Two dozen white birch trees lining Palo Alto's University Avenue were accidentally removed on Thursday (March 31) afternoon, according to Public Work Management Specialist John Doh.
Just two words were left off the work order: fairy lights.
"The intent was to take down those energy-sucking lights that are wrapped around the trees, to save money during this budgetary crisis," Doh said. But, he added, the order mistakenly referred to removal of trees, not the lights on the trees.
Some shoppers expressed consternation at the stark, new look of Palo Alto's main shopping thoroughfare.
"This isn't what I flew in from Palm Desert to see," tourist Shaw Paholic said. "Isn't Palo Alto supposed to have, like, shade?"
But merchants' opinions were mixed, with one shop owner loving the fact that his store sign, formerly obscured by tree branches, can once again be seen from the street.
"I love trees, I really do. But no one knows what my store is called," said the owner, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from what he called "Palo Alto's rabid tree huggers."
The city plans to survey residents about their preferred replacement species. Once all the results are in, and innumerable community meetings have been held, new trees could be planted as early as 2016.
And, Doh added, money saved from the cutback on electricity use would more than cover the cost of tree replacement.
"I don't know what all the fuss is about. Those trees will be as good as new in another 30 to 40 years," said Doh, who was recruited after the city's California Avenue tree fiasco.
(Editor's note: Happy April Fools' Day!)