News

California Ave. tree replanting begins Monday

60 deciduous and evergreens to be added to streetscape by end of February

Street trees are returning to California Avenue.

On Monday, workers will start preparations for the planting of more than 60 deciduous and evergreens trees between the fountain area near the Caltrain station and El Camino Real, the Palo Alto Public Works Department announced Wednesday.

Weather permitting, the project will be completed by late February, the department said.

The replanting follows the surprise removal Sept. 14 of 63 mature holly oaks, leaving the previously shaded shopping district with a completely altered look.

Residents and elected officials expressed shock and outrage that the street had been denuded without sufficient notice.

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City Manager Jim Keene and Public Works Director Glenn Roberts apologized, acknowledging procedural mistakes. Workers apparently had disregarded a 14-day waiting period that was included in the planning department's conditional approval for the work.

According to the design for the new planting, a grouping of Chinese pistache and southern live oaks will be added between the Caltrain tracks and the fountain.

California Avenue itself will be lined with silver lindens, with Freeman maples and Shumard oaks as "accents" at intersections and pedestrian crossings.

A valley oak will be planted near Mollie Stone's, and several more valley oaks will be added near the El Camino Real intersection.

In addition to the trees the city is replanting, the nonprofit organization Canopy will host an event Jan. 30 during which volunteers will plant dozens of street trees within sidewalk areas, the Public Works Department announcement stated.

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During the whole tree project, there will be temporary periods of reduced street parking along California. Drivers can expect some delays during construction hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contractors will work on one side of the street in "localized construction areas" before moving to the opposite side of the street, the city staff said.

More information is available at the project website or by e-mailing [email protected]

Information about the Canopy event is available be e-mailing [email protected]

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California Ave. tree replanting begins Monday

60 deciduous and evergreens to be added to streetscape by end of February

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Wed, Dec 30, 2009, 5:02 pm

Street trees are returning to California Avenue.

On Monday, workers will start preparations for the planting of more than 60 deciduous and evergreens trees between the fountain area near the Caltrain station and El Camino Real, the Palo Alto Public Works Department announced Wednesday.

Weather permitting, the project will be completed by late February, the department said.

The replanting follows the surprise removal Sept. 14 of 63 mature holly oaks, leaving the previously shaded shopping district with a completely altered look.

Residents and elected officials expressed shock and outrage that the street had been denuded without sufficient notice.

City Manager Jim Keene and Public Works Director Glenn Roberts apologized, acknowledging procedural mistakes. Workers apparently had disregarded a 14-day waiting period that was included in the planning department's conditional approval for the work.

According to the design for the new planting, a grouping of Chinese pistache and southern live oaks will be added between the Caltrain tracks and the fountain.

California Avenue itself will be lined with silver lindens, with Freeman maples and Shumard oaks as "accents" at intersections and pedestrian crossings.

A valley oak will be planted near Mollie Stone's, and several more valley oaks will be added near the El Camino Real intersection.

In addition to the trees the city is replanting, the nonprofit organization Canopy will host an event Jan. 30 during which volunteers will plant dozens of street trees within sidewalk areas, the Public Works Department announcement stated.

During the whole tree project, there will be temporary periods of reduced street parking along California. Drivers can expect some delays during construction hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contractors will work on one side of the street in "localized construction areas" before moving to the opposite side of the street, the city staff said.

More information is available at the project website or by e-mailing [email protected]

Information about the Canopy event is available be e-mailing [email protected]

Comments

Hope Springs Eternal
another community
on Dec 30, 2009 at 5:16 pm
Hope Springs Eternal, another community
on Dec 30, 2009 at 5:16 pm

A new year begins in Palo Alto, full of promise and bright hopes as each day grows longer ...

Let this be the year when all goes flawlessly in Palo Alto, no scandals, no foul-ups, no controversies, no regrets. Let this be the year, Palo Alto!

Happy New Year, California Avenue!


It's Pat
College Terrace
on Dec 30, 2009 at 5:52 pm
It's Pat, College Terrace
on Dec 30, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Posted by Hope Springs Eternal, a resident of another community, 31 minutes ago

A new year begins in Palo Alto, full of promise and bright hopes as each day grows longer ...

Let this be the year when all goes flawlessly in Palo Alto, no scandals, no foul-ups, no controversies, no regrets. Let this be the year, Palo Alto!

Happy New Year, California Avenue!

Utopia??
Broken promises,and lots of hot air. Followed by a dash of dishonesty is what we will get. Just like all the previous years;)


JW
Charleston Gardens
on Dec 30, 2009 at 8:39 pm
JW, Charleston Gardens
on Dec 30, 2009 at 8:39 pm

There is already a glitch. Where are the trees we were promised for Mitchell Park.

The pine trees were cut down over nine months ago and we were promised replacement plantings at the beginning of the rainy season. Obviously this South Palo Alto project has been shelved to satisfy all the North Palo Alto residents who have been complaining about California Avenue.

This is a message for Public Works, when are you going to plant the replacement trees in Mitchell Park?


Hope Springs Eternal
another community
on Dec 31, 2009 at 9:09 am
Hope Springs Eternal, another community
on Dec 31, 2009 at 9:09 am

"Broken promises,and lots of hot air. Followed by a dash of dishonesty"

"a glitch"

Well, it's not yet midnight, so the New Year full of fulfilled promises, clarity, honesty, transparency, and competenece at Palo Alto City Hall will begin soon. Happy New Year, Palo Alto!!


Howard
Crescent Park
on Dec 31, 2009 at 10:52 am
Howard, Crescent Park
on Dec 31, 2009 at 10:52 am

This would have been done weeks ago were in not for the absurd overreaction of a bunch of "community organizers."


Fire Glenn Roberts
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 11:37 am
Fire Glenn Roberts, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 11:37 am

Why did no one take the fall for the incompetence of Public Works in this issue? Either Glenn Roberts knew, in which case he should be fired for malfeasance, or he didn't know, in which case he should be fired for incompetence. Take your pick.

To Howard, the "community organizers" improved the plan over the bland, uniform approach proposed by Public Works.


Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 1:08 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 1:08 pm

To "Hope Springs Eternal" - In order for what you say to happen, TOP STAFF must CHANGE their THINKING and style of MANAGING. But with the SAME players in power, it's unlikely.

Palo Alto is dysfunctional. Over the past few years, many people who've lived in Palo Alto for 50+ years, wrote letters to the editor asking "Is anybody watching the store in Palo Alto?"

"Hope", your post was so sincere, it prompts me to answer you (and them) by saying, from my perspective of 20 years of volunteering here, the answer is no. No one is watching the store.

That's why there have been so many resignations from public commissions lately. Members of the public that spent years of time volunteering for the community, all shot down and disrepected by a system that is dysfunctional to its core.

The people with the most power in Palo Alto are middle managers, city workers with little supervision and NO guidance from policy. Each has their own way of doing things. It's like trying to work with a can of worms.

Many of THEM are well-meaning. The lack of general oversight sets even those people up to lose. I feel sorry for many of them- I used to get annoyed by them. But it's like their hands are tied.

I used to think among Palo Alto departments, the left hand didn't know what the right hand was DOING. I was wrong. I now know in Palo Alto, the left hand doesn't even know there IS a right hand.

There are NO BEST PRACTICES available. In the case of public notice regarding the trees, I was told on July 31, six weeks before the work was to begin, "public outreach" was starting. It never happened. The best I can surmise: left hand - right hand, too many people 'middle managing', and no oversight or official policy coming into play.

Only when many irate people show up to rant for 3 minutes at council meetings do top staff and council know something even went wrong.

If no one complained, OR a few people with VALID arguments that SHOULD be addressed complained, all would still be fine. They could still be ignored.

Palo Alto is 100% complaint driven. It is not a Best Practices town.
That holds true for the City Manager's office, ALL top staff & City Council. It's a way of THINKING and of MANAGING.

In the end, when an egregious situation happens, like lack of public outreach regarding Cal Ave trees, it exposes how no one is watching the store.

I truly think most people at every level of staff and council are well-meaning. But just reasoning or explaining issues to them is fruitless. A common sense issue can NEVER be resolved.

One is forced to RANT, preferably in public and in large numbers. It's the only way they will listen and by that point, you will have gotten the attention of the press. The public being notified about the Cal Ave Streetscape Project, in a transparent and timely manner should have been a no-brainer.

City Council is NOT an effective body. Nine well meaning people making decisions based on what they are told by staff. They have little time to review information in council packets. They take no responsibility when things go wrong. So the buck stops with no one in Palo Alto. Lots of spokesmen. But no one is responsible.

If one council member falls short on being a representative to an outside group or agency for other council members, they ALL lack important information. Council is kept in the dark.

Lastly, when the California Ave. project is completed, and ribbon cutting for trees & the rest of the "new look" is celebrated, ALL City Council members claimed to know nothing about what was happening to California Ave.

Council claimed to be uninformed about everything regarding the project. They had NO idea it was scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2009, even though it was in the hopper for almost 5 years, and the project was postponed from 2006 to 2008, then to 2009.

No City Council member at all took ANY interest in ANY California Avenue issue at all, although mnny claim to "love" the district. That is fine -

But ... NO CITY COUNCIL member ought to try to take credit for improvements when the work is done. A new mayor should cut a ribbon, say how nice it looks, and be like any other spectator admiring the new look in 2010.

A lot of people put in a LOT work into the California Ave project. People the public has no idea about. Canopy alone worked on trees with the city for CAADA from 2004-2006, when it had been determined that "most if not all the Holly Oaks would be replaced because they were at the end of their lives".

What is happening now is editing. The hard part is creating.


Hope Springs Eternal
another community
on Dec 31, 2009 at 8:11 pm
Hope Springs Eternal, another community
on Dec 31, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Ronna Devincenzi's post was right from the heart. She tells the truth about lack of leadership from the top managment at Palo Alto City Hall.

For years now there has been a lot of image polishing, preening before the cameras, spin doctoring, "issue managemnt", and just plain "hot air" from the City Manager, department directors, and other top managers. What is lacking is simple courage, honesty, competence, and accountability. Even just paying attention would be an improvement.


Muhammad
Barron Park
on Jan 1, 2010 at 1:37 am
Muhammad, Barron Park
on Jan 1, 2010 at 1:37 am

Can some one please tell me when they did remove all those trees in first place? What was the reason behind that ?


Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2010 at 12:28 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Muhammad-

Thank you for this question. As a point of reference, my memories about everything regarding CAADA go back over 23 years. For the past 20 years, I've kept records as documentation about *every* issue that affected Cal Ave. So I am qualified and equipped to answer your question.

You had to wait a LONG time to get an answer - I'm sorry for that. Intending to work hand-in-hand *with* the City to address residents that were angry about the trees being cut down, I attended the first September Council meeting held right after, braving the fall-out.

My thought was to be visible for CAADA, answering questions, such as you propose here. But suffice it to say that since the City of Palo Alto is so dysfuncional, I decided not to subject myself to anymore, after that first meeting.

Instead, I've kept quiet, not even speaking with two reporters that FINALLY asked me what had happened, WEEKS after what became a big story. Other reporters just went ahead and wrote stories, even three editorials [including the Weekly] without ever asking me for facts.

You have been so gracious, just trying to understand what happened, and showing excellent conflict resolution skills = a rarity in this city!! I will answer your question in this small forum that it appears, hardly anyone is reading. Your question is terrific!

Most recently, is my understanding that the one point upon which every expert agreed, at each meeting where the fallen trees were discussed, was that Holly Oaks were never a good species to have planted on California Avenue in the first place.

In 2004, Susan Rosenberg came to me for Canopy, mentioning how bad the condition of the trees were, pointing out that many of the trees were at the end of their life, and asking how she and Canopy could help with tree replacement.

This was PRIOR to the Streetscape Plan, and PRIOR to any requests by the city for outside Grants to do grand-scale improvements, and exclusive from it.

Trees and street resurface/re-stripe were on the city radar screen for years. It was basic infrastucture work. By 2004, both projects had become *deferred maintenance*.

I was thrilled and asked Susan to take over the issue of trees with the city entirely, which she did. The first time I was involved with trees was in the 1990's when Dave Sandage asked me to go around with a woman from an organization (like Canopy) and pick new species.

For YEARS thereafter, I called Dave to follow up, because he was to make recommendations about what kind of replacement trees were best to use. But I got nowhere with him. When I got through on the phone to talk with him (AND EVEN IN PERSON, when I'd catch him off guard, at his office) he'd tell me he was 'still thinking about it'.

If I left a phone message for him, he'd just never respond to it. That went on for YEARS. I finally just gave up with the trees by around 2001.

So when Susan made her offer in 2004 (& she knew what she was doing with trees while I did not) I jumped at the chance. The CAADA Board was grateful to her for handling this aspect of the district.

Susan worked exclusively with the city for CAADA from 2004-2006, determining which trees would be replaced. At that time, it was determined that "most, if not all, of the Holly Oaks would be replaced" because they were at the end of their life or compromised for other reasons.

By 2009, more factors came into play, such as tree disease, damage the tree roots were causing to sidewalks and awnings, and utility work that was done in early 2009 on sidewalks by tree roots.

The reason Susan got involved in 2004 was because trees (mostly the Holly Oaks) were in bad shape. By 2009, they did not get better - they got worse. In fact, property managers pointed out trees to me that were upright, but completely dead & hazardous. Most people walked by them, never noticing.

The only points that remained undecided by 2006 were 1) the best species to use as replacement trees 2) whether it would be better to PHASE in new trees, or do it all-at-once, and 3) where additional new trees could go, in relation to the surroundings at that time.

Just before Dave Sandage retired, he finally suggested Red Maple as a replacement tree. Not long before, he gave the CAADA Board photgraphs of several choices. One of them was Pistache, the same tree planted on Cambridge Ave, from El Camino Real to Park Blvd.

California Ave lacked consistency, and a unifying tree helped bring Cambridge Ave. together. Pistache also had gorgeous Fall color.

Before the Board voted for Pistache, I polled some Cambrdige Ave businesses w/ Pistache outside, asking if that species caused them problems. To a person, all LOVED the Fall color and said they didn't mind having to sweep leaves for only a few weeks, in order to have such a glorious species outside.

While Pisatche WAS on his list of choices, Dave Sandage suggested Red Maple as a best variety for the street, saying Pistache had issues with its limbs. [Keep in mind, Muhammad, that the Pistache tree is a "Signature Tree" in ALL of Los Altos, a business district similar to Calif. Ave, on Main Street, State Street, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and in ALL the parking lots. So go figure...]

After Dave Sandage retired, Eric Krebs replaced him, and the wheel had to be completely re-designed regarding trees on Cal Ave., with Eric reviewing ALL of Dave's work. For a time, it appeared as if it would NOT be the same conclusion that was drawn previously, even about which trees would be coming down. It was back to Square One regarding ALL Cal Ave trees.

Canopy was not involved with the trees after Dave Sandage finally gave his list of recommendations to use as replacement trees for CAADA to chose from. Canopy did not know (from CAADA) that Dave had ultimately recommended Red Maple.

A "CAADA Streetscape Subcommittee" had formed by 2006, and it did not include all CAADA Board members, such as me. One Subcommittee rep worked with Susan Rosenberg for a time. But I have no documentation other than the last report compiled by Susan & Dave.

As the work was to begin in 2009, and after all the utility work had been completed, CAADA was forced to redefine its priorities for the Streetscape. The Streetscape working design and priorities had been formed by the Streetscape Subcommittee, that disbanded after their work was completed.

#1 Priority for the CAADA Streetscape Subcommittee was new lights. It remained so until earlier this year, when CAADA's board was told costs were prohibitive. So Priority 2, Trees, went into first place.

Ultimately, Eric Krebs suggested Red Maple, as Dave Sandage had done earlier, to meet the goals of the Streetscape Subcommittee, that were 1) a consistent look for Cal Ave - like Cambridge Ave 2) Fall color 3) environmentally effective, in terms of allowing more sun in winter and providing shade in summer.

By 2009, the percentage I had for trees on Cal Ave that needed to be replaced was 80%. With both Dave Sandage and Eric Krebs, the city's two officials for trees, suggesting Red Maple, the entire CAADA Board took their advice and unanimously voted for Red Maple.

Then the CAADA board was asked how it wanted to handle tree replacement, all-at-once, or phasing. As University Avenue turned out so well, with the all-at-once method, the prevailing opinion of the CAADA Board, after discussion, was all-at-once.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that I was told by the city on July 31 that public outreach was to begin. That was 6 weeks before the tree cutting began. It never happened. On Sept. 9, I was asked by the City to notify as many people as I could about the upcoming work, and I did, helped by the network of people through PAN.

I had already told the merchants for whom, over the years, I'd collected e-mail addresses. So additionally, I sent out Press Releases, having no idea it was only I that was spreading the word about this project to the whole city.

I diligently sent out "Day One", "Day Two", "Day Three" updates to everyone in the city, trying to keep everyone on the same page. So it came as a surprise to me to see my Day Two (Tuesday) update appear as "news" in the Daily Post the following Saturday, along with a 7 year-old photo of me from the Palo Alto Daily, an article that looked like a "Point/Counterpoint" piece, alongside a Post editorial. No good deed goes unpunished?

Thank you, Muhammad, for asking for facts. By the way, I highly recommend for you to become involved in PAN Palo Alto Neighborhoods because if there is an emergency in Palo Alto, you will be on your own - perhaps with NO ability to communicate outside of your own little area. You will not be able to depend on city services.

One of the BEST things to happen to me through CAADA was to get to know Annette Ashton and Sheri Furman from the Midtown Residents Association better. Their E-Prep program is wonderful, and I was able to make CAADA the ONLY business organization a part of it. In 2007 and 2008, businesses took part in the Golden Guardian and Silver Sentinel exercises. Living in earthquake country, it is prudent to plan ahead for disasters that may come.

Annette, Sheri, and a variety of OTHER residents are extremely well-organized. They have put great thought into how to handle a crisis. One good thing the city has done is to have Ken Dueker (PAPD) in a position of leadership for this program. While I give the city low marks for almost everything else, I give Palo Alto 5 stars for supporting Annette, Sheri and PAN in its work. Sign up!
PAN E-PREP IS CIVIC ENGAGEMENT! Best yet, it is a win/win for everyone.


John
Meadow Park
on Jan 1, 2010 at 3:29 pm
John, Meadow Park
on Jan 1, 2010 at 3:29 pm

We used to shop and loved to patronize Cal Ave until the fiasco. We havn't been back since. We have taken a proactive approach where we transact business, and take due note of the "transaction fees" aka "sales taxes", which at 9.250% is a considerable amount of money. We have taken our transaction fees down the road to Mtn View.

The clear cutting was down right disrespectful and showed the total disregard the politicians "I know nothing" have for the taxpayer. Governments are inclined to folly anyway, and Palo Alto has had and will have its moments. Like I commented when it happened, no one will be disciplined. What happened to the "investigation"? No accountability means more folly.

It also woke us up in time and we actively campaigned against the "slam dunk" business tax. Giving this disfunctional organization more money is not a good idea.


consumer
Menlo Park
on Jan 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm
consumer, Menlo Park
on Jan 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm

who is CAADA and what gave them the right to speak for residents and consumers?


A Satisfied Consumer
another community
on Jan 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm
A Satisfied Consumer, another community
on Jan 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

To "CONSUMER" from Menlo Park-

President Obama, the Senate, US House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, the Constitution of the United States, the State of California Secretary of State + other official State of California offices.

To "JOHN" from Meadow Park-

Mountain View clear-cutted all it's trees TWICE. I'm from Mountain View. It did so to the angst of residents. But City Council did not care. This happened several years ago. MV politicians did not take an "I know nothing" position. They just ignored the public.

People got over it, when the trees grew. Now everyone loves it - including you!


Kathy Alford
Evergreen Park
on Jan 2, 2010 at 8:51 pm
Kathy Alford, Evergreen Park
on Jan 2, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Bravo, Ronna Devincenzi, for finally telling us all that happened through the years prior to the Cal-Ave tree-cutting. I worked on California Avenue for over a decade, and have lived 2 blocks away for 16 years. I've since become an arborist, and was well-aware, by experience and observation that the Holly Oaks never should have been planted, and were in serious decline. They did need to be replaced. There are a number of additional trees on adjacent Birch Street that are suffering badly also need to be replaced, but that's for another day.

Shame on ALL city departments and council members who claimed to know nothing. We can vote out council members for inaction. I wish the same were true for other employees. One day, all involved might realize that respect is gained they admit they've made mistakes , and lost when they claim ignorance.

Thank you, Ronna, for all your efforts in trying to get the Cal-Ave tree replacement project done properly. I will be there, on Jan. 30th, as and arborist and planting leader for Canopy.

I hope the many resisdents who complained so loudly when the trees were removed will join us in helping to replant. It's time to move on.


Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2010 at 2:19 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2010 at 2:19 pm

You're welcome, Kathy. I'd have spoken up sooner, but no one ever asked me objectively, as it was happening. The press was too busy jumping to conclusions, putting their thoughts & whims into print.

As an aside, newspapers rarely report facts these days, even when they are GIVEN facts. Most are busy being creative & funny, trying to amuse readers, even at the expense of this entire district.

The newspaper industry has changed drastically, over the years, and not for the good. I'm a news junkie. I like DETAIL. I want FACTS.

By the time they DID ask me about trees, I was turned off to giving reporters more fodder with which to work. To be specific, I'm referring to the Weekly, who wrote an editorial with such a silly conclusion, that issue could be re-named, "The Weakly".

The Daily Post never contacted me about the trees at all: ever. The Daily NEWS contacted me once, early on, and it did a good job of reporting in the PA newspaper and in the SJ Mercury.

Council and the city were too busy having conniption fits, trying to placate the public and pointing fingers at anyone but themselves for falling asleep at the wheel.

The irony of it is council has representatives to organizations like CAADA, appointed in order to go back and inform the WHOLE council about issues such as this. The system works well when it's enforced.

Each council member has to REQUEST the appointment from the mayor, who decides who gets which appointment. In 2008, two wanted Cal Ave.

Council CANDIDATES claim to "love" California Ave. But since 2006, after being elected, the ones that successfully claimed Cal Ave as their "territory" by mayoral appointment, have neither spent much time here nor shown any interest at all in the district; that is, until after an explosion hits the newspapers over an issue that draws public attention. (ie. the fountain and the Streetscape)

As the Streetscape was forming, from 2006-2008, the council rep to CAADA was Larry Klein. But Larry rarely came to CAADA meetings. Once I even wrote and asked him if we met on a day that was not good for him because all our *other* reps over the years [Ellen Fletcher, Vic Ojakian, Jim Burch and Yoriko Kishimoto, among others] ALWAYS came to each and every CAADA meeting. Larry never responded. It was during that time the fountain was being discussed by CAADA and the Art Commission, as was the whole Streetscape.

It must be said that Jim Burch (though not even ON council anymore!) stepped to the plate with a Guest Opinion on the tree issue, written in the Weekly, still acting as a "rep to CAADA", proving he's still interested in California Ave. and the City. That took guts. Further, what he wrote was spot on.

For all the bad press Frank Benest and Emily Harrison had, getting a concern to them wasn't as grueling and they would always respond. It's just that little of any consequence was ready to happen then, it was all in the planning stages, building up to the Fall of 2009 when work would commence.

Most recently, from Jan. 2008 until mid 2009, when he resigned, Pat Burt was the council rep to CAADA. But he, like Larry, rarely came to CAADA meetings.

At his request, I met with Pat and two of his friends in Jan 2008, who were interested in making Santana Row-type improvements to Cal Ave. But neither of his friends ever came to even one CAADA meeting after that, and Pat never even came to the FIRST meeting after we met. Overall, he came to very few meetings, mostly during the time the fountain issue exploded and was news. He resigned in mid 2009, due to other issues that took his time (I think the High Speed Rail -but that's only my guess.)

The day I met with Pat and his two friends in Jan. 08, I brought the Streetscape design packet with me, sharing the greatest needs for the district with them, at their request. But after briefing them, nothing came of it and there was little contact from Pat, until the Fall of 2008, when the fountain became news.

Yoriko, the last council member to come to CAADA meetings, would periodically ask staff and me for updates on the Streetscape. That happened as recently as early this year. Her requests were always answered in detail by staff. I would be copied.

Going through newspaper clippings over the past 5 years, the Streetscape was written about many times, and in detail, as there was no public emotion from which a newscaper could capitalize.

This should have been a smooth process for the Cal Ave district. A lot of work and planning went into the Streetscape, and the deferred maintenance was finally going to be addressed.

Deferred maintenance is important for a city. On November 26, 1997, Dave Muffly wrote a Letter to the Editor of the PA Weekly, mentioning insurance companies had to pay out $66 billion in damages for that decade, due to storm damage claims.

He described what happened to specifically to trees in Lincoln, Nebraska in Oct. 1997, and was concerned about global changes in climate, and the negative effect it could have on trees in Palo Alto, pointing out the need to address the situation at that time or perhaps lose up to 50% of all trees in Palo Alto, due to weather. It was prudent.

Over the past many years, I have seen the Holly Oaks condition deteriorate, and of the two that were already dead, it was a relief they didn't see the first storm of this season.

So I'm glad you agreed about the condition of the Holly Oaks, Kathy.
I hope the day of planting the new trees will be memorable for you.

This is a super place to share the background of what happened. It looks like only about 12 people are reading this - I'm glad you're one of them! I appreciate your kind words & am glad I could help shed light on the background regarding the trees for you.

For the record, there were THREE project managers on the Streetscape in four years, and more than one manager for EACH part of it:
trees/benches/bike racks, and street resurface/restripe + crosswalks and trash cans, and newsracks, and the fountain (art commission).
Try communicating that!

The LAST project manager (that took all the flack for trees) was the most responsive, the most professional & the most engaged of them all. Other managers were enthused when the project was on paper - and others seemed disinterested by the whole thing. The LAST project manager is NOT in upper management, having at least TWO other managers above to oversee things.

So if any incoming council members are reading this post, perhaps you will take steps to encourage and support lower level employees that may be deflated over the debacle that happened with the trees. It is NOT THEIR FAULT. It is the fault of a SYSTEM that is dysfunctional at its core.

Every year, I go around to thank all the city workers that helped get CAADA through the year. The employee that so professionally did the job that was given (most likely passed off by two superiors that didnt' want it, from my perspective), got a BIG THANK YOU!!

This city may not be as rough a place to volunteer and work, when everyone seeks first to understand and LISTENS, asking clarifying questions and getting perspectives from people that have FACTS.
It's basic conflict resolution skills.

Add to that some guts and human compassion, and this city will have it made in the shade. Pun not intended-


Jimmy
College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2010 at 4:55 pm
Jimmy, College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Ronna, Thank you for the detailed accounts from your perspective. Maybe I missed it in the above posts, but could you please answer the following questions for me:

1. Who is actively on the CAADA (Name/affiliation)?
2. Who is part of the "Streetscape Subcommittee?"
3. How does one become part of the CAADA?
4. Are/were the meetings open to the public?


Fred Balin
College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm
Fred Balin, College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Ronna,

Thank you for the background information related to the tree-replacement, decision-making process. Accurately filling in the record is vitally important in order for the community to fully understand and fairly assess what happened. Below is a follow-up and question related to your chronology.

Also, many people share your dissatisfaction with the city's handling of its responsibilities on this matter. If the city had acted properly, much distress would have been avoided. But the responsibility does not end there; see my comments further below.

----
Follow-up to Chronology:

The staff report to the Oct 5, City Council meeting states "on September 3rd, email notification of the upcoming work was sent to CAADA, which they distributed to their members and Palo Alto Neighborhood associations." [See page 2 of CMR:400:09 at Web Link ]

A September 3 city notification would have been 11 days before tree-removal work began on Monday, September 14, and if re-distributed to the larger community, providing sufficient time to voice concern to those in influence.

You write, however, that "on Sept 9, I was asked by the city to notify as many people as I could about the upcoming work, and I did, helped by the network of people through PAN."
From multiple sources I have seen an email from you dated the next day, Thursday the 10th, (and forwarded by PAN to its membership on the 11th), but nothing sooner. This distribution date affords a much small window of opportunity for people to respond.

The city's reference to a September 3 notification implies that an earlier notice was available to neighbors. Was there in fact a city email notification to CAADA on September 3? I will also check with the city.

-------

Comments:

Your second post (in response to Muhammad's question) presents a history and reasoning leading up to the crucial CAADA board decision of last year with regard to the manner of tree replacement, i.e., "... the prevailing opinion of the CAADA Board, after discussion, was all-at-once."

While you place much blame on the city, I hope that you and other members of the CAADA board recognize that no matter how strongly some of you believe the decision to remove all trees at one time was correct, in fact it was a huge mistake as evidenced by the pain expressed throughout community.

Unfortunately we have seen no expression of regret or remorse. Your comments on this thread and those in public from other CAADA board members offer only justification, finger pointing at the city, or objections to aspects of the re-planting proposals.

Kathy Alford (above) writes "I hope that the many residents who complained so loudly when the trees were removed will join us in helping to replant. It's time to move on."

It takes three meaningful processes for that to occur.

This first is complete: The successful citizen's effort to open up the tree-replanting process; bring in independent, outside expertise to interact directly with the public; and insist on transparency, access, and responsiveness.

The second rests on the forthcoming release of city's internal investigation related to the tree-removal. It will need to be complete, thorough, objective, and stand up to the scrutiny of the press and public watchdogs. And the follow-up actions, with regard to both process and personnel, will need to be appropriate in response to the findings.

The third rests with CAADA and specifically its Board. To begin to re-establish credibility and aid the process of community healing, the Board needs to honestly and directly apologize for its serious error in judgment and make a commitment to address this failing.

If the second and third items above are properly addressed by January 30, then we truly can begin to move forward at the tree replanting on that day.


pat
Midtown
on Jan 3, 2010 at 5:21 pm
pat, Midtown
on Jan 3, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Ronna: Thanks for your detailed account of what’s happened over the years.

Do not assume that city council members read blogs. They don’t like criticism. Klein told me in an email that he doesn't read the online blogs because there's too much "vitriol."

I suggest you forward your posts to the city council, where they will become part of the public record, and to Jim Keene. If I were in his shoes, I would want to talk to you.

BTW, to see what is valued by city council members, go to Web Link
and from there link to commendations for retiring council members.

You will find “commendations” such as:

* Kishimoto: WHEREAS, Yoriko has always come to meetings well-prepared, paying great attention to detail as well as the big picture, and offering a wealth of institutional knowledge and insight.

* Drekmeier: WHEREAS, Peter, as the Chair of the Council, made sure all points of view had a fair hearing on every issue, welcoming and thanking every person who appeared before the Council and keeping a calm and light touch in tense situations by well-timed injections of humor, and the occasional bout of spontaneous singing, thereby making everyone in the Council Chambers comfortable in conducting the public’s business;

* Morton: WHEREAS, Palo Alto has benefited greatly from Jack’s accounting expertise and commitment to fiscal responsibility;

* Barton: WHEREAS, John has always been respectful of his colleagues’ time, speaking clearly, concisely and deliberately;

And the back-patting continues.


Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2010 at 10:00 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Fred and All-
I tried to post a comment but it didn't take - and I put great thought into it. So rather than try again, I'll make this brief.

Respectfully, I feel it's up to the city to handle any follow-ups to this. If Jim Keene or any other official wants my perspective, they are welcomed to contact me.

The few posters on this blog were sincere and I wanted to shed light on this, just for them - I'm happy if only a handful of people read this. It's not my intention to carry it further.

I agree with Larry Klein that blogs tend to be vitriolic and I too, as a rule, do not read them, or contribute to them. But I'm happy I was able to help Kathy by sharing thoughts from my perspective.


Fred Balin
College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:14 am
Fred Balin, College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:14 am
Consumer
Menlo Park
on Jan 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm
Consumer, Menlo Park
on Jan 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Jimmy, good questions regarding what and who is CAADA. The only information on them/it I could find through Google, California Secretary of State web site, and Palo Alto city web site is from their/its apparent web site: Web Link
which states:
CAADA is a non-profit association representing member merchants, professionals and landlords who conduct their business within the California Avenue business district.

Does anybody know any other details or specifics?


Too Much Traffic
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2010 at 12:34 pm
Too Much Traffic, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2010 at 12:34 pm

"I agree with Larry Klein that blogs tend to be vitriolic and I too, as a rule, do not read them, or contribute to them."

Well, Ronna, your posts are an example of what Larry Klein and the council consider to be "vitriol". Any criticism of the council, their members or their action is "vitriol" and a personal attack on said member. this policy goes back years and years (i.e. "mayor" burch muzzling Aram James for criticizing Benest is a prime example). That is why council elections in Palo Alto are such jokes. candidates are not allowed to say why they disagree with another candidate or why their position on an issue is different from another candidate--that would be considered a personal attack on a candidate---according to the rules of Palo Alto politics and would be classified as "vitriol".
Bottom line "vitriol" is a catch all phrase used by our elected officials as an excuse ignore any and all criticism on them and their actions


Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Too Much Traffic -
Thank you for pointing out to me that my post could be interpreted as vitriol. I didn't intend that. It's a shame if we can't state facts, without being thought of as harsh or critical. I'm Roman Catholic. Working with some folks at City Hall often makes me feel as if they have a "bishops" mentality.

Roman Catholics that question authority figures are frowned upon too, and look at all the damage it has caused by not speaking up sooner to those men in leadership positions that have fallen short of being responsible. Had more Catholics said, "We need to address this", the picture would be brighter now, and folks over the years, better valued.

What I wrote was most definitely not intended to be even criticism - it was just to state facts that otherwise may not be known. They may not be nice facts to hear, but it must be heard none the less, in order to be corrected.

It was "Hope Springs Eternal" that originally prompted me to write. My point was before we can hope for a better result, there must be change. That's true of ANY dysfuncional institution.

It is difficult to state facts and not have a bit of emotion show through. But I did my best.

Keep in mind that the Concept Plan meeting for the extended Cal Ave area (Fry's) got ugly in February, with one resident assaulting another. It was NOT a 'near fist fight'. It was an unprovoked ASSAULT by one man upon another. That is how dysfunctional it is. Everyone should be able to speak freely at city meetings, and politely.

The District Attorney agreed it was an assault. The press (other than the Daily Post) never reported the outcome; the Weekly chose to use that as their lead story in their "Oddities and Ends" of 2009. It was a miscarriage of justice for them to use what happened for levity, further illustrating the dysfunction.

At that time, the City paid lip service to having some kind of rules of decorum for speaking at meetings, never taking action about it. While ALL citizens should be able to freely speak, care must be taken with our choice of words - and our behavior ought never get violent, no matter what. There is no excuse for that.

Consumer -
I put a long and thoughtful comment in about Jimmy's question yesterday, but I must have forgotten to put a required field in, because it did not post, rather I lost the whole thing. So I made the quick comment back to Fred and All instead.

As I told Fred, it's not my intention to get into a long and drawn out discussion about the trees in a blog, as that's the City's purview to handle officially. That said, CAADA is the California Avenue Area Development Association, a non-profit that was formed in 1957 by a group of men that were either professionals on Cal Ave and/or property owners.

There's a plaque in their honor in front of Accent Arts - they were the local pharmacist, the attorney, the property manager, etc. A group of people with a lot at stake in making Cal Ave a good place to be.

They had a vision for Cal Ave that developed into almost exactly what you see today. They assessed themselves and even paid for the parking lots - designing the footprint of what you see today, and from what I understand, they did most of it without city funds.

Their motto was: "Small town shopping in the heart of the city", and basically, that's why CAADA still exists today. It's to support merchants, to create a pleasant environment for people to shop, and to be a conduit for communication to the city.

A few things that have happened on Cal Ave over the years, so you can get an idea of its function:

- Last Oct. 31 was the 15th Annual "Trick or Treat" for Kids where over 50 merchants welcomed kids ages 10 and under to come for treats.

- Last Dec. 6th was the annual "Santa Train" from Caltrain, where a train comes from SF decorated w/ 40,000 lights, and a cast of characters talk with kids, while a chorus leads in caroling - the US Marine Corp + Salvation Army collects Toys for Tots. CAADA was also responsible for decorating the Avenue for over 15 years, with wreathes and banners on each light pole.

- There have been numerous Coat Drives to benefit the Urban Ministry, and when CAADA learned there was a need for family clothing for Mother Branch's East Palo Alto Community Center, merchants joined with PACCC (Palo Alto Community Child Care) and collected truckloads of nearly new clothing for several years in a row.

- There were many contests for kids, to engage them in creative things: "Draw Your Ideal Farm" and an Essay Contest about why to eat organic foods, the question was submitted by a famous author from the Midwest, and he was the judge, included in the prizes were recognitions from the California Dept. of Agriculture and Anna Eshoo's office, there was "Kids Day" - where they met the PAPD and were fingerprinted.

- When the infrastructure work was being prolonged, CAADA sought out to have improvements that would come quicker, and decided upon art. While some people do not like the art (let's face it, some HATE the art) others love the same pieces, and Cal Ave became "Palo Alto's Avenue of Art". Many merchants contributed funds entering into a public/private partnership and there are 15 pieces there now, drawing art lovers from as far away as the Orient - (that's a fact!)

- When CAADA heard the community wanted a Farmer's Market, former Evergreen resident & merchant Sanford Forte did all the legwork and got a wonderful producer to handle the year-round effort. I only got involved at the very end, when the city fees were so high it was prohibitive. I got fees reduced, and handled all the advertising for the event, so this non-profit Farmer's Market could happen. The community loves it, and it was a hit from Day One.

-The most adventurous effort was one day a merchant at 201 California Ave asked me why his street corner was undeveloped, with just mud and rosemary bushes planted there. He pointed out it did not have the brick patio and brick wall and bench, like all the other corners. It looked as if when they did the street, they ran out of money, leaving that corner out. The owner offered to pay to make it like the other corners. So I worked with the city to get the proper permits, and found a contractor to do the work, and the owner (CAADA member) paid $16,700 himself, to provide a nice place for the community to sit. It cost the city nothing - and I was told had the city done it, the cost would have been $35-40K.

- One day, I was told that the city had sent out violations to restaurants because they had tables and chairs on the sidewalk, and there were no encroachment permits. There was to be a flat fee of $800 (if memory serves) for each business, no matter how many tables were there - one table, $800. So at a CAADA meeting, the hardship was mentioned and the head of Economic Development came up with a great idea: to do a "Blanket Permit" where ALL the restaurants could share one permit and one fee. The one time charge was around $75. A big difference. (By the way, downtown has been trying to do a blanket permit for most all of 2009, and unlike Cal Ave restaurants that jumped at the chance, downtown merchants are reluctant. I don't know why. It's a wonderful idea. It will show the judge in the Victor Frost case the city IS enforcing the ordinance. Cal Ave's enforcement happened in 2003, but it is not enforced downtown.)

- Newsracks have been a big problem in the Cal Ave district and CAADA came very close to being designated "Special" like downtown, but a year ago, when the item was brought to Council, CAADA received the City Manager's Report the day it went public. Concerns that had been raised earlier were not addressed. As the item was put on the Consent Calendar, CAADA had to stop it. It hasn't been a priority for the city since. Did you know that only last Summer, you could have bought a newspaper for 50 cents in several racks, and the issue inside was dated 2005? I bought a copy of it in 2007. The city finally allowed another publication to take over the box, 4 years after it was abandoned.

- CAADA is the only official member of PAN and merchants even participated in the E-Prep drills, Golden Guardian and Silver Sentinel, and it has its own "Command Center" so in an emergency when no one can count on city services as usual, CAADA will be able to be in communication with each other and with the designated Fire Station.

There are SO many things CAADA has done over the past 20 years that I've been involved - but the above is just off the top, to give you an idea of what the projects are. It is completely volunteer driven.
Thank you for your interest - I hope this helps you! I hope this posts!


Mireya
South of Midtown
on Jan 4, 2010 at 2:42 pm
Mireya, South of Midtown
on Jan 4, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Does anyone have a picture of what Cal Ave. looked like with trees? We just recently moved here. I think that it must have been lovely!


Dave
College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm
Dave, College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Personally, I think it was good idea to cut down all those trees. They offered very little to the ambiance, and they were messy. A uniform planting of red maples would have been the best approach, and they would have already been in the ground. CAADA made the right decision.

Palo Alto Whiners did what they do best...WHINE! Now we have a disjointed affair going on. A camel is a horse designed by committee, and this thing has become one ugly camel.


Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2010 at 7:42 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Dave-

From my perspective, since the residents were not notified by the city that this was going to happen, they were just shocked by it.

Their response APPEARS to be that they're whining. But that is not the case. I think they're just trying to come to terms with the shock. It's important to look BEHIND the reaction, and understand where they may be coming from. I have an idea of how they feel. The one tree I mourn is the glorious Pistache that used to be on Cambridge, right in front of the new Palo Alto Weekly building.

It was my most favorite tree of all, because you could see it on Cambridge from Cal Ave, down the alley that runs between Country Sun and Bank of the West. It was chopped down one day when the PA Weekly was being built. It was the most gorgeous tree in the Fall, with large healthy branches & perfect proportions. It was a beauty!

When they put orange netting around it, I thought they were going to protect it. But one day, I walked by and saw the last of it being destroyed.

Out loud, I repeated over and over to the Bank of the West parking lot attendant, "I don't believe it!!" He replied, "It's progress."

To this day, when I walk and glance down that alley and see the sickly little stick that grows where that mature & stately Pistache was, I know how the residents feel. I miss the old tree. So I understand how they must feel.

If ALL the Pistache trees were chopped down at once on Cambridge, I'd join in on the protest! Actually, that may happen because LOTS of other properties are going to be developed on Cambridge, and there are lots of Pistache trees that may be blocking the businesses. So what happened to my favorite tree, may happen, one by one, to the others. No one noticed, but me - and the parking attendant. It would be a shame if that happens. Cambridge has a wonderful canopy.

I think residents were dismayed and disappointed and it turned into outrage. Too many things have gone wrong in the past few years. The city overall is, I think, filled with well-meaning people. I don't think any of them SET OUT to mess up.

But there is no SYSTEM in place to serve as a "Best Practice" and too many in the city lack people skills to deal with the fallout that happens when a mess-up happens. There is NO good excuse for the residents not being informed. None. But the worse thing to do is to have a me-them attitude. Citizens must be in this together.

A bit of irony is when the fountain was the hot button issue in the Fall of 2008, I tried to get a few residents interested in trees, showing them the 300 block and the 200 block that had lost trees over the years to the point that the area looked desolate.

To a person, their eyes would glaze over. Even when I pointed out to them the places where trees were cut down over 10 years ago, and there was just a big square of dirt where nothing grew, and the places in front of Illusions (200 block of Cal Ave) by Norge Cleaners, where tree wells were cemented over, it was of no interest to any of them.

Granted, I was talking with members of the general public that up until then, were only interested in preserving the existing fountain.

But mud squares and cemented tree wells were a condition that had gone on for YEARS. I thought if they were interested in the fountain, they may be interested in helping bring trees to Cal Ave. I failed. Only the fountain was their focus, and each insisted it be repaired.

At that time, it was difficult to persuade people to see how cracked the fountain was, beyond repair, and that the pump was going to die any day, which it did. The fountain has been turned off for the better part of 2009. Between Jan '09 and May or so, it was off for weeks at a time, and then the pump finally died, as expected.

But I really didn't understand how the sight of big squares of mud and cemented over tree wells didn't make much of an impression on the general public back then.

There are many issues that affect a district: safe crosswalks, safe & clean sidewalks, safe streets, safety for bicylists, pedestrians, ample and safe parking, enough benches, clean trash cans, no weeds, good visibility & directional signs for drivers, good lighting, water fountains that work, inviting landscaping, varied retail businesses, varied and OCCUPIED newspaper racks, public art sprinkled in the mix, control of graffiti, attractions to draw people to the street during otherwise sleepy times of the week (ie Farmer's Market, the Jewish To Life! Cultural Street Fair, Twilight Concert), the ability of the neighborhood to help one another & visitors, in an emergency. It's short sighted to be a one-issue citizen. At the time the fountain was the hot topic, I wish I'd have been able to get people interested in trees. I failed in getting them interested in newsracks then too.

I took several pictures of the trees back then, mostly to show people they needed HELP. Since the Holly Oaks almost always had to be trimmed mostly on ONE side, it caused the topheavy lopsided side to droop into the street, looking odd - it gave shade, but at what cost.

So overall, the new plan looks like it will be wonderful. I'm glad the 200 block and the 300 block are finally GETTING trees, whether they be Red Maple or evergreen. It will be super to see trees there!
The 200 and 300 blocks have been a desert, for YEARS.

Speaking for myself, I'm glad the residents are getting involved. A few months ago, I was walking downtown Saratoga on a Sunday morning, and saw a woman in work clothes hosing down the sidewalk on Big Basin Way - I greeted her and asked her what business she owned. She said, "Oh, I don't own a business. I'm a resident. But this is OUR downtown, and we're proud of it. We're ALL out today - we come every week, to clean up!"

There were about 5 women all over town, furiously weeding the colorful flowers in the big pots they brought to spruce up the street. Merchants allow them to use their water, and the residents hose off the sidewalks. It looked squeaky clean.

She apologized to me for just hosing a cigarette butt that was under a bench into the street, not picking it up- she forgot her gloves.

I was in shock - I didn't even SEE the cigarette butt. The worst thing I picked up on California Avenue was a diaper. I return shopping carts to Country Sun and Mollie Stones ALL the time.

Fliers are all over the sidewalks, cups (some half full), napkins, and often, people leave whole trays of food on top of the newsracks.
Newsracks are used to post fliers for Garage sales, etc., making it look tacky. Cigarette butts would blend in - I don't even see them.

So I'm thrilled the residents are taking an interest in the California Avenue district. This is a win/win for everyone and a step in the right direction, from my perspective.

It will be wonderful to see trees on Cal Ave and to see so many interested and engaged residents, all working together to make Cal Ave live up to it's original motto: "Small town shopping in the heart of the city." - how I felt, when I was in Saratoga.


pat
Midtown
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:14 pm
pat, Midtown
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Ronna:

Couple of things:
1. You didn’t respond to Fred Balin’s question about the “September 3rd, email notification of the upcoming work was sent to CAADA, which they distributed to their members and Palo Alto Neighborhood associations." [See page 2 of CMR:400:09 ]

He asked, “Was there in fact a city email notification to CAADA on September 3?”

2. You say, “there are lots of Pistache trees that may be blocking the businesses” on Cambridge.

Why did the old Pistache in front of the Weekly have to come down?
How does a tree “block” a business? Does it block people from entering a building? Does it block signage? If the latter, how have all those businesses on CA Ave survive all these years with the big old trees? Maybe we better chop down all the trees on University Ave. again.

3. Ronna, you are writing volumes on this blog for a very small audience. I urge you to write to the city manager and city council with your concerns.

There are at least two sides to every story and it would be worthwhile for everyone involved in the tree disaster to talk about it in order to learn and make improvements.

Too Much Traffic:
Thank you for your comments on “vitriol.”

I thought I was the only one who remembered the JimBurch/Aram James debacle. Burch was very clear that it was unacceptable for anyone to criticize the city manager.

Council members have very thin skins. Anyone who disagrees with them is branded a disgruntled naysayer.

They talk about civic engagement, but they really want to stay in their ivory towers and avoid the “vitriolic” rabble. Why else would they pay for the Open City Hall website, which allows us peasants to comment – on the few topics Council posts! – but they don’t have to respond. Nor do they have to pay attention to our comments.


bikes2work
Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:24 pm
bikes2work, Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Posted by Jimmy, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Ronna, Thank you for the detailed accounts from your perspective. Maybe I missed it in the above posts, but could you please answer the following questions for me:

1. Who is actively on the CAADA (Name/affiliation)?

2. Who is part of the "Streetscape Subcommittee?"

3. How does one become part of the CAADA?

4. Are/were the meetings open to the public?


Dave
College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:35 pm
Dave, College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Ronna,

You have expressed some heartfelt comments. You are clearly into it, in order to improve California Ave. It doesn't surpise me that you have been a target of the whiners. Yes, Ronna, there ARE many whiners in PA. Goes with the territory. You have done a good job, and no need for pennance.

Has it occured to you that the BEST way to get the whiners involved in the tree issue is to cut them down? They were ugly, as well as messy. IF you were able to plant 100% red maples, at the same time, it would have been a good thing for the shopping district. Now we have a mixture of trees coming our way, with no serious reason to do so...other than a bunch of whiners wanted to do SOMETHING different than the original plan, provided by CAADA.

California Ave. will prosper, IF it can avoid the mistakes of University Ave. Cal Ave. has that small town feeling, and it would be a huge mistake to turn into a gin mill or a high density transit zone. CAADA has done a good job, and you are to be commended.


Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2010 at 11:19 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Pat - by blocking businesses I meant the development of a NEW building on Cambridge Ave, such as the building of the Palo Alto Weekly, not any existing buildings. There are several locations that will most likely see development in the near future, and taking a tree out is easier to build around. I'm sorry I didn't make myself clear about that.

- and thank you, Dave. I appreciate your comments greatly, agreeing that Cal Ave ought to keep its hometown feel, and I'll give you the last word! Signing off.


Gennady Sheyner
Registered user
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jan 5, 2010 at 11:17 am
Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
Registered user
on Jan 5, 2010 at 11:17 am

Hi Ronna,

Thank you for your comments. You mentioned that the newspapers didn't ask you for the facts "objectively" because they were "too busy jumping to conclusions, putting their thoughts & whims into print."

You also wrote that two reporters "FINALLY asked me what had happened, WEEKS after what became a big story. Other reporters just went ahead and wrote stories, even three editorials [including the Weekly] without ever asking me for facts."

Just to clarify, the Weekly asked you for the facts just after the trees were chopped down (not "WEEKS" after). We quoted you in our first story on the tree removal.

In a Sept. 18 story by Sue Dremann, you said the trees "were so dense they were growing around the streetlights, impeding light from shining down, causing safety concerns, especially in that area, so close to where there were robberies of women last year."

Here is the link:

Web Link

More recently, I emailed you to set up a time to talk about the tree removal for my "timeline" story, but you declined to talk.

Gennady


Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I owe Sue Dremann an apology. Sue, please forgive me. I was wrong. I forgot you called right after the trees were cut down and wrote that article.

Will Oremus at the Daily News asked me about the trees once too, in person, the day after work began. The Daily Post never asked for information at all.

It was the editorial Jay Thorwaldson wrote that I was referring to when I commented about "thoughts and whims" - Jay never contacted me for details before he weighed in on the trees.

While the lions share of his article that addressed other issues was good, I took offense at the conclusion he drew at the end, that seemed to mock a serious matter of the trees on Cal Ave., and the Weekly is now a business neighbor. I expected better of Jay.

It was on December 2, Gennady, that you were writing your article to chronicle what happened. By that time, I did not want to talk.
You are correct.

In retrospect, at the time the trees were cut down, and prior to the story becoming big, would it not have made sense for one reporter to get detailed recollections of everyone back then, not just bits and pieces of information in sound bytes?

That way a report could be made at any time, portraying an accurate picture when it happened. That would have been a public service. People would not still be wondering what happened.

By Dec. 2, a lot had gone on, causing me to be less inclined to talk with reporters. While I know Sue fairly well and could have felt more comfortable with her had she called me, Gennady, I know you only through your articles - which, from other people you have quoted, I understand to be very well-researched and written.

But I didn't want to take a chance with you, giving quotes on such an important topic. It was best for you to rely on public record.

Thank you for pointing out my error, Gennady - good thing I'm told not many people read this -- it's an ideal place to stand corrected, as it applies to the Sept. 18th article written by Sue Dremann.

Sue, just to you - again, I'm so sorry, I was wrong. Sept 18 .. a lot happened since then.


anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm
anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Does anybody out there - Ronna? any other member of CAADA? a reporter? a Ca Ave merchant? - know the answers to these questions?
Why is this information apparently not available somewhere?

"1. Who is actively on the CAADA (Name/affiliation)?

2. Who is part of the "Streetscape Subcommittee?"

3. How does one become part of the CAADA?

4. Are/were the meetings open to the public?"


Herb Borock
Professorville
on Jan 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm
Herb Borock, Professorville
on Jan 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm

The most recently filed information return received May 19, 2008, by the Registry of Charitable Trusts in the California Attorney General's office lists only the three officers rather than all the members of the board of directors.

Two of those officers are local: President Ronna Divicenzi and Secretary Terry Schuchat.

The information return is at Web Link


Dave
College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm
Dave, College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


consumer
Menlo Park
on Jan 6, 2010 at 5:44 pm
consumer, Menlo Park
on Jan 6, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Thanks Herb, It looks like $50 total for dues received in for 2007, in addition to $3000 in contributions leading to a total of about $13000 in total assets. Not clear what spent. Who are these people that the City apparently relies on? if dues are $1.00 per year they have 50 members, if $10 per year they have 5, if $25 they have . . . .


margaret heath
College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm
margaret heath, College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Dear Ms. Devincenzi,

Having followed the California Avenue tree cutting from the first day this occurred, I find your perspective and comments very enlightening, and I appreciate your setting the record straight as far as CAADA is concerned.

However, as an entity that represents California Avenue merchants, and has represented them with the city over many years to improve California Avenue, I am at a loss to understand why the following information about CAADA appears to be being withheld:

1. Who is actively on the CAADA (Name/affiliation)?

2. Who is part of the "Streetscape Subcommittee?"

3. How does one become part of the CAADA?

4. Are/were the meetings open to the public?

Could you please enlighten us, and if you believe this information is confidential, please let us know why.

Sincerely,
Margaret Heath




Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm

To Margaret Heath-

Thanks for posting an identifiable name. CAADA is an organization that has been in existence since the 1950's. Over the years, as businesses changed and as property changed hands, people that have been active in the association changed too.

In the past 20 years, not a lot of people have been beating down the door to roll up their sleeves and work for free. I must point out CAADA is 100% volunteer driven.

Any merchant, professional and commercial property owner in the California Ave corridor is welcomed to join CAADA. There are over 300 businesses in the district. Dues cost $75 per year to a non-profit, $100 a year to retail and professionals & dues for property owners are based on how many properties they own.

Only about 30 individuals pay dues. With the economy and the angst caused by the trees in 2009, no dues went out at all to anyone. Being volunteer driven, the organization has no ongoing expenses.

Over the past 20 years, any business or property owner that asked CAADA for help, was helped.

Here is an example -
In 2003, as a result of a complaint made regarding tables and chairs on sidewalks, Cal Ave restaurants received notices to comply with the ordinance by getting an encroachment permit, or remove their furniture from the sidewalk.

There was a flat fee of around $800 and it was a hardship to many. So CAADA assisted in the process of getting a "Blanket permit" where any business that wanted to participate only had to pay a one time fee of around $75. The process was smooth. Cal Ave restaurant owners jumped at the opportunity, being saved from high fees.

By comparison, the downtown BID (Business Improvement District), is an orgainzation in which dues are not voluntary, and rather legally regulated & enforced.

The BID has tried to do a Blanket permit for their restaurants for almost a year. But many downtown restaurants are reluctant to comply, even though it is a key factor that may jeopardize the ability to retain their sit/lie ban, affecting its extension to other parts of the city.

Non-dues paying Cal Ave merchants have also been welcomed to participate in all the events that have happened to draw people to the Avenue too.

For 14 of the 15 years the district hosted "Trick or Treat" on Halloween, each business was provided FREE advertising, with their store name on a cut-out newspaper map, for the convenience of parents. Those ads cost money & were not the freebie "community service" ads.

There have been essay contests, drawing contests, Kid's Day, numerous Coat Drives held the whole the month of November and culminating on Thanksgiving.

There were 20 Santa Trains (now Caltrain's "Holiday Train") and in a column lamenting the fact that there were no decorations downtown a few years ago for the holidays, Diana Diamond described the enormous red velvet ribbons that decked out ALL Cal Ave's trees as "perky".

CAADA arranged for 32 banners and 32 decorated wreathes to be put on all the light poles. The City helped to decorate downtown. But CAADA handles and paid for its own decorations entirely.

Non-dues paying merchants have benefitted, by the Cal Ave district being the ONLY business organization to be included in PAN and E-prep that prepared for an emergency by taking part in the Golden Guardian and Silver Sentinel exercises, and CAADA has an equipped "command center" for communications in a complete shut-down.

Merchants & the community benefits from the year-round Farmer's Market, that draws people to the district on Sunday mornings, an otherwise sleepy time.

All CAADA meetings are open to any CAADA member to attend. Non-dues paying merchants with businesses located in the district are also welcomed to attend meetings - it would be a great way to know them better, and a good opportunity for them to become active.

When the fountain was an issue, some merchants did not read the email updates they got about it, and yet they wanted to weigh in. So the CAADA Board changed the day it met from a Wednesday to a Thursday, to accommodate merchants that said Thursday was better. That was in January 2009.

Over the yeas, I compiled a list of 85+email addresses, including everyone = dues-paying and NON-dues paying merchants. Each gets regular email information regarding Cal Ave.

Not one extra person attended the meeting on the new meeting day, and in fact, the board lost a couple people that would be able to attend. No one complained when it went back to a Wednesday and the communications with those merchants that spoke up about the fountain issue is now excellent.

If anyone from the general public has anything to broach that would affect the district, the norm has been to put it in writing, and I then have brought the item to the CAADA board. If the topic is more extensive to discuss, the person may be asked to be a guest, and give a presentation.

That happened when Oscar Castillo had the idea to paint a mural on the underpass by the train station. This artist wanted to teach kids to use spray paint for art, rather than for graffiti, and when the mural was completed, it coincided with the International Year of the Ocean. Oscar came as a guest and gave a presentation.

Regarding the Streetscape Committee:
Much work was done as the Streetscape was forming from 2005-2006 including the determination of priorities, as cost was an object.

Only two existing CAADA board members were on that CAADA sub-committee. The third CAADA Board member moved from the area in February 2008, and had no part in any recent events. I was not on the CAADA Sub-Committee.

I am not going to name names to residents because on my own behalf, because to the few people reading this blog (perhaps even fewer now!)I'll share with you that I regret having attended the first city council meeting after the trees were cut down. I felt an obligation to be at that meeting, to address whatever concerns I could and to stand with the city, as this project had gone on for four years, but I miscalculated the outcome.

Further, I regret having complied with the city's request to notify everyone, including residents, about the upcoming work. I had no idea that on July 31, when I was told "public outreach" was going to begin by the city, it did NOT happen, and that the ONLY notification residents got was from me on or after Sept. 9.

Being visible to the public got my name out there, and ever since, focus has been on CAADA and on me, in particular, rather than on the City, where it ought to be. The more questions I answer, the more questions come in, and on this blog (the only one I've read) from anonymous people.

It is a no-win. I do not intend to answer any more questions from the public in this blog, and ask you all to respect that. I will not even be reading it. I just looked today, because I wanted to check a fact I provided.

That said, I do not understand why the Weekly has not covered this, one of their "Top Stories of 2009" BETTER and EARLIER. I am amazed that the public still has questions that go unanswered.

Although I owed Sue Dremann an apology for forgetting she called me for a very brief quote for her Sept. 18 article, the Weekly did not cover all this information adequately, and upfront. Blogs are being used for people to get "information" that is often distorted.

Here's my point:

Trees were cut down on Sept. 16

Sue Dremann of the PA Weekly DID contact me - and reported a brief quote as of September 18.

On September 23, I sent an e-mail to Jay Thorwaldson to welcome him and the PA Weekly into their new building on Cambridge Ave., and to tell him that I didn't give the Daily Post an exclusive story, rather, the "news" they ran on a Saturday had been my "Day Two" update from the previous Tuesday, right as the trees were being cut.

Jay thanked me and wrote the Weekly would be printing something about the trees because the city had made so many errors over the past couple of years. That is the editorial I referred to earlier, where much of it was good, but his concluding remarks were not.

After that, a LOT was written causing me to be reluctant to speak to anyone but the city and the few CAADA merchants that contacted me.

Not until October 8 did Jay write, "Wow, Ronna. Is everything true?" - about the trees. That was 3 weeks later. By that time, I had no inclination to speak about it at all.

On December 2, when Gennady contacted me, I most certainly did not want to talk. By that time, a tree plan had been formed by the public, and those involved were looking forward to see it happen, things were looking up.

Please All: respect that I am not going to answer any further questions about trees in a blog for residents. It is the City of Palo Alto Staff and City Council that should be reporting to you.

I hope I have answered your questions about CAADA, Margaret, about how it functions, and what it does. Often, the public thinks the city alone does a lot of things when it is actually CAADA that is to be credited, like the 12 window boxes attached to brick walls, dotting the avenue, and the brick patio and brick wall ITSELF in front of 201 Calif. Ave, where people like to sit.

If you know of any merchants or commercial property owners in the Cal Ave district, encourage them to become involved in CAADA.

Nothing about CAADA is confidential. But I am only inclined to speak with business owners, and property owners, because so far, trying to reach out to residents has proven to be counter-productive.

Most importantly, reaching out to residents is a task that belongs solely to the City Staff and to City Council.

I could have done public outreach myself! I advertised the Farmer's Market! If I only knew it was necessary. But I had no idea that on July 31, when I was told outreach would begin, it did not happen.

... and to you, Margaret, thank you!


anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm
anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm

"Nothing about CAADA is confidential."

Except, apparently, the names of the current board members.


Jimmy
College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2010 at 1:46 pm
Jimmy, College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2010 at 1:46 pm

What a complete & total farce. Perhaps Ronna wont disclose the names because the truth is that there are only 2 or 3 people left involved in CAADA (which is also the same 2 or 3 in the "Tree Subcommittee"). They wanted the trees gone ASAP and they pulled it off.

California Ave merchants really need to re-organize because, from what I can tell from the above, the current situation is unacceptably clandestine and disorganized.


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