Around Town | June 7, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 7, 2013

Around Town

CALIFORNIA DREAMING ... Palo Alto's planned transformation of California Avenue has been a turbulent three-year ride — a journey filled with anger, lawsuits, confusion, revision, excitement and expanding ambitions. Now, the city is at last preparing for construction, which is scheduled to begin this fall. On Thursday morning, the Architectural Review Board voted unanimously to endorse the latest changes (adding a long list of conditions, as per board custom) to the streetscape plan. In addition to reduction of lanes from four to two, by far the most controversial aspect of the plan, the project includes wider sidewalks, new plazas and a host of new street furniture along California Avenue, between the Caltrain station and El Camino Real. The plan also calls for removal of five existing street trees, a thorny subject in a neighborhood that remembers all too well the "chainsaw massacre" of September 2009, when the city surprised area residents by chopping down all 50 mature street trees at once. College Terrace Fred Balin alluded to that infamous episode Thursday morning when he urged city officials to tread carefully on tree removal. The city, he said, "has a casual approach to protecting trees on California Avenue." He also noted that there hasn't been any outreach to the community about the new proposal to remove five trees — two valley oaks, one southern live oak and two Shumard oaks. The project is slated to be reviewed by the city's Planning and Transportation Commission and the City Council this summer before construction commences this fall.

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