Palo Alto's dramatic scramble to replace felled trees along California Avenue is expected to hit a milestone tonight, when the City Council is scheduled to debate a staff proposal to plant dozens of silver lindens, southern live oaks and other leafy species before the end of the year.
The city's latest plan was formed after numerous community meetings and public hearings, as well as consultation with well-known arborists, landscape consultants and members of the local Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission.
Staff has been in intensive outreach mode ever since mid-September, when the Public Works Department prematurely authorized the clearcutting of 63 holly oaks on California Avenue, between El Camino Real and the Caltrain station.
Now, prompted by comments from the City Council and citizen critics, staff is proposing immediate replanting of trees. The recommendation comes despite suggestions by the planning commission that the city put together a more comprehensive beautification plan for the bustling commercial district before planting new trees.
"Given the heightened sensitivity of the tree removal on California Avenue, the community has voiced an urgent need to plant trees as soon as possible," Senior Engineer Elizabeth Ames wrote in a new report. "In addition, staff and consulting arborists have indicated the need to plant trees during this optimum winter planting season to maximize tree health."
If the City Council approves the latest staff proposal, contractors would begin excavating tree wells in December and begin planting new trees during the late December and early January.
Staff expects the replanting project to be completed by mid-February.
City officials have also revised their proposals for which trees should be planted to replace the holly oaks after extensive consultation with area residents and arborists. They scrapped an earlier plan to plant red maples all along California Avenue and now plan a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees for the three-block stretch.
The new plan calls for silver lindens to be the deciduous "unifying trees," which would be interspersed throughout the planting area. But the plan also includes more than 20 evergreen southern live oaks, which would provide year-round shade to area patrons and residents.
Red-leafed Freeman maples would be planted at intersections to serve as "accent trees," while Shumard oaks would line pedestrian crossings around Ash Street. The valley oaks would stand at both entrance points to California Avenue and serve as gateways to the business district.
Altogether, the proposed plan includes 47 deciduous and 28 evergreen trees.
The council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. tonight with a study session on the high-speed rail in the Council Conference Room. The regular meeting will follow in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.