Palo Alto to remove five trees as part of California Avenue project

Trees in conflict with design, construction

The City of Palo Alto Tuesday posted 14-day notices on five trees along California Avenue that will be removed as part of the area's massive streetscape project.

The five trees, one of which is dead, are in "direct conflict with the new construction work," a statement from the city reads. Some trees are located in areas where the sidewalk will be widened; others would create a safety hazard to a reconfigured right-hand turn lane, according to the city.

Two trees (including the dead one) are located in front of Technology Credit Union on the north side of California Avenue. Another is on the south side in front of Lotus Thai Bistro. Two others are at the north and south corners of Ash Street, one in front of Avalon Yoga Center and the other next to the "Go Mama" art sculpture.

The five trees include two valley oaks, one southern live oak and two Shumard oaks.

"This is something that we've always shared during the whole design and outreach process," city Transportation Engineer Shahla Yazdy said about the tree removal.

"We really did try as part of the design to try to save as many trees as we could," she added.

In 2009, the city faced uproar from the community over the removal of 50 mature holly oak trees along California Avenue as part of a beautification project.

For the current streetscape project, which broke ground in March, the city plans to plant 49 new trees, bringing California Avenue's total number of trees to more than 100, according to the city. Silver Linden trees will be planted on the stretch of street between Ash and Birch streets, where the sidewalk will be widened by 10 feet. The trees will match the existing ones.

Yazdy said she doesn't have an exact date for the five trees' removal, but it will be after the week of July 8.

Elena Kadvany

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Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 25, 2014 at 10:13 am

Could you possibly make California Avenue any less attractive?

Like this comment
Posted by Tree Critic
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2014 at 10:22 am

I hated those 5 trees anyway. Good riddance, stupid trees.

Like this comment
Posted by Grams
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2014 at 10:40 am

Grams is a registered user.

Can the city also remove the 'weed' trees on Lytton Ave. The flowers feed asthma and breathing problems and the berries stain sidewalks and ruin the paint on cars. Calls to the PA department are unanswered. They also invade the sewer system with their roots. Saving a tree? Plant something else...I've also offered to pay for the removal and new replies.

Like this comment
Posted by rebugging
a resident of Los Altos
on Jun 25, 2014 at 11:14 am

As a California Avenue shopper I hate to see trees again replaced by non-natives, when the threatened native Valley oaks are to be removed. At least you should include more Valley Oaks in the plantings.

Like this comment
Posted by Bare Naked Street
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 25, 2014 at 11:15 am

Hey, way to go PA. Let's get rid of ALL trees on CA Ave. Who wants trees. They aren't pretty or provide shade or give character to the neighborhood. But we're following the 'PA Process' now at least and telling people BEFORE we cut them down

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:05 pm

While they are removing the tree next to "Go Mama" they should take the
sculpture along with it. The sculpture is hated, is inconsistent with, and offsets any beautification efforts, and has outlived it's time. We are trying to create a new image for Cal Ave. And there is a bigger context here. We need a new aesthetic awareness and consciousness, importance in Palo Alto in everything we are doing. We are not even at norms in the Bay Area.

Like this comment
Posted by Fan Of Trees
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I am in agreement with "rebugging" native trees would be the best choice.
I did a web search of the Silver Linden tree.
Do they know that this tree is toxic to bees?
Also is really not a good tree for sidewalks.
Check it out here.... Web Link

Time to think again on the choice of tree....
Most important....We need our bees!
Speak up everyone.. lets make the right choice this time around.

Like this comment
Posted by Cal Ave Area Employee
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Why try to save the trees (like transplant them or something) when you can spend money (on new trees)? Now THAT is the 'PA Process'.

Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:29 pm

The silver linden is a terrible choice. Its Wikipedia page says:

"This species, while fragrant in spring, drops buds and pollen during the spring and fall.
It is not a good sidewalk tree for that reason, requiring frequent streetcleaning."

When flowering, they attract a serious number of bees - also not the best choice for a sidewalk tree.

Why in the world they didn't choose more oak trees is beyond me.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Trees? Why does Palo Alto need any stinking trees when developers can build multistory building to shade the streets?

Like this comment
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 25, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I like the sculpture at the corner of Ash and Cal Ave. She's fun and imaginative. Variety on our street is good. I hope the city replaces those five trees with some of relatively mature size. Let's not start over with baby trees.

Like this comment
Posted by A
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I think they should replace ALL the art sculptures in the city and replace them with new ones. In fact artists should be selected to rent the spaces for them to show their art. That way we aren't stuck with ugly art forever.

As for the trees replace them with native species or non-toxic non-fruit/acorn bearing trees. Those oak trees are ugly and make acorns for people to slip on. They are not the correct species for this area.

Like this comment
Posted by Just don't get it
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 25, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I love the Go Mamma adds some personality to the area.

As for trees, go native and get mature trees. Note that Stanford plants full grown trees with every new ugly softens the blow. Find out where they get their trees.

Like this comment
Posted by Lorax
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Wow. This makes news, and the 100 established decades-old trees in the last historic (mostly apricot) orchard in Palo Alto at Maybell, trees that continue to live without needing water, and which sit across from an existing park and school, on a property the City had the right to purchase without competition, and which the neighbors asked for the City to just to give them time to come up with the money (and if not, the City could have sold it for a profit) — that doesn't deserve mention.

Neither has anyone ever questioned why two of the dozen 100-year-old native oaks on that property, protected trees, were deemed too unhealthy to remain, right where they were most convenient to remove for the then proposed development.

This makes news instead. Really, Weekly?

Like this comment
Posted by Lorax
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Excuse me ... an obvious correction:

"This makes news, and the 100 established decades-old trees in the last historic (mostly apricot) orchard in Palo Alto at Maybell, trees that continue to live without needing TO BE WATERED..."

Of course they need water. We all do. Our City seems to forget that though in its mad dash to pave over everything and add as much water-using faucets and people as possible. These trees are so established, they have lived without needing to be watered for decades, through other droughts as well.

Those trees are still there today. Not that you would know about it, or how they were at least temporarily saved from the bulldozer by Measure D, from the news coverage.

Like this comment
Posted by Fan Of Trees
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I can't think of any reason to remove an beautiful old crooked tree the kind birds love to nest in, people love to photograph, sit, read and eat under.
Especially when we have the ability to design that tree into our plans.

Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 25, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Trees are so overrated, aren't they? In fact, inspired by California Ave.'s earlier clear-cutting, and now removal of these five, I'm devising a plan to rid my neighborhood of all the redwood trees. Such an eyesore. And all those birds and critters who live in them--such a nuisance!

Thanks, Palo Alto, for leading the way.

Like this comment
Posted by native here
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 25, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I'm with Rebugging. Let's have a native tree rather than one from the middle east. I would suggest the slow growing native Blue Oak...Quercus douglasii. it is totally drought resistant. It is living in this area natively and also is seen in the dry rolling hills out of the central valley. Once established (first year) it will never need water. See an ancient one on campus in front of Dinklespiel Auditorium.

Like this comment
Posted by Thinking ahead
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm

5 trees is nothing compared to the homes & trees eliminated, when Governor Brown's High Speed Rail Project comes through. Make way for progress.

Like this comment
Posted by Darwin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 5:30 pm

I vote that everyone stops complaining until the project is done. It seems like the vast majority of these complaints are coming from people who will probably complain about anything at anytime for any reason.

I think the project is long overdue, and the concept is something that will look attractive and inviting. If I'm wrong, and it turns out to be a bust, then light your torches and bring out your pitchforks then.

Until then I think the people working on this project probably have the best of intentions and are professionals in their field. Lets sit on our hands for a second.

Like this comment
Posted by Lorax
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 5:48 pm

I vote that you read the previous comments before criticizing people. Not a single one of them was "complaining" about the project or this particular removal. Seems to me all the comments were generally about Palo Alto overdevelopment and specifically about more egregious City acts.

As such, your comment about the City people having the best intentions is ill-placed. Doug Moran commented on this aptly in a recent blog post: "Others are single-issue advocates and other ideologues—their attitude is that having good intentions obviates the need for analysis (a human inclination so strong as to have its own admonition: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" Web Link

Ever heard "The guilty flee where no man pursueth?" Read the previous posts before inserting you canned agenda next time.

Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2014 at 8:29 pm

I want change on California Avenue. But, I can't think of a single recent project the City of Palo Alto has been responsible for, that has turned out beautiful. The hideous library on Middlefield, the ghastly plaza on University and Bryant. [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I think that as the story says we will swap 5 trees for 49 new trees. Overall, most of the people I know in Palo Alto are actually quite pleased with the way the city is run. So I would encourage city staff reading this to take all comments with a big grain of salt. Seems like this is another fairly well thought out though not perfect process. My biggest complaint with the city right now is the knee jerk negativity of the people who post on Palo Alto online. One suggestion to the weekly staff; don't allow anonymous comments! I would sign my name except for the fear of being flamed by all the other anonymous nabobs of negativity.

Like this comment
Posted by Lorax
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 10:19 pm

"Overall, most of the people I know in Palo Alto are actually quite pleased with the way the city is run. "

I heard that a lot from City Council even a few days before Measure D. Gail Price insisted to me that those who didn't want the rezoning were just a small band of complainers.

Anon, you are right that there are a few chronic complainers on these threads, and equally people like you who try to dismiss the many more astute comments, particularly about the development-crazed Council and ugly overdevelopment hurting our quality of life, by trying to paint them with the same brush.

Some of us tried to warn the City Council and staff very early in the Maybell process that there would be significant opposition to such major rezoning and suggesting they should scale it back and work with the neighborhood. I was one of them. If you work for the City and are reading this, hear that far more of us out here feel like Citizen above than like Anon.

Not that you have anything to worry about, Anon, it's clear city staff continue to care very little about any resident opinions that conflict with what they want anyway.

Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"My biggest complaint with the city right now is the knee jerk negativity of the people who post on Palo Alto online"

There's less to worry about from knee jerk negativity than calculated use of anonymity as a political strategy. The city should brace itself for the upcoming campaign.

Like this comment
Posted by Native Oak Lover
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2014 at 10:50 pm

I certainly hope/expect that the City will replace the 2 Valley Oaks they are planning to remove on California Avenue. After the recent clear cutting, Valley Oaks were specifically selected for a few sites on the street because they are native to Palo Alto, unlike Blue Oaks and Silver Lindens. Young Valley Oaks grow quickly and within a few years will provide shade and a reminder of our heritage for future generations to appreciate.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2014 at 11:14 pm

I don't anyone who pays attention who is happy with the way Palo Alto is run. Most people don't pay attention. You can stick your head in the sand here and get by just fine. It is probably a good strategy if you want to stay happy. But understand that given the resources the city has, it is grossly underachieving.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2014 at 9:03 am

Mr. Recycle is absolutely right. We are "grossly underachieving" at one level- and destroying the quality of life and all that that encompasses at
the same time. People are responding in these posts. It does not matter
if they are anonymous or how many other residents choose to participate in these threads, or how many people don't care or how many people accept it, or for that matter how many people have just given up.

Like this comment
Posted by Go getter
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 26, 2014 at 10:32 am

Another stoopid move by our city. The people in power here all seem to have had there brains removed.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2014 at 10:40 am

@Go getter - it was the original removal of the trees 5 years ago that was really stupid and shocking. Now people are overly sensitive (justifiably) to any tree removal, even if makes sense in the context of the redevelopment that is moving forward.

Like this comment
Posted by former 38 year resident
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2014 at 11:18 am

I moved away a year or so before the removal of a bunch of trees on Calif. Ave., done in a sneaky way, as I recall from reading at the time. Since then it's been one story after another of what seems to be the city's war on trees, more accurately it's a war on anything that inconveniences developers in any way. Has everyone forgotten the town was named for a tree? When will the tree logo be replaced by a picture of a concrete parking lot next to a high rise? I always liked the "Go Mama" piece so to say that it is "universally" hated isn't true. There's hardly a piece of public art anywhere that isn't both loved and hated. If "Go Mama" is too frivolous for the pretentious crowd who have taken over the town, then move it to another location, such as a park. I think kids would like it. All other public art from now on should prominently feature a huge dollar sign and/or a golden calf.

Like this comment
Posted by Fan Of Trees
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Don't get me wrong (Darwin)... I am not complaining about the changes being made to California Street.
It is the Silver Linden tree I object to because is toxic to bees. (Meaning it kills or sickens bee's).
If your wondering why we need bees... we need them to pollinate our plants and trees so we can have food to eat.

Like this comment
Posted by sad
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm

hate killing trees, since it gives shade.

Like this comment
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Only one Valley Oak is coming down, not two; the city has replied that its announcement was incorrect on that point. Two others remain: one outside Izzy’s, one aside Mollie Stones.
The toll therefore will be 1 Valley Oak (dead); 2 Southern Live Oaks, 2 Shumard Oaks (alive and well).

Natives are not always the best choice for street trees according to independent and highly respected arborist Barrie Coate, who spoke at a resident-sponored “teach in” shortly after the 2009 clearcut.

It was Dave Muffly, another independent arborist and brought in by Canopy, who put Silver Linden into the mix as one of two primary “unifier” trees. (The other is Southern Live Oak.) “ At the time, Muffly wrote that "Silver Linden … has been selected due to its deep rooting habit, beautiful foliage, good fall color, good drought adaptation, consistent growth in Palo Alto, low debris, and upright growth habit. It is a species which has been used and loved in European and Eurasian cities for millennia, and is native to areas with nearly Mediterranean climates.”

The Lindens are doing very well, and I have yet to see or hear of dead bees falling around them. Muffly replied to me yesterday with regard to the contradictory material in the Wikipedia link posted above. He writes: "There is a huge danger studying plants on the Internet. The planet is covered with thousands of climate zones, which are often radically different. Plants behave very differently in different zones….Silver Linden is from a near Mediterranean climate. .. Here? They grow beautifully... Careful local observation trumps the Internet every time."

Cal Ave Employe raised the reasonable question of transplanting the four healthy trees slated for removal. I relayed this idea to the city, Canopy, and Muffly. Walter Passmore, the city’s Urban Forrester writes: "Transplanting under normal circumstances removes significant root mass, in some cases 75-90% of the fine absorbing roots. The structural soil these trees are growing in will make the process of salvaging a viable root mass more difficult. More impact to the root system decreases the chance of survival and increases the after-care required for the trees to regrow roots. If the trees survive they would probably not equal a new tree in vitality or growth for many years, if ever.”

As for the reverse, a quick infusion of mature trees to the Cal Ave site, it was brought up numerous times after the clearcut. Muffly, however, who “lived" among the oaks at Stanford, going back to his days as part of Magic, a local non-profit, public service organization, pointed to downsides.

Mr. Recycle is quite correct about people’s justifiable sensitivity even today considering what led up to the events of Sept 14-16, 2009 and not without reason.

Three years after the clearcut, plans were in process to allow Citibank at the Cal Ave / El Camino corner to cut down two tall redwoods in deference to a water pipe. In contrast to 2009, however, a 14-day notice was posted on the trees. Word got out, residents complained, and City Manager James Keene wisely stepped in to call “Time Out" and “Regroup". Citibank soon agreed to reroute its water pipe, and the tall redwoods thankfully still stand. Good work all around.
Web Link
Web Link

A year ago, residents were again on alert when we read about plans for the removal of 6 trees, dropped into a staff report on the Cal Ave Transit Corridor Hub Project to the Architectural Review Board. The late Alan Weller, a family law attorney on Cal Ave for decades, asked for and received the species, location, and reasoning from Transportation Engineer Shahla Yazdy.

Since then the total has been reduced to five. Yazdy wrote this week that the first in the row of 6 mature Pistache trees still standing in the plaza area was close to the pipes and drains for the new fountain, but they were able to modify the drainage design and avoid this tree from being removed.

The five trees to be removed are due to an extended right-hand turn lane onto El Camino Real; new bulbouts, crosswalk alignments, ADA curb ramps; and a reconfiguration of parking stalls.

They are a victim of a process that came up with a redesigned streetscape AFTER the re-planting of the trees. However in view of the nearly five-year period starting with clearcut through streetscape engagement, planning, lawsuits, revisions, bids, and finally, the start of construction, it is clear that the city made the right decision to go ahead with replanting as soon as possible and risk the need for some tree removals later.

It is also clear that the city has been very sensitive to concerns with regard to minimizing the loss of young trees. And that includes potential damage during construction. Yazdy writes yesterday, “The contractor is aware of the importance of the existing trees and all protections are in place in order to avoid any tree damage during construction."

And 49 new trees will be added.

Which is very good, but, of course, leads to new questions. What will they be, outside of the 5 new Lindens on the south side of Cal Ave, which the ARB approved last year and was noted by the city in its recent announcement?

What of the other 44? Weller and I wanted to know.

And we also wondered what Muffly would think about the choices. But by then, he had met the one person who could fully appreciate and respond to his genius. Steve Jobs had hired Dave Muffly in 2011 as lead arborist for the Apple Campus 2, with responsibility for the selection and planting of over 6,000 trees and the disposition of 4,500 already on the site.

But as luck would have it, there he was outdoors at Printers Cafe surveying the street over coffee, and he called out to me to say hello as I was walking out. He was on vacation, yet he came with Weller and I into the planning department offices to review the choices:

- Muskogee Crepe Myrtles at the cross-walkways
- New Bradford Pear at various “focal points”
- Chitalpa
- Blue Ice Arizona Cypress as a holiday tree in the Plaza area
- Japanese Blueberry Tree
- Hornbeam
- Additional Southern Live Oaks

Muffly spoke at length; Weller asked questions; I took notes, which I submitted to the city. I do not believe the final decisions have been posted.

While certainly not perfect, I feel good about the tree replanting process and decisions and plans made to date, but true to the "Zeitgeist" of Cal Ave and the surrounding areas, I also see it as my duty to leave at leave some new items for potential controversy.

So have at it, and don't forget to support the local Cal Ave businesses especially now during this period of construction.

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

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