Six century-old eucalyptus trees at Palo Alto's Eleanor Pardee Park that several residents and an arborist have deemed hazardous would stay standing -- for now -- under a plan that will be reviewed by the City Council Monday night (Jan. 10).
The Community Services Department is requesting $37,348 to remove four of the 10 eucalyptus (six others have already been removed) and replace them by mid-March with 12 fast-growing trees of another species that pose less of a danger.
One year ago, a massive eucalyptus branch broke off and nearly clobbered a visually impaired man who was out for a stroll.
The trees line the corner of the Center Drive and Channing Avenue park, where many residents stroll and a children's playground is located.
A consultant hired by the Public Works department found that the trees slated for removal were diseased or were improperly pruned and could topple or drop large limbs.
Several Crescent Park residents say they are not satisfied that the phased tree removal is adequate, and they point to a rebuttal letter written by Dave Muffly, arborist for the Palo Alto nonprofit urban-forest group Canopy, opposing the phased-tree removal.
"It is my professional opinion that it will be a mistake to keep these trees," he said, noting they are located in an area where many people could be hurt.
"At least one of the other trees along Channing shows clear signs of infection by sulfur fungus," he wrote in a seven-page rebuttal after a Dec. 1 community meeting with city staff regarding the tree plans.
But Greg Betts, director of community services, said the most dangerous trees are being removed on Center, where cars park. The species of eucalyptus on Channing are different from those on Center and are not as likely to have trunk rot and diseases, he said. In addition, no parking is allowed on Channing, so the potential for damage from falling branches is far less.
Betts said consultant Torrey Young, who prepared a 30-page report for the city in August, would be hired to annually monitor the remaining six trees clustered at the corner along Channing Avenue.
Young concluded in his report that none of the trees could be retained indefinitely, since many children, pedestrians and traffic frequent the area. But the trees could be monitored and phased out over time, he noted.
City officials at the Dec. 1 meeting estimated that removing all of the trees at once would cost about $20,000 and a phased plan would eventually cost $65,000. Those figures did not include the additional costs of adding fencing and an additional path residents requested, according to Betts.
Betts said the phased tree removal, while costing more, preserves the aesthetic look of the area while allowing the new trees to grow in height and mature. The Channing trees also provide shade for the playground, which figured into the decision not to do a wholesale removal, he said.
Betts said the current $37,348 cost includes removal of the four additional trees, grinding out 10 stumps, planting the new trees, installing irrigation, adding new concrete-and-decomposed granite pathways and additional costs that are incurred when planning and sending out bids. Young would receive $4,400 annually for his consulting services, Betts said.
The money would come from the city's Capital Improvements Program general fund.
Trees of various heights that produce minimal pollen and won't produce hazardous aboveground roots or excessive debris, such as seedpods, would replace the eucalyptus, Young said. Earth berms along the edges of the playground area on the street side will help keep maintenance-vehicle traffic out of the tree area.
The 24-inch-box trees would be planted about 25 feet apart and are expected to grow 20 to 45 feet tall in about eight to 10 years, he said.
The council meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto.