News

Update: Neighbors ask court to save heritage oak 'Granny'

Seek restraining order to protect the tree from SFPUC

Click on pictures to enlarge and see captions.

The neighbors of an oak tree called "Granny" headed to court on Monday morning to ask a judge to issue a temporary restraining order that would keep the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's axes at bay.

The tree at 827 15th Avenue grows within a backyard easement controlled by the commission. Property owner Charles Berkstresser said the commission left a message on his door Friday evening (May 13) telling him the tree would be cut down Monday (May 16).

However, he said the commission has now backtracked, claiming it never intended to do so -- but it remains mum about when, exactly, the tree will get cut down. He was expecting a visit from a commission representative Monday, in between the stream of tree supporters dropping by his backyard to take a look at the 65-foot-tall tree that dwarfs his home.

Meanwhile, neighbor Mary Ann Mullen headed to court to plead the tree's case. The neighbors are questioning whether the commission ever applied for a permit to remove the tree, a step required by the heritage oak tree ordinances of both San Mateo and San Francisco counties. It's not clear at the moment which county's ordinance would govern this particular oak, since it's located in one county while the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) belongs to another.

They're also wondering why the commission disregarded two options that would save the tree while still allowing pipes for the Hetch Hetchy water improvement project to be placed underground. A report by McClenahan Consulting, an arboriculturist company, suggested as alternatives either tunneling below the tree or relocating the water pipe either above the root zone or more than 10 feet away from the trunk.

Mr. Berkstresser said he just wants to see documentation showing that cutting down the tree is the only viable choice. "If it is true, then they need to show us. Document, document, document, proof," he said, emphasizing the last word.

Representatives from the counties and the SFPUC were not immediately available for comment. The Almanac has filed a public records act request with the commission for all documentation related to the tree.

The tree, estimated to be about 300 years old, was one reason Mr. Berkstresser chose that home six years ago. "It's an asset to the entire community," he said. "Frankly, it's an asset of the state. This is old growth forest."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by scout
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 17, 2011 at 7:47 am

Everyone in the bay area knows the program. If it's an old oak, or an old redwood, both healthy, ya just don't go near either. If ya do, we have a LOTTA gray heads around here that won't like it.

Not rocket science.




Like this comment
Posted by fran
a resident of Community Center
on May 17, 2011 at 11:06 am

Im so sick of city officials cutting down our beautiful trees. Perfect example is Eleanor Park, Palo Alto......the park is a barren ugly park now that they cut down the lovely eucalyptus trees. I hate Palo Alto's stupid arborists. They should be ashamed. Also, they ruined California Ave......whats next? Cut down all the palm trees leading to Stanford???!! Im sick of it.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2011 at 11:26 am

Eleanor Park seems so nice and airy now ... it just looks different, not barren or ugly. Those eucalyptus trees were scraggly, ugly, a danger, and not planted in a very nice way anyhow ... and they are not native to the area anyway.

I love trees. Palo Alto does not have a tree problem, we have great trees. Less now than when I got here, but still, I can't think of anywhere in Palo Alto where you cannot look around and see lots of big trees.

So given that, I don't know why we can't emphasize quality a little bit more than quantity and selectively remove, prune or replace some of them? I already mentioned once about solar energy being almost impossible in certain places. Palo Alto should be forced to look like Ben Lomand or Scots Valley ... but then I just got attacked and pilloried for even saying anything or expressing an opinion.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Pardee Park is a perfect example of bureaucratic manipulation. Several large 100 year old trees gone because a branch fell from one and the city shopped arborists until they got an opinion they wanted.

'not native to the area' is not a valid argument to justify removal of trees or plants. This is not a California natural history museum-it is what we look at and try to enjoy every day.

This is a Mediterranean climate- a very large number of the plants growing here and thriving are not native. Even a large number of the drought resistant ones.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm

This tree looks OK ... why do they want to cut it down? Doesn't seem to be near any structure or wires ??? What's going on?


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Community Center
on May 17, 2011 at 11:07 pm

It was fear propaganda that lead to the massacre of the Eucalyptus trees in Pardee Park. The tress were maligned from multiple angles but really, it was the case of Small people being afraid of Tall trees!!! Immature people intolerant of mature nature!!!
What is next? Planting only hypoallergenic trees?


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2011 at 8:03 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Of course they can save the tree. Just expand the right of way 15 or 20 feet into the surrounding neighbor's property to enable a bend in the pipeline.


Like this comment
Posted by Edouard
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 18, 2011 at 9:05 am

Edouard is a registered user.

Most of the people who live here are not native to the environment. Eucalyptus trees are from Australia.

I see it this way ... its not a just an oak tree -- its time. Its taken 300 years for that oak to become what it is and they want to send in a crew who will take it down in minutes. I find that disgusting.

So many people travel back to Europe to experience history and to see old building. So many people trek miles to look at that old redwood in Yosemite. We, Americans, do not allow things to get old. We do not appreciate things that have a patina of time on them. Homes, cars, people, nothing. We would rather tear down an old building and replace it with another Starbucks or In-n-Out Burger and we get excited about that. Leave the tree be. Its 300 years old and deserves our respect.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 18, 2011 at 10:37 am

@Edouard
Have you been to the east coast (for vacation purposes)?
Other parts of U.S. are quite different from CA
For a great trip, there is a HUGE amount of history as well as charming antique buildings easily visited -- Boston is wonderful -- SO much history!, New Hampshire quite nearby with true charm and historic homes, towns, etc. for a start. Example: Strawbery Banke Museum, Portsmouth, N.H. (preserves homes from 1700's etc.)-many visit for architectural and historical study as well as pleasure
Others might speak to Philly (which I know is historic, of course, but haven't visited)
D.C./Alexandria and region
I'm sure there are a zillion other examples


Like this comment
Posted by JF
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 18, 2011 at 10:58 am

Bottom line. The tree is 300 years old. I am guessing the pipeline has been worked on a few times during it's lifetime. ;-)

Go around it.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Go around it BY EXPANDING THE RIGHT OF WAY!!!
See if the homeowner is willing to make that sacrifice. Just take 10 or 20 feet off the back of his house.


Like this comment
Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by sandy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm

The park is named after Eleanor Pardee, who donated her property to the city. Native Palo Altans and people who've been here for a long time call the park ELEANOR Park. The only people who use the name Pardee Park are the ones who've been here for five minutes and think they know everything about our town!


Like this comment
Posted by Tree Hugger
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm

If nothing else, drive by to look at this heritage oak at 827 15th Ave, Menlo Park (north side of Marsh Rd, west of train tracks). I did, and it is one of the most spectacular oak trees I've ever seen. It would be a crime to cut this beauty down, and in the process destroy habitat for a myriad of animals and birds. Each one of us needs to do whatever we can to preserve this ancient specimen.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Tree Hugger, does that include buying up the property needed for a detour? Be my guest.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Sandy, your comment cracked me up! Eleanor Park was one of my faves as a kid. We called it that & something else, like Prison Park or something because of that bars on the cage of the slide, will have to ask my mom what we called it. NO ONE called it Pardee Park or Eleanor Pardee Park, just Eleanor Park. No gang bangers hanging out there then, no arguments about the trees or offleash dogs, just good times.


Like this comment
Posted by sandy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Hmmm, you're right on! The only problem with Eleanor Park was that there were no bathrooms--you had to go home, go to the Children's Library, or go in the bushes.


Like this comment
Posted by sandy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Hmmm, you're right on! The only problem with Eleanor Park was that there were no bathrooms--you had to go home, go to the Children's Library, or go in the bushes.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Now, that I def. remember - the lack of restrooms, ugh.


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

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