Trees chopped before city's OK was final Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Sep 22, 2009 at 6:44 pm
Not only did the City of Palo Alto fail to communicate a plan to cut down 63 mature trees on California Avenue last week, its Public Works Department ignored a 14-day waiting period imposed by the Planning Department, the Weekly has learned.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 6:26 PM
Posted by Alex Johnstone, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2009 at 6:53 pm
All of these losers on the city council and planning committees should be removed from office immediately for this gross incompetence. Truly a pathetic situation that underscores the fact that city hall needs to go through a major housecleaning!
Posted by Harry, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2009 at 7:40 pm
"City Manager James Keene Monday night apologized to the City Council and residents for failing to notify the public adequately about the tree removals."
----- From the article above
I think we need (and should demand) more than an apology. Alex Johnstone is correct: we need a major housecleaning! In addition we need to THOROUGHLY review the rest of the "beautification" plan.
Do we really want the two lanes in each direction on California Avenue reduced to one lane? The results will definitely result in a major clogged thoroughfare and major congestion in general. Is it worth all the money to do that? Major congestion brings with it more toxic exhaust fumes as well as an advertisement to "stay away".
If we do not want to have more "APOLOGIES" from city hall we need full transparency and voter approval, not just committee approval.
Let the voters of Palo Alto determine what modifications, IF ANY, need to be done.
Posted by Teddie, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2009 at 8:12 pm
Have you ever driven down California Ave? The three blocks of Cal. Ave are never very crowded nor congested at any time during the day. The street doesn't draw cars traveling through to or from other parts of town like University Ave. Really before you make such strong statements know what you are talking about.
Yes leave everything up to the voters and nothing will ever get done. The committees are full of hardworking, dedicated people who are often participating with out compensation. If you are so quick to complain about heads rolling what don't you get off your couch and participate in the process rather than just complaining about it.
I get so tired of the narrow minded people in Palo Alto.
Posted by Darren Peck, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2009 at 8:28 pm
What exactly was the "beautification". Looks damn ugly to me and I fail to see how this is going to make ANYTHING more attractive.
Obviously Teddie works for the city or is related to someone that does. I don't see how anyone can justify this and blame the voters. Seems to me they never gave the voters a chance to file an appeal. Ahh , Government at work ! Absolutely appaling and yes, Alex, you are right !
Posted by Harry, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2009 at 8:31 pm
You are very good at making assumptions.
How do you what committees I am on or not on? You assume that I just am on my couch and don't participate in any process. What is that based on?
You can certainly leave things to the voters. That's why they have referenda on the ballots... so that people have a say in their fate.
Also, I think you missed my point about California Avenue traffic. Well,
maybe you didn't. It appears that you prefer increased traffic on that street (like University Avenue). Maybe you think that is good for business? Well I don't. The other problems that the increased traffic would create, in my mind, more problems than the new construction is worth.
And, yes, the committees are full of hard working, well intentioned people, dedicated people, who participate without compensation. But that doesn't mean they make the best decisions for the populace. Case in point: what just happened on California Avenue.
Finally, are narrow minded people the ones that see things differently than you?
Posted by Donald, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2009 at 9:06 pm
These changes will be beneficial in the long run, but nobody on this forum seems to be able to see beyond today. Trees have a finite life span, and healthy forests have natural cycles that involve old trees dying (or burning) and being replaced by new trees of different types. Static old growth is not desirable in forests, natural or urban. Yes it looks bad now, but it will eventually look better than it did before.
Posted by VoiceOfReason, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2009 at 10:07 pm
Are you kidding me? Seriously, is this some sort of sick joke?!?
"If it ain't broken, don't fix it!"
How many of OUR tax dollars were wasted on ruining California Ave? I want an audit. Seriously, how much was spent? Is this the most effective way to spend our tax dollars? Why not instead spend that money on our PUBLIC SCHOOLS?!?
Yet another example of useless public spending. Look at the CA Ave Caltrain tunnel. A monstrosity.
Fire them. Kim, Campbell, Keene, Roberts, fire them all. If this happened in the private sector, they would be LONG GONE. It's called accountability.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2009 at 10:36 pm
It all comes down to this: What's done is done. So what to do now? I'd say put in larger trees (perhaps in 24" boxes) than the 10' trees that were originally planned. We who shop or own businesses on California Avenue will see shade return that much sooner.
Posted by Susan Cole, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2009 at 11:59 pm
Every time I read about City Manager Keene's pledge "to inform the community about future California Avenue beautification efforts" I want to grind my teeth. Being diligent in the future about telling us say, where parking stripes are going to be painted or benches are going to be placed will in no way make up for killing dozens of mature trees without giving anyone a chance to react. That stupid move, unlike placing benches, was irreversible.
Posted by Howard, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:35 am
Is everyone crazy? New trees are going to be planted in place of the ones removed. Doesn't it make sense to wait and see what that looks like before all this gnashing of teeth? I expect that within a few weeks after the replanting, very few will give a hoot about all this.
Posted by "Improvement" it is not, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:07 am
Fallen deciduous leaves to slip on in the rain... tiny baby WATER-THIRSTY non-native maple trees providing no shade... Hurray! Lets turn Palo Alto's "other downtown" into just another barren California strip mall, baking in the sun!
I don't see myself enjoying the street anymore, or its outdoor dining options.
Someone clearly decided it was easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission - who is paying for this fiasco, anyway?
Posted by Kate, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 6:31 am
Please let everyone cut Jim Keene some slack!! He came in here not too long ago and had to clean up the mess Frank Benest left, inherited the Children's Theater fiasco, got plunged into the looming negotiations with the SEIU and the police and fire unions, the budget deficit, and now a looming strike. He had to find his way around, deal with new his new personnel, and a zillion other details. He no doubt trusted his highly paid department heads to do what they are supposed to do with their plush salaries. So while irate residents want heads to roll, not all heads are equal in this. Public Works is another story.
Posted by funky, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 6:36 am
Assuming that the trees actually had to be removed, which I seriously doubt, it was done in the most dumb manner imaginable. Instead of creating that Hiroshima/Milpitas depressing look the street has assumed, every second tree should've been removed and another tree (definitely not maple)immediately planted as a replacement. There would've been an initial uneven look, but everything would be better than the awful depressing look the street has now. It would be a travesty if city employees involved in this debacle don't lose their jobs, and I don't mean low level employees.
Posted by Jake Glass, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 7:49 am
I completely agree with funky. If the trees really had to be cut down, you remove every second tree, replace it with new ones, wait for them to grow a bit and then remove the rest of the old trees and replace them right away. This was a mindless"shock&owe" kind of maneuver and every person on city payroll involved should be terminated.
Posted by Bad Faith, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 8:25 am
Responsibility for any changes to California Avenue should be taken away from the lunkheads who run the Public Works Department.
Close City Council oversight is needed to make sure that no more mindless actions are taken by the City. There needs to be an inquiry by the City Council on exactly who in authority authorized the tree clearcut on California Avenue, why the public outreach, notification were so inept, and whether or not any City procedures and policies regulating tree removal on the public right of way were ignored.
Heads need to roll, not just some poor flunky's head but heads at the top of the Public Works Department!
Posted by Baldy in the Grey Caddy, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:17 am
Well, rules are rules and if people cannot follow the rules they should be terminated. Its obvious that the people are upset about this. Only a few have an optimistic view, but still agree that it was a bad move. Cutting down tree's on a street is not a small mundane operation. These people knew the rules and broke them willingly. Im pretty sure it was done as a measure to save on cost or time for the entire duration of the California street project. For some reason the planners or crews couldn't wait any longer, or they needed to make space in order to purchase tree's or materials at a discount before the fall arrives. Thats what I believe happened. Cause you can't just cut down a street of tree's and then say, " oh sorry, that was a mistake" . Especially in an area that has many many environmentalist and just people in general that care about the flora in this area. I tend to always ask who is getting or saving money by doing this in just about any situation. If you wanna find the problem just follow the money. Thats what I always say.
Posted by Bad Faith, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:29 am
Where was the City Council during this whole farce of "Public Works Gone Wild!"?
Where was the oversight by elected representatives of the people? Public Works may be run by politicking knuckleheads and Keene may still be the new kid on the block, but where was the City Council oversight?
"I didn't know!", "It was news to me!", "First time I heard of it!" are NOT acceptable answers!
Posted by Kate, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:36 am
Part of the charm of California Ave. is that it is not like University Ave. I do everything in my power to avoid University Ave. I rarely shop or dine there anymore due to the "two" lane congestion and parking. I love the simple charm of meeting local residents along California Ave. who can walk their dogs freely and can sit for a coffee under the trees of the local cafe/restaurants. The last I want is another University Ave. Being on California Ave. for more than 25 years, what happened is disgraceful, disrepectful, and utterly selfish. And what about Farmer's Market? A lot of people drive from all over to provide us the opportunity to buy great tasting organic food and what do we do, strip shade from them. Has any of these city council member visited the Farmer's Market and see how families shop and eat together under these trees. Money now should be spent on mature trees instead if making two lanes.
Posted by Bad Faith, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:38 am
At this year's Council election, Palo Alto voters should turn out all current Council members up for re-election due to the City Council's gross neglect to properly oversee the actions of the City staff in the California Avenue tree clearcut scandal.
Posted by openspace, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:48 am
I have advocated that we should change the City Charter and create a 4 year mayor position. The mayor would be responsible for a debacle like this as well as make sure projects are moving forward. The current one year rotating mayor position does not move any projects forward. Each year the mayor comes in and makes a pledge, which usually gets dropped after they leave their term.
Having a strong mayor and weak city manager I think would work better today. The city manager is always not accountable to the public but the city council is. That is not effective. Lets have a strong mayor weak / weak city manager to get things done around here.
Posted by ugly, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:50 am
I think the maple trees are ugly, I looked up some pictures of them. They are skeletons in the winter. Those lovely oak trees also provided some cover in the rain, and there color added a great contrast to the colors of the sidewalks and buildings. The city planted a maple in the margin in front of my house 10 years ago and it looks awful.
Cutting the trees was a bad call, and will be the cities "tree scandal of 09" in history. City residents should demand native trees be planted, and that further beautification plans be posted well in advance. Castro in Mt View is a nice enough street, but this is palo alto and a different demographic. Say no to cookie cutter business districts.
PS, remove or do something about those stumps, NOW! The trees were chopped down in a few days, then workers just leave? That is not beautification in my book. I cant even stand to go to the farmer's market on Sundays, Ill be going to Menlo Park from now on. All this project has done is hurt Palo Alto business, good job city of Palo Alto.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:07 am
"Palo Alto voters should turn out all current Council members up for re-election due to the City Council's gross neglect to properly oversee the actions of the City staff in the California Avenue tree clearcut scandal."
Don't be too hard on the councilmembers. Palo Alto's charter gives the real governing power to the city manager and city staff, who are only remotely accountable to the residents. Although they are in principle subordinate to the elected city council, in practice the council has customarily subordinated itself the city manager and city staff. This was especially so during Benest's regime, who treated the councilmembers as children and received their swooning adulation in return. We are still experiencing the aftershocks from that era.
Posted by Eileen Stolee, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:22 am
Why isn't Ronna Devincenzi and the business owners (not shop keepers) on California Avenue worried about their ugly buildings? Do they really think that BABY red maples, that have no leaves 6 months out of the year, will hid them? How stupid is that?? Did they forget how ugly these building really were all nestled among giant oak trees? Stop with the "I'm shocked" and "we'll never let this happen again" statements. Accountability and quick repair is in order, ASAP!
Posted by Myrmecophaga, a resident of Mountain View, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:31 am
This is an egregious violation of protocol with a devastating long term effect. Someone should lose their job over this. Based on the data in the article above, it sounds like Project Engineer Woojae Kim should be fired.
I live in Monta Loma Neighborhood, Mountain View and work in Menlo Park. I frequent Cal Ave business district because it's in between. It's was a lovely alternative to downtown Menlo Park (with their parking meter autocrats) and downtown Palo Alto (with its vacuous automatons). This is a shame that will last for years.
Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:42 am
I'm still waiting for the city to resurface San Antonio Road, which was the excuse for cutting down all the beautiful trees there. When as someone suggested, they could have cut an offending root and plated it without removing it.
To take down all the trees at once so they'll all grow at the same rate when planted again smacks of anal behavior. Nature does not conform to the mandates of controlling individuals with short-sighted vision and hidden agendas.
I'm more concerned that now California Ave has been stripped of the trees that not only provide shade, but oxygen to counter-balance the effects of emissions.
Would that we could engage a conscious, enlightened city government! Hiding behind "green" PR is not fooling anyone. I remember when Palo Alto actually was a leader in a caring and concerned government. It's been a really long time!
Posted by EJ, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:46 am
All I can think about is the negative impact this will have on businesses along Calif. Ave. I walked the entire length of the street, both sides, late yesterday afternoon, and it was so depressing! There seemed to be an air of depressed resignation among the people who were walking along there. It's gone from being my favorite shopping and dining area to an ugly, sun-baked strip mall overnight. It's really hard to muster any enthusiasm for going there anymore, and I know I'm not alone in that sentiment. Yet, we're told by Ronna Devincenzi that there is "happiness" among the merchants from the clear cutting. Clueless, or delusional? I'm not sure which term applies to her assessment of the general mood created by this unbelievably stupid act (maybe both).
Posted by bick, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:51 am
Whomever signed off and made the calls to have the trees felled needs to be fired. As this article states, there was a rush to cut the trees before the Sept. 28th authorization. And no, it's not time to move on until someone is held accountable for jumping the gun.
I would also investigate the potential here for corruption, perhaps even kick-backs to city employees from vendors to benefit from this project. This situation doesn't pass the smell test.
Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:52 am
A couple of thoughts.
Those who mourn the loss of the California tree cover may wonder, if the gross receipts of California Avenue businesses decline and the loss of the shade trees can be shown as the proximate cause, can the City be held liable for merchants' losses?
Should a guard be posted at the base of El Palo Alto to prevent its loss?
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:56 am
If the creative vision for California Avenue is to make it look like a Southern California strip mall, then maybe we should replace the oaks with four or five scraggly palm trees and recruit an adult video store or bowling alley to anchor the new California Avenue district. At least Antonio's would still fit in. (No offense, Tony!)
Posted by Awesome, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:57 am
Give me a break. California Avenue with or without the trees was always an eyesore. Anything to change it will be an improvement. The buildings for the most part feel like a you're in a run-down 50's and 60's era area (probably where most of the complainers remember how it was).
Posted by The Cohen Brother, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 11:10 am
I'm very doubtful that the trees were indeed diseased and had to be removed or else, but even if that is true, every single decision regarding their removal was grotesquely wrong. Removing ALL trees at the the same time during the hottest time of the year is just astonishingly dumb. Why not wait for the end of the Indian summer season, and then gradually cut some trees and replace them immediately with new trees, continuing this gradual process until every old tree has been replaced by a new tree. The new trees must be the kind that provide wide shade and don't turn into bare skeletons in the fall and winter. Why execute the process in the dumbest, most absurd manner? What were they thinking?
Posted by Judy, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 11:18 am
I agree that cutting the trees amazingly stupid and that CA Ave looks like a bleak wasteland. However, I do have a question for the tree experts out there: how about substituting a non-decidious tree for the unfortunate red maples? Nothing has been planted yet, so there should be time to re-visit the choice of tree and substitue something that would give more shade and be green all year around.
Posted by Hummmmmm, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 11:23 am
Maybe it's a ploy after all...the huge masses that work at Facebook up the Avenue now will have to go into the business' to escape from the heat to cool off.....there by boosting sales in the stores...........hummmmmm.
Posted by Derrick, a resident of Mountain View, on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm
Congratulations to Keene and the city engineer (name?) who expedited the removal. You should be nominated for "Idiots of the year" award...I used to shop there, the attraction were the trees. A relaxing place enjoy coffee on a hot or rainy day under the trees. Now it looks like any strip mall USA. Maples won't cut it!
Somebody compared Cal street to downtown mountain view. MV has a hurried cooperate "strictly business" feel. Not place to relax with friends at a coffee shop or laptop work.
Posted by Buzzy, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:02 pm
Let's fire the guys who broke the rules and apply their saved salaries to the purchase of larger California native trees, plus an incentive pool for the contractors involved to get the job done properly, on time and on budget. (That works for CalTrans projects.) This approach would serve as a warning to the rest of the city's employees that we're truly mad as h__l and not gonna take it anymore. Jobs are hard to come by these days, especially those with gold-plated benefit packages, so Palo Alto should be able to fill the slots at a slightly lower cost with people who are glad to have them, and want to keep them. Obviously, Mr. Kim et al think they're secure - so let Keene and the Council show them the door.
Posted by Andrew, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:10 pm
This is a copy of an e-mail I sent yesterday to the City Council of Palo Alto:
I am horrified at the poor judgment and complete lack of forethought that went into the recent "clear cutting" of California Avenue, where I have my office. Most of what went into your Project Notification Update seems outright deceitful and incorrect. I have had an office in the neighborhood for 15 years, and not once have I noticed "sooty mold" or had issues with clients "tripping over acorns". What is actually true is that you chose to take down 50 trees which provided shade and beauty to the neighborhood, and the replacement trees will not provide the same level of shade and beauty for decades! Shame on you and your team.
You also lie when you state "The Streetscape Improvement Project was vetted with the community and business district, and the consensus was to have all the trees replaced at one time..." This is not true, and had you actually informed local businesses that you planned to desecrate the neighborhood by clear cutting it, you would have received a resounding "No!" But instead you chose to do the project quickly and without adequate notifications, including a failure to notify the City Council.
In terms of the rest of the project, I have no more confidence that you and your team will make good judgments. I would suggest that the project be put on hold for now, and that the Council and citizens be consulted on all of the proposed changes. As such, I am forwarding this email to them. It sounds like the project will greatly impair commerce in the neighborhood, and we have had enough of this over the past few months. You may not realize it, since your department seems to have a overly large budget to waste, but we are in a recession, and ripping up the neighborhood repeatedly and interfering with traffic and parking hardly helps local businesses.
I would make one suggestion. I would suggest you spend considerable extra money, and allocate that money to replanting larger trees, as large as is practical, to replace the trees that were destroyed. This would begin to restore the neighborhood to what it was, much more than replacing benches and trash cans, none of which is meaningful or even necessary. And I would suggest that if 50 trees were removed, that you plant 75 trees to replace them. This is not only important for beauty and comfort, but also for green issues and to address global warming.
Posted by Derrick, a resident of Mountain View, on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:23 pm
Hope its not a "city re-development" strategy. 1)Take away what attracts business customers without notification, causing a slow down in business=profit, 2) local businesses forced to close shop, 3)city "renovates" empty buildings and rebuilds,increasing rent for "high end stores".
Posted by Derrick, a resident of Mountain View, on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:24 pm
Hope its not a "city re-development" strategy. 1)Take away what attracts business customers without notification, causing a slow down in business=profit, 2) local businesses forced to close shop, 3)city "renovates" empty buildings and rebuilds,increasing rent for "high end stores".
Posted by Victoria, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:25 pm
Enough crying. They should be held responsible. REPLACE THE TREES WITH MORE MATURE TREES, than what is currently planned and everyone will be happy. We do it for our homes, do it for our city! It may cost some money, but we are known for our trees. Do the right thing!
Posted by h, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:28 pm
I agree that heads should roll -- the city arborist, the planning commission, the idiots at Public Works who conjured this travesty up and executed it (quite literally, along with California Avenue), perhaps also the erstwhile "green" city council who allowed this to slip thru their metaphorical fingers. I am outraged and saddened. Also, in my mind as culpable, are the California Avenue merchants who had been given notice and failed to protest, publicize and prevent the rape of the street. Their businesses will suffer greatly as a result.
Posted by Ron, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm
The buildings on California Avenue are ugly? No one seemed to complain abut that. In fact, Ronna Devincenzi, in her comment in the Post claimed that folks were happy that these buildings could now be seen.
Posted by ann, a resident of Los Altos, on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm
it looks awful...harry in fairmeadows is right on.....leave 2 lanes....stop blowing the money...it works as it is....spend the money saved on the biggest trees you can find and try and fix this horrible screw up asap....what was this....stimulus money that had to be shovel ready and spent immediately....the employee who made this huge error should be terminated NOW..was he getting a kickback from the tree co..? was there corruption?? there certainly was grand stupidity involved....and ps..the buildings are now quite UGLY..
Posted by Cheryl Nafzgar, a resident of the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:32 pm
I have been battling everyone -- the mayor, city council, and Eric Krebs, the city arborist -- to cut down two City-owned liquidamber trees on our front lawn. When I read they had cut down 63 trees on California Avenue I was dumbfounded. And when I went to the Farmer's Market on Sunday I was horrified. I was dumfounded and horrified because I am in a wheelchair and can no longer get to my front yard. The roots from the city trees have killed our lawn and are so exposed I can not drive over them in my wheelchair.
Following is a letter I sent to Eric Krebs, Palo Alto's City Arborist:
Dear Mr. Krebs,
I was surprised to read that you have approved the removal of 50 trees on California Avenue.
I have repeatedly requested that two city-owned liquidamber trees in our front yard be removed. The trees have killed our lawn, cracked the sidewalk, and the roots are now threatening our new driveway and the foundation of our house. The trees also drop hundreds of cones, causing people to trip and fall, so I was taken aback when I read in the Weekly that one of the reasons the California Avenue trees were removed was because they “cause a tripping hazard for pedestrians.”
The liquidamber trees have also doubled our water usage at a time when we are being asked to conserve water. Further, since the roots have taken over the entire front yard, no one can safely walk on our dead lawn.
Most importantly, I am in a wheelchair and can no longer get to my own front yard.
I do not understand the kind of reasoning behind the decision to cut down 50 mature city-owned trees, while simultaneously refusing to cut down two trees that are destroying our property, threatening the safety of pedestrians, and preventing me from being on my own property.
Posted by Kate, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:40 pm
The Planning " Commission" had nothing to do with this. The "Planning Commission" is made up a residents who serve voluntarily after selection by the Council. Reportedly it only received a broadly worded scope of future planning some time ago but no details. The Planning DEPARTMENT is made up of city employees and that's where the permits, etc. had to be approved.
Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community, on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:55 pm
If a tree cutting incident occurs in the San Mateo County, whatever the decision is, it is going to be offensive to someone.
Every committee member from every department has had dealings in the past with privated property owners and not come to reasonable, or in some cases, astonishingly inept conclusions.
As an example, over a half million dollars in old Cypress trees were cut down by a person wanting to open up his view and he went ahead and cut a couple of dozen down and admitted it, told the Council and its members that the owner had requested he do it. The owner was found guilty of the tree cutting, fined, and the person who cut the trees, had his house re appraised and bought another place in S.F.
That is the most contemptible decision, but there are others involving local businesses who manage to cut, build and expand properties without permits, and it is as simple as payola was in the 60's or 70's. These things happen but corruption exists in politics from the top down.Quite a few are known to many, but let us see who gets the fair decision here.
Posted by funky, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 3:15 pm
To add to this idiotic fiasco, cutting down a tree while leaving the stump and the entire root system in the ground is the easy part. The hard work is to remove the stump and entire root system. When is this going to be done, or is this a project for a not yet determined date in the distant future? New trees cannot be planted while those stumps and root system are still attached to the ground. Not only was the choice of maple dumb, since the street would still look bare and depressing for nearly half of each year, but somehow I have the feeling that this project is now going to be aborted all together and the street will remain looking awful. Personally, I used to dine on Cal. Ave every weekend and regularly patronize a few businesses there, but there's no way I'm going anywhere near this now ugly and depressing street, and my guess is that many people will do the same.
Posted by Garry Wyndham, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 3:19 pm
This was a major screw-up, but we are where we are. Let's move on.
Red maples, native or not, are lovely trees and relatively fast growing. Two years from now we'll have a decent canopy in the summer, great fall color and pretty, bare limbs allowing winter sun through.
Posted by Diana T., a resident of East Palo Alto, on Sep 23, 2009 at 3:27 pm
I love eating at the restaurants on California Ave. Palo Alto Sol is one of my favorites. I cannot let this mistake by City departments punish the business owners of California Ave. I will still go to my favorite restaurants and businesses because it is not their fault that the trees are now gone. Please remember this and still frequent those businesses. They need us to come even more now.
Posted by Kate, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 4:59 pm
h, please talk with some of the merchants on california ave as I have. they were not in on this thus the outrage. this was done behind their backs as it was with the rest of the city hall by not giving proper notifications or following protcols. it is very sad .
Posted by Resident O, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 6:41 pm
These are just 60 of the trees that the city can target as a public nuisance. What about the next 60 trees that they plan on taking out? Please look at the bigger picture. If you want to save this from happening in the future, speak out. Otherwise, look at any beautiful tree that causes damage to the street because it is a target next.
Second, if the street is going to be wider, the trees would no longer have been a nuisance in the wider street. Therefor, the problem lies in planning this catastrophe, in my opinion. Obviously if you widen the street, the trees would no longer pose a problem to the street. So why were they cut out? Poor design that goes against the vision of the city.
What is more important, old trees or an extra lane of traffic? If the city has a grand goal of lowering car traffic and increasing ped traffic, it should protect the trees and narrow the roads.
Posted by Chuck, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 6:57 pm
I run a business in California Shopping District and I was NEVER informed of this "beautification plan" prior to the massive destruction taking place. When those 60+ beautiful trees were clear-cut, I found out who was behind this CAADA org, and called Ronna Devincenzi, and demanded an explanation, since she was supposedly representing my interests as a business owner. Over a 20 minute conversation, she LIED to me several times, saying that this project had been approved by Palo Alto 2 years ago, that "most" of the trees were diseased, that "all" the business owners had approved this decision, and that if the trees were not cut down, they would "fall on people" and hurt them. I then called the city, and was connected with Woojae Kim, who also LIED to me, and told me that this decision was fully supported by the city, and the new trees (15 gallon trees mind you) would be "just as big" as the old ones in 2-5 years. Just utter nonsense, that was insulting to even hear.
As you can see, these two people were INCOMPETENT, UNETHICAL IDIOTS who deserve to fired immediatetely from their posts. I would not doubt at all if it turned out that money was passed from Ronna to Woojae in order to expedite her clear cutting mission. I can't imagine an engineer working on city tree projects thinking for one second that this was a good idea unless he personally profited from it.
California Ave has been decimated and these two jackasses are to blame. Why don't they go California Ave in the BAKING SUN, talk to people like me who have located our businesses here, and prove just how much they improved the neighborhood? It blows me away that in such a progressive city, this could have happened. Its such a shame.
Posted by funky, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 7:10 pm
I have a strange feeling that if an independent arborist were hired to examine the fallen trees, he/she would have found out that few if any were diseased. The more I think about this fiasco, the more certain I become that this matter ought to be investigated by the police. The fact that Ms. Devincenzi has been lying through her teeth to just about everybody is an indication that there could've been an exchange of money between some commercial interests and someone/s at the top of Public Works. This is turning into a major scandal.
Posted by andrea, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 7:26 pm
A few years ago a bunch of trees around the community gardens adjacent to the main library have been cut down for no apparent reason. All my attempts to get an explanation from Public Works and the Parks division were met with total silence. The people who actually carried out the tree removal claimed to have no idea why they were ordered to remove them. There are no commercial interests around the community gardens I know of, but the pattern of a brutal removal of trees for no apparent reason is similar.
Posted by Andrew, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 7:27 pm
To Resident O:
I believe the plan was not to widen California but to reduce the two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction. Another bad idea by my calculation. But, in general, you are correct about poor design by the city.
Posted by Farmer's Market Lover, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 7:39 pm
OK, so the trees are gone - that's just so, and nothing will bring the old ones back. New ones, no matter HOW large a box they come in (I'm a landscape architect, I know), won't grow fast enough (and if they DO grow fast, they're NOT good for street trees due to weak limbs and potential root problems in the sidewalks and streets). It will take at least 3-5 years before shade will be appreciated from and provided by the newly planted trees.
Sooner is better than later, but perhaps some temporary canopies (man-made and artistic?) can be used until these trees take over.
As for the lifespan of trees, the ones in Golden Gate Park are just now being replaced, but not all at once in one area. That means many of the trees have lasted longer than 100 years. It depends on the types of trees. The trees on CA Ave looked pretty healthy, and were still relatively "young."
Trees do not get diseased one year and then are not, nor is it good to assume when one tree is diseased, they all are.
As for the sudden-ness of the tree cutting, I wonder what contractor was awarded the bid? They sure JUMPED at it. Possible Recourse: have the contractor "give back" by putting up the temporary artistic canopies. Local submissions from artists for what can go as a canopy might be good to bring the community together, and have the community vote on the submissions. Top vote getters and financially plausible ones are installed.
Done! And cheaper and faster than waiting for trees to grow shade. Well?
Posted by MOE, a resident of Menlo Park, on Sep 23, 2009 at 7:54 pm
Clearcuting 63 trees was an unforgivable, irresponsible, arrogant, stupid act of violence - but, it's done.
Everybody is awake now! Review the "Improvements Plan" carefully now with active community participation. If larger trees are demanded to mitigate this disaster have the culprits that perpetrated it pay for the difference. They may be legally culpable.
Posted by Jimmy, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:32 pm
"These trees were old, they were not healthy, they were not appropriate to this environment, it was time for us to put something in that was more appropriate" said Elizabeth Bishop, a member of the CAADA and property owner, on Channel 5 news.
Posted by Resident O, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2009 at 10:21 pm
Thank you for correcting me. I meant to say that if the street width is changing to be more narrow, then the trees would no longer have been a public nuisance. The trees could have been kept, but they weren't because planning was to take the trees out.
Posted by Elizabeth, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Sep 24, 2009 at 7:29 am
1. a lot of folks are questioning whether the trees were truly diseased. The city needs to publish the arborist report today to prove this. If they can't how can they justify cutting ALL of the trees, rather than only the sick ones. the city officials reading this post: Please publish the arborist report. Stop hiding.
2. Do NOT narrow the street to one lane. It is a street where the right lane is held up due to folks parking.. let the second land allow for the smooth flow of traffice. At a minimum, get LOTS of input before you make another disasterous decision. What would be the benefit of one lane? thanks
Posted by Eileen Stolee, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 8:02 am
I just want to remind all of you to keep up the pressure on the city to hold whoever was responsible for this ridiculous clear cutting debacle accountable! This is too big of an issue to brush aside with a couple of "We made a communication error", and "We are shocked".
Keep posting on this site and email the city officials. Also attend City Council meetings!
Even as we speak, Canopy and others who claim to have known nothing of the impending hatchet job, are meeting with the city without your input!! I guess we should let the "experts" make the decisions for us?
Posted by funky, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 8:02 am
I'm pretty certain that we will never see any arborist report that the trees were diseases for the simple reason that such a report doesn't exist and no arborist ever concluded that any trees on that street were diseased. The only people who keep epeating the mantra about the diseased trees that just had to be removed asap are the real estate speculator and her few cronies.
Posted by Gil, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 8:11 am
I'm very disappointed in the total detachment of our mayor. He was supposed to be a dedicated environmentalist, but he seems highly disinterested and totally passive regarding this matter. Generally, his attitude seems to be that being a councilman and mayor is tedious and boring while he has better things to do. I have no idea why he ran for the city council in the first place since his attitude has mostly been that this business is beneath him.
Posted by Bad Faith, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 9:09 am
What happened in the California Avenue clearcut scandal and its aftermath is a microcosm of what's wrong with America today. No one in authority is ever held accountable for anything. Priority number one is to protect the butts of those most exposed. After great pressure eventually a scapegoat or two is singled out, often a low level person.
The whole economy nearly collapses, for example, and no one is held accountable for misfeasance, malfeasance, or anything else for that matter.
What we have seen in the Palo Alto City Hall bureaucracy in this instance are claims of not being informed alternating with attmepts to shift the blame onto line workers down the food chain.
The best that the City political leadership can do meanwhile is to proclaim "I didn't know about it". Pathetic.
Posted by Susan, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 10:35 am
EVERYODY - Please. Let's be happy. We live in one of the best climates, with the best water and careers in the world.
We're getting beautiful new trees and a clean un-cracked, even street and sidewalk. Those holly oaks were diseased (now you can see other half dead smaller trees left behind) and they did block the view of the merchants.
We will live through this and the beautiful new trees, clean flat sidewalks and more space for pedestrians will be part of our children's memories. I love falling leaves in the fall. It marks the change of seasons. I used to find the best ones and press them into books.
Could each one of you spending time studying this, take a moment to look at ways to send a bedding net to my friends in Africa? The malaria is killing them. It might make you feel better about yourselves to do a good deed, instead of grinding this topic into mush.
No recall is going to make you feel better. Government people are just government people. They like to help their city and do the best they can. A whole new crew will have different faces, but the same agendas before them and will waste a lot of time and energy best focussed on bigger issues. Did I mention clean water problems? See Web Link
Posted by Susan, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 10:40 am
Dear Farmer Market Lover: I love the idea, "putting up the temporary artistic canopies. Local submissions from artists for what can go as a canopy might be good to bring the community together, and have the community vote on the submissions. Top vote getters and financially plausible ones are installed."
Posted by Sara, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 10:59 am
We should put our efforts into what the next step should be in reforesting CA Ave. 1. No question that it is good to go native. 2. And deciduous trees would not be appropriate. 3. Fast-growing if that is consistent with the previous requirements. 4. As large as affordable and practical. I don't think money should be spent on other amenities--benches, kiosks, newsstands, whatever is in the plan--at the expense of replacing our trees.
"What about malaria in Africa?" is not a proper response!
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:01 am
There seems to multiple parties to blame for this. I'm shocked that no one spoke up until the damage was done. The ones I have not heard mentioned, are the merchants themselves. I understand that it took 3 days to do the damage. Why didn't any of the merchants speak up when they saw that this was being done? Didn't anyone see that these trees were being cut down? Why didn't they say something while there was still time do something about it?
Posted by Kate, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:09 am
yes, susan,we may live in one of the best clmate area with clean water, etc.... that is not the point. we can go on and on about how much better we have it. city of palo alto is well known for its strict polices on many issues and enforces it on the community. it is NOT okay that they do not follow their own polices, it's double standard. how many if us can say "oops, we made a mistake, sorry". perhaps some trees were not in good shape but not to follow their own rules about this smells fishy and that part of the outrage. people who frequent california ave. and the merchants feel betrayed of the sudden removal. we are all affected by caada's selfish act.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:13 am
At Country Sun, they're handing out flyers that say:
Unfortunately, a misconception about Country Sun's role in the destruction of the trees on California Avenue has arisen because there was an out-of-date web page that listed our former CEO, Jim Stevens, as being the Vice President of CAADA. He moved out-of-state in February of 2008 and is no longer employed here and is obviously no longer on the CAADA board.
As you may have read inthe local papers, the City has taken the responsibility for the breakdown in communication with the public, the City Council, etc. Perhaps if the community had known what was about to happen, this could have been avoided.
We are greatly saddened by the loss of trees but nothing can bring them back. Hopefully, because of the brouhaha that has occurred, a more appropriate tree will be chosen to replace the Holly Oaks.
Posted by Susan, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:26 am
Sara - I did not say, "What about malaria", I said "It might make you feel better about yourselves to do a good deed, instead of grinding this topic into mush."
Anger begets anger. It's easy to throw stones, and it rarely, if ever helps. Find good and do good. If you really want to help California Ave., pick up the phone, walk into City Hall. Please don't walk on my words
Posted by narnia, a resident of another community, on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:35 am
Let me echo Farmer's market lover since I had a property with 21 maple trees. Maple trees do grow fast ( but not fast enough I'm afraid to be the same size of the cut trees in a few years), but they have very week limbs, an awful amount of leaves which fall down and have to be picked up and roots that extend very considerably (and sometimes interfere with building foundation) damaging sidewalks ( and make it strollers and wheel chairs impossible to navigate when they are grown). In other words they have a lot of upkeep and are bad on consequences. Did I mention that they also need a lot of water?
Posted by resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 2:36 pm
Susan, please use another forum to promote bedding nets to your friends in Africa. I unferstand you mean well but to belittle the issue at hand for those who care about these trees us not the way. Many Palo Alto residents do more good deed than most small communities. Maple trees, new sidewalks, single lanes do not make a street beautiful. There has been more graffiti and trash on California Ave. than ever. Our focus should be on these issues as well instead of making the street "beautiful". In the end, it's all about the money. Someone is benefiting monetary from this.
Posted by tiphane, a resident of Menlo Park, on Sep 24, 2009 at 3:10 pm
had they notified the public in advance (as in, 4 days?), they'd have had tree sitters and injunctions to stop it, way too much trouble and expense... Notice the CYA -- like the actual "didn't really say yes" from the planning dept.
Posted by Wally Needle, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm
It's about the trees, for sure, but more. Just watch what happens to the street and sidewalk reconstruction. this could not move forward without removing the trees because the "new" trees when and if planted will not be in the same position as the clearbut trees. I would suggest citizens view the actual blueprints for what is coming, not mundane planning documents.
Posted by Susan, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 3:39 pm
Dear resident, If reminding you of the scale of issues in our lives African bedding nets and that "belittles" your tree problem (which is over and done), then I made my point.
I spend all my volunteer time here in Palo Alto, yet I keep a global picture in mind and I try to keep a smile on my face and hope it spreads to others. What i need to do, other than read local boards, is to not read all this angles on a pin head verbiage blogs. It's making me nuts!
BTW: I don't know anyone in Africa, it was a ploy to get a larger image of life in focus.
Posted by bikes2work, a member of the Santa Rita (Los Altos) community, on Sep 24, 2009 at 5:14 pm
I've seen many comments in support of planting native trees to replace these former Holly Oaks. A quick check of Wikipedia reveals very few California species that even sound remotely suited for landscaping a commercial zone: Web Link
According to Wikipedia Web Link "the Red Maple is excellent at withstanding harsh urban conditions, including tolerance of both dry and wet soils". Maybe they won't be too bad.
Posted by Bad Faith, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 6:00 pm
City Council should direct the City Auditor to investigate the Public Works Department to get to the bottom of who is accountable for the clearcut blunder.
If they refuse to do that, a Santa Clara County Grnad Jury should do this job.
In borh cases, the investigation will be kept out from under the City Manager's control. Benest had his fingerprints all over the investigation of the Children's Theatre scandal. The findings? Big surprise: everyone repsonsible had already retired or left the City of Palo Alto for another job! Everyone remaining at City Hall was as pure as the driven snow.
Posted by Daniel, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 6:23 pm
Susan, unlike you, I spent many years doing volunteer work in central and south America(not in cozy and ultra-safe Palo Alto), under very harsh and dangerous conditions, often at the mercy of U.S financed and trained death squads. This particular forum deals with the scandalous and unnecessary removal of 63 city owned trees and the highly clumsy and potentially corrupt process that enabled it, not with global injustice. It's possible to care about the destruction of trees and the possible collusion between land speculators and high rank city employees AND care and even do something about global human suffering.
Posted by what a fiasco, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 6:49 pm
It was a pretty street.
It had lovely sheltering trees.
It had lots of charm.
It was enjoyable to shop and dine there, which we did regularly.
We never had trouble "finding the stores" behind the trees.
It is uncomfortable to go there now.
Surely there were much better ways to spend money in a horrible recession besides "fixing" what wasn't even "broken" in the first place (oh, but some wealthy real-estate busybody wanted it to be changed, so there!), and making our city, again, a laughingstock.
Posted by mary s, a resident of Menlo Park, on Sep 24, 2009 at 7:48 pm
UNBELIEVABLE !!!! How ugly and un-green. Who cuts down trees now that probably weren't diseased, makes me sick. Those trees should be replaced with evergreens appropriate for the area that are of the same height NOW as those removed-NOW. How to pay for it? Get an estimate of cost, round up everyone who had anything to do with the cutting and take it out of their paycheck. The mayor should be at the top of the list, "THE BUCK STOPS HERE".
Posted by Wilbur, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm
I wonder how many of you over the top reactionaries are aware of the staggering loss of trees that occurs by the thousands of acres the world over every day. My god if you actually could pull your heads out of the you know where you could put this in a little perspective. Boycotts, mass firings, grand juries. Grow up people.
Posted by Andrew, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 9:07 pm
Kudos to Kate from College Terrace. She speaks the truth. Let's not avoid the issue... the duplicitous nature of what took place on California Avenue is the issue. CAADA and the City Planners of Palo Alto are responsible and apparently did not care about the best interests of the merchants on the Avenue or the residents of the city.
Posted by Crying for the trees, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm
I live in College Terrace and has California Avenue view from my car everyday. It was green view now bare, Milpitas view. It made me feel sad everyday!
My daughter bikes through the street everyday to school. She asked "Mom, I never noticed the pretty mass trees until they are gone. Why did someone kill the trees? It is depressing to ride my bike along the street now"
Shame on the people who made the decision to kill the trees!!
No maple trees! Plant trees with more shade and be green all year around.
Posted by Andrew, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:29 pm
Re: The above article by "Truth":
"Before the city submits a final application, it will look to the
community for feedback." I guess that was the piece of the plan that was overlooked. Also given the fact that Ronna Devincenzi, CAADA's president has absolutely no credibility, given recent accounts by the local merchants who said that she outright lied about the "redevelopment" plan when questioned before the devastation took place last week, I would not be willing to accept the above article as "The Truth Finally Found". It may have been the truth when printed in 2006 but it certainly isn't the truth that was followed.
I believe the community milieu is quite different today than it was three years ago.
Posted by Ron, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:57 pm
I believe in many of the sentiments posted above: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
California Avenue was just fine. We don't need every neighborhood to be "spiffed-up" like University Avenue (or Castro Street). It's nice to have some mom and pop stores. It's nice to have variety and choices. For those of you who like "The Cheese Cake Factory" and other architectural abominations, spend your time on University Avenue. There is a segment of the population who enjoyed the mellowness of California Avenue. Let us get that back to that state by replanting mature trees that are similar to the ones removed and not frivolously overspend (during a recession) on narrowing the four lanes to two thereby increasing the congestion and forever changing the ambience that has made California Avenue so special.
Posted by WilliamR, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2009 at 10:29 am
Thank you for the tree suggestions yesterday. I don't have any personal feelings for or against red maples, but there have been a number of criticisms of them in these posts, so I was just trying to open up the discussion a little bit. I would have preferred a mix of three or four types of trees, but from some of the other posts here, the whole thing is a done deal anyway.
Posted by here a long time, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2009 at 10:54 am
As long as this is part of a real move to improve California Avenue, and new trees will be planted, I'm all for it.
I remember what a scary ghost-town Castro in Mountain View used to be. It became this thriving place overnight when they redid the street, especially making it more walkable.
We are fortunate that California Ave is wide enough to do the same. And it's so accessible to the train station. It's also not used as a thoroughfare in its own right as much as Castro, so making it walkable should be even easier -- and it is right off a main thoroughfare (El Camino) and near to Stanford.
Given the extraordinary transformation at Castro, I'm amazed it took Palo Alto this long to upgrade California. So long as major improvements and tree replanting follow hard on the heels of these trees being removed, we should all just take a breather.
Posted by jb, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2009 at 12:14 pm
I didn't think any improvement on California Avenue was needed. But then I don't need luxury in order to walk. I found the sidewalks plenty walkable. What could make them more walkable? What I treasure is that the businesses are mostly locally and privately owned. No matter what the state of luxe, I don't crave to walk lanes that are lined with national franchises. Go to Stanford for that; and they have trees in boxes! The shopping is always better in a locally owned business. Compare Village Stationers to Office Depot.
HAVE YOU NOTICED THE ADS BY GOOGLE THAT HAVE MIGRATED TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE?!!
Posted by Adrian, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2009 at 1:30 pm
The city has been planning some pretty reasonable improvement to the Cal Ave district for 4-5 years. This includes changing two lanes into one, delineating bike lanes, adding new benches, trash cans, etc. One part (!) of this plan was to replace the old trees with new 40 ft ones.
As I see it, the City did not perform it's due diligence in notify the public/businesses before cutting those trees. For this, I think there needs to be some accountability, and changes, in the planning and/or public works departments.
At the same time, the city has two options going forward - continue with the planned planting of a bunch of 10ft tall red maples, which will maintain people's indignation. Or, the city can pony up the extra money to put in larger trees - once again, pleasing some, and pissing off the rest who have to pay for the city's mistakes. They screwed, but as a daily user of Cal Ave, I'd really like to see the trees and shade return.
Posted by MJ, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2009 at 3:37 pm
If you come to the California Avenue Farmer's market between 11 and noon this Sunday a community group is working on arranging for a certified arborist to give a talk on what other tree choices besides red maples would be appropriate for the replanting. Of course CAADA would probably prefer two rows of nice tidy plastic trees, since nature is so messy.
Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford, on Sep 25, 2009 at 8:47 pm
Andrew of College Terrace: Great letter!
Chuck of Old Palo Alto: I agree completely.
Susan of Fairmeadow: We all have a right to our feelings. Your "Don't worry, be happy" philosophy on this issue is fine for you; just don't tell others how to feel or what to think. And malaria in Africa is an issue for another forum.
Posted by funky, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 6:04 am
The Public Works employee who actually signed the work authorization, his last name is Kim I believe, had been told that the project is still pending final approval and public review, yet he went ahead and signed the work authorization anyway. Shouldn't at least this person be investigated by the city auditor and even the police?
Posted by Overhaul, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 7:31 am
Kick Public Works Department Director Glenn Roberts upstairs to be Special Advisor to the City Manager on Infrastructure Policy to be joined by Assistant Public Works Director Mike Sartor as Assistant Special Advisor to the City Manager on Infrastructure Policy. Then bring in capable managers to run Public Works.
Posted by Hal Plotkin, a resident of another community, on Sep 26, 2009 at 8:51 am
Although we now live in Washington, D.C. I read this story with profound sadness. About twelve years ago -- and without any notice whatsoever -- the City of Palo Alto cut down an 80-year old tree in front of our house on California Avenue (on the west side of El Camino). The reason: they were doing a utility line replacement and needed to reduce traffic on the street to one lane for one day. One of our tree's limbs was deemed to be in the way so, willy nilly, a City worker cut the whole tree down to a stump. No notice, no anything. You can't imagine how my wife and I felt when we returned home that evening. I wrote letters to all concerned, including all members of the Council, imploring them to enact a policy that would prevent the destruction of any tree without putting a sign on the tree for at least a week. The City responded by keeping all details of the episode confidential, although they did tell me an unnamed employee had faced "discipline." Once again, though, I do think the solution I proposed when we lost our tree would work -- and I have trouble understanding why such a simple, common sense solution was not implemented long ago. From 2700 miles away, my family and I grieve for those trees and hope, this time, real reforms will be made.
Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 9:58 am
Renowned arborist Barrie D. Coate will speak on tree selection for the replanting of California Avenue at noon, Sunday (tomorrow), September 27 at the California Avenue Farmer's Market in an area next to Paul's European Cobblery at Ash Street. His remarks will be followed by a question period from attendees.
Mr. Coate is a registered consulting arborist with more than 50 years of horticultural experience. He is Director of the Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation, current arboricultural consultant to the J. Paul Getty Museum, author of numerous books, and regular contributor to Western Arborist Magazine.
This event is organized by citizens addressing the need for direct access to expert tree replacement information.
Please download and help disseminate the flyer at the following web link
Posted by Neighbor in N. PA, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 10:41 am
I grew up in Palo Alto, and used to ride my bike to Patterson's Variety on California for candy each Friday after school. I was over at Joanie's last week, and was horrified to see what had happened. I love the news, and was shocked that most everyone did not see this coming.
Also, I have been trying to renovate an old building into a non-profit center. The city gave me grief, that I could not put a wheelchair ramp that was too close to a tree, so ended up having to pay thousands of dollars for a wheelchair lift. The red tape and hypocrisy over stuff like this is nauseating.
Posted by martyn, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 2:38 pm
When I remodeled my house a few years ago, my contractor was prohibited by the review board from building a reconfigured garage driveway perpendicular to the street because the driveway would've come about one foot "too close" to a city owned ugly tree in my front yard. He was forced to build a convoluted S shaped driveway that makes backing out of the garage a daily adventure that is continuously causing damage to our cars, both quite expensive. And here 63 tax payer owned trees are just cut down nonchalantly while ignoring the appropriate approval process. I's truly beyond angry.
Posted by funky, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 4:27 pm
It makes no difference who is elected to to the city council, they are always in state of permanent fear of the city manager and the various department directors. The city charter made the city manager the de-facto mayor and the city council's only mandate is to pass ordinances the city manager decides whether or not to implement. Look at the present mayor, he has been basically silent on this all affair and seems highly disinterested and highly disinclined to call the city manager and public Works on this major screw up. Voting for any city council candidate is a terrific waste of time unless the city charter is amended and we get a directly elected mayor who can fire people on the spot instead of the bunch of hapless amateurs we always get.
Posted by second thought, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 5:46 pm
I suspect a cabal of merchants around University Ave, and other northern shopping areas, lobbied behind the scenes for the tree removal along California. What better way to sway shoppers and restaurant patrons over to their tree-lined streets? No one wants to shop in blinding sun, looking at only concrete and worn storefronts. What a clever ruse!!
Posted by John, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 6:35 pm
Call me a cynic, but after reading all the posts and being just as upset about the clear cutting, I've come to a conclusion.
Unfortunately no one will get "fired" or even disciplined.
The developers and "opportunistic" real estate people will take advantage of the situation, a barren Cal Ave, created by self concerned politicians and city employees, who care nothing for the community. See the stories on the "furlough" day.
More trees will be axed, more lots will be scraped off, more high density housing developments will be built and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Also no one really cares about global warming and or climate change other than talk about it. When it comes time to actually do something about it, we worry about someone tripping over an acorn!
Posted by second thought, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 7:17 pm
Sorry, I'm not buying this communication snafu. I'm not buying the contrived accountability either. These trees were cut in a suspicious hurry. First, how does cutting down 63 thirty-year old trees fall under "minor architectural review??" 63 oak trees, along one street?? Also, to submit a proposal on the 14th, and have all 63 trees felled by the following two days, doesn't seem credible as "snafu's" go. No, not at all. This atrocity was planned; it was intended as a quick, clean cut. City governance knew there would be strong opposition (how could it not?) Someone wanted this done, and wanted it done quickly, before the community was aware ---this way the outcome is decided, without the uncertainty of community resistance.
I do not believe this was a snafu. It has all the markings of a strategic maneuver based on someone's agenda.
Posted by chrisc, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2009 at 9:45 pm chrisc is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Everyone involved with this tragedy should be fired, and Palo Alto should have to bring in mature trees and replant no matter the cost. In the interim they should fund awnings for all the places that depended on some shade... most especially the farmer's market.
Posted by CHinCider, a resident of another community, on Sep 27, 2009 at 9:35 am
To many of the above posters -
There certainly is a lot of hate and threats of violence on this blog and other related ones.. Beheadings, lynchings, etc. Imagine the outcry if those terms had been used in other contexts, yet they seem to be pefectly acceptable here. I think you all are just showing your true values when hidden behind the annominity of a screen name.
Why don't you go a step further and suggest using the firewood from the downed trees to burn all involved at the stake. That would be more consistent with the witch hunt you are conducting.
What kind of self delusional paronia drives the irrational thinking displayed by many here as to the "real" reasons and motivations behind this? Why do so many assume it wasn't just a major screw up by an over zealous employee who thought he was doing the right thing to expedite the project?
Hopefully no one will ever "discover" the "real" story - that this was all planned by Richard Nixon and John Eirlichman as a distraction for the Watergate scandal - it just took that incompotent Palo Alto staff 34 years to get it done......
Posted by what a joke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2009 at 10:26 am
Gee CHinCider, you seem a bit outnumbered here, the only one who isn't profoundly bothered by this, the only one who uses really outrageous examples to advance your brand of "indignation." Could it be that you supported this fiasco, or had something to do with it? Oh yes, of course, instead of an intelligent observation, this thought must be my paranoia run amuck.
Posted by Joseph Kott, a resident of another community, on Sep 27, 2009 at 1:03 pm Joseph Kott is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I had the privilege to work for the City of Palo Alto for seven years. During that time I worked closely with Palo Alto Public Works Department Engineering Division staff and the Public Works Director.
Every member of the Public Works staff, from Director Glenn Roberts and Deputy Director Mike Sartor to all the staff engineers were always conscientious and highly professional people. They always did their best for the Palo Alto community. They were wonderful people to work with on any and all projects.
While it has been four years since I worked with Glenn, Mike, Woojae, and the other fine people who work in Public Works Engineering, I am certain that they are all the same capable, honorable people I knew during my tenure as Chief Transportation Official.
I do not wish to make any comments in this forum about the street trees, streetscape, or street design on California Avenue. I do not know any details about what did or did not happen to date regarding this project. However, I would ask everyone in this forum to kindly remember that as humans we all make mistakes in our lives. I know with a humbled certainty that I have done so.
I am confident that my friends and former colleagues in the Palo Alto Public Works Department, after all is said and done, will make the California Avenue project a success for the community they work so hard to serve.
Posted by second thought, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2009 at 2:29 pm
But Mr. Kott, you ARE making a comment about the debacle on California Avenue, by saying "we as humans all make mistakes in our lives." You are implying that this was an accidental mistake. I personally do not believe human error had anything to do with this; those 63 mature oak trees were cut in light-speed haste, before the community could intervene. I believe this was the unfolding of an agenda, and was intended to circumvent the public's resistance to such costly, outrageous "beautification" plans.
And CHinCider, how ridiculous that you attack comments because of "the annominity (spelled anonymity) of a screen name." Who were you named after? Is CHinCider a common name in your parts? Also, when I read the list of comments, I am reading a lot of frustration by people using metaphorical descriptions of "firing" city officials. I do not take these metaphors to mean anything other than the removal of those who do not seem to have the capability or sensibility to be in a leadership position. And just to clarify, when I say "firing", I do not mean with real fire, gasoline, or matches. I mean ousted from a position of responsibility and taxpayer money.
I suppose those of us commenting could have said these tree rapscallions need a good tar and feathering, but don't let me get all feudal on you. Or maybe even boiled in oil, but then you might accuse us (or me) of an inquisition mindset. The horrors of an Alabama mindset is bad enough, I think (and how perfectly prejudicial of you.) Personally, I think Palo Alto city governance could benefit from a good ol' public pillory, from the unobstructed view of California Street --- without benefit of merciful shade.
Posted by CHinCider, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2009 at 8:16 pm
To "second thought/Diane" -
Thanks for showing your true mindset. Pillory in your case,beheading/lynching from others, - it's all the same 17th century holier than thou approach that so many on these forums (hmmm - Roman derivation, thumbs down in this case for blood sport?) have adopted.
Posted by Mama, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2009 at 9:37 pm
"These trees were cut in a suspicious hurry."
A suspicious hurry when the project has been developed over a number of years? I know Palo Alto process is slow but really. Get your facts straight people. Cal Ave. is NOT the grassy knoll and the City is not in the book depository. This project has been in front of Council numerous times.
Posted by what a joke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2009 at 10:16 pm
Please read the article.. I don't know what your definition of "hurry" might be, but a proposal turned in on Sept.14th, and trees completely cut by Sept.16th sounds like a hurry to me. What facts have been overlooked? Certainly NOT the procedural facts.
"Project Engineer Woojae Kim submitted a request and plans for a "minor architectural review" (requiring only staff approval) to the city's Planning Department for an array of California Avenue "streetscape" improvements, including replacement of all trees.
The plan was conditionally approved by planning staff on Monday, Sept. 14.
But staff Planner Clare Campbell specified in boldface type in her Sept. 14 letter to Kim that the approval would only become final 14 days "following the post mark date of this letter," unless an appeal is filed."
Posted by ANONYMOUS, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm
It's no longer matters who did what because they're passing the buck anyway but many of us hope heads will roll. I've been a commuter in Palo Alto for nine years and from where I come from there are few trees, so it was always a delight to not only see the trees but to admire the variety (so what they were a bit rough maybe a little grooming once in awhile would have done it). Disease, raised pavements, ever heard of decent repairs. The city claimed they want to plant all the same trees, planting them at the same time so that they will all grow at the same pace, what visionaries, what an eye for estetics. Every day I would look at the Bottle Brush from where I sit and it was always a joy seeing humming birds, bees pollinating, and even small finches during the winter months Oh well! the humming birds can find someplace else to go. I suppose to be honest I always considered that tree mine. Had it not been felled before I arrived at my job I think I would have put my arms around it to stop them. This terrible mistake can't be undone.
I saw a book hanging from the remaining tree outside Molly Stones and the clinic and people writing their comments in it then it suddenly disappeared but I had the edge because every day I went out there and photo copied every page. I put another out there and have continued to photo copy. So whatever I do I intend to bring the copies of the comments of others who took time to write in it to the meeting at the Escondito School. I'm even hoping not get a seat because it will be too crowded and I feel like handing out black armbands. I'm a pretty unforgiving soul. I miss my tree like hell.
I onced experienced a hurrican and the tree I grew up with (the runty one outside my house) was destoyed, in fact 6 million trees were destoyed in the south of England, and though painful maybe it was in the design of things. My tree was never replaced and maybe that's as it should be, but the destuction of my Bottle Brush should never have happened. Maybe a story should be written called Once Upon a Time, ya know like Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" isn't that what they were?
Posted by Mama, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2009 at 8:17 am
what a joke - You are right the process was not followed and outreach should have been done just prior to work starting and this would not have happened. I was pointing out that removal of the trees has been included in this project for years and had been in front of the public numerous times.