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Neighbors oppose planned redwood removals

Original post made on Oct 27, 2007

At least seven Old Palo Alto neighbors submitted a petition Friday expressing their "strong opposition" to a proposal to cut down two more redwoods on Byron Street. "We love to have the trees around," said neighbor Paul Donahue, whose wife signed the petition. "They're healthy for us. They make our life nice and add value to our home. There're no negatives."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, October 27, 2007, 9:40 AM

Comments (35)

Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 27, 2007 at 2:35 pm

keep the trees, buy Claritin or Allegra

someday allergic residents will move, but the cut trees won't come back

trees clean the air and add ambiance

there are many ways to cope with allergies

the end result of "tree-cutting to prevent allergies" logic is to cut down all the trees - think about it - pollen travels...


Posted by stop
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 27, 2007 at 2:53 pm

dont touch those trees! clothes dryer odors are much more dangerous than trees!! ban clothes dryer outgassing!!

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Why are redwoods protected again? Because they are big?

If the neighbors would like redwoods, planting them is a good alternative. Last time I checked, we have not (yet) passed laws regulating what trees we are allowed to plant.

And to Mr. Doctker's point, redwoods may be native to parts of Palo Alto (like by creek beds, where there is lots of water), but probably not most of it, and certainly to not most people's yards. These were trees planted by people who thought they would look nice. The people who own the house now think otherwise. If they want to chop them down and plant others (or not), it is hard to understand why not.

And the oaks - please don't get me started. Could someone please tell me how I can get grass to grow anywhere under mine? Or ask the city to come by and clean up the constant droppings that cut my kids' feet? In a city with tons of trees, why do we need to protect certain species on private land? Anyone??

Posted by Walker
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2007 at 6:04 pm

I enjoy those redwood trees on my walks and would sorely miss them if they were removed. They are beautiful and they freshen our air with their wonderful aroma. One of them is located on City land and is at least 50 years old.

Many gardeners wear masks when working outside. Pollen travels on the wind and when my allergies act up I take medication and relax and pretty soon I feel better.

Posted by Response to Terry
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 27, 2007 at 6:47 pm


1) Grass of the type typically planted for lawns here is not native to Palo Alto, even less than redwood trees are. Why would anyone want to plant such grass here.... ???

2) Put shoes on your kids' feet. It's healthier and safer than letting them run bare feet.

Gosh you sound like someone who would turn their whole yard into a sea of concrete if only you could. How sad.

Posted by Teary-Eyed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2007 at 7:37 pm

My eyes tear up every time I drive by the Bonomi's redwood STUMPS on Lowell, and the tears aren't from allergies.

Web Link

Oh, sorry, the Bonomi's had the STUMPS ground down a couple of weeks ago, and all that's left is SAWDUST ... and yellow pollen from the pine trees across the street. The two redwoods on Lowell were beautiful trees, but they were toothpicks compared to the MAJESTIC REDWOODS on Byron.

I am sick that our city steward, Steve Emslie, allowed prior council decisions to be over turned on Lowell. I am sick that Mr. Emslie already permitted the destruction of four other redwood trees on Byron. The allergy loophole makes me sick! If I get a note from my doctor, will the City Council remove this loophole?

Where's the petition to stop the Byron madness? I want to sign! Please, somebody tell me how to head this off. Who can I call to lobby my opposition for the destruction.

Mr. Grossman and Ms. Janov, please don't cut down your trees. Mr. Emslie, please don't allow this. City Council, please intervene and block this.

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2007 at 8:26 pm


Your comment sums the "I know what's best" viewpoint well I think. The fact that I want my grass and want my kids (and me) to be able to run barefoot - who cares? That's what I want, but you know what's best for me? And no, I would like grass please, not concrete - unfortunately, my oak limits me to dirt and mulch in about a third of my yard.

Perhaps we should just let people have quiet enjoyment of their properties, plant the grass and trees that they like, and keep the government out of our yards? You plant want you like Response, and I will too. What do you think?

Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2007 at 10:38 pm

I can't quite believe this story has been resurrected again... It would be very helpful to have some factual information to put this in perspective.

Contrary to popular belief, not all trees clean the air and, in fact, there are many that emit VOCs that contribute to smog (redwoods are conifers which are among the worst offenders),

Redwoods are known to be a 6 on the OPALS allergy scale (and certainly not listed as an environmental "SuperTree" for improving air quality),

Studies have shown that there are many smaller, deciduous tree species that far outperform the massive, evergreen redwoods in terms of improving air quality. (Stop and think about this for a minute - smaller trees, deciduous trees that can outperform massive, evergreen redwoods.)

As for Canopy's expertise, their website lists redwoods as low water consumers. In truth, their native range is considered a temperate rain forest. Redwoods thrive in areas where there is the equivalent of 70"-120" of rain per year and Palo Alto receives 15"/year. It seems more factual that redwoods are huge consumers of water (even more than the high-water-consumer-green lawns which they eventually destroy).

As far as landscape use in urban environments outside of the native range, many experts advise using redwoods only as a short term tree - perhaps 20-30 years - due to the numerous issues that occur when they quickly outgrow the site conditions.

Redwoods are cheap and best used for a quick effect in the landscape to make it appear mature until the slower growing plantings have time to fill in.

Redwoods are a valuable, renewable resource for the very reason that they grow so quickly. Any arborist worth their salt will tell you that it is impossible to tell the age of the tree based on its size. They are one of the fastest growing softwood trees in the the world.

As to the allergy comments, just leave it alone.

Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2007 at 10:54 pm

The pine-trees to which you refer are cedars.... while they produce copious amounts of pollen, they are very low on the allergy scale - 2 OPALS.

It would be helpful if people consider that this town has so many trees because it's residents plant more trees than they remove. These tree ordinances came about because a few people got upset about ONE tree. In the grand scheme of things, let's have some faith in the residents to take care of their own properties - because they were able to do so for the last 100 years. Let's have the city make better use of our tax dollars and focus on the bigger issues at hand.

Posted by Judy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2007 at 11:16 pm

We have enough controls on our properties without adding redwood trees. This issue is about individual property rights. I am opposed to either the City or neighbors dictating to a resident what they can or cannot plant on their own property. Stop interfering, and allow the Grossmans to remove whatever trees they want on their own property.

Posted by Give Me A Break
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2007 at 11:28 pm

Resident of another neighborhood,

Those trees are NOT cedars.

What state/country were you born in?

All of the above information that you posted is nothing more than misinformation.

Keep posting though, because it gives us Californians a good laugh at you ridiculous you wannabe's are!

lol lol lol lol lol

Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2007 at 12:47 am

I don't which is worse, sad sacks who think allergies entitle them to special privileges or cry babies who think they have some say over whether a neighbor cuts down a tree on their (the neighbor's) own property.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2007 at 8:30 am

Give me a break,

The trees are specifically Blue Atlas Cedar and Deodora Cedar and you are welcome to consult any arborist or dendrology textbook to confirm.

As to the other information that was posted, you can confirm that with any number of papers written by experts in the field.

Posted by Not Native and Dangerous To Boot
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2007 at 10:42 am

Reading this article makes me wonder just how much our City knows about redwood trees.

** "They are native to Palo Alto" **

It is well established and unrefuted -- Coast Redwood trees are NOT native to Palo Alto. They are called Coast Redwoods because they are native to coastal regions where they pick up much of the water they need from fog. The climate in our Valley doesn’t do it for them.

Web Link (Dr. Baker’s Redwood Botany link)

Even El Palo Alto, the tree our City takes care of, knows that. A previous Town Square posting reports that El Palo Alto is being kept alive by a complex watering system we all pay for which runs 100 feet or more up its trunk, installed after the creek that it used to get water from ran dry. Tapping into ground water and lawn sprinkler systems are not enough for that tree.

If it were native, like oaks, it wouldn’t need tubes/pipes for artificial life support.

** "Redwoods are not more dangerous than any other tree." **

I don’t know if redwoods fall with more frequency than any other tree, but it sure makes sense to me that they are more “dangerous” when they fall, than say an aspen, olive or other tree, simply because of their size.

In another Town Square thread someone posted links to two Weekly articles reporting about seemingly healthy redwoods that caused serious damage when they came crashing down recently.

I suspect that the local man, who 10 months ago had to be cut out of his car and rushed to the hospital because his neighbor's redwood crushed his car with him in it, might use the word “dangerous” to describe redwoods.

Web Link

“Dangerous” might also be the first word that came to the mind of the Crescent Park 2 year old who a few months before that woke early when a 75 foot section of a 50 year old redwood tree damaged her family car and a large section of her home.

Web Link

And there were other fallen redwoods this past year that did not make the news, like the healthy looking one in East Palo Alto that broke in two last Christmas and damaged a substantial portion of the Teen Home for Girls’ second floor bedroom wing. “Dangerous” might be in the list of adjectives those girls would use if asked to describe their experience.

To the Bryon Street petition signers: however hard it is to lose something that looks so beautiful, and I grant you redwoods squarely fall into that category, have you ever considered that your neighbor might be doing you a favor if he planted in its place a tree that is more to scale in your neighborhood?

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2007 at 12:26 pm

So I would still like to hear, if anyone knows - why do we have regulations protecting redwoods and oaks? What kind of rationale was there?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2007 at 1:37 pm

Why do we have these regulations? The oak protection ordinance was hotly contested several times in the 90s before it was pushed through the council. The main issue was property owner rights vs. the folks who wanted to save one tree.

As for the redwood ordinance.... It appears that it was originally justified because El Palo Alto is a regional landmark.... ie. it stands out... easy to find campsite for wayward explorers... not many around in these parts.... and the whole el Portola expedition history. It was much easier to find a campsite under the rare, creekside redwood as opposed to the numerous native oaks around.

However, the very first item in the list of reasons the city provides to justify the law is to protect the aesthetic and scenic beauty of the city. What is significant is that redwoods are NOT listed as natives like the oaks, but are instead considered heritage trees.... which is the term for non-native trees that were planted here in the time since the city was founded and are now big.

What is less known is that a handful of outspoken residents, a few council members, and perhaps the Canopy network rushed through the ordinance with little or no input from the residents who were impacted by the law. This all occured because people were upset over one tree. It took place over the winter holidays and at the time of the 2000 US Presidential election fiasco and recount of hanging chads.

Given the true lack of knowledge of these trees that is out there, it makes one wonder how much the city staff sought to educate the property owners or the council members who were voting on a law about non-native trees that infringes so much on property owner rights.

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Thank you Resident for that explanation. It is kind of hard to fathom. In a town with, I would venture, as many or more trees as people, the idea that specific types of trees (or trees in general) on private property should be regulated seems very odd.

It would be great to get these well-intended but pretty bad laws taken off the books. Are there city council members who points to these laws as a good thing?

Posted by walker
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2007 at 3:09 pm

Who has property rights to a trees if it is located on city land in front of someone's house?

Posted by What Council Did Not Know
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2007 at 3:32 pm

You'd have to ask each Council Member to see what they think about the ordinance, but we are soon to have a newly constituted Council so what you find out today might not matter tomorrow.

I've heard that Council members were surprised by all the well-footnoted information the Bonomis presented to them about the characteristics of redwood trees during their appeal that, for some unknown reason, the City Arbortist did not mention in 2000/2001 when the pros and cons of a redwood tree protection law were discussed prior to Council's vote.

The list of what the City Arborist didn't mention when Council undertook its deliberations is long, but includes:
-experts' opinions, including Gamble Gardens and UC's Agriculture and Natural Resources Division, that redwoods are not appropriate trees for small residential lots, and
- the stat that 99% of our peer cities not only do not put redwoods on their short list of protected trees but some cities which we admire for their beauty, like Tiburon and Belvedere, call redwoods "undesirable" in their Muni Codes and an East Bay city makes it illegal to plant redwoods in that town, ever.

What those experts knew and communities were thinking would have been worth investigating before Council voted back in 2001 to restrict Palo Alto residents' options on their property. Council relied on the City Arborist to present relevant information to them to help them make their decision.

Posted by janette
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2007 at 3:36 pm

I guess the evil people of Palo Alto who want to preserve trees got a time machine and went back and planted El Palo Alto just so they could claim it's native. If you were as old comparatively, you'd need extra care too.

As to people taking care of Palo Alto properties for the last 100 years, that was before the tasteless new rich let's cut down those nasty trees and tear down historic properties so we can build tacky monster houses and the hell with the neighbors types moved in.

Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2007 at 3:52 pm

Re "Tacky monster homes"
When our sacred white ancesters built their "tasteful" "capacious" homes on native american land, I'll bet whatever the native words were for "tacky" and "monster" where used.

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2007 at 6:23 pm

Janette, thanks for demonstrating that it isn't just the new rich who can be tacky, not to mention mean-spirited. I'm sure there are people who don't like your house either (or car, or yard, or clothes, etc.). Live and let live.

FWIW, El Palo Alto was lucky enough to find a spot on a creek bed that gave it water supply. Apparently it was unusual enough in the landscape that it really stood out as a landmark - hmm. As others have pointed out, it is now kept alive (via our tax dollars) through an extensive watering system, since it can't otherwise get enough water.

The vast majority of redwoods in PA were planted by people who I expect thought they looked nice. If the people who own that property now think otherwise, and would rather have other trees, or maybe just lawn or garden, I can't see why not let them. If you, on the other hand, would rather have a redwood (or a forest of them), you are welcome to plant on your property - they grow very fast!

Posted by Response to Terry
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 28, 2007 at 10:17 pm

Planting grass in Palo Alto does not make much sense. Lawns are from English where the climate is very wet. Our climate is a relatively dry one, where grass requires much irrigation. It ends up being a costly proposition, both in terms of utility bills, and in terms of usage of our ever more scarce water resources.

Being a property owner should give you more than a sense of entitlement. It should give you some respect for the environment you live in.

It is unbelievable the number of spoiled people that have moved here in the last 10 years or so. So sad.

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2007 at 10:29 pm

Response, it is too bad you think you are so judgmental and take such a dim view of your neighbors. If you think grass is a sign of being spoiled, you must have a poor opinion of just about everybody, not just people who came recently, judging by what I see driving around. The grass was already here when I got here, brother.

Believe me, if you are dim on other people's grass (and who knows what else) there are probably plenty of others sneering you what you have. And that's a shame. Why be so judgmental?

Posted by new to PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2007 at 11:07 pm

we have recently moved to PA and into a lovely old home. There are 16 redwoods in the back yard. Some are very large, some medium and some small. Two arborists have suggested to me to remove 3-5 of them to allow the others to flourish.

This discussion makes me wonder if we would have any friends/neighbors left if we did this.

Posted by Flat Tire
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2007 at 9:08 am

speaking of trees, who's the dummy who planted Magnolias and Liquid Amber trees allover the place - they clutter the sidewalks with huge cones and spikey balls that make biking a hazard

Posted by Judy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2007 at 9:12 am

PA resident, you have just demonstrated why having this tree ordinance, suposedly to protect redwoods trees, is detrimental to homeowners and an invasion of your property rights.

Under current codes you will not be able to remove any of your redwood trees unless they interfere with utility polls of lines.

Did the realtor who sold you the house with redwood trees on the lot tell you, before you bought the house, that you may not be able to cut down any of your 16 redwood trees?

Posted by Jake
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2007 at 11:19 am

If anyone is interested in an example of how
quickly a Redwood grows, take a look at the
one in front of St. Alberts on Channing. That
was planted approx 35 - 40 years ago.

Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 29, 2007 at 2:55 pm


If this is the redwood tree where the sidewalk goes around it on Channing, at the side door of St. Albert's, I have a movie with this tree in it from 1961.

The tree was huge back then, and the sidewalk was already shaped to go around this gorgeous old tree.

Our children have watched this home movie that my dad made, and have remarked how neat it is that the sidewalk curves, and they get to walk around the same old tree and admire it every week when we go to Mass at St. Albert's.

The tree is much older than 40 years old.

Posted by Jake
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2007 at 3:57 pm

Hello Long Timer-

We're talking about the same location.
Check your movie, you should see that tree
was an Oak. The Redwood went in after
it the Oak had fallen down.

Posted by Jake
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2007 at 3:59 pm

...and BTW - St. Albert's once published a directory
with a drawing of that Oak on the cover... Jake

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2007 at 4:08 pm

The best way to get more redwood trees in PA is to remove them from the protected list, and have a sustained yield forestry program that allows the harvest of the trees (for a profit to the property owner).

The best way to limit the number of redwoods in PA is to place them on a protected list. Same for oaks.

Posted by isabelle
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2007 at 4:52 pm

People who plant redwoods on their property need to think 30 years from now. These trees become enormous, they belong to forests, not suburbia, where they are absolutely out of proportion and pose many structural risks. I think if you want to regulate tree cutting, you may require residents to plant some other tree instead. What's wrong with that idea?
Another thought - I have a redwood tree on my property that is still young, and can be cut without a permit. I am seriously considering cutting it now because I do not want to deal with the regulatory issues it will pose later on.

Posted by Dave Dockter, City of Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2007 at 7:32 am

Correction,for the record, the article third paragraph from bottom should read: ". . .oakc were protected as of 1996"

Posted by suzanne
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2007 at 9:54 am

While i love trees i think that some FOREST trees belong in the forest NOT in our backyards...besides when they get stressed due to our polluting cars, excess watering of yards to look pretty, raccoons stripping them of their bark make them for the providing healthy air...these large trees provide none of this...they take more than they give due to their stressed environment...if you would plant a lawn instead of planting the plastic stuff you would have a much more healthier environment inwhich to live due to the greater oxygen production...These lovely trees need to be in a forest to visit and enjoy in their appropriate habitat...I am a botanist and feel sadden when i see these lovely trees so saddly stressed to bad we have encroached upon their environment and make them live in areas that are unhealthy for them thinking they are making us healthy...sort of an oxymoron situation...

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