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Redwood debacle leads to new city promise

Original post made on Sep 21, 2007

Two Lowell Avenue redwood trees, toppled after months of effort by the Bonomi family, weren't the only protected trees downed by a doctor's note in Palo Alto this summer.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 21, 2007, 12:00 AM

Comments (19)

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 21, 2007 at 10:40 am

I see, from reading comments in the above article, that personal property rights and health issues are of no concern to Canopy's Executive Director Catherine Martineau.
Who has given the authority to City Arborist Dave Dockter to release tree removal requests to Canopy?
What ever happened to personal property rights and the rights to privacy--it is clear that the city has let numerous organizations and people dictate to the population as a whole based on their own personal desires.
If Ms Martineau and Mr Doktor want trees on their property, then let them plant as many trees as they want--however it is time that the assorted busybodies in this city let people do what they want with their property as long as they adhere to established guidelines.

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 21, 2007 at 10:46 am

Back again. I just read the title of the article--looks like the Weekly is trying to stir up some controversy with the headline "Redwood debacle leads to new city promise".
Who is it a debacle for--Canopy and the neighbors? What about the property owners?
As stated in the article:
"With only three allergy-based redwood removals in two years, Planning and Community Environment Director Steve Emslie said he doesn't believe there is a problem."--it looks like there is no major problem and it certainly does not need to be classified as a "debacle"
Also note that Dockter approved all 40 requests to remove redwoods received in 2006--so whay is the removal of these two trees considered a debacle and why has it raised the ire of Canopy?

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Posted by Lucy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2007 at 11:14 am

When removing a protected tree from your own property I can understand the City notifying the neighbors as they would when a building permit is issued, but why Canopy. Who are Canopy? They are a loose knit groups of rather interfering residents who have no respect for individual property rights. They are, in fact, the self proclaimed "Tree Police".

Sorry, but I don't think Canopy should expect to have the right to be notified if a redwood or oak is being removed from anyones personal property, but the neighbors should be notified.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2007 at 11:17 am

Don't give Canopy the publicity. The next thing is they will take a lesson from the tree sitters at Berkeley and try the same here.

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Posted by Anna
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2007 at 11:36 am

Lucy and Resident are right. The city policy of notifying Canopy of tree removals is a recipe for discord in town. The last thing we need is an activist group like Canopy getting involved and protesting every tree removal permit issued to individual homeowners.

Canopy is involved in discussions when the city adopts policies, which they have every right to do.

But do we really want Canopy using individual homeowner actions for publicity and to make ideological points with the media?

There's enough ill will between neighbors who get involved with each other's home remodelling projects already without adding this kind of thing to our daily news stories.

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Posted by Teary-eyed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2007 at 11:53 am

My eyes tear up every time I drive by the Bonomi's redwood STUMPS, and the tears aren't from allergies. Those were beautiful trees, and I am sick that our city stewards allowed prior council decisions to be over turned. Had I known that the city arborist issued a permit after our elected City Council rejected the Bonomi's petition, I would have appealed.

This has made me sick. If I get a note from my doctor, will the City Council remove the staff who let this happen? I applaude Dave Dockter for his early stance on the issue. I am saddened that he was pressured into reversing his position.

Mr. Grossman and Ms. Janov, please don't cut down your trees.

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 21, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Teary-eyed--what about the other 38 permits to remove redwood trees that Doktor approved? Would you have appealed each and every one of those?
What about private property rights?
What makes redwoods so special?
What about every winter trees come toppling down all over. During the recent arts festival in downtown PA a tree toppled over--luckily no one was hurt, but it got little play in the papers.
People who are completely against the removal of trees need to get a grip and understand people's rights and the dangers that trees can cause.

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Posted by Anna
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2007 at 12:02 pm

One can already see the problems the City policy has. We have two homeowners who followed the rules and were granted permits, listed by name in news stories and now on this public forum.

Who thinks the kind of public calumny that has been visited on the Lowell homeowners should not be directed at the people in Teary-eyed's post?

Do we really want this going on in our city? If Teary-eyed or Canopy want a city policy that excluded allergy sensitivity from the allowed for tree removal, they are free to advocate to the Council that this be made a part of the law. But please... leave these poor people alone in their individual capacities.

Once we start down this road where actions of individual homeowners or residents become sources of public protest and discussion, there is no logical end.

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Posted by tom
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Sep 21, 2007 at 2:19 pm

One thing that is overlooked is whether losing two or even 10 trees in the City is a cause for alarm. Once it was required that every residence (more than 20,000 in Palo Alto) had a street tree in its front yard. In my walks in many different parts of town my unscientific survey is that every residence has at least 2 and often 3 trees of different sizes on its lot. Including trees in our parks we must have well over 50,000 trees within our borders.

For Canopy and others please put your concerns in perspective. Leave individuals and their property alone.

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Posted by Perspective Rules
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2007 at 3:47 pm

I couldn't agree more, Tom. I think there are some rare species of trees that need to be protected, but some people forget that trees don't live forever. The cool thing is that If you cut one down, you can simply plant another one, and there's no net loss.
There seems to be a divide in this community between people who believe that they are frequently, if not always. I could tolerate certain reasonable restrictions on tree removal, but I would place the burden on the city to show why you shouldn't be able to get rid of any particular tree.
I got rid of some trees on my property, and I was scared to death of having problems like this. Thankfully it all worked out.

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Posted by Perspective Rules
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Don't you hate when you don't proofread your own postings? I wish there was some way to edit these postings. Anyway, in the 2nd paragraph, insert "enjoin others from excercising their own freedom in decision making over their property or personal affairs." after "there seems to be a divide...frequently if not always"
Sorry about that.

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Posted by Perspective Rules
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2007 at 3:53 pm

This is annoying. I will be surprised if the editors leave any of my post intact. Let me specify who the divide is between - those who seek to prohibit free decision making and those of us who cherish our freedom to make decisions for better or worse, especially when it doesn't directly impact the other parties personal property. Its seems dangerous to restrict freedom based on another person's subjective interpretation of the world.

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Posted by Big Al
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2007 at 5:28 pm

Perspective Rules: While I like these trees- would have to agree with you- although I think
the way it was done was dubious= still have to agree that property owners should be able to
remove trees from their land- unless it's an endangered/threatened species in its natural habitat= and this is coming from a part time tree hugger! get over it- and if you don't like it than do something positive about it- plant a redwood tree of your own- or plant several hundred= protect the forest we still have from clear cutting- but picking on these folks is getting a little over the top!

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 22, 2007 at 5:52 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

My, what's with all the tree haters? Shouldn't the magnificent redwoods that make Palo Alto special take precedence over property rights? Imagine a treeless Palo Alto--one pretty joyless, ordinary town indeed. But your posts have inspired me to make a contribution to Canopy, so many thanks, Marvin especially!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2007 at 6:00 pm

See what publicity does!!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2007 at 7:25 pm

Thank you Nora!
That is a wonderful idea.
Marvin is truly an inspiration.
I just looked up Canopy online and they are NOT a radical activist group that ties themselves to trees.
I think I will make a contribution and volunteer too.
I think their efforts are commendable.
I would like my grandchildren and their children to enjoy as many trees as possible. With all the new housing and buildings planned to go up around here, we will need as many trees as possible to filter out the dust and sound. I have allergies too, but I don't care!

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Posted by As to Canopy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2007 at 11:17 am

Let's get the record straight on Canopy. The first sentence of Canopy's home page under "Mission" says that Canopy is an "advocate for the urban forest" (aka City and residential trees).

Dave Dockter, the City arborist, is very much aligned with Canopy. Not only is he slated to present a talk he dubs "The Miracle of Community Trees" at a Canopy workshop, Mr. Dockter is a Canopy volunteer redwood tree tour guide, Canopy donor, and penned at least one article under his City title for Canopy's newsletter in which he is described as "a contributing resource for Canopy and supports its mission and goals." Back when the redwood tree protection ordinance was being considered, seems that Mr. Dockter asked Canopy members to send letters to him for the public record:

Web Link

That article included imagery of “trees . . . falling to the chain saw” and “dismayed neighbors.” Pretty easy to guess what those letters might have said.

I’d find it hard to maintain objectivity if I was this closely aligned with an advocacy group whose mission related to what I do professionally.

Anyway, Canopy, from its tree gift program for City mayors to all the other things it does, is one of the most astute and active advocacy groups in town.

I support much of what Canopy does. I just don't happen to think that City staff should promise special treatment to special interest groups, and particularly not to a group with which the staff person is so closely associated.

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 23, 2007 at 1:59 pm

I was not aware of Mr Doktor's association with Canopy and I personally have no problem with Canopy, as a group. However I agree with As to Canopy's comments regarding the relationship between a city staff member and a public advocacy group.
I think the City Council should look into Mr Doktor's promise to Canopy to give them all requests for the removal of trees in PA.
And I again claim that the city council also needs to addres sthe matter of the personal property right's of homeowners with regard to the removal of trees.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2007 at 2:17 pm

I don't know Mr. Doktor, and he is probably well-meaning, but the idea of special-interest groups "capturing" agencies of government is a well-establish bad thing (Theodore Lowi, The End of Liberalism). Would we like it if developers got the heads-up from "moles" in the planning office? Canopy perceives itself as pursuing the public interest and it largely does - but where its activities put it adverse to individual private citizens, things need to be arms-length, with no special treatment.

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