News

El Palo Alto tree sprayed with graffiti

City's iconic tree vandalized; trash strewn around it

Palo Alto's iconic El Palo Alto tree has been sprayed with graffiti by one or more vandals, who also left alcohol containers and other litter on the ground next to the famous coast redwood.

The city's namesake tree, which is estimated to be about 1,070 years old, had black, white and green graffiti on the western side of its trunk on Thursday afternoon. The railing separating El Palo Alto Park, where the tree stands, from the adjacent Caltrain tracks was also covered in white graffiti.

Most of the graffiti was illegible, though the words "nail-gun" were sprayed on El Palo Alto's trunk. An empty malt-liquor can and a malt-liquor bottle were lying on the ground next to the tree, along with rags and other small items of debris.

The tree, which is considered by many to be the main symbol of Palo Alto, is located near the intersection of Alma Street, El Camino Real and Palo Alto Avenue. In 1968, California designated El Palo Alto as a California Historical Landmark No. 2.

The tree, whose name means "the tall stick" in Spanish, has also been designated "Point of Historical Interest" by Santa Clara County. The National Arborist Association and International Society of Arboriculture recognized El Palo Alto as historically significant because it served as a campsite for the Portola Expedition Party of 1769.

Dave Dockter, the city's managing arborist in the Planning Department, called the vandalism of El Palo Alto "unsettling" and "destructive," even by vandals' standards. He called El Palo Alto a "destination tree" that routinely attracts visitors from outside the city, the state and the country.

"It's just unsettling that someone would vandalize a piece of history like that, in a way that's irrevocably damaging," he said.

Dockter, who saw the damage on Thursday afternoon, said the city's best course of action could be to spray some brown paint on the tree to mask the graffiti. He said he would not recommend more drastic actions, such as removing the vandalized sections of the tree's bark, because bark serves as a protective layer for the tree.

"Whatever fix is chosen should, first of all, do no harm," Dockter said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by kb
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

How very sad,


Like this comment
Posted by local gurl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:12 am

Can someone explain to me how a person justifies this kind of action to him or herself?


Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:58 am

I really don't like people too much anymore.


Like this comment
Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:18 am

Just wondering with my paranoia if High Speed Railway proponents could be involved?!


Like this comment
Posted by floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:26 am

Joel has me wondering although in a different direction.
What effect will the HSR (if they use the existing track placement) have on the El Palo Alto. I didn't realize that it was over 1000 years old.


1 person likes this
Posted by Graffiti discourager
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:27 am

Making this news is what graffiti artists want. It makes them celebrities within their circles. Just remove it quietly, while the culprits sober up.


Like this comment
Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:32 am

Does the tree have, or would it be possible to install, motion-sensitive lights aimed at it, so it would detect movement, especially at night? I don't know how much this would help, but it might be a deterrent.


Like this comment
Posted by A curse placed on those graffiti idiots
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:33 am

So sorry for that beautiful tree to be subjected to such ignorance and disrespect... Shame on those kids and their parents. Karma will get them. I'm sure of it.


Like this comment
Posted by Karen. Bloomfeild
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:53 am

Yeah, how dare those kid's parents allow them to do that. SHAME ON THE PARENTS! Young people should never be allowed to make mistakes under any circumstances, and they should ALWAYS be under supervision. The parents of these children should be put on trial for not keeping their kids locked in cages. The youth should be taught to act like respectable members of society - like our nation's great politicians - they never get DUIs, hire prostitutes, lie, cheat and steal tax payer money now do they???

I'M OUTRAGED!


Like this comment
Posted by wondering
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm

how will HSR affect El Palo Alto?


Like this comment
Posted by none
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Time to active Neighborhood Watch in every neighborhood and take back the community from those that seek to destroy it. We do this by being out in the neighborhood, not behind closed doors sequestered and disconnected from those around us.

Challenge out to all to be vigilant and present in protecting the neighborhoods and build community.


Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm

These kids had no idea the tree was historical - they were drunk and probably stoned, and being stupid; unfortunately El Palo Alto was right next to them.


Like this comment
Posted by Alistaire McPeddlesworth
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by DMW
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I can't tell if Karen bloom fields response is sarcastic or not.
Despite that, this act is ridiculous....

However, the types of graffiti artists who brag about their tags make pieces that are really quite artistic in nature and do not deface natural objects, such as trees. The people who did this are clearly not those type of graffiti artists, but must be the same immature derelicts who spend time drinking alcohol after school down in the PA creek quite close to the PA tree. This has been a problem for years that the PAPD ought to have resolved by now.

This reflects a problem with society in general.... The tendency for parents and other authorities to take a stance of appeasement when it comes to children and the actions they ought to be punished for. And yes, spanking ought to still be in practice, although used sparingly.


Like this comment
Posted by none
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm

@ alistaire & dave

El Palo is marked with signs. They didn't tag any other trees.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Christof LaBidet
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

This IS very disturbing. I'm inclined to believe they did know which tree they were tagging. I agree that a lot of publicity might result in more vandalism. I was surprised to read that they can't clean it off the tree without destroying the bark.


Like this comment
Posted by Big Al
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Well, had to chime in on this one too...
Spray painting trees is for children who don't have fathers to
guide them toward more positive pursuits.
Greed and being self absorbed is one of the effects that fathers
may inherit from a society that is incapable of distributing anything
but weapons and bloodshed.
Our society is morally bankrupt, and youth who deface the wonders of nature are simply a byproduct of the world around them.
Not trying to justify their actions, but the future looks bleak to those who we are faced with nothing either being a soldier or a cop, and since we are laying off cops, they must be soldiers or vandals, or both.


Like this comment
Posted by ufo
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 13, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Karen and fireman, wow!, keep the hate down and maybe there's hope for the human race. Everything isn't a conspiracy and who knows, probably it was only some bored kids with beer. It's only a tree, and as most experts have suggested, not even the original El Palo Alto redwood as claimed by city employees. Keep calm, all is well.


Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I wouldn't worry too much about the possibility that printing this info will urge on vandals. Most of them can't read, anyway (please note that most of the graffiti was illegible). Are these the same people who throw trash everywhere? Gotta be. They just don't care, and so why respect other peoples' property, much less an "iconic" symbol of Palo Alto? Oh, ye of too much faith!


Like this comment
Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Aug 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Wondering,

Because the California High-Speed Rail Authority has yet to select the final design for the Palo Alto section of the rail line, it's difficult to say what the rail system's impact will be on El Palo Alto. Robert Doty, the lead engineer for the San Francisco-to-San Jose section of the line, mentioned El Palo Alto at the Aug. 5 meeting of the rail authority and said, "We cannot do anything to damage it... It has to stay protected."

Under the most recent plans, trains in this section of the line would run either at-grade or in an open trench.

Gennady


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm

A proper definition of "hate crime" is a wilful destructive act against society not based in profit or benefit to the perpetrator.

Graffiti definitely qualifies.




Like this comment
Posted by Albert Skarssborgden
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Just an observation for you, Outside Observer. You really think graffiti should be punished as a hate crime? You really feel the need to further burden our legal system and jails by trying taggers under hate crime law - most of whom are young kids? Is that really the best use of our state's resources? What are your priorities in life - creating well informed opinions on social issues, or spurting off ignorant reactions based on a scared, emotional reaction?


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm

There's a sense of such respect for these living trees. This recent act is pretty pathetic and sad, is there a plaque that states this particular tree is a historical landmark?
Don't know how someone could do this but based on other posting comments, one should not assume these are kids or proponents.
Let's be passionate because we're all nature lovers but not start blindly blaming hatefully. It just starts unnecesary rants.


Like this comment
Posted by TJ
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Well, Diridon wants it down so he can put through HSR. If he tunnels underneath it he will damage the root system permanently.


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm

"further burden our legal system and jails by trying taggers under hate crime law "

You have a point there, but I suspect not the one you intended.

Namely the nature of our "so called" criminal justice system. It is a system that has been corrupted to perpetuate itself at taxpayer expense. It has nothing to with "justice" and a lot to do with "criminal".

As for graffiti, Singapore has effective methods.







Like this comment
Posted by AJ
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by left wondering
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Do we know they were kids or are people assuming that because the vandals used Paly's colors to spray paint the tree?


Like this comment
Posted by Don G.
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Saddened but not surprised. Amazing they could spell at all?!


1 person likes this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:23 pm

<< Robert Doty, the lead engineer for the San Francisco-to-San Jose section of the line, mentioned El Palo Alto at the Aug. 5 meeting of the rail authority and said, "We cannot do anything to damage it... It has to stay protected." >>

How very generous of the HSR authority to let us keep our founding landmark.


1 person likes this
Posted by steve
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

I am very surprised how many people are crying over this.. First of all the graffiti is behind the tree, where the homeless often sleep, and it cannot be seen from the bridge or path. I personally saw the same graffiti on this tree over a year and a half ago and people are just now noticing it?? I hate to say it but this just shows that the culprits in this case are most likely much more generally alert/aware of their surroundings than the "concerned caring citizens" of Palo Alto. Furthermore, to say that they cant spell is completely ignorant as well since they could be anyone, even your own kids. Apparently nobody saw this on the tree until someone got emotional and put it in the news, even though its been there for almost two years, and half the people on here have most likely passed it numerous times without noticing the graffiti. the real ignorance here is assumption.. Being a parent myself, it is crucial to not overly stress the importance of being sober and productive. Before anyone starts ranting at me for saying this, I can say from experience that the kids who have overly-controlling parents are much more likely to rebel and do exactly whet they are told not to in acts of revenge against their parents who dont acually know how to parent, and are trying to raise their kids to become robots..

"must be the same immature derelicts who spend time drinking alcohol after school down in the PA creek quite close to the PA tree. This has been a problem for years that the PAPD ought to have resolved by now." Maybe there should just be officers on routine patrols through the creek just to catch some kids drinking some beer? HA! Sorry to break your dreams, but there will be kids doing the same thing anywhere in the world regardless of what new pitiful failure of a plan the police think they have to stop it.

Cheers.


1 person likes this
Posted by Sethro
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 12:08 pm

The only option the HSR has near the tree is tunneling underneath the creek. This is clearly stated in the reports, it's required by federal law. The tree will be protected, the roots won't be harmed.


Like this comment
Posted by Pamela
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm

The controversies that embody this graffitti on this historical and beautiful tree continue to spark debate. It seems the unknown artists are trying to voice their point of view in a satirical manner.


Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Perhaps we should form a "high tech" version of neighborhood watch. This could be done with night-vision Internet cameras streaming to a website that can be viewed by everybody.


Like this comment
Posted by Ultra Concerned and scared
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Concerned, I couldn't agree more with you - let's spend tax payer dollars to install and run a night vision camera that watches a single tree. BRILLIANT! Next can we install cameras that let us watch grass grow??


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 7:17 pm

City of Palo Alto already has 2 internet cameras of dubious value. One on San Francisquito creek, and one in the foothills.

Why not another on El Palo Alto?

I'm sure they could do it for somewhat less than the $250K cost of their website.


Like this comment
Posted by DMW
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Steve,

Didn't say anything about routine patrols. and yes kids will continue to drink beer even if police crack down on that one spot. However, this does not mean we should condone it, especially in public spaces, and especially if it leads to vandalism of a historical landmark, one that represents the city in which we live.

And it is not really the drinking that concerns me, its taking a stance of appeasement towards these activities and where that leads to that is of concern. Having known many of the kids that spent time engaging in those activities in the creek and seeing where they have ended up (read: nowhere, petty criminals) I find it completely reasonable to be concerned about such behavior.


Like this comment
Posted by Really?
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Where's this foothills camera located?


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 8:41 pm

"Where's this foothills camera located?"

Here: Web Link

You will need Java installed to view it.


3 people like this
Posted by Low heat pan cook Oner
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Spray Paint doesnt affect the tree's health or well being. who cares? oh yeah, the concerned residents of palo alto of course. its in a spot that you would pretty much only see if you were hiding, drinking a beer, homeless, going pee, hitting a tag, or a wild animal. stop caring so much, the unnatural stress levels of P.A. folks is going to give you all heart attacks. Ive spent countless hours with my back against that tree, have probably been in its presence a thousand times longer than all of you combined, and those tags have been there for over two years, so i dont think any of you have the right to complain about what an atrocious crime it is. If your cared this much, you would have said something in 2007. But no, you simply need a reason to complain and fixate on this fallacious notion that somebody is out there trying to destroy your poor little community. As for Outsider Observer oner here^^^^^^^^ i completely agree. singapore does have affective methods. I think we should reinstate cutting peoples hands off for stealing too. You have no idea what your talking about, and your throwing your opinion around like you do. Your simply hating something because you don't understand a single thing about it. I've tagged on trees before, and they eventually get weathered and fade naturally, in another 2~3 years you won't even be able to tell there were tags on it. I don't think a thousand year old tree would mind having a temporary tattoo in a place few will ever see it. Hava Bad Day


Like this comment
Posted by DMW
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Pan cooker,

Why must you feel the need to tag trees? Why not throw up a truly artistic piece down in the train track creeks like the Graf-artists with real skills (read: out of sight)? Or on the abandoned cars in the train yards? Or better yet, on a canvas.
Oh, thats right, you can't, because real graffiti artists do not tolerate taggers with no skills like yourselves putting up trash that CANNOT be considered tasteful by any means.
Hasn't PA set up some graffiti artists league to deter senseless vandalism like that you engage in? I suggest you seek it out, unless for some reason that program is no longer running, which would be unfortunate.


Like this comment
Posted by TreeLover
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2010 at 12:46 am

Seems since there was.... "An empty malt-liquor can and a malt-liquor bottle were lying on the ground next to the tree, along with rags and other small items of debris" ----perhaps the city personnel could enlist an forensic expert that could check it out, e.g. AND when the forensic evidence is found, then the city can charge the person and pay a fine.


Like this comment
Posted by Ihateyuppies
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 15, 2010 at 10:33 am

do you think starving kids in Africa give a bleep about graff on trees? NO so neither should you bye.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Two comments:

(1) OMG Steve -- what kind of posting is (I quote) "In short, go @$%# yourself (he used the word). The comment is no better than what was done to the tree. Is this what Palo Alto "discussion" is about?

(2) All local parents should be considering the possibility that the vandalism could have been done by a local child -- maybe a well-to-do, smart, and mixed up kid. They drink too you know. Certainly we've had lots of evidence lately of some very mixed up wealthy kids in the community who hurt themselves and commit petty crimes.

I think it would be very hard to be a kid in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by DMW
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Yuppie hater,

The only reason the starving kids in Africa might not care is probably because they are also most likely illiterate and uneducated and, as you observed, have greater things to worry about (securing a meal). Maybe you are as well (uneducated, that is). Also we live in an environment where we have the privilege of being able to focus on things such as taking pride in our community and taking efforts to preserve it's pristine nature (being relatively sure that we can secure our next meal).

PS. I'm not a yuppie as I currently am not upper-middle class, and do not live in an urban environment. Also, the derogatory connotation that comes with the term yuppie is because such persons are thought of as materialistic and selfish. Clearly, caring about nature and the community in which one lives embodies neither of these characteristics. Please, think before you speak.


Like this comment
Posted by DMW
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Neighbor,

In Steve's defense, I made that derogatory comment.

Also, you are very correct that it could be a local child, as the persons who drank in the PA creek, from what I remember, were from PALY, GUNN, and M-A... as well as other schools.


Like this comment
Posted by steve
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

wow DMW and OutsideObserver must have more of a life than everone! spending more time getting butt-hurt and ranting over the internet than most kids do. much more productive than being drunk behind a tree where nobody will ever know you are there..


Like this comment
Posted by steve
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 15, 2010 at 3:13 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Low heat pan cook Oner
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 15, 2010 at 5:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Smoke dope from a rope, and tag cope. I cut throat, and wash my hands with soap.
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2010 at 7:18 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Zelda
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2010 at 9:31 am

Zelda is a registered user.

It looks like the comments on this topic have really degenerated, and I’m not sure if anybody is reading it anymore, but here is my opinion.

Remove the graffiti as quickly as possible to discourage other vandals, thus thwarting offenders' objective of having graffiti be widely seen.

If this becomes more than an isolated incident, more extreme measures would be called for: cordoning off the area with electronic surveillance, such as video or sound detection; rewards for information about vandals, increased punishment, holding parents accountable, etc.

Graffiti vandalism arises from boredom, despair, resentment, failure, and frustration, and fulfills certain psychological needs, including providing excitement and action, a sense of control, and an element of risk. These problems are much more difficult to solve.


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

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