News

California Avenue trees may be planted next month

City Council to vote tonight on latest staff proposal for restoring trees to busy commercial stretch

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."

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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.

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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.

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California Avenue trees may be planted next month

City Council to vote tonight on latest staff proposal for restoring trees to busy commercial stretch

Uploaded: Mon, Nov 16, 2009, 9:35 am

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.

Gennady Sheyner

Comments

Grumpy Grandma
Charleston Gardens
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:00 am
Grumpy Grandma, Charleston Gardens
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:00 am

I hope the planners have taken careful note of which trees are suitable for street planting, to minimize problems with roots and slippery fallen leaves. Palo Alto used to have a long list of "correct" trees for this purpose. I wonder if that list still exists, and was consulted.


S.Brandt
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:20 am
S.Brandt, Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

Did I miss it, or has there been no mention yet of who, specifically, was responsible for the clear cutting of CA Ave? Surely this information should be made public.


False outrage
Fairmeadow
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:26 am
False outrage, Fairmeadow
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:26 am

S. Brandt--the city council (Klein, Drekmeier, Burt, Yeh, Espinosa, Schmidt, Kishimoto. Morton and Barton)--of course they put on their best "outraged by it" act.


Alex
Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:32 am
Alex, Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:32 am

Hopefully this meeting will close the book on the last scandal in a long series of Palo Alto scandals during and since the Benest era. That is unless the Utilities Department test score fudging scandal re-erupts or some brand new scandal emerges.


Greg
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm
Greg, Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm

As a business owner working from an office on California Ave, I am finally beginning to feel that the madness has ended, and cooler heads (and much better ideas) are now taking shape. Like many others, however, I continue to feel frustration that no apparent action has been taken to sanction the person(s) responsible for the original fiasco. While it's important to move ahead now, I DO believe in accountability. Until I hear that some tangible steps have been taken, I will continue to worry that this could all happen again someday.


Alex
Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm
Alex, Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm

The good old boys and girls get protected at City Hall.


Belle
Charleston Gardens
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:55 pm
Belle, Charleston Gardens
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:55 pm

The group of community members who got a number of independent professional arborists to give input to the new plan are to be commended. Let us hope that citizen participation is active for other projects going on in Palo Alto, not to stall projects, but to move them ahead in a more informative and informed manner with better outcomes for all. Hoping that the new trees will be well planted, well maintained and restore California Ave to its balanced nature.


mj
College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm
mj, College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm

To Grumpy Grandma,
You evidently haven't been keeping up because there has been a lengthy and informed discussion, including outside experts on root systems, involved in choosing the trees for California Avenue. Also, the list of "suitable trees" you mentioned was no doubt put together by the same public works arborist who recommended the maples, whose leaves tend to dry up in the harsh summer climate of reflected heat on a street such as California Avenue. And all one kind of tree encourages the spread of a disease. Looking around Palo Alto, there are numerous "approved" street trees that have been popular at one time or another but eventually proved to be impractical.


Sonny
College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm
Sonny, College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Alex,
Don't think the Utilities test taking scandal has been resolved. Attorney Baum notified the cc that a civil lawsuit and fine may be just around the corner. Be patient.


Alex
Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2009 at 1:47 pm
Alex, Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2009 at 1:47 pm

I worry that as long as there are holdovers in Department head and other senior management positions left over from the Benest era there will continue to be scandals at City Hall.


Wil
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2009 at 9:19 pm
Wil, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Someone is quickly retiring from Public Works Engineering this week. I'm wondering if this may be some of the outfall from the premature tree cutting. Then again, numerous people are retiring this week due to the imposed contract as they don't want to loose retirement benefits.


Paula
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2009 at 7:50 am
Paula, Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2009 at 7:50 am

The article mentioned that the tree wells will be excavated in preparation for planting. The tree wells were recently filled with concrete. Wouldn't it have been cheaper and easier to use dirt to level the surface TEMPORARILY? What will the price tag be for labor and materials to fill 63 holes with concrete and then jack hammer them out again a couple of months later? Does anyone think or care about wasting money?


It'll work
Midtown
on Nov 17, 2009 at 9:03 am
It'll work, Midtown
on Nov 17, 2009 at 9:03 am

"Wouldn't it have been cheaper and easier to use dirt to level the surface TEMPORARILY?" The City cannot use the same tree wells because they are full of the massive roots left by the oak trees, and you'd have to widen them considerably to get at the roots to grind them down. Also more trees are going to be planted than were taken out so the spacing will be different.


Do it twice?
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2009 at 12:54 pm
Do it twice?, Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Sorry, but anyone who has undertaken major landscaping projects knows that you do ALL the hardscape, irrigation, infrastructure stuff FIRST.... The trees are the very LAST things to go in. Seems like the city will spend a lot of our money to put in a lot of trees that will not have the best conditions to survive, let alone thrive.... And then they plan to move!!! them when they go back to do the infrastructure?! (Have you tried moving a tree that's already in the ground?)

I don't really care about placing blame at this point. The fact is the street now needs to be redone.... but do it correctly.... and do it once. Let's move forward and be responsible with our tax dollars. And don't bow to pressure to get something in quickly to try to cover up a major error that will only be reopened again when they have to go back and put in the infrastructure... and spend a lot more.


Julian
Palo Verde
on Nov 17, 2009 at 2:21 pm
Julian, Palo Verde
on Nov 17, 2009 at 2:21 pm

You didn't miss it, there hasn't been any announcement. They're hoping to stonewall until the fuss dies down, and then never assign any accountability.


pat
Southgate
on Nov 17, 2009 at 6:09 pm
pat, Southgate
on Nov 17, 2009 at 6:09 pm


"Do it twice?",

There is no plan to move the trees later on; future plans for re-striping the road do not call for changing the layout of the sidewalks. (and what are the odds of people letting turn Cal Ave
into 2 lanes, anyway?)

In addition, the planting prep will include structured soil, so these trees have will have a better chance then most.


MJ
College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2009 at 11:26 am
MJ, College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2009 at 11:26 am

Do It Twice

Don't you get it? There is NO MONEY, NO BUDGET, to do any hardscaping or irrigation. Not now. Not in the foreseable future.

Once again, do you have a little pot of gold you know about that would allow for hardscaping on California Avenue now or anytime in the future?

Palo Alto has huge liabilities for pensions and medical care for staff retirees. The State is broke. Palo Alto was turned down for a grant to do hardscaping on California Avenue several years ago when the economy was booming.

So stop whining about something that is not going to happen for a very, very long time.


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