Council to review controversial Pardee Park plan

City would complete removal of 10 eucalyptus, continue monitoring of six others

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by Safety-Comes-First
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 10:21 am

Only in Palo Alto, can removing trees that are deemed unsafe be considered as controversial. How embarrassing.

Like this comment
Posted by Too much traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 10:34 am

It is plain and simple--as part of the "green" agenda in Palo Alto, trees are considered more important than people.

Like this comment
Posted by Visitor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 10:47 am

I visited Pardee Park over the weekend; I was amazed to see it looked more scruffy than any park in South Palo Alto. Pardee Park really needs a good makeover. Remove those old eucalyptus trees and get some new plantings in there.

However, since this is North Palo Alto and they like to live in a slowly decaying environment, keep the trees.

Like this comment
Posted by Donna
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 10, 2011 at 11:36 am

Since my two-year old son was called right before a huge limb fell in the very spot he'd been playing two minutes before, I am really concerned any time I see a eucalyptus tree anywhere near where people go. The other big culprit is the Monterrey Pine tree, which dropped a limb where my friend's son had been only moments before. In talking with a professor of botany, he said that in his opinion both the eucalyptus and the Monterrey pine are health and safety hazards and it should be against code to plant either one in any urban areas......and if they have been planted, they should be removed. Will it take a lawsuit after someone is injured or killed to get Palo Alto to act responsibly?????

Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm

People need to take personal responsibility.
No one is forcing anyone to walk under these trees.
Have some respect for some of the oldest and tallest trees in the city.
I love to sit under trees, everytime I need to make a judgement of safe or not. Not wait for the nanny state to make me safe.
Give me a break.

As to you that thinks the trees are scruffy - huh????
Trees are trees dude - if you don't like the trees in that park don't go to that park. No need to enforce you sense of "order".

Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 6:22 pm

CSD Department Head, Greg Betts, knows some of the details of the tree report, but he is not an expert. Once he makes a decission, he will stick to it regardless of the 'experts' and their letters. He is relying on his $4,400 investment with a consultant, and he is going with that story line regardless of the risk for park users and neighbors. If a tree or significant limb falls and injures/kills someone, then it will be Mr Betts who will answer' or held responsible. Mr Betts, do you have a golden parachute, or will that be crushed by a falling multi ton eucalyptus tree?

Like this comment
Posted by Wil
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Ironic that the report states that all these trees are risky for the city to keep due to disease and poor trimming, but yet City Council is being told by management/Betts that the city will keep some of these multi ton 'risk trees' regardless. Is there enough money in reserve to cover a eucalyptus tree if it hits a school bus full of kids? The city is self insured for $1-million dollars per claim; higher claims are covered by a city insurance policy. School buses hold around 40 kids... Risk, liability, city full of lawyers, a few thousand to remove and plant new trees, and you do the math.

Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm

We can make the park safe. We just need to have the "Drop Bear" story told to the kids in their classrooms. This story, from Australia, is about how large and vicious Koala Bears drop out of trees and devour small children.

Web Link

"Eucalypts have a habit of dropping entire branches off as they grow. Eucalyptus forests are littered with dead branches. For this reason, one never sets up camp under an overhanging branch. This may be the real reason behind the drop bear story told to children - the idea is to keep them away from under dangerous branches."

A while back I was walking my dog there and saw a sign posted "Save Our Trees". I thought a better sign would have been...

Save Our Craniums.

Like this comment
Posted by Trees kill
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm

As others have pointed out the city will not use common sense and have these dangerous trees removed, despite the narrow escape last year
The council will be afraid to go against the "trees are more important than people" lobby in the city. Our new council continues in the footsteps of previous councils-afraid to take a stand that is beneficial to the public for fear of upsetting a vocal minority.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2011 at 9:38 am

Is it really necessary to contract with a consultant for $4,400 annually about the trees in this park? I don't view the trees as that big a deal, make a decision and go with it, remove them or not, but contracting like this is what I question as a PA taxpayer.

Like this comment
Posted by Enoch Choi, MD
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 11, 2011 at 12:01 pm

8:1 the trees will come down, and not crush any of our kids

Like this comment
Posted by George Carpenter
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm

It surprises me a little to be told that the eucalyptus trees are 6 centuries old. That is back before Columbus arrived in the new world. One wonders who brought those trees here from Australia

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I live two minutes walk to Eleanor Park ... once you get over the change, it looks better, and it gives a lot more space. Get rid of these trees, they are non-native, ugly and dangerous.

People just do not take to change very well, and no one likes to see trees go down, but this would be an improvement on multiple-dimensions.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm

6 trees .... not 6 hundred years old ;-)

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

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