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Heritage redwoods cut without notice at Fairmeadow School?

Original post made by Jean M., Fairmeadow School, on Apr 9, 2012

Over the Spring Break 2012, a huge "twin" redwood was cut down despite being behind a protective fence complete with a phone number to report any unpermitted damage to the trees. The posted phone number does not answer: 329-2927. There was no advance notice to the school community the twin redwood would be removed.

What is going on? Is this a very expensive mistake by a contractor run amok? Or, dId the Palo Alto Unified School District give very quiet permission to remove the twin and grind out the stumps, too? Why bother with a protective fence if the trees were to be removed? This is all very odd since some other trees were "accidently" removed at Fairmeadow School a while ago and the protective fence around the twin redwood was installed specifically to prevent such another accident.

After the press release, newspaper stories, signs, and great care taken before removal of an old oak at Walter Hays School a week ago, I ask why did not Fairmeadow School recieve such notice and care for its heritage trees? If this was all a mistake, who by name will be held responsible?

Comments (35)

Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Thank you for posting this, Jean M.

Very distressing, but alas, not surprising. There really seems to be a war on trees in Palo Alto. I'm sure there will be some song and dance that it was diseased, or posed a hazard. Whatever the explanation, I'm not buying it. A sad loss for all (except the tree haters.)

Posted by Karen
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 10, 2012 at 6:34 am

My kids have played under those trees for years. They are in tears over how this could happen, without notice, to their precious "two trees". It has really changed the look and feel of our school. I know that there is no way to bring the trees back but I feel some compensation is in order for this horrible crime. What can be done???????

Posted by Nicki
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Maybe the wood could be used for picnic benches or a new play structure for the school?

Posted by Ruth
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Over the past 55 years the twin tree (aka double tree) grew to be the heart and soul of the Fairmeadow campus for thousands of students. This was the one really special place kids could go to find the calming majesty of nature on a mostly asphalt jungle of a campus. The new 2 story building was supposed to accommodate the trees (there was another large redwood nearby removed awhile ago) and allow the kids to appreciate the trees from higher up. We lost on all accounts. Now there is nothing even to soften another large, looming building on an already over-crowded campus.

Posted by We need a Lorax
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm

How does someone take down two majestic redwoods by accident? My 7th grade daughter was in tears about this yesterday. These are the "fairy" trees, the quiet place where kids could go for quiet imaginary play. They created "fairy houses" out of twigs and enjoyed quiet time together in the shade. Some of my daughters' happiest memories of Farmeadow were made under those two trees which provided quiet respite from the overcrowded playground.

Now the district is adding buildings, making one of the districts smallest campuses even more crowded--and they have ripped out these lovely trees after promising not to do so. Shame on them.

Posted by Student
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

You have just ruined my favorite place in the world. That was the best, most amazing tree ever. No one can make a mistake like that. I don't care if it was sick or dying or if its roots were in your way. It doesn't matter. You had no right. There is no way you can make up for what you have done. There is no compensation. You can't bring it back. You can't say anything that will make a difference.

Posted by What a bad example to children
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Promises made should be kept. PAUSD specifically told the Fairmeadow community that they would NOT cut down those beloved trees. This was discussed at length. An explanation and personal apology to the Fairmeadow children who loved those trees is in order. The district made a promise and you broke it. No excuses. Model grown-up behavior.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

It was just a tree.
Plat a new one and in ten or twenty years, voila!

Posted by Susan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm

These redwood trees are a critical treasure for the Fairmeadow community, and we need to find out how this could have happened and how to ensure that the others are saved during construction. Can someone tell us, I thought redwood trees were protected by statute in Palo Alto once they got to a certain maturity, aren't they? While we mourn, we need to take action to save the remaining trees.


Posted by Sue
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 11, 2012 at 12:18 am

As a parent, PTA member and frequent volunteer at Fairmeadow and JLS, I was stunned to hear about the removal of these trees AFTER the fact. Our kids have played under these trees for years, and they added tremendous beauty as well as shade and privacy for both schools. This is a very unfortunate misstep, showing disregard and lack of concern for the communication process and for our students and school communities.

Susan is right, we need not only to find out why this was done but to take action to protect the remaining trees.

Posted by Jean M.
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Apr 11, 2012 at 3:22 am

I've discovered that PAUSD by law can ignore completely the Palo Alto municipal code on heritage trees. As George Orwell's pigs declared in "Animal Farm"' some animals are more equal than others. Which school trees will be removed next without notice?
Meanwhile, I will start looking for a redwood twin seedling or sapling. Any help finding one and planting it at Fairmeadow would be appreciated.

Posted by PA Neighbor
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I'm not sure I'd like my kids playing under a huge old redwood tree. Unfortunately, a limb fell of a stone pine trees in Mitchell Park and broke a little boys arm.

The City is well aware of these dangers, and they don't want to be sewed!!! Are these trees being cut down to make way for the new classroom construction at JLS?

Also, five pine trees have just been cut down at the south end of JLS soccer fields overlooking the road behind Hoover elementary.

Meanwhile, six stone pine trees on the south side of Adobe Creek will be removed to make way for the Magical Bridge playground. They are considered too old and dangerous to remain.

Trees planted in the 1950s are getting old and need replacing.

Posted by newdn
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Plant new trees. Trees, like people, need to be replanted. In one of my kids' schools, in another community, their friend Greta died when a branch of an old tree fell on her. I always remember that. Also, redwoods need to be planted in groves because of their shallow roots. Two trees do not make a forest. Two old redwoods just by themselves are a recipe for disaster. Stop complaining and plant some more trees.

Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm

It is very unfair that if residents cut down a city tree, they would get fined, and reprimanded and who knows what else, but PAUSD does it and nothing happens. As far as I knew, they are supposed to place a notice or warning before they cut them down, how come they did not follow the steps or procedures? Does this means that PAUSD has permission to break rules? How can PAUSD ask students to respect school rules when school officials do not respect rules?

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

PAUSD is NOT subject to City regulation.

Posted by gardener
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Trees are renewable resources. Palo Alto has an enormous inventory of trees that were all planted around the same time... and a lot of those trees need to be replaced now. The city was sued a few years ago because a tree in Mitchell Park playground fell on a child during a birthday party and luckily(!) only broke both femurs on one child. A twin trunk redwood doesn't have a balanced root system and will fail... consider that the construction might cause unavoidable damage to the tree that will accelerate the problem. Trees are renewable resources.

Posted by Smitty
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 12, 2012 at 11:05 pm

If this was done by a homeowner, for a tree on their own property, the city would have already filed an action against him/her. But if the city, its schools, or its contractors do it, hey, no problem.

Posted by Another Lorax that speaks for the trees!
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 12, 2012 at 11:18 pm

The way some of you talk, you would think that these trees were diseased, leaning and ready to fall. On the contrary, the city arborist had been out to check on these trees several times and they were in excellent condition...Redwood Trees are not fast growing and are meant to live a long time...much longer than 50 years!!!! It disturbs me that some palo altoans can be so near sighted and unconcerned about nature. Yes, we can always plant more trees, but will the district replace these trees (I think not!) and by the time they grow to be as tall, majestic and beautiful as they were, we may be dead and our children will probably be grandparents themselves.
It also concerns me that people are so freaked out about a tree falling on children....the chances of this happening are soooooo being struck by lightning. I see parents running their kids across the middle of the street through oncoming traffic, and you guys are worried about kids getting injured by trees!?!?! Most kids will be injured by their parents' stupidity and carelessness....not a falling tree or branch!
What, are we going to do..cover our children in bubble wrap and not let them live life just to make sure that nothing ever happens to them. What kind of life are we making for our children then? Kids need to play under and climb trees, fall down, scrape themselves up and learn life's lessons!!!!

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 12, 2012 at 11:38 pm

I'm not sure if it made sense to cut down the trees or not, but a couple of points worth making. Contrary to the post above, redwoods are in fact quite fast growing, over 8 feet a year when young, up to 170 feet in 50 years. Big redwoods, esp in Palo Alto, are usually not as old as one might think. Second, I think the school administrators take a fairly utilitarian view on their sites - it is not a park, but a functioning school, with safety and utility being chief concerns. I'm not sure why the tree was taken down, but I imagine the above were important considerations.

Posted by I like trees
a resident of Ohlone School
on Apr 12, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Someone has to ok paying for tree cutting, and sign work orders. It doesn't happen by magic. In the city it is Public Works, or maybe the Assistant City Manager. Don't know about the school district but they must have people sign work orders too.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2012 at 12:21 am

>>"It also concerns me that people are so freaked out about a tree falling on children"

Yes, it's very, very rare, and an act of God, but if it does happen, then the bottom-feeding lawyers swoop in and they will make $$$ off of some one, some how.

It's fear of parasitic lawyers. That is the driving force behind this.

If only we heeded Shakespeare's advise in Henry VI.....

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 13, 2012 at 5:47 am

Is it legal for a child to climb a tree in Palo Alto?

Posted by Megan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 13, 2012 at 10:43 am

I'd like to see funding for the new building pulled in exchange for illegal removal of the trees. Money speaks and having their funding pulled or permits denied until restitution can be made is a good course of action.

Palo Alto has a terrible reputation with respect to its trees. A 50+ year old tree is not a hazard. Its an elder and should be treated as such. Removal of trees is not progress.....

Posted by PAUSD is missing the point
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2012 at 11:29 am

PAUSD made a specific commitment to the Fairmeadow community NOT to take down these magnificent and beloved trees. Then they took them out without any notice to the community. They completely disregarded agreements they made. An explanation is due to members of the Fairmeadow community who worked with staff in good faith.

This kind of behavior engenders mistrust in the public process. Board of Education, please direct staff to answer the completely reasonable questions that are being asked here. What happened? Maybe there was a good reason for what they did, but if that is so staff didn't share it with anyone and that error must be addressed. Limbs falling on children. Redwoods (live thousands of years) are not stone pines (60-year life span).

Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 13, 2012 at 11:43 am

"It was just a tree.
Plat a new one and in ten or twenty years, voila!"

It doesn't even need to take that long. Plant a metal pole, encase it in fiberglass "bark", tack on plastic leaves, and there you go. Somehow, it is not the same though.

I also question the short 10 to 20 years, those trees were probably a little older than that, adn would take more time than that to regrow.

Another consideration it was not just the trees that were taken down, they were a little ecosystem, with birde, animals, insects and what-not finding a safe refuge and food there. The trees were just the most visible thing lost.

I would like to know more about the decision-making that went into the removal of those trees. They were not "just trees". Anyone who says that is very (dangerously) nearsighted.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Would someone post the PAUSD document/memo/agreement that states that they would save the trees?

I know that the PAHS project team has posted landscape plans - specifically a portion of the plans identify which trees will be removed, relocated or planted new. The bottom line is that there will be more trees on campus than the current number. Unfortunately I could not find a similar document on the website for Fairmeadow.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Two quotes, the first one is anonymous:

" it is easier to ask forgiveness than ask for permission "

" God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board. "

Mark Twain

I suggest people apply these quotes when it comes to ANY governing body today...

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Maybe I'm missing something - haven't the school-related posters here gone to the principal and asked him why the tree was cut? An elementary school isn't a big place, and the principal pretty much knows and approves of everything unusual that happens there. What did he or she say?

Posted by Johnny Appleseed
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm

The new principal has said nothing to the staff, parents or students about this horrible experience.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm

@Johnny - Has anyone asked him/her?

I guess it wouldn't shock me if they found it needed to come down due to the realities of the construction, and weighed whether discuss with the community, and rather than deal with folks who would insist on community meetings, blue ribbon panels, competing arborists, and possibly lawsuits (this is Palo Alto), they decided to take advantage of spring break and do what needed to be done, rather than stop construction and incur the additional cost.

Posted by Paul Bunyan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 13, 2012 at 7:36 pm

What!!! PAUSD does not have to follow city rules and regulations!?! Can I have my house declared PAUSD property and not have to fallow any city rules and regulations?

Posted by PA Neighbor
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2012 at 11:35 am

Folks, this is not the first time the PAUSD has taken a tree down without notifying everyone. If they start telling you people in advance, the uproar will be so huge they won't be able to take it down. So, smartly they removed the tree then you have to react.

My question is: Why didn't they get an arborist in before they designed the new pod, so the tree could be taken down and the land used in the design of the new classrooms? Just asking!!!!

Posted by smg
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 14, 2012 at 11:04 pm

This was a brutal assault on our children, and on every citizen of "El Palo Alto." City government has run amuck--or is so incompetent at internal management, that it doesn't matter.
CITIZEN BULLETIN: this will keep happening until we pass a Measure mandating the FIRING of any city employee who approves such an order. Full Stop.
Any questions? They will listen to their jobs.

Posted by Terrance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2012 at 8:33 am

Two questions, who is receiving all the wood from Palo Alto Oak and Rewood trees that are cut down and what are they paying for it? The chopped down tree wood is worth lots of money in the marketplace. Where is all this wood going to?

Posted by Maria
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Does anyone ever get fired for screwing up in this burg? Until that starts to happen, they will keep spitting on the residents by doing as they damn well please.

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