News


Redwood's removal sparks dismay

Palo Alto ordinance doesn't shield all 'protected' trees against development

It's happened again: A long-standing redwood that residents in one Palo Alto neighborhood have come to love has been cut down to make way for development, causing some to question why the city's Heritage Tree ordinance didn't protect it.

On March 3, a city sign appeared on a majestic, four-trunk redwood at the corner of Laguna and La Para avenues in the Barron Park neighborhood, stating the tree would be removed for "improvements."

The city's Heritage Tree ordinance specifically prohibits removal of trees of a certain size and species, including those with a trunk diameter 18 inches or greater, which the La Para tree had.

But although redwoods are Category 1 protected trees in the city, some redwoods and oaks can be removed under certain conditions, including if the roots interfere with a home's foundation or, in the case of the La Para redwood, if the tree infringes on a property's building area by more than 25 percent, according to city Urban Forester Walter Passmore.

A tree can also be removed if it is a hazard or a public nuisance.

The debate over personal property rights and broader city obligations to protect the city's mature trees has grown in recent years as owners opt to build out their properties. In Barron Park, residents said the removal of old trees is changing the quality of their semi-rural neighborhood.

Neighbor John Fredrich viewed the tree's demise as an example of how the city is allowing homeowners too much leeway in building out properties to the maximum at the expense of a neighborhood's way of life.

"That was one of the best multi-trunk redwoods in town and very healthy and already pruned away from the utility wires at some cost over many years," Fredrich said.

But Passmore explained in an email that the tree was, in fact, decaying; utility-line pruning had harmed it. The redwood also interfered with the construction of a new home with a basement. Keeping the tree would have required a 50-foot protection zone, Passmore said.

But the La Para homeowner is required to replace the redwood with six trees, he added.

Catherine Martineau, executive director of urban forestry nonprofit Canopy, said that cutting down large trees is a concern but agreed there can be valid reasons. Although beautiful and iconic, redwoods' height -- the very attribute that makes redwoods endearing -- can become a nuisance, she said. When planting trees on their properties, residents should keep in mind how big that tree might become in the future, she added.

In the case of the La Para tree, as painful as it has been to see it go, the permit was issued a year ago and conformed to the ordinance, she said.

Barron Park resident Jon Aderhold said he understands the reasons the tree was removed.

"With regard to the redwood trees, I have to say that they are not totally suitable for typical-sized city lots. I have four on my lot, and the one that is closest to the house is sending out massive roots that will eventually heave my foundation and destroy my carport.

"The other three have already broken my brick patio and a brick sidewalk, both of which are laid on a 4-inch steel-reinforced concrete pad," he said.

The trees were on the property when he and his late wife purchased the home in 1967, he added.

But he said he understands the sadness people feel as large trees are felled and the character of the neighborhood changes.

"I mourn the passing of an era, but I don't fault the homeowners that are cutting down the redwoods on (La) Para," he said.

Comments

25 people like this
Posted by Poor reporting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2015 at 10:26 am

What a poorly worded headline and a poor introduction to the story.
The story quotes one person as being upset, but provides quotes the urban forester, a member of Canopy and a local resident explaining why the tree was cut down and how it was not unreasonable to cut it down.
how does the "reporter" know that neighbors all loved the tree? A poor example of reporting. Looks more like an attempt by the weekly to stir the pot again and generate phony outrage with the above "story".
We should expect better from our local papers (and we get it from the Daily Post)


11 people like this
Posted by A
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2015 at 2:45 pm

It is always sad to see a tall stately tree being taken down. However, it is more important to have an appropriate tree for the location. Many people think about putting in trees but never consider their growing conditions. The most problematic trees are: oaks, pines, eucalyptus, redwood and birch. And yet you see these trees all over town in the most inappropriate locations. I think people should be able to take out any tree they want provided they put in another one to take it's place -- in a more appropriate location


9 people like this
Posted by Tree hugger
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Amazing how suddenly trees become "decaying" and "hazardous" when someone decides to cut it down. Maybe it is true, but the city can't always be trusted to tell the truth.
I don't recall Canopy ever objecting to the removal of trees. Even the Mass removal at Michell Park Library.
The city funds Canopy so perhaps they are restricted in what they can say.


14 people like this
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2015 at 8:39 am

Trees are not people. People in Palo Alto act like babies when trees are cut down. As long as new trees are planted to make up for cutting down old trees, there is no reason to get excited. I'll tell you what you should be getting excited about -- the massive destruction of the rain forests, and things of that nature. Now that is something to cry about.


10 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2015 at 11:27 am

This may have been a situation which warranted removal, but one wonders does the city actually lobby the positives of keeping these trees even if the removal falls within the acceptable range? For example, beyond the obvious beauty of its presence, here are few positive aspects to the tree that I hope the city discussed with the client before approval:

-It actually raises the resale value for many home-many owners appreciate their contribution to the site plan.
-the shade is significant with respect to cooling and heating
-they do provide some privacy
-leaving it as is doesn't strain relationships with neighbors
-a place for your kids to potentially climb and enjoy

There are, incidentally, pier constructions that can reduce the tree protection zone since it is largely necessary to cut roots only in the pier locations.


8 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I will never see a building as pretty as a tree. I guess ugly wins. Tell me who to call, I have a dangerous magnolia tree in my yard.


17 people like this
Posted by A city is no place fora redwood
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Redwoods are not suited, in any way, shape or form, for suburban or urban neighborhoods. They can grow to be 300 feet tall. They are the world's tallest trees, and planting them in a residential context ought to be illegal. But people plant them because they are inexpensive (thanks Costco!) and grow quickly to form a screen. Using them in a residential landscape is a perversion of what a redwood ought to be.
And @ Poor reporting - if you want to get all your news from The Daily Post, why are you on Palo Alto Online? You are free not to read it.


13 people like this
Posted by Pa trees
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Our neighbor just served us legal documents demanding we remove 10 of the 16 massive redwoods in our backyard. I think thy are uprooting her foundation but I dread the entire path ahead, no matter the outcome. No simple solution!


19 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2015 at 2:26 pm

I love Redwood and Sequoia trees. That being said - the trees are not native to the flatlands of Palo Alto. An overwhelming majority of PA Redwood Trees were planted by humans, not by Mother Nature.


4 people like this
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2015 at 3:18 pm

On the positive side, there won't be an attempt to build Senior Tree-Housing at that location thus sparing us another outbreak of NIMBYism.


13 people like this
Posted by rosie
a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:09 am

rosie is a registered user.

I wonder, were the roots or the tree branches "infringing" on the other property?
Doesn't matter if redwoods are or aren't native to Palo Alto, you should come live in Humboldt County where the redwood "rain forests" have been so massively destroyed, that one might encourage the protection of other redwood trees in California, especially the Bay Area--as mitigation! I have built homes and cabins AROUND trees, just to save them. Good grief, Palo Alto, needs to wake up.


11 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:39 am

The headline indicates this story was to be about neighbors being dismayed at the tree removal but the story only quotes a single sentence of a single resident with this concern. The "reporter" spends the bulk of the article dismissing the concern with generalities from Canopy and a City official, then winding the story up with several quotes from a guy fully in favor of removing the tree and complaining about how trees are destroying his house and carport. I dunno, the article seems a little biased to me. I would have liked to have heard more from the neighbors who are concerned about old trees being cut down - usually to build houses that are too big for their lots. Am I asking too much?


14 people like this
Posted by Todd Gjertsen
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:18 am

the comments I am reading are ridicules "the tree is in an inappropriate place "how about the house is in an inappropriate place. and the trees are not native to the flat lands that's because the Spanish logged the hell out of the area!! the area we call baron park is the last area in town that has the former beauty of Palo alto. if you let developers do what they want you will have nothing left.


12 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:52 am

Are people forgetting that Palo Alto means "tall tree" that referred to the REDWOOD that symbolized the town from its very inception?


11 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 23, 2015 at 10:16 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

Sometimes trees need to come down. Rather than waste energy on complaining about it, find a good location (your own yard or a park) and plant a tree.








9 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2015 at 10:30 am

Lone redwood trees are a hazard, especially once they grow very tall. Many homeowner's insurance carriers will not insure a home with a lone redwood tree. Their roots are very shallow and are prone to blow over in high winds following heavy rainfall (or irrigation). Redwoods naturally grow in groups where their roots interlock creating stability in numbers. Structural tree roots can also become compromised with trenching for underground water/sewer/gas work, along with sidewalk and curb replacement.


8 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 23, 2015 at 10:35 am

There is no indication that this particular tree was in danger of falling. In fact, if that was the case I"m sure the homeowner who had it removed would have made that an issue.


8 people like this
Posted by city name change
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 23, 2015 at 10:36 am

Pretty soon we're going to have to change our name from Palo Alto, meaning "tall stick" to something else because without all of these trees the name will be meaningless.


10 people like this
Posted by Long time BP resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2015 at 11:06 am

As soon as I saw tree service at the LaPara location, I called the Arborist office and left a message regarding did they have a permit. I received no reply. A very extensive dialogue circulated on the Barron Park neighborhood e-mail about the loss of this tree. I was very upset that the tree service chopped the tree in 18" blocks rather than sell to a lumber company for making lumber from this 3 trunk tree. I travel by this location almost daily, it would have been impossible to develop the lot with this tree remaining in place. Ideally, this property should have been purchased by the City and made into a mini-park to retain this magnificent redwood tree. The trunk and roots still remain, drive by the NW corner of LaDonna and LaPara to get a better idea of its massive size. A real loss to the Palo Alto.


1 person likes this
Posted by Weeklyreader
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2015 at 11:35 am

I love that Barron Park is described as semi-rural but has "typical sized city lots." PA has not been semi rural in a long time. But nice that the new builder will have to pick 6 new and hopefully more appropriate trees.


5 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 23, 2015 at 12:26 pm

"Pretty soon we're going to have to change our name from Palo Alto, meaning "tall stick" to something else because without all of these trees the name will be meaningless."

No, we will be in line with overdevelopments everywhere -- which are often named for what was destroyed in order to build them.


2 people like this
Posted by Just_Mike
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Posted by Pa trees a resident of Downtown North 22 hours ago Our neighbor just served us legal documents demanding we remove 10 of the 16 massive redwoods in our backyard. I think thy are uprooting her foundation but I dread the entire path ahead, no matter the outcome. No simple solution!

We ran into a similar problem

Call Peter Sortwell - owner of Arborwell
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Jeff Keller
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2015 at 12:53 pm

I think I saw some dead wood at the top of El Palo Alto. It's roots are going to uproot the train tracks. It better be chopped down immediately to prevent loss of life.
Web Link

Planting a redwood tree shouldn't be taken lightly. They will impact your neighbors. They need a lot of water. If you've got a mature one, take care of it and enjoy it.

The only things appropriate in Palo Alto are office buildings with no parking and wide sidewalks provided to restaurants for their use.


4 people like this
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 23, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Great piece, Ms. Dremann.

The war on trees in Palo Alto continues.


8 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2015 at 2:19 pm

The 2nd paragraph says it all. The trees will be removed for 'improvements'.
Tell me, what is an improvement over a beautiful, healthy redwood tree?
A sad loss, but PA is chop happy these past years; it's unfortunate.


5 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2015 at 3:03 pm

PA in 1894...note El Palo Alto is the only Redwood visible...

Web Link

PAHS in the 1930's - no Redwoods visible

Web Link

Please point me to the historical document that states that the Spanish logged all of the Redwoods out of the Palo Alto area. It is widely held that Redwood logging didn't start until the Gold Rush era in California...and that logging was along the coast where the trees flourished.


7 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Here's an idea - we should ban new redwoods in Palo Alto. After all, they are not native to the flatlands, not compatible with the dry climate, and require a ton of water to thrive, as well as creating the problems you read about in this article. How is a redwood compatible with the low-water landscapes the city and county urge us to install? Rather than protecting thirsty redwoods, we should be paying homeowners to replace them, just as we do with grass.


6 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2015 at 4:54 pm

As I recall from history books and old photos.... the flatland of Palo Alto were dominated by grasslands studded with big oaks and some low wet areas with willow trees. Mr. Seale's duck blind/cabin at such a willows wetland was just north of today's Gamble Garden. Redwoods were limited to the creekbeds and the cooler valleys and slopes of the foothills.

The logging did not kick off until the Gold Rush. The Spanish/Mexican period was cattle country for hides and tallow. Read all about it in Charles Henry Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast."

If we are going to be holier than thou.... go back to the days of the Ohlone people whose diet was 50%+ acorns, a good harvest of which required regular grassland wildfires to suppress the oak weavil infestations. The "Spanish" padres forbade those fires because they thought hunter/gatherer wasn't as good a way to live as running cattle. Now our economy is housing, tech, and education. Anyone want to bring back the acorn forest with wildfires?


1 person likes this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2015 at 6:44 pm

I would never allow a redwood to grow on my property in town, and I would never buy a house in town that had a redwood on the property. They are totally inappropriate, and dangerous, to have around a house in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:29 pm

I wish this was the only tree that has been cut down in Barron park. So many big trees have been cut down in Barron Park on the streets where I walk my dog in the last 10 years, and few have been replaced. I wish this were not the case I am sure some of the trees were dying, but I don't believe all of them were.

Of course my neighbor planted a redwood tree about 10 years ago, between my house and theirs. We have already found 1 large root from the tree 15 feet toward our Vegetable garden which gets drip watered regularly during the growing season. I tried to get the tree planted somewhere else, but it is on her property and she just planted where she wanted.


Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Always sad to see trees cut but some of these trees were planted by humans either homeowners or property developers. I agree that certain trees get planted by mistake of just planted because they look nice but later on became a headache. See power, water, sewaage lines, building foundations, sidewalks, parking lots, curbs, driveways and streets.

I agree for every tree that is cut down a number replacement should be planted. Here or in places that were cut down by loggers, pot farmers, development, highway projects and loss due to age.


Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 4:49 pm

As Crescent Park Dad points out, there are a lot more trees in Palo Alto due to all the development and planting than there would have been naturally.


Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 28, 2015 at 9:43 pm

I have lived next door to a house that had a small redwood topple during a standard winter storm. It fell into neighbors yard and thru their 2 story house crushing my neighbors upper and lower floors where it landed. Only good new about the tragedy was neighbors were away the night it happened and no one was killed. It is hard not to find a neighbor without a Redwood near their yard in Palo Alto, and even though I love trees and redwoods, IMHO I think we should not allow Redwoods in our urban area. And all Redwoods over a certain height should be removed and replaced with a tree more appropriate to our urban area where we limit building to 35 feet.


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

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