'Clearcutting' surprises city manager, council

Big debate underway on cutting of about 50 California Avenue trees

A major tree-removal project in California Avenue's business district caught both City Manager James Keene and the City Council by surprise, officials have acknowledged.

Shopkeepers, residents and city officials became alarmed when 50 Holly oak trees lining the shopping district were removed this week by a contractor.

Residents and many store owners were outraged, saying they were not notified of the tree removal.

But other city officials, including some council members, recalled that the project is part of an overall "streetscape" project that has been in the works since at least 2005.

That didn't sit well with several city officials, who said such a drastic plan was never envisioned and they should have been notified before the chainsaws were started.

Earlier versions of the plan reportedly included a phased replacement of the trees to lessen the visual impact, but someplace along the line someone made a policy decision to do all the trees at once. Council members and others want to know how this happened.

A vigorous debate has emerged on the Town Square forum of the Weekly's community website,

The city plans to replace the trees with red maples about 10 feet tall, but reactions along the street are mixed, with some calling the action an uglification plan instead of a beautification plan.

One commenter on Town Square termed it a "clearcutting."

Keene said he is unhappy with how the project was handled in terms of how it was communicated to people, while council members want to know how the plan was developed and why they weren't informed in advance.

Keene had a staff meeting on Sept. 16 to look into why the trees were cut down, he wrote in response to a resident's angry letter to the council.

City Councilman Larry Klein told the Weekly council members were not told of the plan to remove all trees.

"It was a total surprise to me I don't think it's been on the City Council agenda for a few years. Jim Keene was totally surprised. No one told him," he said.

Plans to remove the trees were part of a California Avenue "streetscaping" plan that included street lights, reducing the number of traffic lanes, adding bike lanes, making crosswalk improvements and adding new benches and trash receptacles -- and a new fountain.

The plans were approved by the Palo Alto City Council in 2007 as part of the 2007-2009 Capital Improvement budget, according to city documents.

"My recollection was it was absolutely uncontroversial. Clearly, there should have been a lot more outreach, communication and notices sent," Klein said.

The entire project was estimated to cost $335,000, according to documents. The city had appropriated $50,000 for the projectin previous years and the remaining balance was proposed in the 2007-08 plan, according to the budget report.

Funding was to come from the city's general fund and the California Avenue Area Development Association (CAADA), with additional funding from street-maintenance and street-light-improvement budgets.

Despite the paper record, city officials expressed concern at the lack of communication from the Public Works Department that all of the trees would be replaced at one time.

Councilman Pat Burt was the liaison between the city and CAADA, the area's business association, from January 2008 to May 2009, according to Ronna Devincenzi, CAADA president.

But Burt said he was not informed of the wholesale removal.

"I have many of the same questions," he said when asked about the clearcutting by the Weekly. "I was not informed," he said. He is looking into what happened.

But Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto, a former liaison to CAADA, said she sat in on past discussions on the beautification plan.

"The overall street-landscape plan was in the works for a long time," Kishimoto said, adding that there were many meetings and no one should have been surprised.

"The part that seems to have fallen between the cracks is the details of how to make the transition. Do we keep the trees in while replacing them? That discussion didn't get to the top management or the council," she said.

The same dilemma arose when trees along San Antonio Road were planned for removal, she said.

"When that proposal came around I paid attention. I asked 'Do we have to take down all of the beautiful Italian stone pine trees?' The answer was yes, that we did. Hopefully that was worth the sacrifice (of a few years)," she said.

San Antonio Road was an example where the city did the process right, she said.

"Obviously, we should've put much more thought and process into California Avenue. I would have to say it slipped by the council. ... We should have gotten an update of the final landscape plan and a review of these sensitive issues," she said.

But staff did not have bad intentions, Kishimoto said.

"Staff thought they had community consensus. (But) we could've used help from the city manager's office in managing (this issue) to make sure the council was made aware," she said.

Still unclear is whether the plan was ever approved by the Architectural Review Board (ARB).

Kishimoto said she is "very sure" that it did reach the ARB. At least one anonymous staff member said it was reviewed at a staff-level ARB meeting because it was not new but replaced existing trees, benches and other fixtures.

Judith Wasserman, an ARB member, recalled at some point that the plan had been on the agenda at least twice but was taken off.

Shwe said perhaps parts of it were given over to different departments: the trees to be handled by the public works arborist and the street repairs to public works.

"I wish we had a chance to look at it before it went through," she said.

The city has added a web page with project information at Residents can scroll down the home page to "Planned California Avenue Streetscape Improvements Now Underway."

The city will also continue adding additional information to the site next week, according to Kate Rooney, project manager of the public works engineering department.

A letter is also being drafted to explain the project and will be sent to residents, she said.


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Posted by Jeff
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 18, 2009 at 8:28 pm

The city arborists were keen to remove all of the trees on Sterling Canal at one shot, too. We had to fight like crazy to get them (and the condo developers) to accept a phased removal.

The City Council should adopt a sweeping statement that unless there is a serious reason to do this sort of thing AND it's approved by council, they should never remove all the trees in a given area. There should also be a limit on how many adjacent trees can be removed, so that you don't end up with a huge gap on one part of a block.

Lastly, the city needs to stop planting mono-culture blocks. If you have 10 trees to plant in a row, they should be of different species so that if you get some sort of disease, you're less likely to lose a whole section all at once.

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Posted by Anne
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm

I was appalled at the tree removal. It looks naked now down CA Ave. The trees, which I understand are native, added to the character of the street. Seems like we need to preserve trees and especially native trees. Not only did PA spend money, unnecessarily in my view, but they missed an opportunity to demonstrate principles that I would have thought we in Palo Alto stood by - preserving our heritage and recognizing the importance of trees to help with the environmental balance which, when disrupted, contributes to global warming. Hopefully, the City can learn from what did not go right with this plan and this process. We have an opportunity to assess our values and make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing! (And please don't tell us the trees were ALL terminally ill!)

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Posted by LWR
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Why don't we require at least 14 days' notice posted on the tree to be removed?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Was SEIU involved in this outrage?

Get the young hungry reporters on this, they deserve their chance to make a fortune.

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Posted by Susy
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 18, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Clearcutting San Antonio Road of the Italian stone pines has ultimately worked very well. Yes, it was a shock to everyone as we saw those huge trees being removed, now it has all been replanted and even the neighbors like it. Jeff, visit San Antonio Road, you will see how different species have been used to great effect.

The arborist is right removing the trees in stages will not work along California Avenue because he envisions the streetscape looking very uniform by planting maple trees. If you plant them at different times you will get a very uneven look.

We pay the City arborist big bucks to use his knowledge and artistic eye to choose the right trees for the right places.

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Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Susy: It's amazing that the Italian stone pines on San Antonio all just had to be cut down from Middlefield to Alma but the remaining ones on San Antonio from Middlefield to Charleston are still there??? Does that make any sense at all?

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Posted by college terrace resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Absolutely stupid - to cut down mature trees and to replace them with 10 ft maple trees

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Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 18, 2009 at 9:47 pm

When will the new trees be planted?

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Posted by No Clearcutting
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2009 at 9:57 pm

The Public Works Department management needs to be called on the carpet for bungling this and heads hould roll in the top echelons.

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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Sep 18, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Palo Parent,
My understanding of the San Antonio project is that the rest of the stone pines will be removed and re-landscaped in a second phase project. They haven't even finished the first phase yet. The asphalt still needs to be redone. The new medians do look pretty nice.

Holly Oaks are not native to California. They are from the Mediterranean region according to Wikipedia. That said, they seemed to be an appropriate tree for California's Mediterranean climate. California doesn't really have many native trees that make "nice" street trees. Web Link

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Posted by Another
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2009 at 10:10 pm

The red maple trees will take a while to grow to the size of the holly oaks, but the long term change to California Ave will be great. Yes, I too will miss the trees, but look 5-10 years down the road. Stop pissing and moaning. The plan was a public document that everyone had access to.

The city manager and his staff, the city council and everyone who is complaining DID NOT READ IT! It is your own fault for not reading and doing something before they were cut down.

They're gone and the replacements will be much better.

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Posted by Susy
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 19, 2009 at 7:51 am

Palo Parent says: "It's amazing that the Italian stone pines on San Antonio all just had to be cut down from Middlefield to Alma but the remaining ones on San Antonio from Middlefield to Charleston are still there??? Does that make any sense at all?

Yes, the project was hugely expensive around $1 Million. Removing the trees on San Antonion is going to be done in stages like reducing the lanes on Arastradero/Charleston. Another section of San Antonio will be done when the City has a spare $1 Million, whenever that will be!!!

San Antonio is the main truck route into PA, the trees were removed because their roots were warping and breaking the roadbed.

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Posted by TJ
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2009 at 7:54 am

Does anyone complain about the trees being cut down on University Avenue - no, but about 20 years ago all the trees were cut down and the London Plain trees were planted.

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Posted by Clearcut
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2009 at 8:22 am

Clearcutting? Total exaggeration. Stupid move? Totally.

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Posted by No Clearcutting
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2009 at 9:04 am

No clever cover-ups this time. Just get to the truth about who is responsible. Appropirately reprimand all current management staff responsible. Everyone official involved needs to man up. Making sure that there is accountability will ensure that in future the wholesale cutting of public trees without adepquate advanced public notice & discussion will never be repreated. Moving forward, it is vital that the ham-handed numbchuck actions by the Public Works Department stop once and for all.

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Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 19, 2009 at 9:18 am

Thanks bikes2work & Susy, it just didn't make sense to do half the job, I get it now.

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Posted by Commander McBragg
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2009 at 10:20 am

Maybe they slipped it past people because they just wanted to get it done without arguing about it for the next ten years.

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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Sep 19, 2009 at 10:43 am

I think Commander McBragg hit the nail on the head. This looks like a coup of the typical Palo Alto process. We'll see if it is a "bloodless" one. I think the intentions were actually good. Look at what happened to UC Berkeley. Did they ever get those tree sitters out of the oak grove? However, if the sitters moved into the Holly Oaks, maybe Victor Frost could have fed them. That would have almost given him a legitimate job.

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Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 19, 2009 at 10:49 am

The tree cutting is part of Capital Improvement Program PE-07005 that is managed by the Department of Public Works and that is supposed to have been reviewed by the Architectural Review Board (ARB), the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC), and the Public Arts Commission (PAC). The City Council should direct staff to include in the next City Council agenda packet copies of all staff reports sent to the ARB, PTC, and PAC for public hearings held on this specific public works project. I don't want staff to misinterpret Council direction. I don't mean staff should send the Council the entire Capital Improvement Program document for all projects or send the Council staff reports on the fountain that also used money from this project fund. The City Council and the City Manager need to see the staff reports that went to public bodies that were supposed to hold hearings on the subject of the tree cutting and its relationship to the re-design of California Avenue environment.

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Posted by LA
a resident of University South
on Sep 19, 2009 at 10:51 am

The city arborist is the one who makes these calls. We have had to have all of the planting strip trees replaced that were extant when we bought our house, mostly due to city workers decimating their root systems when the sidewalk was repaired.I sent letters to the city arborist and made multiple phone calls, requesting some voice in the decision as to what trees to plant in their stead. I would have welcomed some native trees, that are more drought tolerant and fit well in the landscape. I finally got ONE person on the line, who told me that the arborist makes decisions based on HIS determination of what would present the most uniform streetfront, and could not take into consideration the desires of residents, who presumably don't have long-term best interests in mind. WAIT A MINUTE! I have lived all my life in Palo Alto and have a tremendous interest in the long-term health of the city's treescape--and I don't want "uniformity". My experience, along with this story, makes me think he is way out of touch with the residents and property owners in Palo Alto. Maybe it's time for a performance evaluation!

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Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2009 at 11:10 am

Public Works Department management will try to shift the blame to former Public Works arborist David Sandage who retired in February 2007.

There are two arborist positions in the City of Palo Alto.

Planning Department arborist Dave Dockter has primary responsibility for reviewing projects that need planning entitlements.

The Public Works arborist has primary responsibility for reviewing projects in the public right-of-way (streets and sidewalks, including street trees).

Public Works and other City departments are required to receive the same Planning Department entitlements for City-sponsored projects that residents and businesses are required to receive before doing any work, but Public Works often acts as if it is exempt from the law.

When some Council Members agree with the outcome of Public Works actions, those Council Members are willing to ignore the violations of law by City staff, but the same Council Members are the first ones to shout that there is a problem with staff when there is a public outcry about staff's actions.

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Posted by No Clearcutting
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 19, 2009 at 11:17 am

Deep Throat,

Shifting all the blame to people who have retired and making sure that none of the blame stuck to any of the current management? That sounds like what happened in the Children's Theatre fiasco. Nah, that won't happen this time. Or will it?

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Posted by Devastated
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I live in College Terrace and work on Calif. Ave. It seems that only the members of Caada were aware of the tree cutting prior to Wednesday. Those of us working there would not informed of the wholesale desecration of the street. It seems very odd that Canopy or people on the Canopy Board, who work closely with city arborists would know nothing.

However, the important thing is to rectify the plan so that they plant 20 ft., non-deciduous trees to replace those that have been taken from us. Deciduous trees will not solve the problem that has been created. The businesses and residents, as well as diners, need year round shade and beauty. Please create a community process for changing the plan.

One further concern is narrowing the street to one lane, what Public Works call re-striping.
I makes no sense to clog the street with traffic. The double lane in both directions makes the traffic bearable and manageable, one lane will make it as difficult to maneuver on Calif. Ave. as it is on University Ave. Let's change this plan.

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Posted by no 2 lanes
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 19, 2009 at 3:18 pm

I am not happy with the tree removal and replacement with lame red maple.

I also think changing from 4 lanes to 2 lanes will make the street more congested, and the parking will probably be screwed up too. If it turns out anything like the Safeway in Menlo Park, or the Town & Country shopping center, it is going to be mistake upon mistake.

In my mind, I am seeing the businesses chased off California Ave, and being replaced with office space or non retail. The city plan seems to not have family or small business in mind.

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Posted by No Clearcutting
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Not a peep from Public Works Director Glenn Roberts since the Public Works Department chain saw hurricane hit all the California Avenue trees. A low profile. Maybe he just retired too.

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Posted by PA resident
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 19, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I hope to see CLEAR CUTTING across the top of the city council, arborists, and whoever else had a role in this atrocity. There is no good reason to provide a "tidy" or "uniform" look and cut down mature trees all at once.

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Posted by Lament
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Everyone seems surprised and shocked on the Committees that govern Palo Alto. It's time to get some accountability and to try to repair the already done damage to, in my opinion, the best boulevard in Palo Alto (not any more). Forget the puny trees they were planning to substitute for the Oaks that were removed and replace the felled trees with mature Oak trees like the ones that were removed. I think it's imperative to scrutinize the rest of the plan to "beautify" California Avenue before a similar catastrophe ensues. It is still hard to believe that NOBODY said anything about this plan. Shop owners on California Avenue, although notified at the last minute, could still have made some calls and questioned the process. Or objected. Or received legal council. Or something.
The people who were "just following orders" were equally guilty. The firm that did the cutting probably didn't care because it was just another job and the workers who were doing the cutting probably don't even love in Palo Alto!
Have we lost all sensibilities. I thought the people in charge of the city of Palo Alto had a higher level of awareness abut environmental issues than has been demonstrated.
I'll certainly make sure that I don't make this same mistake during the next election!

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Posted by Where were you Pat?
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 19, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Maybe if Pat Burt, the appointed liaison to CADDA, had showed up at CAADA meetings, he would be in the loop. Why is he surprised?

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Posted by Not atrocity
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2009 at 1:47 am

Someone on this board called this an atrocity and other people here say they're devastated? Please put this into perspective, as lousy as it is.

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Posted by No Clearcutting
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2009 at 8:05 am

For the City Council and City Manager this is now much more than just an "issue management" problem. Who is running this city? Who is running its Public Works Department? How could the top management of the Public Works Department think that chooping down fifty trees all at one time on one street without most people who use the street knowing about it until the chain saws arrived ever be acceptable in Palo Alto? What were they thinking? How could the City Council and City Manager not know about this bone-headed idea in advance of the chopping? This is the most knuckleheaded decision made by City govenment in years! What happened to "public engagement"? What happened to Palo Alto the environment-friendly city? City Council needs to get answers to these questions. Write them at

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Posted by A.B.
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2009 at 8:30 am

I am shocked and surprised that all 50 trees of the California Avenue have been just cut down, right over the surface! What a difference trees make in our daily life! Please have a stroll down the California Avenue and see the difference now!

For the next years we all will enjoy the architecture of the street! And I would like to know which shops and caffee will have more guests, because the trees now do not block the view to the display of merchandise!

This is just outrageous for the Tree City of Palo Alto! Where are the Canopy People, when things like this happen? There should be a 911 for Nature!

I am also very surprised that the shop owners did not call the City Management right away to stop the cutting and have them investigate what is going on!

Once again, nature is conquered by humans! Planting 2 1/5 inches Red Maples will not help to bring back the history of the trees we just lost. We can not fix nature! I am not sure, if we all want an uniformed California Avenue like the project describes the idea, with new newstands, garbage cans etc.

In a time where families struggle with their incomes, people are jobless, we are creating a beautiful new California Avenue!

I regret not to have been on the site, as the first tree was cut, I would have called the city!!!

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Posted by John
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 20, 2009 at 8:42 am

To quote an article about Egypt:

"It has exposed the failings of a government where the power is concentrated at the top, where decisions are often carried out with little consideration for their consequences ..."

Think this can apply to our local quasi govermental agencies? Did the shopping district need fixed? It about money, and when that happens nature loses. If you want to look locally at the cause of global warming, you need look no further.

The message is to pay your ever increasing taxes and keep quiet, we can and will do whatever we want to. Good luck to the human race on planet earth.

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Posted by What?
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2009 at 9:12 am

"Was SEIU involved in this outrage?"

Sharon, come on now. SEIU are the little people in the City. They have no input on such projects. Trying to link the Union to this project is hilarious.

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Posted by Another PA Faux Pas
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2009 at 10:37 am

Way to "save money"!!

Replace attractive mature drought-tolerant evergreen trees (sheltering even in the colder months) with water-thirsty deciduous trees!

Definitely vying in the category for one of the dumbest civic planning decisions yet.

For me personally: I liked having lunch outdoors along CA Ave., no more. The friendly shaded atmosphere is all gone.

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Posted by Three strikes
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2009 at 11:31 am

I was clearing out some old papers and came across the City Council's current top priorities:
- Environmental Protection
- Civic Engagement for the Common Good
- City's Economic Health
How ironic! The clear-cut on Cal. Ave. is a big Failure in all three categories.
City Hall will not be able to live this one down in my lifetime.

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Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Perhaps more timber was needed for a certain someones TWO MILLION DOLLAR citizen paid home.

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Posted by No Palo Alto Process
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Looks as though the people who complain about the Palo Alto Process just got a taste of what happens without it.
Public Works did it by not letting the public know. They wanted to avoid the Process.

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Posted by No Clearcutting
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm

"Rather than replace them over the next few years, it was decided to do it all at once,"

This is a quote from the Assistant Public Works Director, Mike Sartor from a Palo Alto Online story that ran on Tuesday.
Web Link

Who decided? Mr. Sartor?

Why was the City Manager not informed? Why didn't the City Council know? Why wasn't the public given adequate advanced notice? Who is to be held accountable for this series of blunders?

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Posted by Jerry Y
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 20, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Obviously this move was the height of incompetency, though I can see the City would be worried about liability from falls from misplaced acorns.

Before anyone gets the bright idea of putting in Red Maples, they should take a look at Santa Fe and Esplanada on campus. They were so planted about 40 years ago when the houses were built. All the trees on Santa Fe are dead and gone, replaced by pistachios and a few surviving on Esplanada provide a wonderful example our how these trees do not fit into an urban environment. They are all sick and diseased.

Now they will study this for a few years afraid to do anything and the place will look like a mess.

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2009 at 4:39 pm

"Obviously this move was the height of incompetency..."

Uh-uh. Its execution was too skillful and swift. These perps knew what they were doing and how to get it done without interference from citizens or the responsible members of the city government.

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Posted by Stumps
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2009 at 5:38 pm

The several large stumps around the farmer's market show no sign of structurally important rot or staining. Just good healthy wood. They certainly appear to have been in excellent health. Obviously to have grown so large in 30 years demonstrates excellent vigor. Eric Krebs--were you falsely quoted in saying they needed to be removed because of disease or will you resign for abusing your office by lying about them?
Is deceit for the convenience of developers compatible with continued ISA certification?

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Posted by M
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2009 at 7:36 pm

I wish to defend Eric Krebs.

He did not say "all" the trees needed to be removed all at once. In fact, he recommended a phased replacement, to avoid the clear cut look. He also indicated to me that a number of trees did not need to be replaced. Others decided to clear cut all the trees.

From everything I have heard about him, and from my conversation with him, he is a person who loves trees and is an honest man. I think we need to look elsewhere to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2009 at 7:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by City Employee/ Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2009 at 9:37 pm

In Palo Alto do we care for trees and not also people?...
Perhaps if I dressed my child up as a tree as employees, we would get love, respect, and consideration? Where is the voice for our families?
Contemplate the city goals:
- Environmental Protection...SEIU Employees continue to donate their time to green projects...Bay clean up, victory garden, Greenstock, recycling and more.
- Civic Engagement for the Common Good...Doesn't that mean ALL of the community?
- City's Economic Health...Employees been trying to tell you...there is money to address the deficit, we are willing to do our part, and we employees want accountabilty.
It is by caring for each other and helping our neighbors that we thrive as a community.

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Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Three factors caused and/or enabled the ill-conceived removal of 50 holly oaks on California Avenue.

1. Failure to Provided Public Review as Specified
As Herb Borock pointed out, the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the California Avenue Improvements detailed in the 2007-09 budget (PE-07005) indicates there will be reviews by the Architectural Review Board, Public Art Commission, and Planning & Transportation Commission. To date, I can find no record of a public hearing before any of these bodies on this matter.

Note that the CIP states that “the project includes replacement of street trees. “ It does not state that almost all the existing trees will be removed. One would assume that issue would have been examined at a public hearing. Web Link

Mention of the project did come to the Council in July 2008, via an update memo from staff. It states that available project funding would be used “to replace some street trees.” Web Link

This spring, in an email from council member to staff on the status of the project, the reply to council states: “Staff has been working with CAADA on the streetscape design and will meet again on May 13 to present the final design package, which includes over 40 new trees …” Now a quantity (40) is mentioned. Has an onerous seed been planted?.
Web Link

2. Terrible Mistake to Remove All the Holly Oaks
The decision by the leadership of the California Avenue Area Development Association (CAADA), whenever it was made, to push for the removal of all holly oaks “en masse” and its acceptance by Public Works can most kindly be described as a terrible mistake. A decision made with no sense of the impact on many residents, workers in the area, visitors to the district, and arguably, the well-being of the local businesses themselves.

3. Failure of Neighborhood Leaders to Sound the Alarm
On Friday, September 10, three days and four evenings before the start of the tree removal, Public Works sent out a project notification to Ronna Devincenzi, President of CAADA entitled “CALIFORNIA AVENUE STREET TREE REPLACEMENT PROJECT. She forwarded it on to the CAADA email list and to the leadership of Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN), which, in turn, forwarded it to its membership of neighborhood leaders. Now the endgame was clear and public.

The notification states “the Holly Oaks will be replaced with Red Maples, deciduous trees…” In a post on Town Square yesterday, “yugh” copied the content; I have placed the original at this link. Web Link

[Note: the Project Notification currently on the City’s main page is different and was created after the tree removal began.)

Sadly, no one who received the project announcement, including the members of our own neighborhood association board of directors and all others, raised an alarm of any significance before the tree removal began.

Those who not did not review it or blindly accepted the document are remiss; those who were a party to the plan and now proclaim outrage are disingenuous.

So what can we do going forward to make something positive out this debacle?
Two initial thoughts come to mind:
1. As stated on these forums, replacement trees should be mature and non-deciduous, and
2. The balance of the California Avenue Street improvements should come before public review.

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Posted by No Clearcuitting
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2009 at 8:02 am


Getting some of the the facts out to the residents like you did helps prevent the usual issue management by the bureuacracy and the City Council such that no one is ever held accountable and no one is ever repsonsible for massive srew-ups.

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Posted by Peter and Denise Burris, Managers of Hotel California
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2009 at 8:42 am

We are the General/Resident Managers of the Hotel California. Although our address is 2431 Ash Street, some of our rooms face directly on to California Avenue. We have had this position since July 1, 2009. We had no notification of the work to be done. The work directly impacts our guests.
Like everyone else, we have our opinions about the cutting of the trees and how the Avenue looks now. Our concern is: Why were we not notified so that we could plan ahead? And when will the grinding of the stumps take place? And what other "noisy" projects are planned?
Who can we ask?

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Posted by Sam
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2009 at 8:46 am

"replacement trees should be mature and non-deciduous"

Now that's a real winner of an idea.... Where would the stablizing cables anchor to the the street or across sidewalks? Any guess as to how much additional funding would be required to accomplish this task?

This is a case where runaway emotionality has trumped rationality.

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Posted by Dee Mouzakis
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2009 at 9:22 am

I also wonder how "diseased" these trees actually were. If indeed it was necessary to have them cut down, why during the hottest time of the year? Couldn't it have waited a month or two when less people would prefer to sit outside the restaurants on California Avenue?

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Posted by No Clearcutting
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2009 at 10:31 am

The main effort going on right now at City Hall is figuring out how to cover all the backsides exposed by this gross management stupidity.

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Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 21, 2009 at 12:32 pm

From Sam :

"Posted by Sam, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, 3 hours ago

"replacement trees should be mature and non-deciduous"

Now that's a real winner of an idea.... Where would the stablizing cables anchor to the the street or across sidewalks? Any guess as to how much additional funding would be required to accomplish this task?"

Why shouldn't larger more mature trees be pLanted???? It would help to improve the street much quicker. Mature trees are transplanted all the time .....sure they'll be more expensive.... Im sure the money can be found....

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm

M wrote: “Others decided to clear cut the trees.”

Do these “others” have names and will they be held accountable?

Ronna Devincenzi has a cheery little op ed in today’s post. She knows of only one CAADA member who was taken by surprise. “So far, all comments from merchants reflect happiness about beingable to see their stores from the street.”

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Posted by C
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Where's the money?

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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 22, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Government by the people, for the people? It doesn't sound like it. Once again, government employees prove that they are out of touch with their public. Sigh.

As for the clear-cutting on San Antonio, I would not say that that was a complete disaster. Those trees were doing major damage to the road, and therefore the cars that traveled that stretch. But the crew that worked on it did a terrible job. They were very disorganized and wasted a boatload of the public's money. Looking at the San Antonio project was handled, I'm surprised the trees on Cal Ave were cut down so quickly/efficiently...

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Posted by John
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 23, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Not long ago, the city, along with concerned citizens, decided to change it's plan to replace the fountain at the foot of California Avenue. I believe that this was done, primarily due to financial concerns which are a result of our changing economy. Had there been
better communication, might we have made the same sort of decision under our current economic concerns? If this project was decided upon
years ago, doesn't it make sense to employ some sort of 'reconsideration process'. Let's admit it. Things have changed.
Why not introduce some new policies to protect ourselves from the unchecked stupidity that we've been victimized by in this case.
How's that for pissing and moaning?

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Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 26, 2009 at 9:55 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
Web Link

Thank you.

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Posted by terry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 27, 2009 at 10:50 pm

i think it is time to boycott the businesses on california ave, until the situation is clarified and legislation is approved to prevent such misuse and neglect in the future. If a board of their (business) representatives can decide with the city (and our tax dollars) to make such changes to a public location as they did, especially in our suffering economy and despite our strong environmentalism, then it must be the people who show business and corporations the reality of how capitalism works. I can tell you that with no one visiting those stores, it would be even more tidy. Plus it is not like most of those places are original...we could spend money elsewhere. We will not lose out, only those businesses will who decided to take part in this process.

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Posted by Phyllis Grant
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2009 at 1:10 pm

I'm responding to the person who's comparing the tree cutting on San Antonio Road to California Avenue: we drive past the missing trees on San Antonio; we walked, sat, ate, banked and shopped on California Avenue for 45 years. No comparison. California Avenue is forever changed thanks to our city leaders. (I wonder how many of them grew up in PA?)

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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