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California Avenue trees get the axe

Original post made on Sep 16, 2009

The planned removal of 50 mature street trees lining the California Avenue business district has some residents, shoppers and merchants upset. Photo by Veronica Weber/Palo Alto Online.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 8:21 PM

Comments (149)

Posted by Ugh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2009 at 12:00 am

By chance I drove through there today around 3 pm and hardly recognized the place. What a loss.

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 12:19 am

California St. could use a good face lift. I would have started with the buildings, not the streets, though.

Where can we see the complete plans for this project? Both the store owners and the general public seem to be somewhat surprised about this.

Posted by concerned
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 16, 2009 at 9:08 am

Interesting that the city is able to cut down dozens of mature oak trees and replace them with some other tree, simply for aesthetic reasons. If a resident tried to cut down an oak on their own property they would have the book thrown at them.

Posted by Not surprised
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 16, 2009 at 9:22 am

Yes, Canopy and their city worker Dave Dockter have been silent about this issue. You are right, if someone tried to remove a tree from his/her private property there would be hell to pay.
Why the double standard?

Posted by ChrisK
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 16, 2009 at 9:25 am

Why not remove *some* of them, so we'd at least have some shade ... and then, in 30 years, we won't be ripping them all out at the same time again?

Posted by bellesdottir
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2009 at 9:54 am

Once again I am shocked by the arrogance of those running Palo Alto. Obviously those who decided to chop everything right now are not denizens of the California Avenue district. It'll be another at least ten years before the new trees reach the maturity of the now murdered trees, all the while those in charge will be getting their coffee downtown. Vote the guilty out.

Posted by K
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:17 am

2 lane will be terrible, like Charleston (now 2 lane).

The tree city chops all the trees down.

Posted by sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:25 am

I think making sidewalks wider and reducing traffic is a great idea. I love outdoor cafes. Lower traffic will make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street safely. Car drivers can always use the parallel streets to reach the nearby parking lots. There is no through traffic anyway, since the street dead ends at the train tracks.

The trees were reportedly removed because they were heavily diseased, and falling branches were a risk to pedestrians and parked cars and nearby buildings.

Think of how much nicer Castro Street and University Ave. became after their face lifts. I hope the city invests as much effort into California Ave.

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:28 am

I can't believe the stupidity of our City Council and government when it comes to investing our tax dollars.

Our streets make Disney's "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" seem tame and yet they're happy to cut down mature trees to replace with other, smaller, some day they'll be wonderful trees.

How about repaving our roads so they don't trash our cars and address "beautification/gentrification" in more affluent times.

I'm still waiting to see San Antonio Road repaved. Isn't that what all the tree cutting and re-landscaping was about?

We need some kind of high tech detector that lights up the idiots before we cast our votes.

Posted by Chris
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:29 am

I was so surprised that I had not heard about this prior to it happening. You'd think the city would be a little more circumspect about something like this that is so damaging to the look of the street. They also took down the beautiful pine over the pedestrian tunnel, sigh. And the trees near the bench by the fountain. I agree with ChrisK who suggested taking only some of them down - at least there would be some shade on the street. The new trees won't be effective until many of us are long gone. I don't get it.

If you look at Mountain View's new San Antonio changes, you can see what it will be like - a very bare looking street compared to what it used to be.

Posted by L
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:31 am

So sad!

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:34 am

What's next? Waverly, Bryant, Santa Rita ?
Plenty of old trees there. Look out!

Posted by Laughing at Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:40 am

Classic Palo Alto hypocrisy! The self-styled green city relies solely on non-native trees to beautify California Ave. And not just a tree that isn't native to California, but a tree that isn't native to anywhere west of the Rockies!

I hope the next time someone asks for a permit to chop down a protected oak tree in Palo Alto, they argue that the tree is dangerous because people might trip on the acorns. Hey, if the city can use that rationalization, why shouldn't everyone else?

Posted by rem
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 16, 2009 at 11:02 am

****�A city arborist had determined the oak trees were largely diseased.�****

Well let see � The City Council has BUTCHERED San Antonio Road, now they have BUTCHERED California Avenue.

I have a GREAT idea - the next time THE ARBORIST states something � GET a second and third opinion�.

Would you cut off your arm or leg JUST BECAUSE one doctor said it was �diseased�..?????

I wonder which street is next � Middlefield ????? Gee, it is beautiful and shaded, �cut um down��

There was nothing wrong with San Antonio except the roots. If we had a competent street department they would have cut the �offending root� on the street and put in a one inch by six to ten foot steel plate to block the �offending root�. This technique has been done in other place and in Europe and it works�

Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2009 at 11:28 am

We should look at the positive in this-it provides an outlet for all the extra money we have here in Palo Alto, and jobs for tree crews, arborists, nurseries and landscaping folks. And as a bonus provides perhaps more room for some expensive street art.

Posted by stella
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 16, 2009 at 11:33 am

are you kidding? ALL of them... how about just some? tripping on acorns? Heritage about cut down every third one and replace slowly... (just like we vote for Senators... 1/3 at a time). Where did the budget come from? How "diseased" were these trees? seriously?

Posted by M
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

California Ave. never looked worse. It will be interesting to see how people feel about visiting the now shadeless street during the next heat wave.

I doubt if many folks really understood the drastic change that was coming. Today in the Daily News, one merchant said she was happy that she could now put up a sign on her store that won't be blocked by a tree, but hadn't anticipated the additional heat caused by the lack of shade.

Posted by Ian
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

What have they done? This is awful. Does this mean there will be more plastic trees like that ridiculous "public art" fake, spiraled tree monstrosity? "If it's green, it should not be seen" ha. "If it is brown, cut it down". Canopy - what do you think of this?

Posted by v
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 16, 2009 at 11:58 am

I can not believe that it takes so much drama to have a sick or damaged tree removed from our yards and they can just cut down these mature trees to redo the esthetics. If they remove them, they should be required to replace them with more mature trees than 2.5 inch 10 feet tall trees that will take 10 years or more to make shade and renew the beauty of these lost organisims. The area will look empty and no character. Trees add sooo much, not to mention the air we breathe.

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 16, 2009 at 12:19 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Linda
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2009 at 1:10 pm

A similar wrongheaded tree cutting took place in my community. About 2 weeks after I bought my house, where the freeway had about 2 miles of very tall and beautiful old growth trees lining it, someone (?) instituted a massive tree removal. Within 3 days, all of these gorgeous healthy looking trees were taken out. Oh yes, they were eventually replaced by spindly saplings, which look like a species, that even with a few years, will come no where near the grandeur of the other trees. There have been a few homeowners near me, who also, with every legal right, removed gorgeous large healthy trees...with probably similar reasons, similar to California Street's "fallen acorns get in the way". U.C. Berkeley's policy makers recently cut down many historic healthy trees, to basically construct a building where one could bounce balls (yeah...another gymnasium in addition to all the others they have). There are those who preserve trees, and those who seem to yearn to cut them down - whether to make things "neater", or to choose a drastic solution for a minor problem. Maybe there is a bit of human nature's need to "want to make a change, to demonstrate one's power or knowledge.....i.e. a city beautification committee and some city council member's (or arborist's) grand scheme. I guess in this particular case regarding California Avenue's tree slaughter, it seems the citizens and business owners weren't really duly informed, and given a chance to decide which, if any, trees should be cut. Unfortunately, the repercussions will last decades. I suggest someone monitor all entities with power to cut the old trees on other streets. Woodsman - spare that tree.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 1:14 pm

A tragedy! Whoever devised this plan should be out looking for a job!

Posted by Debbie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm

The people who make decisions for the City of Palo Alto are people that don't live in our town, and therefore are not sensitive or understanding of the uniqueness and charm of PA. City workers don't even know our neighborhoods. They've never been shown around town. They drive here from outlying areas (Newark, Hayward, etc.) They don't care about PA. Now the City czars want to rip out our few remaining quaint street lights, like the ones on Christmas Tree Lane. This town runs in spite of itself.

Posted by used to work there
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I used to work at Country Sun, I live a few blocks from California Ave so will be walking down later to have a look. Im not sure about the idea of making it a 2 lane instead of 4 lane, is this is going to make the easy traffic of the street more congested. I dont see larger sidewalks having much effect, since their isnt an awesome selection of business that I patronize. Is this going to become an excuse for property owners to jack up rents on business so they can not afford to operate? I am at a loss for how cities operate to benefit business or residents.

Posted by Kathy
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 16, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I hope that our reporters will do a story on which elected official or officials have oversight over the arborist, how the planning was done that lead to this decision, and whether and when there were chances for public input. I am sure I am not the only one who would like to know how interested citizens can affect future decisions to cut down mature trees.

Posted by Supporter
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 16, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Give it rest guys. Why do Palo Altans have to vehemently argue over everything!?? Have you ever considered that your constant bickering contributes as much to the terrible and justly maligned "Palo Alto Process" as much as the City Council does?

The trees were diseased according to a tree expert and would have had to be removed anyway sooner or later. As long as the city completes the next stage of work as planned, then Calif Ave will become a vast improvement over what was there before.

I think there are a lot of people in these chat forums who are afraid of change but won't admit so.

Posted by sanity about trees
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Note: This is what I also said in the other thread on this subject:

Those holly oaks are lousy trees. Oak trees, in general, are not good in business districts, because they are messy and drop acorns. They are being replaced with red maples, which are much better.

Now we need this tree cutting crew to go down every street in Palo Alto and cut down those liquid ambers...and replace them any other tree, although red maples would be just fine. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm

This work appears to be part of Capital Improvement Project PE-07005 that was included in the Council approved 2007-09 Capital Improvment Program budget. See PDF pages 155 and 156 of 354 at Web Link Printed budget pages 123 and 124.

The project was managed by the Public Works Department.

According to the approved budget, the project was supposed to be reviewed by Architectural Review Board, the Public Arts Commission, and the Planning and Transportation Commission.

Perhaps somebody in the Public Works Department can tell us when the project was reviewed by those Council appointed groups.

Posted by Nancy
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I don't like having so many large trees removed throughout the city as it truly impacts the character and "greenness" of our town which WAS one of the more desirable aspects of many Palo Alto neighborhoods and parks. However, assuming that they are being removed because of disease, why plant all of one kind of tree to avoid the problem? Surely having multiple species would avoid disease problems that affect particular kinds of trees. If they are all the same, they can more easily infect each other and be felled simultaneously, again, and leave us with the ugly bare spot we'll have to live with for another 10-15 years.

Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 16, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Be careful about reasons and justifications. "Diseased" is an acceptable reason to cut a tree, not necessarily an ailment suffered by a tree.

Posted by used to work there
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Went and had a look, it does seem much more barren and hot. Asthetically, it is much uglier. It would have been nice to leave a third or a quarter of the trees there, but I am just a bickering Palo Altan. The new trees will hopefully be some improvement, over the current situation and hopefully the other changes will be rapid and proactive. Hopefully the approach of fall will alleviate something of the new drab feeling of California Ave.

Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 16, 2009 at 3:35 pm

20 years?!? I do agree that Palo Altans argue a lot, but this just seems like a dumb move. Palo Alto. Even the city's name refers to a tree.

Posted by sanity about trees
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm

P.A. Native,

Why is it a dumb move, if it was dumb move to plant oaks in the first place?

Why not get it right, especially when there is remodel going on?

Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm

It's dumb because it leaves the street looking completely bare. Phase them out to keep some shade and feel. It's not like they were all going to fall over next week.

Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 16, 2009 at 4:10 pm

I don't care about seeing leaves turn in the fall. This is California, not Vermont. I care about the oaks that were cut down. They never bothered me...they were the heart and soul of California Ave. I will not be going there so much. It is flat out ugly. California Ave. has been raped.

Posted by sanity about trees
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Put up a bunch of umbrellas, for shade, until the red maples grow up.

This is an emotional issue, as usual in Palo Alto, but there is no reason to buy into the emotion.

Posted by D. Reller
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 16, 2009 at 4:44 pm

I just returned from the newly uglified California Avenue and am mortified by the loss of all the oak trees. The street looks barren, with all the outdoor dining tables baking in the sun. In the 30+ years I've been shopping on this street, I have never yet tripped on an acorn or in any way been inconvenienced by the oak trees. And MAPLES! What happened to using California native plants -- especially on California Avenue? This really is a sickening loss, and the City Arborist should be ashamed of him/herself.

Posted by Outraged and Disheartnened
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I am sickened and saddened by the new "improved" look of Calif. AVe. How could you, City of Palo Alto?! Acorns a safety threat? Really? Woo Jae Kim and the city arborist should all be ashamed of themselves as should the CAADA, whoever they are, for this blatant disregard for our local environment. Seems as though most of the renters and merchants along Calif. Ave had no idea this was going to happen.

Posted by Anciana
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2009 at 5:08 pm

No shade? It's already pretty hot along the street on a warm day. Bare and ugly -- not what I want, that's for sure. Very disappointing!

Posted by Angry
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 16, 2009 at 5:42 pm

I can see why the development association (CAADA) and the city worked so hard to keep everyone in the dark on this. Had the residents and the Cal Ave merchants known what was about to take place, they would have stopped it cold, and asked for a more sensible approach. This is not a step toward beautification. It is a step backwards. Bogus reasons. Stealth politics. Ugly street. No, a strip of maple trees doesn't cut it.

Posted by Puzzled
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2009 at 5:58 pm

One of the lessons we might learn from this debacle is not to plant a monoculture of trees along a single street. Won't these new trees when suddenly faced with the great red-maple disease of 2022 all have to be removed? How about some variety so the street doesn't have to be decimated a second time, and doesn't end up looking as sterile as a hotel lobby. You know, pretty little maples all in a row, so pert, so clean, so tidy. How about some trees with character.

Posted by Floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Someone here actually believes that University Avenue looks better since it's last" beautification" treatment.
What a "green" thing to do on California Avenue. What arrogance and misdisrection.
Are these the same people that approved the Horton development at El Camino and Charleston?

Posted by h
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 7:25 pm

This uglification is as stupid and displeasing as what the idiots did on San Antonio Road where simple pavement repairs could have kept the miles of beautiful mature trees. In a time of fiscal crisis, we don't have the money to waste on making our city uglier and more barren. I would vote to impeach or fire anyone responsible for these travesties, starting with the arborist, who is obviously incompetent, and his bosses. And I find it stomach wrenching to see California Avenue now; I cannot see myself patronizing any of the merchants or restaurants there I had heretofore been a customer of.

Posted by MJ
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 16, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Cutting down the trees is nothing compared to the City's plan to turn California Avenue into a dense business district with three-story office buildings lining the street from one end to the other.

The City's comprehensive plan is going to be changed to what I think is called a Pedestrian Oriented Transit District. Then there will be plenty of shade from the buildings. The architects, developers, and construction companies must be salivating.

Then with all the expensive new buildings and the high rents charged to pay for them, say goodbye to our local stores, and welcome to the type of stores that come and go on University Avenue, depending whether it is a boom or bust time.

Oh, and if the developers/owners leave retail space empty during the bust times and the vacancy rate is over either 5 or 10%, the City allows conversion of the zoning from retail to office for five years. But can anyone honestly say they trust the City to keep track and make sure it is converted back to retail if the vacancy rate goes down. Nope, once space is converted from retail to office that's the way it will stay.

As to wider sidewalks, the last I heard is that they will stay just as they are due to the cost of widening them. Does anyone know if that has changed?

Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Even after the closing of Printers Ink, California Avenue had evolved nicely over the years, independently of city planning. I liked its unselfconscious atmosphere, in contrast with the glitz and tat of University Avenue.

Then the city's financial folks decided that the Avenue could become an even bigger success--and, of course, generate more income for City Hall to mis-spend. How would that $$ success happen? By overhauling the environment, rents would get hiked.

The grandiose and unwelcome plans for the fountain were the first clear sign of the city's agenda for the Avenue. There was such a public outcry over that issue, that the axing of the oak trees was deliberately not publicized ahead of time.

It always amazes me that anything the city needs to do--like repaving Alma and other streets in disgusting shape--NEVER gets done, BUT perfectly unnecessary things like this tree massacre, reflooring of Lytton Plaza, etc. etc. invariably DO get done. So much for government for the people and by the people!

Posted by very sad
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 16, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I think it's horrible and quite suspicious that a project of this magnitude was kept quiet until it was too late to do anything. Those old oaks gave that street so much character and charm, I can't imagine a bunch of young trees of any variety will make this right.

With regard to the "arborist"-- I'd heard a couple of years back from another arborist that the guy that worked for Palo Alto would basically go along with whatever the city wanted politically-- declaring any tree "diseased" to fit the agenda. Dispicable.

Posted by A neighbour
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm

California Avenue looks like a North Korean Avenue now...

Posted by Paul Graham
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:12 pm

This is shocking. I can't believe they did this. Can the newspaper dig into this story and find out which politicians were responsible for this, so that we can vote them out of office?

Posted by E
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:22 pm

I was shocked to find that the trees had been cut down. The whole landscape looks different. I wish there had been some advance warning of this plan. I did not see anything in the local media. It's too late now. Very sad. I am less likely rather than more likely to spend time on California Avenue without those trees. Also, there is nothing wrong with the four lane street! It works well for cycling and driving.

Posted by Chrisc
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 16, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Yet another example of how much Palo Alto City government hates small business owners. To not have even consulted them?? I don't know why anybody opens a small business in PA or tries to keep one going.

Posted by nac
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2009 at 11:41 pm

This is terrible. This should not be allowed. That street is always very hot in summer, now it will be unbearable and bad for business. I just hope we don't lose any other street trees to such horrific treatment. Really terrible.

Posted by Wondering
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 17, 2009 at 8:51 am

Does anybody out there know who CAADA is? Their web site has no contact information, no list of members, no summary of meetings, public or private, no plans, no notifications, no hint of what their master plan is. The city says it is simply responding to the business development association represented by CAADA, and CAADA appears to be accountable to no one.

Posted by Stephanie Enos
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2009 at 9:37 am

Did the person/committee responsible for the cutting down of all the trees even consider the immediate negative effect this will have on all the small businesses lining California Avenue?

This was a gently thriving place full of restaurants doing business at lunch time in particular where people could eat outside in the shade those oaks provided. On Sundays there is the Farmers market and they too will suddenly find the temperatures hotter now those trees have gone. I find it hard to believe that every single one of them were diseased.
I don't recall anyone polling patrons of the area about this.
You don't just plop trees in or change them so that they look 'tidy'?
Who needs tidy?
Please don't put in trees that have nothing to do with this part of California. The charm of California Avenue was precisely that it was a little uneven in places, it was green all year round because of the oaks and many people liked it that way.

Posted by ShadeLover
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 17, 2009 at 9:44 am

I love trees. I won't ever go there again to spend a single penny. Considering moving away from all the stupidity and this is another good reason. Make sure to write down the responsibles and vote them out. Human stupidity, greed, selfishness, whatever it is. It's an epidemic and there's really not much point in holding out any hope. This world is on it's way to a bad bad end.

Posted by nac
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2009 at 10:22 am

so do we know who did this, and who we can write complaints to? if not how can we find out?

Posted by a neighbor
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 17, 2009 at 10:37 am

I agree that this was ill-conceived, but I don't like the notion of people stopping their patronage of the merchants of Cal. Ave. as a result. The merchants are not to blame, and I'd hate to see them punished unfairly.

Posted by spoon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 17, 2009 at 11:41 am

I agree with "neighbor". The merchants were unaware of the tree raping and are not responsible, and should not be liable. I will still eat my mediteranean wraps once a week, and go to Country Sun for my occasional grocery shopping. But, California Ave seriously had a sad look to it and many people arent going to be around in 20 years to see these new trees mature. The memory I will have is when the city of palo alto didnt think enough of its residents to inform them it had plans to destroy another downtown. University Ave is poorly managed by the city, I lost attachment to it in 1989 when the first franchise stores moved in.

The merchants of California ave should receive support, but the city planners should be cornered and held accountable for this.

Posted by Darwin
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2009 at 11:46 am


You wrote "I won't ever go there again to spend a single penny."

The only people you're hurting by doing that is the California Ave merchants who had nothing to do with the changes.

Posted by Bleh
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I think it's great. Every now and then old things need to be removed to let new things grow and thrive. Old doesn't mean good.

Posted by MJ
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 17, 2009 at 12:48 pm

The decision to cut down the California Avenue trees was probably made by city staff. Who do they report to? I didn't see anything going to the city council or any of the commissions or boards about this. So who did make this decision? Does anyone know?

The city arborist is very unimpressive. On the corner of my street he choose four chestnut trees that will ALWAYS require a good deep monthly watering during the summer to thrive. The trees are stunted and pathetic because they were chosen to be planted in front of a rental cottage that was very obviously occupied by occupants without the slightest interest in plants. The sickliest was replaced with yet another chestnut a couple of years ago. Some years ago I had the opportunity to ask the arborist why he chose them. The response was that the loved the way they grew as street trees in France.

Posted by K. Griffin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I just don't get the lack of communication. One would think they would have information at the Farmer's Market for example, or have something for the merchants to post in their businesses along the lines of "You'll be seeing our first steps to update and beautify California Ave. when we remove the diseased trees, and then replace with new trees in November!" Instead, the whole episode came off as something underhanded and without thought for the neighborhood. The lack of common sense courtesy is truly disappointing -- I'm sorry the city meeting notices postcards which give no detail just don't cut it in my mind.

Posted by paula
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Sad to kill a living thing

Who or what's next?

Palo Alto the city of trees INDEED!

Posted by Bob
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Claiming that the oaks were cut down because they were diseased or a hazard is transparent nonsense; they were removed because they interfered with planned street work. Please don't insult our intelligence with specious justifications. Liquidambar trees near the Caltrain station have been left standing, even though they obviously are diseased and might constitute a hazard.

Red maple is a puzzling choice for a replacement tree. This east coast native requires abundant water, has weak branches and is deciduous. It may produce fine fall colors in a frosty climate, but not in California.

If any of these decisions were approved by the city arborist, I think we need a new arborist, as well as more accountabilty higher up.

Posted by Daft Punk
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 17, 2009 at 3:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Yugh
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 17, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Cutting down ALL the trees on California indicates the most unconscionable behavior demonstrated in years. The underhanded way in which this took place also demonstrated unconscionable behavior. The thought process behind this "beautification" process was totally flawed. The rationale was something like "if a few of my teeth are diseased why not pull out ALL of them and put in new ones" instead of just extracting the diseased teeth. Clearly the Public Works Department didn't consider a ballot vote because they knew what the voters would say.
Also in the current economy I can't believe that the City found funds to do this project. I am sickened by the short sightedness of the city "planning" commission.

Posted by Midtown Man
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Where was Rona DeVincenzi of the Cal Ave Improvement District Merchants Association on all this...were merchants aware? I agree that the Farmer's Market could have been an ideal scene for flyers on this. (Now we can have a Farmer's Market on a treeless, scorching
hot, unshaded strip of asphalt, looking at what will probably be a
new strip mall.) Did all that input about the California Avenue fountain teach powers that be to do this in stealth and avoid the cumbersome, untidy, interactive,Jeffersonian process of citizen discussion? I can't believe Palo Alto anymore. The things that happen here in local government! It's beyond satire.

Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 17, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Maybe they could turn Cho's into a Coach store. Or close Antonio's and replace it with a Nobu. What California Ave. really needs is some high end stores that cater to the wealthiest of our citizens. That way they can enjoy California Ave. too, and marvel at the Maple trees that remind them of their home states.

Posted by T
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2009 at 5:31 pm

very sad

Posted by edjee09
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2009 at 6:55 pm

edjee09 is a registered user.

I was appalled and shocked when I went up to Calif. Ave. on my lunch break and saw that ALL the tress had been clear cut. At first I thought "They can't have cut them all down...," but sadly my worst fears were confirmed. Why was there no public notification of this? The street went from a lovely tree-lined boulevard to a strip mall in one day. Unbelievable. Who are the clowns who came up with this stroke of genius? If I were a business owner, or certainly restaurant owner with sidewalk seating on the Ave., I would be royally pissed, as I'm sure many are.

So I read that there will be new trees planted. Great. Slaughter fifty trees in a day so that fifty more can be planted and reach maturity in ten to twenty years. The new city motto should be "If it ain't broke, break it!" In the meantime, make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen with you if you plan to come down to the Ave. I'll be looking for shadier environs on my next lunch break...

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2009 at 7:03 pm

The long and the short of this is that it is going to be the restaurants, the business owners and those that work on Cal Ave who are going to suffer in the short term, with all Palo Altans suffering as a pleasant street is no longer. Hopefully, new trees and many umbrellas and awnings may help or in fact improve the ambience.

On the upside, it might be a lot easier to park at lunchtimes.

Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2009 at 7:31 pm

How many below market rate houses did the city have to build to cut down those trees?

Posted by John
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 17, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Global warming is real. We are doomed, cut all the trees down that get in the way of cars. Cal Ave is now a barren desert.

Posted by Anon1
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2009 at 8:04 pm

You are all the same people that would sue the city if you tripped on an acorn and fell down, aren't you? Or if a storm actually blew into the city and knocked a tree branch onto your BMW? I shutter to think what you would do if you were jogging down the street and tripped over a sidewalk raised by a tree root.

Posted by Z.S.A and mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2009 at 8:04 pm

The street looks devastated and bleak. It boggles the mind to think about what kind of idiotic reasoning was used to authorize cutting down large, mature shade trees to beautify the street??? I'm shocked that the city would use the diseased tree excuse (and this is doubtful) to do such a drastic change to the California Street environment. After this recent "improvement" it is frightening to hear about a committee striving to "improve" all of California Avenue. PLEASE don't give us another high priced University Ave environment. California Ave is pretty good as it is (was) and could be made great with the return of a Peninsula Hardware style store, as well as a relocation of good toy and fabric stores. Perhaps the ailing stores that want more visibility are simply not offering enough value.

Posted by Whodunit
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2009 at 8:46 pm

For those who wonder where the decision came from, read Herb Borock's posting above. He researched it. Looks like it was Public Works department decision and it may not have gone through any of the city commissions. Sounds a bit strange.

Posted by david taylor
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2009 at 10:04 pm

I've seen rows of trees taken out by typhoons in Hong Kong and by hurricanes on the East Coast, but I had to come to Palo Alto - a city named for a tree, and governed by a mayor who lists his occupation as "Conservationist and Environmental Educator" - to see this human-made disaster that tops them all. The irony is rich, but the hypocrisy is sickening.

Posted by A
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2009 at 10:08 pm

I'd vote for a public hanging of those responsible, but where would we hang them from??

Posted by nancy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 17, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I was horrified to see California Ave. I have preferred being on California Ave than University because it hasn't been "remodeled" and "cleaned up"! Palo Alto will not be satified until all is re-built, built up and "concreted" over. Where are the "geen" people on this decision to take out mature trees that contribute to a healthy environment? I agree with those who have commented on the double standard. This whole episode is an affront to me as a long time Palo Altoan, arrogance and big brother attitude of the City. I'm feeling this town is less and less people oriented and run more by greed, indifference and hypocrisy.

Posted by Teddie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Those Holly Oaks were an awful choice to begin with. Just like the Pine trees that existed along San Antonio. A better choice in imo would have been Red Oaks. Sorry to see it sure seems they could have done this in a couple of phases and ultimately reached their goal of uniformity or beautification. There really were a lot of trees missing in the fabric along California and they should have removed half the trees and replaced them and in five or ten years done the other half. All these people complaining about urban street being removed trees why don't you get out and plant some with Canopy or Friends of the Urban Forest if it's that tragic.

Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2009 at 10:22 pm

About the city arborist: I have lived in my house for many years and I have a mature American elm tree in my back yard (planted by a prior owner). Every time line clearing needs to be done, the contractor comes at the wrong time. They come in spring or summer when the tree is at high danger of getting Dutch elm disease. Every time, the city arborist gets involved in the dispute that ensues and, to me, it seems that he could not care less that my tree gets trimmed at the worst time.

About the Palo Alto city tree people in general: I get the impression that their main goal is not to protect trees or save them but to plant as many of them as possible at great expense, which implies cutting trees in the process. I believe that they need to justify the size and budget of their department by inflating this cutting and planting business as much as they possibly can. Why else would they keep planting trees in the front yards of persons who let their young trees die for instance?

Posted by Oaky
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 17, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Where does one go to see the environmental impact report filed for a project of this scale?

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2009 at 8:10 am

It's a sad fact that even trees don't live forever, and when you have urban trees with disease or blight, it's just a matter of time before they all start slowly dying and becoming a hazard.

Posted by Info
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 18, 2009 at 10:27 am

Some of the council were surprised? I'll bet the contract was on their "Consent Calander" in the Agenda for automatic approval.

Posted by PAlo Alto Resident
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 18, 2009 at 10:54 am

Let's go to Stanford and cut down all the trees in the eucalyptus grove. We can plant banana trees or coconut trees or cactus plants there.

Is the bat colony still living on California Ave? or were they eradicated too?

Is part of the beautification project going to be to cut down Antonio's Nuthouse and put in a posh fern bar?

Hows about instead of planting trees they plant parking meters?

Posted by Helen
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2009 at 11:24 am

Who is reponsible for this? Public Works? Who is the manager who is accountable for approving the tree chopping?

Posted by Capbreton
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 18, 2009 at 11:59 am

This should be a wake up call to the Council that this city has actually been run almost exclusively by and for the convenience of the city staff for years. They need to "man-up" and retake control to look out for the interests of the actual residents. Otherwise, bad, make-work events like this will continue to gut the city of its character.

On the "bright side" -- pun intended -- we now all have a singularly unobstructed view of California Avenue's world-class building architecture.

Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I work in the California Avenue area and used to live there.

The loss of these trees represents a huge step backward. I am saddened and appalled by this arrogance.

It is time for an ordinance requiring a full-dress Council review of the city's removal of any tree (with some exceptions such as diseased trees).

Council should chop down the Public Works Department's budget, it is clear that they have more money than they have responsive leadership.


Posted by downtowner
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 18, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I don't want maples. How come no one cares what we want?

Why couldn't someone cut down the god awful invasive eucalyptus trees in this area? They are a disaster. California Ave was fine. Acorns as problems? Oh no, they are not.

Fire hazard, shallow, eucalyptus trees are the problem. I stood under a "healthy" one once..and it just fell. In perfect weather. On power lines. That's a problem. An arborist told me all of them should go.

Oh, Cal Ave...I shall miss you.

Posted by rem
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Why don’t we have a honest City Council that will honestly say “Developer (Contractors) Lobbyists , Developer (Contractors), donate to us and we will approve!!!!”

It would be great if the City Council and all the other “Councils” and “Work Shops” learned a new word – NO or new phase – DISAPPROVED….

There is no sane reason for this except MONEY, MONEY, MONEY and not caring about the people of Palo Alto or ANY of the other communities …..

Sound to me like DEVELOPMENT, DEVELOPMENT, DEVELOPMENT !!!! Gee, the CITY has messed up “University Avenue.", West Charleston Road & El Camino Real, butcher San Antonio Road and let’s not forget San Antonio/East Charleston Road.

Like I said ABOVE - There is no sane reason for these PROBLEMS except MONEY, MONEY, MONEY and not caring about the people of Palo Alto or ANY of the other communities …..

Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 18, 2009 at 3:01 pm

The tree cutting is part of Capital Improvement Program PE-07005 that is managed by the Department of Public Works and that is supposed to have been reviewed by the Architectural Review Board (ARB), the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC), and the Public Arts Commission (PAC). The City Council should direct staff to include in the next City Council agenda packet copies of all staff reports sent to the ARB, PTC, and PAC for public hearings held on this specific public works project. I don't want staff to misinterpret Council direction. I don't mean staff should send the Council the entire Capital Improvement Program document for all projects or send the Council staff reports on the fountain that also used money from this project fund. The City Council and the City Manager need to see the staff reports that went to public bodies that were supposed to hold hearings on the subject of the tree cutting and its relationship to the re-design of California Avenue environment.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 18, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I was saddened by the trees removed on San Antonio Road and even more saddened by the trees removed on California Ave.

Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2009 at 3:53 pm

This truly is a shocking violation of our city's heritage. I can only echo others who seem more informed, that it seems as if some sort of high density, sales tax producing area is envisioned and old and cherished trees were in the way.

Thanks, Herb Borock, for your informative post. If all the approvals by ARB, Public Art, etc., were done, then we need to see where they had a public meeting on this issue.

Posted by 30yearplusresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 18, 2009 at 4:17 pm

If you think removal of all the trees is bad, just wait until the four lanes of traffic are reduced to two. Traffic will back up to El Camino as one car waits for another to vacate a parking space. What happens if emergency vehicles need to get through?
Council and the City Manager should review the entire "plan" and stop it while we still can.

Posted by P.A Fireman
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2009 at 4:30 pm

30 years resident, the FD has to find the place first.. Plan There is no plan. Leadership, There is no leadership.. Maybe Keene was looking at the Real Estate page when the info went BYE-BYE!

Posted by MORE sanity about trees
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2009 at 5:31 pm

I challenge the city arborist to openly identify the diseases of these trees and to explain to this forum the likely timeline of their decline. Our local oaks, like our local people, invariably show signs of disease and won't last forever--but may outlast the credibility of those responsible for this particular misfortune.

CAADA Membership according to this website includes the following: Web Link
Ronna Devincenzi, Realtor Alhouse-King Realty--who apparently promises us the replacement red maples will actually have red fall color in our mild climate......

Vice President
Jim Stevens, Country Sun Natural Foods

Terry Shuchat, Keeble and Shuchat

George Langford, Hewlett-Packard

Mark Luchesi, Mollie Stone's Market
Elizabeth Bishop, Bishop Corporation
Karl Broussard, Kinko's
Lynn Davidson, California Paint & Wallpaper
Gerald Brett, Language Pacifica
Warren Wong, Hotel California

Posted by Brandon Jewett-Hall
a resident of University South
on Sep 18, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Holy cow, that is a mighty impressive responsibility-evading use of the passive voice by Mr. Mike Sartor:

"Rather than replace them over the next few years, it was decided to do it all at once."

Posted by Leslie
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Cutting down 50 trees was one of the most barbaric acts done in Palo Alto. To add insult to injury, everybody quaoted in the Daily Post ("It Looked Like a Tornado") knew little about who made the decision to remove the trees. This behavior is not acceptable. I think the voters of Palo Alto should speak with the next election. If the people responsible can't admit what they did we have to have a clean slate of new officials that (1) are watching over the community and (2) include residents of Palo Alto in the decision making process. I am still in shock at the loss of the HEALTH Oak trees that were destroyed. Everyone responsible for this heinous act is responsible and should pay the price.

Posted by Kate
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 18, 2009 at 6:04 pm

How sad it is to see all those beautiful trees taken out before their time. The City seems to have been very sneaky in its implementing of tis tree removal, and I find it highly suspect that the trees could have all been diseased. It seems more likely that the City had a master plan for California Avenue that necessitated taking out the oak trees, and the arborist simply declared the trees diseased so that the City could move with its plan.
I don't spend a ton of time on California Avenue because it's off my beaten path, but when I do go down there I always enjoy the street's tree-lined appearance and abundance of shady spots to stroll and sit. Now, I hate to think how hot and barren the street will be, and I can only imagine the precipitous dropoff in foot traffic for the street's shops and restaurants that will result.
Spin it all you will, City of Palo Alto, but this was an incredibly stupid and ill conceived move!

Posted by AR
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2009 at 8:30 pm

I had forgotten how unattractive most of the buildings along California Avenue are. What an eyesore the City delivered. What's even more alarming than this axe job is how many City leaders are claiming they had no idea. How can this be? I suggest the City revisit its plan and replace the trees on an accelerated time frame and with as many mature trees as they can buy. Until this is remedied, business will suffer.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2009 at 8:38 pm

30yrs is very young in the life of an Oak

What about the destruction of whole ecosystems that depend on these executed, innocent, beautiful oak trees?

Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2009 at 9:05 pm

I feel so helpless to see how the city manager and council treated our city against majority of residents' will.

Posted by Eileen Stolee
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2009 at 2:40 am

What are the names of the people who made the final decision to cut down all the trees on California Avenue? The city arborist and members of Canopy should be questioned about this. Also the people responsible at the public works department! I have lived in College Terrace for 20 years and walk down to California Avenue shopping area once or twice a week. I can't go down there now. It makes me too angry! Fire the people responsible....

Posted by Tree Hugger
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 19, 2009 at 3:08 am

The whole reasoning offered for cutting the trees is obviously a bunch of bull. I looked at the tree stumps, they were cut indiscriminately, whether they were 10 or 50 years old. Acorns and disease were just bush-ist pretexts for starting a war on their own people. Murderers.

If George Bush was the mayor of Palo Alto, he couldn't have pulled a more idiotic move. I have a lot of strong, negative emotions after seeing the new look at California Ave. - it looks like a desert ghost town.

1. I never voted in local elections before, but now I will against any incumbents (regardless of party, they are more stupid than the Stanford University administration!)
2. I will stop at once spending even a penny on California Ave. though I enjoyed a lot in the past visiting those businesses. I will even avoid biking on that street anymore.
3. I will contact all my Palo Altan friends and encourage them to do the same. Feel free to move Calofornia Ave. to Mexico from now on, it doesn't exist for me anymore!

Posted by AR
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2009 at 7:48 am

I hope people who are considering not patronizing all California Avenue businesses because of this will reconsider. With the exception of those with reps on CAADA, these businesses are not to blame for this badly executed and untimely tree removal.

Posted by Ledster
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2009 at 2:50 pm

The businesses are, in part, to blame. It is hard to believe that no business owner called an attorney to look into thi action or used an attorney create a show-cause obstacle to the City of Palo Alto.
Although the neanderthals who were responsible for this notified the merchants at the 12th hour it is still the people's (merchants) responsibility to object to this "beautification" project and not be so passive.
The passive citizens and merchants of Palo Alto will have top live with the consequences of this dastardly act.

Posted by ledster
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Kudos to "Tree Hugger". Nicely expressed sentiments.
I hope the outrage continues and spills over when the PA local elections take place.

Posted by PA resident
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 19, 2009 at 3:33 pm

CAADA, the idiots who did not review this, and the idiots who oversaw cutting these down, and the so called arborists - you all seem diseased and I hope will be clear-cut OUT of the city management just like the 50 mature trees you murdered.

Posted by Raymond
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

I hope the people of Palo Alto carefully review the rest of the plan for "beautification" of California Avenue or else more catastrophic results will occur. I am still in shock when viewing the devastation that occurred last week. The signs by the tree stumps are from the firm of "Suarez and Munoz" who, I presume, did the cutting. They are probably not to be blamed because they were just "following orders". Will people ever learn to question authority. Time and time again it has been shown that not enough people question horrible decisions by people in "authority". The people responsible for this outrageous behavior need to be identified. The citizens of Palo Alto require transparency, on a regular basis, for all modifications done to their environment.
There was nothing, in my mind, that needed remodeling and repair on California Avenue. I wish I could say the same about the buffoons who "run" the city of Palo Alto.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2009 at 6:43 pm

These are the businesses who promoted and paid for the tree cutting, the CAADA (who the heck are they?):
Web Link

Keeble and Shuchat, Terry Shuchat
Kinko's, Karl Broussard
Mollie Stone's, Mark Luchesi
Country Sun, Jim Stevens
California Paint and Wallpaper, Lynn Davidson
Hotel California, Warren Wong
Language Pacifica, Gerald Brett
Hewlett-Packard, George Langford, (what business do they have with our trees?)
Alhouse-King Realty, Ronna devinceni, realtor, President of CAADA
Elizabeth Bishop-Property Manager of numerous California Street properties, Bishop Corporation, She uses Alhouse-Deaton to manager her properties, as does Terry Shuchat.

Read about Alhouse-Deaton, how they do business and the glowing testimonials these two tree-cutters give them. Web Link

"Alhouse Deaton creates value through the opportunistic acquisitions and ownership of real estate assets.
Market knowledge and expertise are critical to timely opportunistic purchases of real estate. The partners at Alhouse Deaton have decades of real estate experience which is used to capitalize on opportunistic real estate acquisitions. Through skillful property and asset management, Alhouse Deaton maximizes income and minimize expenses to provide stabilized cash flow to investors.Finally, through a strategic business plan, Alhouse Deaton takes advantage of periods when real estate assets are at their maximum value to complete the ownership cycle by arranging a disposition strategy that maximizes profit from the asset.

"Alhouse Deaton takes a professional but very personal approach to managing property. I depend on them to not only manage the building right but to provide council on leasing strategies and long range planning."
Terry Shuchat, private investor

"It’s the people at Alhouse Deaton that make the difference. They know our properties thoroughly and manage them as if they were her own. From our years of association we know we can count on Alhouse Deaton to manage our properties in the best way possible."
Elizabeth Bishop, CEO, The Stanley Bishop Corporation

So there you have it. "The CAADA pages are hosted as a community service of Palo Alto Online."

We have a coterie of business people who did this to us. It's our street, not theirs. Who gave them the right?

You would think Country Sun would have some respect for the community on which they rely, they're supposed to be organic, good values.

Those of you who wrote about your fears of California Street being turned into a commercial wasteland like University Avenue are right to be afraid. California Street was the old University Avenue, a little funky and shady. This is the prelude to a homogenized, commercialized (you can see it happening already with those chain outlets) place that we won't like at all. There's nowhere to go now.

OK, so we don't want to punish the merchants, they are going to lose money big time because of this anyway, but how about a little feedback to the stores listed above. Like shopping elsewhere for a year or two? Would they get that message? Keep going to the others, if you can stand the heat.

And of course, the City Council and anyone we can vote out of office, that goes without saying. Two things you can use to state your opinion: your money and your vote.

Posted by Wendy Kahn
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm

One of the reasons we moved onto our street was the beautiful trees that shade the street and add to the asthetics of the place. What happened on California Avenue was a disaster and a wake-up call about who makes decisions to do what in Palo Alto. How was it that the City Council which is supposed to make decisions about what public things go on in the city were not aware of this major project. It seems as though the Dept of Public Works is not beholden to the Council. Why bother having a mayor and council members if they are not going to protect the people from knowing what is going on, especially something of this magnitude?

Posted by Wendy Kahn
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm

One of the reasons we moved onto our street was the beautiful trees that shade the street and add to the asthetics of the place. What happened on California Avenue was a disaster and a wake-up call about who makes decisions to do what in Palo Alto. How was it that the City Council which is supposed to make decisions about what public things go on in the city were not aware of this major project. It seems as though the Dept of Public Works is not beholden to the Council. Why bother having a mayor and council members if they are not going to protect the people from knowing what is going on, especially something of this magnitude?

Posted by Eileen Stolee
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2009 at 6:54 pm

I will be going to Stanford University where there are plenty of beautiful trees for my coffee in the future and will not shop in the California Avenue shopping district for a long, long time. Some of you think we shouldn't blame the shop owners there for the 50 tree removal when in fact it was the president of the California Avenue business district, Donna Devincenzi, the city arborist and Kate Rooney, the lead project manager from the Palo Alto Works Dept., that gave the final OK to remove all 50 trees. Just for the record, Susan Rosenberg and Canopy knew in 2006 that the plan included the removal of ALL STREET TREES! Keep that in mind when you read her statement about "shock" on the Canopy website!

Posted by Mark
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 19, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Thanks to Eileen Stolee for revealing some of the culprits responsible for the destruction of California Avenue. They can run but they can't hide. I am not planning to make any purchases on California Avenue until there are trees present that are equivalent to the trees removed.
If there are economic consequences of this incredibly thoughtless act perhaps people like Devincenzi, Rooney, Susan Rosenberg and Canopy will think twice before falling asleep at the wheel (and hopefully will not be in any positions of influence any more). Perhaps the above named individuals would like us to "beautify" their houses without being fully apprised of the plan.
Let's make sure the people of Palo Alto, and the people who regularly frequent California Avenue know about and APPROVE or NOT the rest of the current "beautification" plan. If we are not fully debriefed and do not have input (or veto rights) we will be part of the problem.
There is still time to change things back to what we like. The time to act is NOW!

Posted by sanity
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Time to get a grip, I think.

Stanford clear cuts trees whenever it feels the need, as it did a few years ago, to create more recreational fields.

Canopy did, indeed, know about this project, and it recommended it, but what is wrong about it, other than the feigned shock?

Posted by yugh
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2009 at 7:53 pm

FYI: I am not sure when or how this was circulated and to whom.


CIP #PE-07005

PROJECT NOTIFICATION - Project Start Date: September 14, 2009 Project End Date: November 13, 2009

Project Description:

The City of Palo Alto Public Works Department (City) with Suarez and Munoz Contractors (Contractor) shall be replacing most of the street trees on California Avenue from El Camino Real to Caltrain Station Depot. Currently, most of the existing street trees are Holly Oaks and many of them are diseased and in poor condition. Their branches cover street lights and grow over building storefronts and roofs requiring frequent tree trimming. They bear and drop large acorn fruits that are tripping hazards for pedestrians.

The Holly Oaks will be replaced with Red Maples, deciduous trees that change color to deep red. Tree selections were made by the Public Works Tree Division and were well received by the California Avenue Area Development Association (CAADA). Red Maple is a fast growing tree that is tolerant to different soil conditions. They produce smaller seed fruits that are safer for pedestrians to walk over. With the replacement of street trees, the City standard tree wells with metal grates will be installed in concrete sidewalks which will bring a uniform look to the business district. The existing tree wells in sidewalks are open wells which may be tripping hazards.

Scope of Work:

First phase of the work will be removal of the existing trees. Second phase is the removal of the concrete around the trees needed in order to remove the tree stumps and roots to full depth. After the tree stumps are removed, concrete sidewalk shall be poured back with the new tree grates and frames set in place. Finally, the new street trees shall be planted.

Partial closure of the sidewalk and parking spaces are required for the work. The City and the Contractor will ensure that businesses are accessible during the construction project. A maximum of two blocks shall be worked on at the same time, and only one side of those blocks shall have construction activities resulting in limited sidewalk access and parking spaces closure. There will be times when one lane of the street will need to be closed for tree removal and concrete operations equipment.

The Contractor shall be starting work at 8AM and ending no later than 6PM. The Contractor has been instructed not to work between the busy lunch hours of 11:30AM to 1:30PM. Please expect significant noise disruptions during the construction work especially during the tree and concrete removal. The project is expected to take 60 calendar days.


In order to minimize impacts to California Avenue business district, the Public Works Department will be coordinating the Street Resurfacing of California Avenue project with the Street Tree Replacement Project. The projects shall be coordinated in order to minimize closure of sidewalks, parking spaces, and street lanes. The Street Resurfacing work is managed by a separate contractor with details of the coordination to follow. The ultimate goal is to finish both the street tree and resurfacing before Thanksgiving on November 26, 2009.

The Public Works Department will provide more information as it becomes available. If you have any questions, please contact us. Project contacts are listed below. Thank you.


Tree Replacement Project questions, please contact:

Young Tran, Public Works Project Engineer -phone: 650.329.2160

email: [email protected]

Woojae Kim, Public Works Engineer -phone: 650.329.2446

email: [email protected]

Eric Krebs, Public Works Managing Arborist - phone: 650.496.6905

email: [email protected]

John Suarez, Project Manager for Suarez & Munoz Contractors -Phone: 510.782.6065

Email: [email protected]

Street Resurfacing Project questions, please contact:

Matt Brunnings - Phone: 650.617.3148 - Email: [email protected]

Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2009 at 8:07 pm

RE: The post by "sanity":

What is "wrong with it" is that you are comparing apples and oranges.
Stanford is a PRIVATE institution and can do whatever they wish with their land.
Palo Alto is ,allegedly, beholden to its residents who pay taxes and elect and appoint individuals who make decisions in concert with its
tax payers. Stanford doesn't have to do that.

What is also "wrong with it" is the way in which the plan was executed.
If you have to have cataracts removed the procedure is done one eye at a time, not both eyes at once.
If you have a few infected teeth any reasonable dentist does not pull out ALL the teeth at once because it may be cost effective.

And finally, "what is wrong with it" is that no one now is taking responsibility (hence, their feigned shock). However,the shock that you are reading about on these sites is NOT feigned nor is the outrage by the people who work and frequent California Avenue regularly.

Posted by Gerald Brett
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 21, 2009 at 2:43 pm

The list of businesses and individuals appearing to support CAADA's actions on California Avenue is actually its Board of Directors from 2002. My business, Language Pacifica, movced to Menlo Park that same year. Jim Stevens of Country Sun moved to Oregon two or three years ago. The destruction of 50 trees is an example of the developer's mentalitty so beloved in Palo Alto. The idea is to demolish history and substitute something new, rarely better. Sadly, the builder-bureaucratic-political complex can wipe out the tree population of a neighborhood and tell everyone how they're "improving" life in Palo Alto.

Posted by sanity
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2009 at 3:03 pm

If the outrage about clear cutting on California Avenue is so great, and so many people are threatening to boycott Cal. Ave. businesses, can we expect the farmers' market to quit the site?

I doubt it.

Posted by Wilbur
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2009 at 7:47 pm

I really don't get all the uproar about the tree removal. The Holly Oaks were dark, dense, and really not great shade or canopy trees to provide filtered sun light. Granted some were healthy and quite large but from the beginning when they were planted in MASS by the last redevelopment of Cal Ave. they were the wrong choice. If you really walked California Ave. like I have hundreds of times in the last three years you would realize that a lot of trees were missing from the fabric and a lot were in pretty bad shape. I certainly think the city could have done this in phases but some body got really aggressive.

But boycotting the local businesses of Cal Ave. is an uninformed and a typical reactionary decision. Do you really think that owners and or operators of small businesses are educated to make design decisions of this magnitude? They simply saw an opportunity to do something to improve the street they work from every day.

All you blow harts are quick
to judge this business people but really how informed are you about this process or about
Holly Oaks or Red Maples and the historical implications of redeveloping a street scape and its impacts good or bad. Things change and sometimes making those progressive steps forwards hurts... I remember when University Street had few if little street trees and YES someone with for thought and eye towards the greater good saw to plant the London Plane trees some thirty years ago... or did you think the Ohlone indians planted those trees?

Posted by Jose
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2009 at 10:26 am

I work in a business (not retail) on California avenue, and I sure enjoyed the "dense" shade those old oaks gave. I occasionally eat at Sol, and I'll vouch for the fact that some of the outside tables are unusable now. They're metal, so you'll need an asbestos suit to put your forearms down on them while you eat. Don't forget the sunscreen, either. I'd recommend at least SPF 50.

I'm no arborist, but those trees sure looked healthy to me. We're on a top floor so we got a good view of the cross-section of the branches as they were brutally chain-sawed off. Nice healthy tan wood, no discolorations of any kind. At the ones that were formerly in front of our building had very few dead branches for trees that size.

That side of the office is much hotter now. It also seems like our air conditioning kicks on a lot more than it used to.

But hey, I'm glad the City is keeping me safe from acorns. Who knows what kind of mischief they could've gotten up to.

If you want to see the double standard in action, head a couple of blocks North to Stanford Avenue. Find the house under construction and marvel at the ridiculous fences the homeowner was required to put up around the street trees that are a good 50 feet away from any construction.

Posted by Paul Davens
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 22, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Typical of so many Bay Area cities that view trees as the enemy. "They block my sign!" "They drop acorns!" "The falling leaves are messy!" All of these reasons are why so many Bay Area towns are so unnattractive compared with towns all over the East Coast, where trees are allowed to grow huge and stay huge. I'm a Bay Area native, but it's sad to see that too many people in our area prefer their towns to look like little more than glorified shopping malls...

Posted by Susan Cole
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 22, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Who are these "happy merchants" that Ronna Devincenzi keeps talking about? The only two merchants quoted in this article sounded distinctly unhappy.

And besides why should this have been strictly a decision of the business owners of California Avenue? The trees didn't belong to the local merchants or the CAADA. This project is being done with public money and it destroyed public trees. The whole community should have been given a clear, timely notification and a chance to weigh in before this irrevocable action was taken.

Posted by Harry
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 22, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Nicely said (and right on the money) Susan Cole (above).

Posted by Marcus
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 22, 2009 at 5:36 pm

RE: The comment by Sanity;
Although you doubt that they will quit the site, it's a matter of economics.
The Farmer's Market won't quit the site until business begins to fail. When that happens they'll have to wonder "why aren't the people coming to California Avenue?" Maybe it's because there are no trees and the redevelopment SNAFU. When that happens they will relocate to a more ecologically friendly environment.

Posted by Cal Ave Shopper
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 22, 2009 at 10:24 pm

This formerly charming neighborhood street looks shockingly bad. And the idea that they will replace these lovely, shade-providing, full, mature trees with 2.5 inch saplings as a replacement is absurd! The street will continue to look pathetic, and sadly shoppers and diners are likely to seek out more congenial neighborhoods. This feels like a street in...Nevada. This is sad for the trees, the merchants and the community.

The only thing that can be done now is to demand that they plant substantially bigger trees than the 2.5 inch mini-trees planned. Hey, they saved so much money by cutting them down at once instead of over time, if the trees were in fact diseased (doubtful) that that savings should be spent on bigger trees. If that isn't enough money...why not fire the idiot in public works that decided to approve this? There would be plenty of money for BIG replacement well as long-term savings for taxpayers and all the benefit that would come from NOT WASTING MONEY ON HARMFUL & UnNECCESARY projects.

Posted by Georgette
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2009 at 10:56 pm

At the City Council Monday night the head of Public Works, Glenn Roberts, apologized for what he called poor communication with the public. He didn't seem to have a problem with the notion of clear cutting. It isn't a mystery who is responsible. As long as the public just vents on line, nothing will happen.
The head of Public Works had a special relationship with the previous city manager and it looks like the same thing is happening now.
Nothing will happen unless you really demand accountability from the city manager.

Posted by Andrew
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm

This is a copy of an e-mail I sent to the Palo Alto City Council:

I am horrified at the poor judgment and complete lack of forethought that went into the recent "clear cutting" of California Avenue, where I have my office. Most of what went into your Project Notification Update seems outright deceitful and incorrect. I have had an office in the neighborhood for 15 years, and not once have I noticed "sooty mold" or had issues with clients "tripping over acorns". What is actually true is that you chose to take down 50 trees which provided shade and beauty to the neighborhood, and the replacement trees will not provide the same level of shade and beauty for decades! Shame on you and your team.

You also lie when you state "The Streetscape Improvement Project was vetted with the community and business district, and the consensus was to have all the trees replaced at one time..." This is not true, and had you actually informed local businesses that you planned to desecrate the neighborhood by clear cutting it, you would have received a resounding "No!" But instead you chose to do the project quickly and without adequate notifications, including a failure to notify the City Council.

In terms of the rest of the project, I have no more confidence that you and your team will make good judgments. I would suggest that the project be put on hold for now, and that the Council and citizens be consulted on all of the proposed changes. As such, I am forwarding this email to them. It sounds like the project will greatly impair commerce in the neighborhood, and we have had enough of this over the past few months. You may not realize it, since your department seems to have a overly large budget to waste, but we are in a recession, and ripping up the neighborhood repeatedly and interfering with traffic and parking hardly helps local businesses.

I would make one suggestion. I would suggest you spend considerable extra money, and allocate that money to replanting larger trees, as large as is practical, to replace the trees that were destroyed. This would begin to restore the neighborhood to what it was, much more than replacing benches and trash cans, none of which is meaningful or even necessary. And I would suggest that if 50 trees were removed, that you plant 75 trees to replace them. This is not only important for beauty and comfort, but also for green issues and to address global warming.

Posted by Teddie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Dear Andrew,
Do you realize that there were a number of trees missing from the street fabric and that this new project will now fill those holes. Also please explain to me as a person who frequently uses Cal Ave. how benches and new trash cans are not at all meaningful or necessary. The street scape at Cal Ave. looked tired and has aged since it was installed some forty years ago. Look at what other communities have done with there central business districts and then tell me nothing needs to be done with Cal Ave. Please think about that.

Posted by Jimmy
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:30 pm

"These trees were old, they were not healthy, they were not appropriate to this environment, it was time for us to put something in that was more appropriate" said Elizabeth Bishop, a member of the CAADA and property owner, on Channel 5 news.

Web Link

This says a lot about CAADA's attitude - I have to wonder if people like this were pushing hard to get the trees chopped ASAP lest there be a controversy during the 14 day waiting period.

Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace

on Sep 25, 2009 at 6:01 am

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Posted by Mike Kahn
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2009 at 10:51 am

Here's a link to photos that I took last weekend of California Avenue and the tree stumps after the mass deforestation:
Web Link

I was born and raised in Palo Alto, just a few years older than these trees. It was shocking to see the street "bald" and it is an unfortunate negative example showing us just how much urban forests provide to us - shade, oxygen, beauty, connection with nature...

Posted by Ian
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2009 at 11:20 am

How does one begin impeachment proceedings?

Posted by Lee Hanson
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 26, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Who pays? At a time when the city is struggling with shortfalls in the budget, how can a "beautification" costing thousands of dollars be put in place? Cutting down 63 trees seems a terrible waste of resources. I suggest we _not_ replace the trees -- the business district association should be glad to have their stores totally visible OR if they want the new trees -- let them raise the money for the project themselves. The taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill.

Although I'm a regular shopper on California Avenue, I've decided to enter only those businesses that have back entrances (off parking lots); perhaps if enough of us express our outrage in this way, Ronna Devincenzi and the California Avenue Area Development Association will get the message.

Posted by Andreas Paepcke
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2009 at 2:35 pm

It's been two weeks since our California Avenue trees were razed. I
had hoped that my anger would have subsided by now. It has
not. California Avenue used to be a true alternative to University
Avenue as a place to meet friends for dinner. No more.

The street has been reduced to a fifth-rate wannabe civic gathering
place. The one element that can lift an urban development above its
thousands of look-alikes throughout the country is the presence of
mature trees. Whoever was responsible for this atrocity has reduced
California Avenue to a row of false fronts. Those were charming in the
shade of trees. Naked, they are just shabby.

Andreas Paepcke
Menlo Park

Posted by diane
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 26, 2009 at 2:43 pm

So goes hypocrisy. Rock on "GREEN" Shallow Alto!

Posted by second thought
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 26, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I suspect a cabal of merchants around University Ave, and other northern shopping, lobbied behind the scenes for the tree removal along California. What better way to sway shoppers and restaurant patrons over to their side? No one wants to shop in blinding sun, looking at only concrete and worn storefronts. What a clever ruse!!

Posted by Cal Ave Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Ten foot tall trees. Well, especially on farmer's market days.. it's going to be hard to walk side by side down the sidewalks - ducking under such awfully low trees. The sidewalks just aren't that wide.

Hopefully "ten foot" refers to the lowest branches, not the tips of the new shoots...

Posted by Where Have All the LIve Oaks Gone?
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm

The notification CIP #PE-07005 says that the new trees are "fast growing" and "drop smaller seed fruit"..

So, not only will these maples soon also become oversized and need replacement as fast as possible.. but the whole "tripping over acorns" thing seems to have been replaced by "well yeah these will drop seeds too but it's SO less likely anyone will trip on them".

What sort of mammals have we become that we're too fat and clumsy to walk safely under native trees... oh, the kind that elect people who kill native trees and give huge contracts to arborists, right.

It's also a comment on how few Californians were actually born here, perhaps. Why live oaks should be felled to make room for trees that "change color" .. a distinctly more Eastern seasonal experience .. people move to Sunny California and then get bored with Endless Summer.

(The Eagles' song, "Providence", comes to mind.)

Posted by Facts
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2009 at 5:34 pm

To "Where have all the 'Live' Oaks gone"

Uh - they weren't Live Oaks, they were Holly Oaks, and they're not native to this area. Where are you from, anyway? Might want to get more familiar with the local flora and fauna before you pass judgement.

The Eagles song "Get Over it" comes to mind.......

Posted by Where have all the live oaks gone
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Hey Fats - We've called them live oaks since I was in diapers. We call 'em ALL live oaks. Like some people call all pigs pigs, even though some are really razorbacks and some are not. Probably because all the people we associate with didn't know any better, either. So we've been wrong. What is your point? Do you feel better now that you;re so completely right? IS the problem resolved?

Does the fact that I misidentified the precise genus and species somehow mitigate that a decades-old tradition along the Avenue has ended with the stroke of some idiot's single pen? That the rights and due process for tens of thousands of citizens were just skipped over in redesigning the neighborhood they live and work in every day?

Does the fact that the sawdust along the gutters belongs to some non-native tree make putting in even more exotic tree softer for us all?

What was your point? Oh, yes, your point was, you know it all. All. ALL. You should run for City Council, then.

Posted by Where have all the live oaks gone
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Oh, fellow readers, note that "Facts" who recommends that we "Get Over It".. lives in another community. S/He was just here to snipe.

No doubt, whoever they are will easily "get over" this, living in their other community where the issue won't literally be hanging over their heads for the next eight or nine months of delays and stop-gaps while the problem is debated and rehashed over and over. But for those of us who actually LIVE here, the months of planned work remaining, the added months of reconsideration and politicians posturing to regain their voter base, the years until whatever we get in return for our old trees finally grows in a little and looks like it belongs.. may make it a little harder to "Get Over It".

No, "Facts" will be sipping lattes miles away, mindlessly forgetting this whole incident within weeks while we equip ourselves with wide-brimmed hats and parasols to pack some shade with us to lunch every day.

Posted by Amused And Detached
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 28, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Children! Children! :)

Holly Oaks are "live oaks". Quoting Wikipedia ("I read it on the internet so it must be true!")

""Live oak or evergreen oak is a general term for a number of unrelated oaks in several different sections of the genus Quercus that happen to share the characteristic of evergreen foliage.""

Web Link

Posted by Where are the native plants?
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I used to have lunch on California Avenue and browse the stores but now that the trees are gone, the run down buildings look even more so. Not very appealing. I also used to walk there, but now I can't go there without the protection of my air-conditioned car. What were they thinking? Am I supposed to sit outside in the scorching heat?
Couldn't they have started with their beautification projects by fixing the crumbling buildings and washing their windows?

Posted by Kim
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Morons. The people who conceived of and executed this idea are complete morons.

Is ANYONE buying the "tripping over acorns" argument? I challenge the City to come up with ONE EXAMPLE of an injury resulting from a pedestrian walking on California Avenue and tripping over an acorn. How stupid does the City think we are?

Whoever thought of this plan should be fired immediately. This really is a tragedy.


Posted by Phyllis Grant
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 12, 2009 at 10:12 am

Yeah, tripping over acorns was a big problem... one we heard a lot about, right? My mom taught me to watch were I walk so I managed to make it up and down the street for nearly 50 years without incident. <sigh> I still can't bear to step on the street now. It's ugly, barren, and hot and looks like some place in a B-movie.

Posted by Renee
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 31, 2009 at 7:15 am

It looks like something from Southern CA. It looks nothing like University Ave. and other shopping areas within Palo Alto. When will the New Trees be planted? When will the work start again? I see nothing that says the city is still working on the project. I get the main idea, but merchants are lucky that its fall but come spring it will be a bigger problem. Remember it's an El Nino year and work needs to go forward ASAP.

Posted by Katherine
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 29, 2009 at 11:40 am

I grew up in Palo Alto, with much time spent on California Avenue. I've since moved away to Marin. I love coming back to visit my hometown. I love everything about it. Yesterday I turned down California and my heart sunk. Where was I? What's happened? Who would possibly do something so terrible and plainly stupid? I am not sure who they think they're kidding - the new "trees" are tiny and far and few between - there's no comparison to the original oaks. The street has lost any quaintness and now is a barren strip of concrete buildings. It looks TERRIBLE! It literally hurts my heart. All I could think was that the businesses will never survive. I certainly wouldn't consider it a place to go anymore for some afternoon shopping or a cup of coffee at a cafe. I guess now we'll have to wait 20-30 years. What a complete shame. I don't know how anyone could ever justify killing those beautiful trees and ruining a perfect little street. I'll miss "tripping over acorns" on California Avenue. How sad.

Posted by Older than the trees
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 3, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Well, it is now February and the new twigs have been planted. What a joke. California Avenue, as I have known it all my life is gone. Why would I go there when I can go to beautiful Town & Country Village?

Posted by Lauren
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2010 at 12:45 am

Recently when the Costco in Redwood City was rebuilt, all the mature trees, in the parking lot shared between Orchard Supply Hardware and Costco, were cut down. There used to be some shaded parking spots and now there is just blazing sun and tiny replacement trees.

I don't understand why each time an area is redone that it requires removing all the trees. It seems we are always waiting for young trees to grow and once they do someone decides they must be taken out. It may be more "cost effective" to simply bulldoze every living plant when revamping an area, but it is not the best for our community.

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