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Neighbors protest tree removal at Alma Plaza

Original post made on Jun 9, 2010

When John O'Neill heard the sound of chainsaws Tuesday morning and saw the first tree fall on Alma Plaza, he thought, "This is California Avenue all over again!" O'Neill is one of more than a dozen residents of Stanford Villa apartments who learned on Tuesday that the trees just outside their apartment building are about to be taken down.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 9, 2010, 4:12 PM

Comments (45)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm

None of this makes any sense. Why is the developer clearing the site for work which is not going to start in the foreseeable future?

Or, is there something else going on that we don't know about?


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Posted by Lorax
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Just wait until the project on Lytton Avenue takes out all the big street trees across from Cogswell Park. That's going to be a bummer.


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Posted by Erik
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 9, 2010 at 5:53 pm

we need the trees for air why did they do this


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Posted by Peter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Who in city hall is approving all of these tree cuttings.
That person/persons need to be fired.
They do not represent Palo Alto values.
Trees are supposed to grow of 100 years.
Not be given 30 years and then time is up.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tree lover
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 9, 2010 at 6:59 pm

My take on this: the "tree people" in this city are not into maintaining, and saving trees. They are in the business of cutting trees and replacing them to generate as much income as possible for their suppliers, and as much work as possible for their department...

Palo Alto once was a nice place...


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Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Palo Alto looks and feels more like Fremont or Union City every day. No one will be willing to put up with the outlandish house prices in the years to come if we continue to devalue our neighborhoods, shopping areas, houses (bad remodels or ugly McMansions), schools, community venues, etc., in this way.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Palo Alto City Council needs to be fired! All of them! They don't care about our city, they have neither guts not will to stand against forced quotas of the so called "affordable housing", which means dense build up and cutting more trees.


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Posted by Get the job done
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2010 at 8:54 am

C'mon all that's happened is O'Neill has removed trees that are legally on his property. None of the trees were protected by the Historic Tree Ordinance. For goodness sake we need the Alma Plaza project completed ASAP. Alma Plaza is a blighted area and has been for many years.


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Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2010 at 9:54 am

The city let the trees be cut down on California Ave and now Alma Plaza. I asked twice to cut down a liquid amber in front of my house and replace it with a more appropriate tree... at my expense. The tree is breaking up the sidewalk, is growing into the power lines, and drops disgusting pods in the fall. Each time I've asked, I've gotten a mailing from the arborist telling me that don't allow any trees to be removed. (The second mailing was quite rude.) The city needs to be more consistent on the removal of trees and to quit playing favorites in the name of money.


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Posted by AnotherResident
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 10, 2010 at 10:41 am

@Resident wrote:

"Palo Alto City Council needs to be fired! All of them! They don't care about our city, they have neither guts not will to stand against forced quotas of the so called "affordable housing", which means dense build up and cutting more trees."

That is what recalls are for. If you feel that strongly, then why not go for it? My guess is that most folks in Palo Alto won't give a darn until the trees next to their residence are being cut down, and then it is too late. A recall attempt would at least raise awareness of the issue. Keeping Palo Alto green needs to be more than just a slogan.


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Posted by Miillie
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 10, 2010 at 10:42 am

Whoever's got the tree trimming contract must be paid by trees axed.

This stupid place never learns.


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Posted by West Meadow resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 10, 2010 at 10:42 am

I grew up here and am saddened to see these beautiful trees cut down. What's next--cut down the trees lining Alma?


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 10, 2010 at 10:47 am

Please, people, read the story and what was said about those trees:

"Planning Director Curtis Williams said he sympathizes with the neighbors who don't want to see the trees removed. But Williams said the plans for Alma Plaza clearly show that the ash and carob trees near Stanford Villa would be taken out. Williams, who met with McNellis and Stanford Villa residents at Alma Plaza Wednesday morning, said it was "unfortunate" that neighbors weren't previously aware of the planned operation.

"There were multiple hearings about the project and it was never raised as an issue, as far as I can recall," Williams said."

This was in the plans all along. This is not like the California Avenue fiasco. I am not sure why people in Palo Alto value trees over people.


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Posted by tpar
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 10, 2010 at 11:08 am

who cares. come on people there are better things to gripe about


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2010 at 11:22 am

Unbelievable that this can happen again. What is going on with
Palo Alto? Take a look at California Avenue now; could the trees be any smaller? It'll take 20+ years for that street to recover, maybe even longer. I'm moving.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Palo Altans need to get their priorities straight and stop complaining. They should be reading the public plans and attending the public meetings on large developments. These trees were going to be removed... that's very clear.

And to say that "Many of us chose to live here [Stanford Villa] because of the arboreal atmosphere" is an ironic. These apartments are right of off the Alma and the Caltrain.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm

The plans showed the removal. The plans also show that McNellis will replace the 9 trees with 17 new trees - a net 8 tree addition. And now McNellis appears to be amenable to adding even more trees. He is doing this on private property, not public property. The transition period stinks, but the end result will be more trees than there was before.


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Posted by A
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 10, 2010 at 12:29 pm

If you would like to know what's going on, subscribe to the automatic email notice of City Council Agendas so you can see what they are discussing. Web Link

If people don't know what is going on it because they choose not to know.


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Posted by Peter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2010 at 2:04 pm

What about designing around the existing trees. Is that so hard.
Maybe so - you have to be creative and not just create boxes for people to live in.Need to change the planning guidelines.

For those who think that there are better things to worry about - don't forget the trees provide air to breathe. You get over it. Stop the war on trees.


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Posted by Alex
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Good lord, you people are making way too much out of this. Okay, so we're down a couple of trees. Big deal, we have thousands more. Chances are, more trees will be planted. No need to get your panties in a bunch.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 10, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Peter:

"What about designing around the existing trees. Is that so hard.
Maybe so - you have to be creative and not just create boxes for people to live in.Need to change the planning guidelines."

Once again, please read the article:
"But Williams said the plans for Alma Plaza clearly show that the ash and carob trees near Stanford Villa would be taken out. Williams, who met with McNellis and Stanford Villa residents at Alma Plaza Wednesday morning, said it was "unfortunate" that neighbors weren't previously aware of the planned operation.
"There were multiple hearings about the project and it was never raised as an issue, as far as I can recall," Williams said."

Now you are coming up with these suggestions and complaints?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 10, 2010 at 3:45 pm

It is time to fire Planning Director Curtis Williams.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2010 at 6:09 pm

@ West Meadow Resident - The trees lining Alma will definitely be cut down when HSR comes through.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 10, 2010 at 6:56 pm

It's up to our officials to protect our interest and not just rubber stamp developer's plans.

Palo Alto is conducting a war on trees, so yes, we will look like Fremont or East Palo Alto in a few years for the sake of money.

It's easier to clear cut than it is to protect the enviroment.

Crazy people.


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Posted by Neighbor of Alma Plaza
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2010 at 9:26 pm

What is most pathetic is not the tree cutting but the fact that Alma Plaza sat ugly and unused for almost 5-7 years after the businesses started trickling away. Those "tree lovers" who are whining now are most likely the same nuts who opposed/hindered any significant redevelopment of the area as a retail center and are forcing us to drive elsewhere/reducing the opportunities for community in the neighborhood. This tree cutting is nothing comparable to what transpired on California Avenue!


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Posted by midtown mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Kind of weird that the city doesn't have to send out notices about the tree removals... or significant changes like that to neighborhoods affected. I would have thought PA would have learned a lesson by now after the CA Ave butchering.

Some folks even in an intelligent environment keep their heads in the dirt...


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Posted by Douglas
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2010 at 12:04 am

'You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to the building plans, had you? I mean, like actually telling anyone or anything.'
'But the plans were on display.'
'On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.'
'That's the display department.'
'With a torch.'
'Ah, well the lights had probably gone.'
'So had the stairs.'
'But look, you found the notice, didn't you?'
'Yes,' said Arthur, 'yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of The Leopard".'


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 11, 2010 at 4:37 am

This is dreadful. And just at the start of the summer..... Today people seem to want to take an easy way out and that often involves chain saws. And there are simply those who think of trees sheerly as nuisances. I feel so bad for those residents. Years ago the geniuses (who often head condo associations) at my condo compex (in another city) decided to cut down ALL the beautiful mature trees and replace them with spindly palm trees. They provided no shade, and even the birds avoided them.


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Posted by I'm with ya
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 11, 2010 at 9:15 am

"I asked twice to cut down a liquid amber in front of my house and replace it with a more appropriate tree... at my expense. "

This is a bit of a problem. I've been watching a liquid amber sapling grow in my yard but it's getting to the height where I'll need to cut it down or else I won't be able to if I wanted to do a later date. It's a real shame. I would have liked to let the tree grow.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

There are two problems here

First, it seems that the City or Developers can cut down trees which are inconveniently in their way, or if some may be diseased (but not all) or if the right person at City Hall deems it, whereas anyone with a tree on their own property which may be dangerous by either falling, moving foundations or sidewalks, or depositing dangerous appendages, may not.
Double standards here.

Secondly, by my reckoning, nothing has been agreed yet for Alma Plaza. It looks like a work site now that the buildings and trees are removed, but no definite decision has been made as to what is going to be built. I agree that the derelict site was an eyesore, but now we are going to have a construction site eyesore in its place until such time as decisions are made as to what will be constructed. I can't see that this is an improvement.


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Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Does anyone know if the city's entitled to cut privately owned trees that are on private property? Our silver birch sometimes touches (very gently, just with tiny drooping branchlets) the electricity wire that goes from the street to out house roof. We've had no problem with our electricity supply, and don't see why our tree should be hacked at. What are our rights, and what is city law on this issue--and whom should we contact for a fair (re)assessment of the situation?


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm

The Liquid Amber is protected if the City owns it based on its location. If you have one in your yard, you can let it go or remove it. The only trees that are protected are:

All Coast Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia) 11.5" or greater in diameter (measured at 54" above the natural grade level -- roughly "chest height")

All Valley Oaks (Quercus lobata) 11.5" or greater in diameter

Individual trees of any size and species which are specially designated by the City Council as "Heritage Trees." To receive such a designation, a tree must be an outstanding specimen, especially old or large, or of distinctive form, location, or historical significance. The Council may be asked to reverse its designation of a Heritage Tree.

My guess about the tree near electrical lines, the city probably owns the lines and has an easement around them so I assume they can trim the trees near the wires. You may want to trim it yourself so the City doesn't have to.

BTW - the City has a rule about fencing trees during construction, even the non-protected trees, so it is easier to cut them down than fence them.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I love trees as much as the next guy but I'm very glad to see work being done at Alma Plaza at last. If the apartment dwellers want to look out on trees they need to make sure the trees are part of the landscape of the property belonging to their rental. I'm afraid we don't always get to dictate what another man does with his own property, no matter how hard we try or how well our meddling often works. My solution to my need to have trees is to go to the great expense and the hard work it takes to buy the property, prepare the soil, install the watering system necessary to grow trees in this arid landscape, prune and shape the trees as they grow, clean up the sticks and pods they drop throughout the year, buy the insurance needed in case they drop a branch and damage someone or some thing, and feed and water them at my expense throughout their lives. If you aren't willing to do this you are very fortunate if someone else, who happens to own the land outside your windows, is. I suggest these folks send him a thank you note for the enjoyment of his trees over the years, and when he has landscaped the new development, send him further thanks for adding to their view once again.


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Posted by Peter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2010 at 3:43 pm

They are about to take out 100 hundreds at Mitchell Park.
This is crazy!!!!!
Here is the link:

Web Link


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Perhaps you are not aware of this but the library has also been the subject of much discussion over the years. Also, a Mitchell Park tree that dropped a branch a few years ago, injuring some young people, cost the city a lot in the subsequent law suits. As I pointed out above, a tree is a huge responsibility, an expense, and potentially a liability. It is also a privilege to enjoy. When you demand that trees remain, you are demanding that someone provide the water, the upkeep, the space, and the insurance it takes. I didn't hear these protesters today offering to shoulder any of the upkeep of this man's trees. The city maintains the trees at Mitchell Park and is responsible for removing them once they are a problem. Perhaps you'd be willing to bring in some heavy machinery, dig up these trees and move them to your property where you can nurse them back to health, maintain them, and let your neighbors tell you what you have to do with them for the rest of your life.


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Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 11, 2010 at 5:09 pm

@ Peter--

I only count 73 trees on the list. 'Tree Number' is for identification, not the number OF trees.


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Posted by barton
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 11, 2010 at 7:02 pm

John Barton was tired of looking at trees - he wanted the area flattened with new development - what else would you expect from a developer. we are living with the consequences of very poor leadership of past councils.


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Posted by Peter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 12, 2010 at 8:40 pm


It is not too late. There needs to an independent grading system for each design - and quantitative - not qualitative metrics.
Need to make the process less dependent upon the current members of councils or commission.

Use of trees and other features currently in the land will score higher clear cutting to start over will start lower.

BTW - property values are much higher for buildings with mature greenery.


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Posted by Stay alert
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2010 at 5:16 am

Why are you all protesting McNellis's plan now. Cutting the trees down on that site was always part of the plan and the information has been available to residents for not only months but years.

It's up to residents to be proactive and take their complaints to the ARB or the P & T Commissions if they want to change any of the plans and that includes tree cutting, and in this case there was ample opportunity to do so.

Stay allert and be pro-active, no one at City Hall has sympathy for the Johnny come latelies who don't use the city procedures and opportunities to protest.


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Posted by Hank
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

Ha,Ha! Great payback for the city "jacking up" the owner of this land for so many years!


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm

BTW - yes, property values reflect the investment the owner has made in his trees on his property and when he sells the property, he gets to reap the reward of his investment. On the other hand, if he chooses to improve the property in another way, after jumping through the many hoops already put before him, including in this case, years of useless run down property garnished by a few trees, he will reap the benefit of that instead. But it is his property, not that of his neighbors. The rewards of his investment are his. Just because somebody else might enjoy his property, that doesn't make it theirs to dispose of.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2010 at 8:01 pm

You guys whining about the trees need to get a life. Seriously.


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Posted by George
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2010 at 10:07 pm

We do have lives and we want trees to be a part of our lives.
The reason people didn't realize there were so many trees to be removed is because there was so much bad in McNellis' plan that they/we had to deal with a voracious greedy overbuilt design. And minimal public benefits and inadequate parking and on and on.
I bet you don't have kids that will be crowded out of their school by the kids who will move into the 51 housing units (37 houses plus 14 apartments). Fifty One!
Mr McNellis will cry all the way to the bank when he carries in the MILLIONS he will make.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:46 am

George, Yes, he has made an investment and he will reap the benefit. That's our system. Did you know that many of our local schools are being enlarged in order to accommodate projected increases in our population? I don't believe your kids or mine will be crowded out by this development. What I appreciate about this increased capacity is that to me, making good use of lands that are already compromised in terms of their natural beauty and native flora and fauna, will save that much wilderness from urban sprawl.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2010 at 12:03 pm

@ George: Which is why McNellis must pay a school impact fee...


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