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A pollen-free zone?

Original post made by Richard Placone, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 6, 2007

I have sent this letter to city´s Director of Planning:
Dear Steve Emslie,
I have two heritage Live Oaks on my property. There is a virtual grove of them on my neighbor's property. These trees are the source of a prodigious amount of pollen every spring. I can't describe the mess the pollen makes to my house, the automobiles, the driveway and brick patios, and the seepage into the house. This contributes to my sense of dissatisfaction each spring as I go about cleaning, day after day, February through April.

It is even worse September through November, when the pollen in my neighborhood causes my cars to assume a yellow patina, even when they are kept in the carport. The house, of course, has to be hosed down when this pollen season ends. I find myself frequently coughing and sneezing, no doubt due to pollen in the air.

The only solution to restore my sense of well being and comfort is to have all these trees removed, esp the very offending Deodore Cedar two houses down that emits a virtual cloud of pollen. I don't think I should have to put up with pollen from my neighbor's trees, do you? If I get a note from my doctor linking the pollen season with my increased sense of stress, will you approve my having all these trees removed?

Palo Alto has a reputation of being all things to all people, all the time. So lets get rid of these trees in Palo Alto and make this a pollen-free zone.

Comments (11)

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Posted by Miss Pollen
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2007 at 9:03 am

Let the tree wars begin!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2007 at 9:09 am

Perhaps the idea was tongue in cheek, but there would be a market for a tree birth control that would supress the formation of pollen. Unneeded pollen is responsible for a great deal of respiratory distress.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2007 at 9:48 am

Richard Placone, Miss Pollen,

"Palo Alto has a reputation of being all things to all people, all the time. So lets get rid of these trees in Palo Alto..."

"Let the tree wars begin!!!"

Your sarcasm serves no purpose other than to incite hostility in a world that has enough problems already.

There has been no suggestion whatsoever that any of the private property owners, with whom you seem to have deep issues, want to do anything other than manage their own private properties.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

It's time to remember that private property rights are what sets the U.S. apart from most of the rest of the world. The right to own property and have the freedom to choose how to live on it is fundamental to this country.

Like this comment
Posted by Swami Alto
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 6, 2007 at 10:36 am


Property rights include a responsibility to the public good. Mr. Placone's point was well made.

Incidentally, all persons are *personally* responsible for *any* hostility they feel, no matter the issue. That's a fact that I would be most willing to debate with you - at any time, or place.

We can choose to see sarcasm; choose to respond in kind; or, chosse to feel insulted. Sometimes these choices are not easy, but we make the choices

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Swami Alto,

As to the responsibility for the public good, there are rights for property owners that protect their right to the quiet enjoyment of their property and that allow property owners the right to remedy a private nuisance. If a neighbor's eucalyptus tree limb was overhanging the roof of my house, I would have a right to remove the limb.

However, I don't agree that Mr. Placone's point was well made. In the cases that motivated Mr. Placone's letter, the owners' wanted to remedy a problem caused by their *own* trees on their *own* property, not trees on the neighbors' property - a very different situation.

I hardly question whether a person is responsible for their own feelings or how they choose to interpret others' words. I question those who *act* on their feelings in a way that affects others, and especially the least among us, children. The motivations behind Mr. Placone's letter and Miss Pollen's response are questionable and hardly a positive benefit this community.

Like this comment
Posted by Swami Alto
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 6, 2007 at 1:32 pm

The trees, they clean the air in Palo Alto
The trees, they dirty the air in Palo Alto
The trees, they are loved in Palo Alto
The trees, they are reviled in Palo Alto

Grow the trees in Palo Alto
Cut the trees in Palo Alto

The trees of Palo Alto do not resist
Only the people of Palo Alto resist

Can the pollen be a good thing? Yes.
Can the pollen be a bad thing? Yes.

Are the allergies good? No.
Then, why should a wise man move near a tree?

Are people with allergies bad? No.

Thus, the contradiction between trees and the people of Palo Alto.

The Swami is available for consultation in the matter of trees.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2007 at 1:40 pm

Having lived in old Sacramento and in the newer regions I can attest to the moderating effect of trees on hot weather. Trees that have been shown to be poor citizens should be avoided.

Like this comment
Posted by PA mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 6, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Richard - very cute, brought a smile to my face! (Almost as funny as a doctor's note for tree removal).

Like this comment
Posted by Isabelle
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Why not replace polluting trees with "cleaner" and less messy trees? Of course, if you want the neighbor to part with the beloved tree you need to offer a nice reward and pay for replacing it with a decent size tree you both agree on. By the way, in many new associations there is a whole list of forbidden trees, bamboo, ivy, redwood among them.

Like this comment
Posted by Curious
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 8, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Just wondering, does the city have a list of approved/forbidden trees? What do they use for the sidewalk planting strips and such? I wonder if they plant redwoods anywhere other than parks.

Like this comment
Posted by Tom Ogren
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2007 at 7:26 pm

This sort of pollen intensive neighborhood is all too common. When urban trees are planted they are selected for their shape, their fall color, speed of growth, disease resistance, and so on, BUT they are not selected per their potential to trigger pollen allergies.
It makes no sense whatsoever to plant any more urban trees that will contribute to allergies, especially since there are thousands of smart choices that are attractive, and that shed no pollen ever.
I'm just home from a month in New Zealand, where I was a lecture guest of both the Christchurch and Auckland City Councils...each of these beautiful cities now have terrible pollen allergy problems now...almost all of it caused by their own (allergy-wise/blind) tree and shrub selection.
I am happy to say, that both of those cities are now going to change the way they select all future city trees.

Tom Ogren author of Allergy-free Gardening, and also of Safe Sex in the Garden, both published by Ten Speed Press, in Berkeley, CA.

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