Town Square

Redwood debacle leads to new city promise

Original post made on Sep 22, 2007

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

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 21, 2007, 10:45 AM


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 22, 2007 at 1:51 pm

I really like Mayor Kishimoto's reasoning here. Although not a tree-hugger myself, it's pretty sad to see people moving into neighborhoods with mature canopy and then gutting that canopy.

If you're allergic to trees, move to Palm Springs.

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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 22, 2007 at 3:34 pm


Has it occured to you that mature redwood and oak trees come from baby trees?

Let's just say that I liked such trees, and wanted to plant one (or more). Now, once that baby tree has grown into an adult (or even a teenager) , I want to cut it down in order to put an addition on my house, or to sell my house for the maximum possible price. Can you explain to me, Mike, why I would EVER plant a baby protected tree?

I need to have maximum flexibility with my property. I may well enjoy oak trees and redwood trees, but if they place a constraint on my property rights, why should I ever plant them in the first place?

The bottom line is that the best way to eliminate oaks and redwoods in Palo Alto is to protect them.

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Posted by Confused
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Editor, why have you posted two "REDWOOD DEBACLE LEADS TO NEW CITY PROMISE almost next to each other?

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Posted by Danny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2007 at 4:06 pm

I find it funny that people still use the term "tree hugger" as though it is a bad thing. In this day and age of obvious environmental woes, these "tree huggers" we are so quick to insult may well save our species.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2007 at 4:10 pm

Maybe they will Danny, but I'd put my bet more on innovators and entrepreneurs, who probably think cutting down trees is just fine ;-)

Gosh, all this ink spilled about a couple of trees that happened to be tall. I wish this energy went into fixing potholes (or even complaining about them!).

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 22, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

The newspaper noted that before the anti-tree couple petitioned on the basis of allergies they claimed that the sap from the trees stained their property. Well, I have several redwood trees surrounding my house and I've never seen redwood sap or stains. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 22, 2007 at 5:53 pm

Not sure why there is a second thread started on this subject. Here is my comments from the first thread, since i started it:

I see, from reading comments in the above article, that personal property rights and health issues are of no concern to Canopy's Executive Director Catherine Martineau.

Who has given the authority to City Arborist Dave Dockter to release tree removal requests to Canopy?

What ever happened to personal property rights and the rights to privacy--it is clear that the city has let numerous organizations and people dictate to the population as a whole based on their own personal desires.

If Ms Martineau and Mr Doktor want trees on their property, then let them plant as many trees as they want--however it is time that the assorted busybodies in this city let people do what they want with their property as long as they adhere to established guidelines.

looks like the Weekly is trying to stir up some controversy with the headline "Redwood debacle leads to new city promise".

Who is it a debacle for--Canopy and the neighbors? What about the property owners?

As stated in the article:

"With only three allergy-based redwood removals in two years, Planning and Community Environment Director Steve Emslie said he doesn't believe there is a problem."--it looks like there is no major problem and it certainly does not need to be classified as a "debacle"

Also note that Dockter approved all 40 requests to remove redwoods received in 2006--so why is the removal of these two trees considered a debacle and why has it raised the ire of Canopy?

Mike--Kishimoto's reasoning is faulty--what about private property rights? Does Canopy have the final say about all trees in PA?

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Posted by Forum Reader
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2007 at 5:58 pm

It isn't the editors who start the thread, it is us. When your click on a news story on the home page and then comment, it starts a new thread. Sometimes previous comments are there, but sometimes someone else is doing the same thing at the same time and voila, two threads occur. The editors may find a way to prevent this happening, but as yet it seems to continue to happen.

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Posted by Thankful For Ordinances
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 22, 2007 at 6:53 pm

We have lived in several states and many other cities.
Palo Alto seems to be a city which is one of the least restrictive regarding property ordinances.
In many other cities, they dictate precisely which trees and plants may be planted in your yard.
Some cities restrict what color you can paint your home, and the kind of roof you may have.
We choose to settle in Palo Alto because we liked the trees and the different styles of homes available.
Even cities in Texas have tree and plant ordinances.
The City of Thousand Oaks, California, protects all oaks on behalf of the namesake and symbol of their city.
If we had more room on our property, we would definitely plant more.
We currently care for several heritage trees already. The care is only sweeping, raking, and cleaning out our gutters.
These trees provide shelter for many animals, including a pair of hawks.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2007 at 7:15 pm

Thankful, and if other towns jumped off a bridge... ;-) I'm sure there are more restrictive towns; I assure you there are also less restrictive, like the 3 towns I've lived in.

As others have pointed out, there are thousands upon thousands of lovely, mature, un-protected trees in our town, some of which are cut down every year and many others planted, all without government regulation.

The well-meaning, but ill-guided protection of certain trees practically speaking does not effect our tree density much. And if you think the population of redwoods is in danger - please plant more!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2007 at 7:37 pm

I remember a slogan for, I think 1973 which was designated "International Tree Year" (it might have been 83), Plant a tree in 73, then plant more in 74.

I wonder how many did?

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Posted by concerned
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2007 at 10:21 pm

in Palo Alto where the typical lot size is 50x100, the heritage
oak and redwood have no place in front & backyards.
protect them in the open space but do not restrict homeowners with their choices.
The property damage these heritage trees cause are astronomical, far beyond sap stains. Those you can see with the naked eye, what you don't see is the uprooting of your foundation, driveways, fence lines, side walks, plumbing, and on & on. Furthermore, the Palo Alto rodent population, commonly referred to as roof rats that reside in these very trees. Think of the damage they cause such as chewing up your wiring.
We can go on... that said, we pay dearly for these homes above our outrageous property taxes. We ought to have some leverage on what we can do within our property lines.

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Posted by Back to Nature as it was
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2007 at 10:46 pm

I am reminded of something a wonderful old lady who lived on Gailen told me, she was the first owner of her home.

She said: "We used to have wonderful views of the hills from my home, then people started planting all these damn trees and created green walls so I can't even see across the street".

She has a point; we live on the same latitude as Morocco and we plant all these Northern European trees and try to make Palo Alto look like England; when in actual fact we live in a semi-desert climate. Why can't we embrace our semi-arid climate and enjoy the views - because we block them off with trees. I wonder what Palo Alto would look like naturally?

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Posted by Another Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2007 at 11:04 pm

I would prefer to hear ,only, about the trees on the property of those complaining about the cutting of others trees on their property.

What happened to all of the trees on the interior of what was the Hyett property? Does anyone know?

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Posted by Redwoods 101
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2007 at 4:36 am

The story the Weekly should have run is not the one about homeowners who've supported these trees on their lots for years until their sinuses couldn't take them any longer. It is that Palo Alto has an ordinance that doesn't reflect that redwoods eventually outlive their usefulness as residential trees.

Our City's "protected" redwoods are:

neither native
nor grow in ways appropriate for Palo Alto's small residential lots
nor are they even all that old.

Do some Google research and you'll find ample authority for all of the above, including a Weekly piece citing the horticulturist from our own Gamble Gardens.

Can we learn something from our neighboring Bay Area communities? Redwoods are not on the short list of protected trees in 99% of the 70+ Bay Area communities surrounding us. Several Bay Area towns discourage people from planting redwoods. One forbids residents from doing so.

City Council members, if you are reading this, protect native trees if you want, but leave homeowners with non-native redwood trees alone and get rid of the ordinance. If our community values non-native redwoods as a species, plant them on City property. It only takes 15 years or so for them to grow tall enough to look majestic.

The City has the acreage large enough to support redwoods. It also has the financial resources and staff necessary to ensure that each City redwood will get the care it needs including, if necessary, 100+ foot high misting systems like the one the City had to install to keep El Palo Alto alive.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2007 at 7:49 am

R101, well said. Send that to the Council yourself via email, as well as to Canopy (whoever they are). Putting redwoods on the protected list was well-meaning but ill-informed for the reasons above and more. Lets take a stab at common sense for a change.

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Posted by trudy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 23, 2007 at 8:53 am


The trees are protected by a public ordinance. Requests to remove them are public. Applications to build houses are public. Anything you send to the city is public.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by JW
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 23, 2007 at 10:30 am

When the ordinance that protected redwood trees was passed by the City Council I was the only person who stood up before Council and objected to it because I felt it was a violation of individual property rights.

Several Canopy representatives urged Council to pass an ordinance that would have protected every tree in the City with an 18" diameter trunk. Council settled on a compromise which added Redwood trees to the historic tree ordinance.

The ordinance will remain so long as residents sit on their hands and don't speak up when Agenda items, like this, come before Council. It is not enough to simply write letters or send e-mails.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2007 at 10:38 am

We bought our home, partly because of a beautiful tree in our front yard. Sadly, after a few years, the tree came down in a winter storm and did some damage to our home and our car, fortunately no one was hurt although my daughter had nightmares for sometime about the tree that feel on her bedroom.

After the tree came down, all the neighbors thought they had the best idea of what to do with the tree, including one who gave us the name and address of someone who would help us resurrect the tree into its original hole as the root was still in tact.

Now I know that any tree is not just belonging to the owner of the property, but is a neighborhood benefit, but it gets ridiculous when everyone in the neighborhood feels that they have a right to an opinion of what should be done. Friendly advice, yes. Neighborhood interference, definitely no.

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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2007 at 10:56 am

Trudy --

It's one thing to have information that is open to the public and another when taxpayers pay city employees to mail public information to special interest groups to make it easy for them to fight.

I heard that the public record on this one showed that the family mentioned concern for their allergies repeatedly all the way back to their original application. Maybe it was their 1st reason. No way it was their 37th.

Now as to the McMansions slight. I suspect that it isn't so much that you are bothered by a few felled redwoods but that you just don't like nouveau riche living in your town. Ever wonder who pays the taxes for the city services you use needed to supplement the low property taxes Palo Alto long-timers pay because of Proposition 13?
I'm glad they're here and I just live in a simple rancher.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 23, 2007 at 2:07 pm

Trudy--as other's have stated, it is in the public record, however it is outside the city staff members mandate to provide this information to advocacy groups in which he is a member and supporter (see other thread for more info on that issue).
Your comments about the Bonomi family, McMansions and about the upbringing of certain people are way out of line. Some people have worked hard and want a big home, for various reasons--which I leave to them to decide.
It is amazing how some people in this city have no respect for other people's property rights and feel that anything that they do not like i sin "bad taste".
Either way, I do not see a wholesale campaign to tear down trees in this city--if you have issues with tree removal, contact Mr Doktor. He approved 40 permits for tree removal this year--ask him why these trees were removed.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)

on Jun 5, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?