four corners of Middlefield and Oregon Expressway.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2008 at 10:24 am

On the contrary. They should do the same thing to Middlefield that they did to Charleston. To reduce speed and traffic congestion they should REDUCE Middlefield it to ONE lane. (yes, its working on Charleston.) Use the extra space to install more bike lanes. If the city gets to decide what it does with the streets (except Oregon apparently) then we can beat the county to the punch. There won't be much need for more turning capacity from Oregon on to Middlefield, if we turn Middlefield into just another neighborhood street/bike path.

See its the developers who are building the high rise housing developments along El Camino, and now complaining because the nature of Palo Alto's infrastructure isn't suited to dense housing, so wah wah wah they need to streamline the commuting convenience for all those PEOPLE they want to cram in to the housing they just built. (Big suprise, probably alot of prospective buyers are saying we don't like the commuting inconvenience with these locations...)
Hey - let them take the TRAIN! Wasn't that the whole ABAG point??? (PA's got the TRAIN STATION(s) - so they need to take the housing allotments - its all getting people on transit commuters soluations...) So now why should we be widening streets to make it more convenient for thousands of new car COMMUTERS??? They should have thought of that before they started cramming the city full of dense housing.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 11, 2008 at 10:55 am

A few years ago the traffic engineer in PA, Joe Kott, tried that experiment--it failed miserably.
Anyway, Middlefield is one of the cities main arteries--you cannot just take all the main streets and try to turn them into one lane streets to appease residents who live there.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2008 at 11:09 am

Another major bottleneck in traffic occurs at Oregon Underpass.

This area has required work for years.

There are drainage problems resulting in significant algae and mosquito breeding sites.

There are also possible structural issues with the overpasses themselves.

Straightening this stretch of road may also improvement traffic flow.

Additionally, the on and off ramps from Alma are dangerous, they were never designed for the volume of traffic which uses them.

These improvements far exceed the amount which was allocated to the county from the State.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2008 at 11:09 am

Why not?

(And a few years ago??? They are doing it now on Charleston)

And, by "appeasing residents" do you mean making it safer, slower and less traffic congested? Again, Why not?

I say if, if people (residents or out of town commuters) don't like driving their cars on slower roads, they shouldn't do it. Go find other roads (like 101) more to their liking.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 11, 2008 at 11:26 am

Parent--As I said the narrowing experiment on Middlefield was tried a few years and was abandoned after it turned out to be a disaster.
It seems that residents move to a busy street and then want traffic cut down on that street without regard for where that traffic goes (years ago a certain city council member pushed to have Embarcadero Road narrowed to one lane also, btw, guess where she lives)
I guess if you would live near the Caltrain tracks you would want service halted and if you hear the planes landing at SFO you would want the airport closed.
If there is speeding then the city needs to have the police address that issue

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Hey Marvin, I don't live on Middlefield. In fact I live way over in South Palo Alto, no where near this intersection. But I was born and raised in Palo Alto (near El Carmelo - also not on Middlefield). Yet, I still don't want to see Oregon/Middlefield become a freeway.

However, if you know much abuot Palo Alto, you'll know that very few residents are not somehow effected by impacts on Middlefield.

People move to Palo Alto for a certain environment and quality of life, and those of us who have grown up here or who move here for a quality of life, are more than a little peeved that developers with the help of ABAG who don't give a crap about the quality of our city are loading us up with dense housing, and now trying to build thoroughfares to suit the influx of people they are pushing down our throats.

Again, the big defense for all the dense housing mandates from ABAG were the caltrain stations. So let them take the train then.

It so happens in this case that its NOT the RESIDENTS of the surrounding area that want the traffic patterns changed here. Its being driven by outsiders looking for a way to make it more efficient to load our city up with more housing (by making it more efficient for the car commuter traffic.)

Marvin, you're right - a bunch of people moving in to an area knowing what it was when they came, and now boo hooing - want it all changed around to suit them (faster routes in and out, to heck with what happens to the surrounding community).

If anything that stretch of Oregon/Middlefield needs to be slowed down, not speeded up. There are hundreds of kids that need to cross that road every day for school, and that's not going away ever.

By 'disaster' I assume you mean it inconvenienced you greatly to wait a little longer in your car at that intersection.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 11, 2008 at 12:31 pm

PArent--you can go back into the archives and read why the Middlefield narrowing did not work--clearly it had to have been a major traffic disaster if the city abandoned it and even Kott, who favored it, gave up on it.
The naysayers and NIMBYists in PA are getting together to oppose this much needed improvement of Oregon Expressway--nothing ever changes in PA

Posted by Jacqueline, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 11, 2008 at 2:15 pm

What's the point of having a Comprehensive Plan if you are then going to ignore it?

Posted by Betty, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Unfortunately, it's not totally true that nothing ever changes in Palo Alto.

As noted above in this thread, one reason this is being pushed is to accommodate the 3000 units of ABAG housing the state has assigned us. We'll need to widen a lot of streets to accommodate the traffic and congestion this will bring. We'll also have to build more schools or expand (through temp buildings?) the ones we have. And of course since a lot of the ABAG housing will be "Below Market", we'll have to expand our social services to accommodate the new residents. We'll have to have more police to respond to the increase in crime that can reasonably be expected according to the New York Times.

Palo Alto will slowly be a different city. Some might like the new Palo ALto. A lot of us won't.

Posted by The Cohen Brother, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2008 at 3:46 pm

What we are seeing is a blatant attempt by feudal grow at all cost and without limits/develop, develop, develop/pour concrete over everything/turn PA into freeways&expressways searching for a city. The soul, heart and character of PA is tree-lined streets, slower pace of life, cherishing nature and the environment. This forces of darkness want to remove the heart, soul and spirit of this wonderful place for the sake of unfettered development and the worshiping of traffic. This city is already grossly overdeveloped. In order to preserve it, we must slow everything down, make driving in PA less and less attractive so people use a much alternative means of transportation as possible. Drivers who find Middlefield too slow are welcome to not use it, use the city shuttle, walk or ride a bike, otherwise accept that Middlefield isn't an expressway and deal with it. especially in this day and age, drivers are the last we should ever cater to and remove trees and plants so they can drive faster. This would be a regressive and terribly foolish move. We don't want PA to be like Burbank or any other LA area small city. They are disgusting and represent everything that is tacky and vapid in our society.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 12, 2008 at 5:54 am

Mass transit will not work in a city like Palo Alto--the areas with the best mass transit are densely populated areas. "make driving in PA less and less attractive" is really not a good option (it may sound good on paper) realistically PA wants shoppers and visitors and businesses in town--you cannot have one without the other.
Middlefield, I agree, is not an expressway, but it is one of the cities main arteries. Traffic speeds need to be monitored by the police.

Posted by Donald, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2008 at 7:43 am

The reason that the 4-to-3 lane conversion experiment on Middlefield failed was because of the lack of coordination between the signals at Oregon and Colorado, which caused a lot of congestion in between. The Colorado signal is run by the City, the Oregon signal is run by the County, and there was no way to get the two to work together. The new project will install new controllers at all intersections, and the County is now willing to consider coordination with signals that are not their own (such as at Foothill Expwy and Arastradero). It's possible that the 3 lane configuratioun would work in the future, but there is no way to be sure.

Posted by Daniel, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 12, 2008 at 8:44 am

I was walking my dog near the Embarcadero/Middelfield intersection twice yesterday during peak traffic hours, as I do daily. There's no problem there, even during rush hour. There's no reason for Middlefield to become a fast traffic arterial. It doesn't make any sense and serves no purpose except to satisfy those who want Palo Alto to be like Los Angeles. I can live with shoppers arriving to downtown or Stanford shopping center 90 seconds later than they would like to.

Posted by Simpleton, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Oregon Expressway traffic signal co-ordination is the big problem; it is operated by the County. Same problem with El Camino traffic signals; they are operated by the State. All traffic in Palo Alto should be co-ordinated by the first rate traffic management system Palo Alto installed and has operated very effectively since 2004.

To say that those three bureaucratic entities (State, County, City) can't get together for the common good is simply unacceptable defeatest talk.

Let's hold Joe Simitian and Liz Kniss responsible for getting this tangled traffic control mess straightened out.

Posted by Herbert, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2008 at 3:15 pm

There's no traffic signal problem per-se with Oregon Expwy. The traffic light synchronization could probably be approved slightly at the margins, no more. There are just too many cars with one passenger using it, not enough carpooling and not enough free shuttles. We are reaping the dubious rewards of something that forced on many of us by Stanford's might and political influence. I'd be very happy to get rid of Oregon altogether, we'll all be much better off.

Posted by Annette, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2008 at 11:03 am

Hello Everyone
For all who has posted or read this blog, I invite you to the next Midtown Residents Association (MRA) General Meeting on this topic. from the MRA enews:
AUGUST 28 at 7:15 PM: Emerson School, Red Room, 2800 West Bayshore Road. on the Oregon Expressway. Masoud Akbarzadeh, Project Manager for the Oregon Expressway Project, and Gayle Likens, CPA Transportation Manager, will present details and alternatives. Walt Hays will led the discussion. Come early to see renderings of the alternative proposals for Oregon Expressway on display starting when doors open at 6:45PM. See county website for the project at Web Link for more details. For questions or comments, contact Pam Radin, MRA Trafic Chair at

Posted by Too Much Traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2008 at 11:53 am

Seems to me the thing to do is close down Embarcadero Road, Oregon Expressway, Middlefield Road, Alma Street and University Avenue to motorized traffic of any kind--that will solve the problem of too much traffic in PA.
As a second step, the Stanford Shopping Center and Stanford University should be shut down. This will help alleviate any problems casued by the closing of all of those streets.
This will make many people in the city, including many of our council members, happy and will solve many of our problems

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Traffic needs to move through Palo Alto efficiently. We need to have streets where traffic moves to get people to where they are going. I am not talking about speeding, I am talking about efficient moving of traffic rather than holding it up.

While we are at it, we should think about the bottleneck at Alma and El Camino. This is an area where traffic flow is ridiculous. Most of us have to travel residential side streets to get where we want to go rather than use the main arterial and turn left to get to Stanford shopping center or straight on to Page Mill which would make most sense to us south Palo Altans.

Posted by Fix Oregon/Middlefield, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 13, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Oregon Expressway should be as efficient as Lawrence Expressway. We should add car pool lanes like other expressways in the Bay Area.
The county should put its foot down and do what is appropriate. It is very silly of people in the neighborhood blocking any development.

Folks who bought houses in that area knew what they were buying.

Posted by Liz, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2008 at 7:35 am

I'm in favor of the County's proposals for improving the intersection of Oregon Expressway and Middlefield. The other day, I was stuck on Middlefield in such heavily backed up traffic that the traffic signal changed FOUR times before I could cross Oregon. This scenario will only get worse, let's move on and improve Oregon Expressway.

Trees have finite lives, they can be replanted and grow just as tall as the ones removed. Also, the proposal does not call for removing any historic trees.

Posted by Nancy, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2008 at 8:16 am

"Trees have finite lives, they can be replanted and grow just as tall as the ones removed."
Are you going to plant those trees on concrete? Where exactly will you plant them if you are removing the space in which they grow? Do you know other available space in Palo Aklto in which to grow trees and plants and flowers? If you eliminate the landscape strips, you eliminate the space to plant trees. So in order to speed up the traffic(assuming expanding Middlefield would even achieve that cherished goal), so you don't have to be stuck in traffic for 4 signal changes, heaven forbid) you are willing to get rid of many trees, plant and flowers in an age when the atmosphere is so saturated with carbon dioxide that the human race's survival is at stake? Did you know trees and plants are the only things right now that absorb carbon dioxide naturally and save us from catastrophic consequences?
Unfortunately, this kind of selfish, self centered mentality has made the US, now joined by China, the major polluter in the world.

Posted by Bryan Bradsahw, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Aug 14, 2008 at 2:16 pm

We all have driver's licenses, right? Why don't we use them and start driving the way the law requires us to. Follow the speed limits, use your blinker, be courteous and pay attention to other drivers. That would prevent most of the accidents out there. I don't think we need to rip apart the sidewalks and trees to make the roads safer. Plus, won't wider roads just be an invitation for more cars to use them? A little more commonn sense and patience is all we need. If you don't like Palo Alto's slow, narrow streets, then find a different means of transportation or change your commute.

Posted by Judy, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 14, 2008 at 5:01 pm

If you build it, they will come. Building wider roads makes drivers more motivated to drive on them and is an open invitation for more traffic. All it would do is increase the traffic volume and solves nothing. For the sake of an increase in traffic volume you want us to rip apart wonderful green strips with their beautiful trees and flowers? No thank you, never, ever. I've recently returned from Sienna, Italy, where they don't even allow motor vehicles inside the city walls, with the exception of delivery and emergency vehicles, and tourist cars which are allowed to enter and drive as far as their hotel's parking lot. What a wonderful, incredible city, where pedestrians don't have to worry about cars, the air is mostly free of exhaust fumes, although the scooters can get on your nerves, I admit, no obnoxious noise of revved up engines, honking car horns and blasting car stereos. And nobody would want it any other way. Palo Alto was never meant to be a fast traffic city, and the absurd proposal for Oregon/Middlefield would stick another dagger in its soul and spirit.

Posted by Wow, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2008 at 11:18 pm

So your vision for PA, Judy, is that we should become a frozen in time tourist destination like Sienna? If the people who lived here 50 years ago had felt that way, most of the houses we all live in wouldn't be here, forget about our current street system.

We're growing, we need streets. It's a good thing.

Posted by Judy, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 16, 2008 at 11:16 am

Wow, I never said that we should be like Sienna. Sienna is an example of how you can have a wonderful city without subservience to cars and traffic. We do have plenty of streets, and the Middlefield-Oregon corner "problem" is a manufactured one, it doesn't exist. A couple of times a day, a driver might have to wait a bit longer to cross it, but that's about it. To uproot trees, flowers and plants, make the city uglier, reduce the quality of life for Middlefield residents and others who walk and bike on it and to put more pressure on the environment for the sake of making traffic more attractive, which always results in more traffic and the same old problems, is a backward way of thinking.

Posted by Clark, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 16, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Palo Alto needs another freeway between 101 and 280. There are too many stoplights on Middlefield and not enough free flowing traffic lanes. Take all the right of way needed to widen Middlefield throughout Palo Alto and Menlo Park to make a new eight lane freeway, create new interchanges every mile or so in both communities, and then sit back and see the traffic flow smoothly! Palo Alto needs to accept progress.

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