'Holistic' plan proposed for golf course tree replacement

Palo Alto Baylands would get native trees; Arastradero Preserve saplings would be nurtured

The removal of 543 trees from the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course could offer an opportunity to restore a portion of the Palo Alto Baylands to its natural state, the city's Parks and Recreation commissioners learned Tuesday evening.

A renovation and flood-control project would remove the equivalent of 6 acres of tree canopy from the course as part of the Golf Course Reconfiguration and Baylands Athletic Center Expansion Project. About 300 of them would be replaced.

The replacement trees would be smaller, native Bay Area species with less canopy, and it could take decades for the canopy to catch up to the level of environmental benefits offered by the trees standing today, according to a proposal report.

City staff presented the commission with three proposals for how to mitigate the tree removal, from replacing the trees in locations spread throughout the city to situating them all in city open space. The third proposal, a hybrid plan, would restore a portion of the Baylands to native wetland in addition to replacing hundreds of trees, Urban Forester Walter Passmore said.

Trees were not part of the native landscape to begin with, he noted.

The plan would net the city more than 800 trees to replace the 543 removed. In addition to planting trees at the golf course, some 500 saplings and seedlings at Pearson-Arastradero Preserve would be identified for focused preservation efforts, Passmore said.

Parks and Recreation commissioners were intrigued by the hybrid plan. It presents an opportunity to improve the wetlands while replacing the city's canopy, they said.

But commissioners asked for more data to understand how restoring the Baylands habitat would provide comparable ecological benefits, such as carbon offsets and other equivalents.

In accordance with formulas in the city's Tree Technical Manual, 2,000 young trees would equal the environmental benefits to the lost canopy of mature trees after 10 years of growth, Passmore said.

But costs could run to more than $1.3 million if all of the trees plantations are spread throughout the city. Staff would have to find spots for each individual tree. Costs could be reduced to about $200,000 if the trees are planted in large groupings in some locations, he said.

Another alternative was to forgo the Baylands planting and replacing only the lost canopy with native trees in historically forested areas, such as at Arastradero Preserve. But converting even part of the city's diminishing grasslands to forests would negatively affect grasslands flora and fauna, experts have said.

The undertaking would cost between $200,000 and $2.5 million, depending on whether the city uses new plantings, which require irrigation, or if already natural saplings at the preserve are protected, instead.

The proposed hybrid plan of 300 native trees in the Baylands and more than 500 saplings in Arastradero Preserve and marshland habitat restoration could cost upwards of $130,000, Passmore said.

"This one project in the golf course can establish a precedent of how we're going to treat the care of the Baylands in the future," he said.

Commissioners directed staff to return with more concrete data regarding the wetlands restoration so they can understand its environmental value. For example, each year, the golf course's mature trees today filter 1.1 million gallons of stormwater, while the hybrid-plan trees would filter 276,000 gallons after 10 years of growth. The trees would eventually catch up when mature, but that could take 40 years, Passmore said.

The report doesn't address how the marshland habitat restoration might influence those numbers, commissioners said.

"The importance of mitigating tree loss is a huge issue, and we will hear it from the community," Commissioner Stacey Ashlund said.

The plan would be an environmental improvement over the existing golf course, the report noted. It would provide greater resources wildlife, improved stormwater management, increased function of the wetland, and would reduce irrigation needs by about half, according to the report.

Commissioner Deirdre Crommie proposed a lump sum of $500,000 to address the hybrid plan rather than going for the bare minimum of $130,000.

"Here's a rare opportunity for us to really make an impact,"she said.

The commissioners did not vote on the proposal. A complete mitigation plan could come back for review sometime in January.


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Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:53 am

We Midtown residents often feel that our area gets short shrift when it comes to replanting or maintaining our trees. I would hope that these Powers That Be replace these trees with more trees in our area. Likewise, replacing these fallen trees with grasses and shrubs or the original landscape is not appealing. There is a reason we make "improvements" to the land.

Are there any considerations being made to select native, less allergy causing plants? At least the Powers That Be in putting in new plants should be able to select those who are more compatible with us humans.

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Posted by It's a larger problem than that.
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2013 at 11:59 am

Not just midtown....everywhere south of Oregon. We need better representation on Council.

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm

What the heck is going on out by the Baylands.

They are talking about keeping the natural state .. what is the natural state. There have been bushes, plants and trees growing out by the Baylands for a long time, and right now they have been cutting and poisoning them over at Byxbee Park to create smooth hills over there with nothing growing. It is ugly, and if they gave any thought to the natural state, why not just let nature decide for the most part?

It seemed to me as one who walks all over the Baylands Preserve that the same bushes we see all over the place are the bushes getting cut down or poisoned? These people seem to be saying just whatever they like without any backing facts.

Meanwhile, no one is monitoring dog walkers out there and many of them are not picking up after their dogs, or put their dog's poop in the little plastic bags and then leave them for someone else to pick up. JUST BAN DOGS FROM THE BAYLANDS PERIOD if we are not going to monitor or regulate them.

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Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I wonder if city records show why the trees on the golf course were planted there in the first place? For shade, and to control soil erosion (whether done by wind or because the ground was friable)?

Understanding why all those trees were planted earlier on might well save the city (us taxpayers)from making a costly mistake by removing them!

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Posted by Old Man
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Mr Keene take notice, it is time to hire a Tree Manager.with a ~ $500 K budget(overhead included)

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Posted by John Kidd
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2013 at 1:57 pm

The article is confusing. I've read it twice and still don't have a handle on what's being proposed and what the alternatives are. It would be helpful if the following were clarified for each of the proposed alternatives: How many and what kind of new trees at the golf course; Where do new golf course trees come from; What changes to trees would be made at Arastradero; What would happen to the removed trees at the golf course; and what is the price tag associated with each alternative.

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Posted by Patooey
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm

South of Oregon gets no representation because none of the council members live there. We should do like San Jose does: Divide up the city into districts and have one council member per district. Much more fair than all council members living in the most expensive neighborhoods north of Oregon.

BTW, where is the city arborist in all this BS of removing an unbelievable 500 trees from Baylands? Everyone knows that trees are good for the environment and help remove carbon dioxide from the air!

Also, aren't some of these trees oaks, which are "protected" in the state of California? The city should talk to Stanford about the fines involved for removing oak trees.

Crimping, what a bunch of dorks we have on our city council and in our city offices. Embarrassing, to say the least!

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm

This is really disturbing. How ironic is it that Palo Alto is waging a war on trees?

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Posted by kb
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2013 at 4:54 pm

@Patooey -- you're absolutely right, we should have council member districts. I've said it often on these forums. Everywhere else I've lived has had council districts. No one seems to know why all the Palo Alto council seats are at-large. But it seems to really hinder any neighborhood-focused planning.

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Posted by Jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Prior to the golf course in 1956 there were no trees in the golf course area.

The trees were planted because that is what golf courses had at the time. There were more trees than now because we have lost as many as 20-30 trees in some years because of poor soil conditions and wind.

The trees that are there are mostly eucalyptus and stone pine. The stone pines hold up fairly well. The eucalyptus are the ones lost over the years.
The renovation will keep some existing eucalyptus and stone pines and add pacific wax myrtles, and a few California Live Oaks (primarily as a buffer between the course and the playing fields. Shrubs will also be used such as cofeeberry, wild lilac, lupine among others. In addition other trees and shrubs will be used

Additionally the turf will be reduce by several acres and replaced by "natural areas". Less water overall will be needed and the goal has been to use recycled water as much as possible.

In any project there are always trade offs. It behooves all interested parties to grasp the big picture and not focus exclusively on single issues.
City staff and park and rec and the golf architect and many others have listened and communicated with all interested parties. The renovation is the outcome of many discussions and is the result of much give and take.
The trees would not be removed and the hope was to minimize the loss. However the outcome over time will mitigate most of the concerns.

All should take note that most always recommend compromise and negotiation. Just because our politicians on both sides cannot negotiate and compromise does not mean that our residents cannot listen, negotiate and compromise. The essence of those three words means that nobody can have all they want in a project but by carefull listening a reasonable outcome can emerge.

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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2013 at 8:52 pm

This is a joke! Bixby Park was a swamp originally. Mr. Bixby is now celebrated for firing up the bulldozers and building a swimming pool (now duck pond), office buildings, golf coarse, marina, diverting the creek for the golf coarse, a 70 ft high mountain of garbage, airport and sewage plant. If this insanity had gone on there would have been no bay left. Please, no stories about natural trees. It is not going back to the way it was. Natural would be wetland (swamp) plants. Any tree will do, none are "natural" .

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Posted by anon
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 11, 2013 at 9:43 pm

" you're absolutely right, we should have council member districts. I've said it often on these forums. Everywhere else I've lived has had council districts. No one seems to know why all the Palo Alto council seats are at-large. But it seems to really hinder any neighborhood-focused planning."

You are absolutely right, and many feel that way. City Council is not going to change it. Please get together with a group of friends and change it. Look at what grants that power - city charter, probably - and find another charter city in California with a similar size that has districts, and look at their city code to see how to change it. Then write up your changes, have a government law firm check them over, and go down to City Hall with your proposal. You could also present it to the different neighborhood groups around Palo Alto, or even have it sent out via email that goes to all the neighborhood groups (you could ask the lead of your own neighborhood group for the address).

Then when the City Council refuses to change, you start an initiative to do it for them. Watch out about the ballot bias problem, since the charter also allows the City Attorney to write the ballot, instead of an impartial committee. That really must change.

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Posted by Julian
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2013 at 11:43 pm

"Trees were not part of the native landscape"

Neither were the golf course nor the athletic center.

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Posted by Anon
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 12, 2013 at 8:22 am

How ironic they are building a golf course and gym and not a public safety building.

At Maybell, they managed to subvert all the tree advocates who would have stopped those 100 established trees from being bulldozed with the plan that resulted in Measure D. Now that it's over, they still won't get any pushback as proponents have been expressing a stronger attachment to a revenge motive than to the trees and open space. Now that the property will be sold, neighbors just want time to figure out how to or raise money to save the last patch of historic orchard in Palo Alto and keep that location low traffic. ((This side if town we have to pay for our own parks, it seems, as with Bol Park.) Score another one for development crazy City Council.

We have a great many wealthy residents engaged in philanthropy, who could do a lot to keep Palo Alto a sane place to live through random acts of investment, if they acted on the whole charity begins at home ethos, but haven't because our hometown is so expensive, and thus see doing anything for their hometown in context of other efforts where they can leverage more for the same funds in donation.(They can, after all, move away when this Council is done ruining our quality of life.) I implore them to make investments then - just buy up property, like thatbowling alley, and make a community asset, build housing that isnt quite as dense but serves people in wheelchairs, or even maintains affordable spaces for retail we seem to be losing everyday, or just puts back in another bowling alley along with a development that has setbacks and greenspace. Or saves trees and open space. Please get together and consider how to improve and maintain quality of life here, please dont just move to the hills or Atherton. Yes, it's expensive, but it's its own endeavor, invest rather than donate if that makes the difference. The citizens are doing what we can, but random acts of investment by our wealthier residents could do more, faster.

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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm

The article attempts to describe a 10-page technical report that was presented to the commission, entitled "Ecosystem Service of the Existing and Proposed Trees of the Palo Alto Golf Course". See Web Link.

Removing the existing trees removes some "services" that the trees provide:
--storm-water filtering
--greenhouse gas sequestration
--air pollutant capture

Environmental law requires the City to mitigate the environmental cost, and the report analyzes various ways that might be done.

Curiously, the report does not discuss any forecast rise in sea level, which would negatively impact any plant in that area not adapted to a wet, salty environment. A one-meter rise will put everything east of 101, except the landfill site, completely under water.

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Posted by Wrong issue
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 15, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Patooey said South of Oregon gets no representation because none of the council members live there.

That belief is so out of date, and so incorrect, it's ridiculous. Both Price and Schmid live way south. Scharff, Klein and Kniss pretty much in the middle of town.
The issues aren't north vs. south. The issues now are major developments vs. keeping the town human scale. Did you pay attention to Measure D? Very big buildings that violate the zoning are being approved in the north AND in the south. I don't see how having district representation would improve anything.
You would be represented by Gail Price who never met a big development she didn't think was great. Even the Arrillaga monster plan!
And she loooves anything the staff produces.

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

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