Palo Alto polling community on city's trees

Online survey asks for opinions on Palo Alto's urban canopy

Palo Alto community members who would like to stake a claim in the state of the city's tree canopy have been solicited to participate in a survey of values and concerns about Palo Alto's trees.

The survey is conducted by the Department of Planning and Community Environment, which is creating an Urban Forest Master Plan to maintain and enhance the canopy.

"Our vision for Palo Alto trees is being developed through the survey in collaboration with the Palo Alto community," Public Works arborist Eric Krebs said.

The results of the brief survey, which closes Feb. 1, will guide recommendations set to be discussed at a City Council Study Session on Feb. 7. Results will be considered as the city develops a Master Plan, funded by Cal Fire monies granted to Palo Alto prior to the controversial 2009 tree cuttings on California Avenue.

"We got the grant before that happened, but it did heighten the need for this," Director of Planning and Community Environment Curtis Williams said.

When written, procedures for canopy maintenance and interdepartmental collaboration will take into account the questions and concerns community members express in the survey, city officials said.

"We want to develop an ongoing index of trees in Palo Alto and a way to continue to monitor the health of the urban forest. We want to ensure that we have policies and procedures for when we must take trees into account," Williams said of the Master Plan.

The survey and the Master Plan it informs will mainly be concerned with trees on city property, Williams said.

"As a city, we need to have a public process and defined policies so that city departments can look to a particular policy when there are conflicts with other projects," Williams said.

However, private tree maintenance may also be part of any plan's purview.

"Since the urban forest includes private and public trees, public opinion will be key in the development of the plan," Krebs said.

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Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2011 at 12:10 am

Please stop pulling down our glorious old trees as you did on California Ave and San Antonio. San Antonio now resembles any street in a southern California bedroom community. No Northern California character at all. California Avenue looks so bad I can't even stand to shop there! I loved it the way it was....

Like this comment
Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 1:23 am

bru is a registered user.

I have to go against the grain here, and it is a change from my initial feelings about the San Antonio trees - I think we need to update the trees in some places in Palo Alto. San Antonio was one area where those trees did not work anymore.

The problem is the plan for replacement is so drastic.

Why can't this be done a few trees at a time? Pull the problems trees out and replant them over time, then there is not such a huge change, and people can get used to the idea.

It might also help to keep pictures or sketches of what the city intends whatever place to look like in the future ... like the requests for the new fountain on California St.

I am still not impressed with California St, and that project sounded to be like it was a throw money to some company someone knew kind of thing.

I moved here in 1969, and at that time there were huge oak trees all over the place. Town & Country was covered with them, Paly also, and pretty much all over the city. Now I think most, or at least many of those trees have died or been removed, and it takes a bit of reflection to realize it's not the end of the world, like a haircut when you are a kid ... things grow back ... BUT, that said, why can't the city plan these things and manage them over time a little slowly and more controlled?

Like this comment
Posted by Jonathan
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2011 at 3:32 am

The trees in Palo Alto are the result of private people and public interest groups who planted them, over the decades. They are not the result of a professional arborist or planning commission. To the extent that planning departments got involved, we ended up with disasters like all those liquid amber trees. We also got laws that "protect" certain species of trees...the effect of which is that almost nobody plants those trees anymore (oaks and redwoods).

The paid tree czars, like the full time city arborists, are even worse than a huge waste of money. They make very costly enforcements that private property owners are forced to follow. This new spending of tax monies to inventory the trees in Palo Alto will be used to development even more regulations, which will be used as an excuse to hire even more arborists.

It is time that we repeal all the rules about trees, and fire all our arborists. At that time, we will start to see many more oak trees, and our urban forest will be as varied as there are opinions among the various people who like to plant trees.

Like this comment
Posted by South PA Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 20, 2011 at 9:29 am

The problem with San Antonio Road is that it's not simply the tree canopy but the tree roots that cause the dangerous bumps along the roadbed. Two bicyclists have been killed and a driver seriously injured on San Antonio Road between Leghorn and Middlefield.

If YSK and bru want to keep the trees on San Antonio Road perhaps we could make University Avenue or Oregon Expressway the main truck route into town. We are tired of trucks turning up East Charleston then turning left onto Middlefield to return to San Antonio Road to avoid the bumps and overhanging trees.

It's time to revitalize our canopy by removing old dead and dying trees with new plantings. This needs to be done continually throughout the City, to keep a healthy canopy.

Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 21, 2011 at 7:12 am

Will this voting process be like the vote for the California Avenue fountain where the public vote was completely ignored by the art commissioners? If that is the "new" Palo Alto process, then please do not waste our time in any more public polls!

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2011 at 9:15 am

I'm not participating unless it can be proven that my vote and those of my fellow Palo Altans will count for something. We have a lot of junk trees here in town. We have some wonderful ones also, for example, the mulberries along the back of the Cubberly fields - lovely foliage, great fall color, a lot of shade, and they are appropriate to the location. This is all too rare here in town. We have an awful street tree on our lot that we have to water, clean up after, and live with the horrid pods it drops in the fall - a tulip tree. The San Antonio pines were ugly, hazardous, and have been replaced with a much better planting that will hopefully develop into a canopy similar to the one at Cubberly. In view of the dismal behavior of the Arts Commission, perhaps we should find out who these people are rather than waste our time on a survey they might or might not take into account.

Like this comment
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Why should we respond to a tree survey when our outcry over the Cal Ave slaughter resulted in meager plantings that will never replace the canopy within our lifetime? Are we still paying the city aborists responsible for the California Avenue debacle? Let's replace these aborists before we talk about replacing anymore trees.

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

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