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Board seeks 'order' from new Cal Ave trees

Original post made on Oct 16, 2009

Palo Alto's tree-replacement project on California Avenue should strive toward continuity and purpose and should avoid relying too heavily on public requests, members of the Architectural Review Board said Thursday morning.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 15, 2009, 8:34 PM

Comments (24)

Posted by John Roberts, a resident of Nixon School
on Oct 16, 2009 at 11:27 am

I don't know what they should plant, but get it done soon. I was on California yesterday for the first time since the clear-cut, and what was a pleasant California street now looks like the main drag in some dusty, sun burned Oklahoma town: no trees, aging one and two story buildings and an overly wide road ending at the railroad tracks.

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Oct 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

Yes, heaven forbid the public should have too much input. After the city's clear cutting I can't help feeling the public is probably better suited to making decisions regarding new trees. Or almost ANY decisions, for that matter.

Posted by Vivian, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Hey folks, Oklahoma is not an ugly bad place. It's different place from Palo Alto, not necessarily uglier... Let's make constructive comments not destructive ones... Enough destruction has already occurred. ThanKs.

Posted by Linda, a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2009 at 12:25 pm

The hubris of some of the Board members continues. To wit, David Solnick minimizes the mistake and ensuing public shock of removing the California Street trees. He said the city's decision not to engage a landscape designer in the process...was a "far bigger mistake than the removal of trees." Stolnick, who one can guess feels he has the credentials for esthetic choices, over the the mere citizens of the city decries the messiness of allowing input from the public. Board members in turn argue for order consistency and haste. All types of goals that can result in mistakes such as quick "clear cutting" of old trees. An attitude that, in an individual homeowner, shows a yard with no or little shrubbery, any tree cut down for the "nuisance" of falling leaves. It is an esthetic argument, but unfortunately often is won by the side of "severe order" when a small group of government decision makers want to demonstrate power. "Cut them down" is an act, and "let them remain" is a passive allowance.

The city's process turned the public from a "client" to a "designer." Solnick said he expects this approach to lead to chaos.

"What you have is design by a merchant group with Public Works," Solnick said.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Most of the controversy surrounding the California Avenue tree removal fails to acknowledge the larger agenda that is apparent behind this action: massive reconstruction of California Avenue as part of a plan to develop Cal Ave/Page Mill as Palo Alto's future business district, with University Ave. assuming the status of an upscale "urban village". The Cal Ave holly oaks, which were just approaching maturity, were removed because they were seen as an impediment to construction. Given this scenario, any replacement trees will need to be slow-growing and inconspicuous, so that they can be removed eventually without too much public objection or worked around, if necessary. Some of us may not like this prospect, but we need to confront it for what it is. If the priorities here are distorted, then we should work to change those priorities rather than allow them to be dictated by real estate interests.

Posted by jimmy, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2009 at 12:32 pm

the ARB , the folks that approved the corner of charelston and san antonio
and the condos to replace ricky's on el camino
clearly they didnt listen to us the ( un-washed masses) on those approvals, why listen now

Posted by Alan, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Although the motive behind the clearcutting remains unclear to me, my best guess is that Bob is spot on.

In other words, the removal of the oaks facilitated the goal to reconstruct "California Avenue as part of a plan to develop Cal Ave/Page Mill as Palo Alto's future business district..." because the oaks "were seen as an impediment to construction".

There is nothing wrong with stakeholders advancing their self-interest with the city.

The sad thing is that those of us who are upset by the loss of the trees didn't previously participate enough in California Avenue affairs to advance our own interests and possibly prevent the loss of the trees.

But we can be part of reforestation. So, it is important to go to the meeting on Oct. 22.

Posted by Eva, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 16, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I was just there today and it is blinding to walk or drive down the street. I'm really hoping this doesn't take a year to start the plantings.

Posted by Judy, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Hooray for Bob: finally a comment that makes good sense. I firmly believe that there is usually a motive behind seemingly inexplicable acts and I thinnk he figured out what it is!

Posted by pat, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 16, 2009 at 4:16 pm

"There should be a sense of order," Malone Pritchard said
i don't know - define "sense of order". No, thanks if it means all the same kind of tree.
that's not "order", that's boring. Diversity is a good thing.

"What you have is design by a merchant group with Public Works," Solnick said.
Mr. Solnick is not paying attention if he thinks it is only the merchants that are
attending these meetings and looking to get our street back.

I don't Like University Ave and I'd really like my "main street" to Not look like
Stanford Shopping Center Annex.

Posted by robit noops, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 16, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Bob, thanks for your consise comment. It does seem to be the clearest big picture. I fear the change that a new cal ave/page mill business district would make in my community. Am I to envision bigger business, more traffic, and constant street parking in my residential community as well?

Posted by John, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 16, 2009 at 6:51 pm

"Palo Alto's tree-replacement project on California Avenue should strive toward continuity and purpose and should avoid relying too heavily on public requests"

So far been very orderly: clear cut without relying on public (taxpayers)input.

Bob and Linda you are right on, no one in city government represents the taxpayer, so its government by decree and ignore the "messy" public.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2009 at 9:57 pm

I don't believe there was any nefarious plan behind the tree cutting. A far simpler explanation is simple miscommunication with a dash of incompetence. This happens every day in every company in the country, and CPA is no different except that their mistakes are more public and visible.

Posted by Whiner, CA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Bob, There is no doubt that some development interests might favor having the trees taken out, but what proof do you have for your assertion, and why are you painting all developers with the same brush. California Ave. buildings - some of them - are prctically falling dowwn. Look at the old theatre. There is no coordinated or practical use of most California Ave space. Do you even for a moment think that the ARB, or even a citizens group would have chosen the current mix of use, and building facades that currently exists on California Ave.? Think hard on that. The place is an architectual eyesore, and we're wasting a good opportunity to redevelop that space for mixed use, with affordable housing near transit. the latter can be done, and done right. I would be interested to hear your constructive inputs, instead of purely one-sided paranoia about developers...............and, "Jimmy" said: "someone else said: "the ARB , the folks that approved the corner of charelston and san antonio..."and the condos to replace ricky's on el camino...clearly they didnt listen to us the ( un-washed masses) on those approvals, why listen now..." (sic) - - - - - Really? this is a classic PA whine; they didn't listen to you? how about some zwieback and a high chair Jimmy? And Jimmy, did you see John King's architectual review of the space in the Chronicle several days ago. He was somewhat critical of the facade, but that concern is minor relative to the whole picture as King paints it. Have you been inside the old Ricky's space; it's delightful. The residents there love it; they're your neighbors. Think about that. "Listening" to those who incessantly whine, instead of getting with the program of cooperating, negotiating and accepting compromises has led to years-long vacant disgraces on Park Ave, Edgewood, Alma, etc. Palo Alto needs to a-c-t! It needs to listen less, not more. I'm trying to remember when the last time it was a I saw any community with a falling-down police station had to consider putting a re-build to a vote, because everyone and her grandmother wanted to be in on the decision. Absurd! Hooray for David Solnik! He tells it like it is. Plant the darn trees, and plant them now! No more meetings.

Posted by STOOL, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2009 at 6:26 am

you do know that those trees where destroying the street and concrete some idiots planner didnt think they would grow large. LOL

Posted by Tower of Babel, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2009 at 9:10 am

Do we have a consensus yet on this whole issue, Palo Alto? Or do we have the usual Palo Alto civic Tower Of Babel?

Posted by Bob, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2009 at 9:45 am

"Whiner, CA", Thank you, you illustrate my point. My own opinion, which I did not state in the previous post, is that redevelopment of California Ave. is inevitable, even desirable. The problem is to maintain an attractive and livable neighborhood during and after this transition. The public has not been adequately involved in planning so far.

To "Whiner, CA" and Mr. Skolnick I would point out that participatory government is different from corporate management; it must take into account the interests of a multitude of people. Is this inefficient, untidy and exasperating? Yes it is. Is it the last great hope of humanity? Yeah, that too.

Posted by Whiner, CA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2009 at 10:05 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Follow the architects, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 17, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Solnick since being on the ARB has gotten a large number of lucrative projects. His name appears on any number of construction sites. The ARB members are architects they work with developers and very often think like them and vote for them. They approve something called Design Enhancements when all it is is permission to build a bigger project than the zoning.
Same for architect John Barton on the City Council. He chastised the council for spending so much time on the people talking about trees when there were important matters to discuss (his words, not mine).

Posted by tree lover, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 18, 2009 at 10:54 pm

To Mr. Follow...I would be very careful about making those accusations here, or anywhere. If I was Mr. Barton or Solnik I would find a way sue you for saying what you said, and the Weekly for printing it.

Bob said: I would point out that participatory government is different from corporate management; it must take into account the interests of a multitude of people."

uh, Bob, corporations answer to shareholders, and all the "participation" that has been a part of the 'Palo Alto tradition' has gotten us where, exactly?

Posted by Friend of Palo Alto, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 19, 2009 at 9:53 am

Boards have really done a good job so far, haven't they??? And by all
means ignore the people who live here.

Posted by mj, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2009 at 2:53 pm

"... the place is an architectural eyesore" by whiner.

But do Palo Alto residents really want California Avenue redeveloped and lined end to end with three story buildings such as the red tiled number at the intersection of California Avenue and El Camino Real designed by local architect Toni Carrasco?

Posted by robit noops, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 19, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I like the old buildings, they just need some work. I dont want to see the development of California avenue turning it into some modernist modular cube street. Its a business district in a small town, not a cafeteria for tech firms.

Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2009 at 10:42 am

Follow-up Public Meeting on California Avenue Tree-Replacement
6:30 pm, Thursday, October 22, at Escondido School

This Thursday evening, city staff will present concept plans for the replanting of trees on California Avenue.

The meeting is a follow-up to a public meeting two Thursday's ago at the same site. At that time, the city brought forth a group of four arborists, their selection of 15 trees that could work on the site, and a map showing tree-planting locations and the size of each planting site. The arborists (independent experts Barrie Coate and Dave Muffly, and city arborists David Dockter and Eric Krebbs) provided background and answered questions from an overflow crowd of over 100 attendees. Participants also submitted follow-up ideas on comment cards and via email. It is expected that at least some of those arborists will again be participating.

The 2 hour, 20 minute meeting, which had an "edgy" beginning before turning to the issue of trees, can be viewed on public access television prior to this Thursday's 6:30 pm meeting:
- on Wednesday, the 21st, at 4 pm, on Channel 29, and
- on Thursday, the 22nd, at 8 am, on Channel 26.

It is also scheduled for viewing on Friday, the 23rd, at 8 pm, on Channel 29

Additional input to this Thursday's meeting comes from an Architectural Review Board meeting last Thursday and from other sources.

It should be another very engaging, informative, interactive, and important evening.

Once again, the meeting is this Thursday the 22nd, beginning at 6:30, at Escondido School, at 890 Escondido Road off Stanford Avenue.

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