Neighborhood leaders and Palo Alto officials will hold a public meeting Tuesday evening (Oct. 18) to discuss the planned removal of 33 trees at Greer Park.
Concerned members of the Midtown Residents Association said they were holding the meeting to avoid another tree-cutting "debacle" such as the clear-cutting that occurred on California Avenue in 2009.
City of Palo Alto officials will present the proposed plan and seek public comment regarding replacement trees at Tuesday's meeting.
The city's Public Works Department notified residents living near the park in September of plans to remove the trees, many of which city arborists say are dead, dying or diseased.
Residents who are sensitive about the number of trees that have been removed in South Palo Alto in recent years said they wanted input in the process.
Neighborhood leaders said the planned removal of all of the trees at one time is concerning. Residents also want assurances that the trees will be replaced, said Peggy Kenny, the Midtown Resident Association's media-relations chairwoman.
Public Works arborists found that 13 of the trees are dead, dying or in severe decline, according to a Sept. 6 tree-removal list. Seven trees had "poor structure" and seven were "volunteer" trees that sprouted up beneath the canopy of another tree.
The largest tree has an 18-inch diameter, with a few in the 10- to 12-inch range. Most are in the 4- to 6-inch range, according to the report.
The largest visual impact would be around the baseball diamond in the park's center and the eastern path leading to the site, according to a proposed tree-removal map. Ten trees would be taken out adjacent to home plate and seven would be removed along the path. Another cluster of trees would be removed near the basketball courts.
Kenny said she hopes whatever replaces the trees will be big enough to have a fighting chance in the busy park. Along Loma Verde Avenue, replanted saplings that replaced mature trees were small and some did not survive, she said.
"The only word for it is twigs. They didn't come up to my knees," she said.
Sheri Furman, Midtown Residents Association chairwoman, agreed.
"It's always a concern about when you take a tree down because it takes so long for a tree to reach maturity. What's most concerning is that they were going to take them all out at once," she said.
The city's use of reclaimed water, which has high salinity, has been detrimental to the trees, Kenny said.
Public Works Director Mike Sartor said the city is working to reduce the salinity, but that the previous choice of tree species and soil type are also reasons the trees are in decline.
Sartor said he is aware of the sensitive nature of a mass removal.
"I believe all of the trees will come out at one time," he said, but added that strategy could change. Interim Public Works Arborist Eugene Segna thinks that a few of the trees are in danger of toppling and those trees would most likely be removed in the next few weeks, Sartor said.
He added that staff will present a draft replanting plan for residents to review and discuss at Tuesday's meeting. Staff members will then refine the plan. Planting would be scheduled for this winter.
The public works department has also made contact with Canopy, the Palo Alto nonprofit urban-forest organization, about the effort, he said.
Annette Glanckopf, the Midtown association's vice chair, said holding the public meeting is prudent, considering the number of trees to be removed at one time. She praised the city's willingness to work with the public on the sensitive tree issue.
"The city has been very responsive and has been willing to meet with us and to work with us," she said.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Friends Meeting Hall, 957 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto.