Twenty-one years after the first attempt to protect trees on private property, the Palo Alto City Council passed an ordinance on July 15 that prevents chopping down valley oaks, coast live oaks and other "heritage" trees on private property. The ordinance takes effect today, Jan. 1, but the trees have been protected since July thanks to a moratorium while the city readied for the new ordinance. The native oaks are protected if they are bigger than 11.5 inches in diameter measured four and a half feet above the ground.
Noise pollution from airplanes began bothering residents in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton this year. A larger number of jet planes as well as more low-flying flights have awakened people at night and annoyed them during the day. After a year of trying to get relief from San Francisco Airport, Atherton has proposed that Midpeninsula cities and San Mateo County band together to ask for a solution to the problem.
Thanks to a year-long project by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, East Palo Alto officials got some extremely good news Dec. 16 when they learned that the Ravenswood industrial area is not as contaminated by hazardous chemicals as was originally thought. The extensive soil and groundwater testing showed that the 130-acre area will need $2 million to $5 million in cleanup efforts, far less than the $30 million once thought. As a result, city officials will begin a planning process in January to determine which industrial uses would be best for the area.
Ground squirrels who live in the Stanford arboretum near Palm Drive received a reprieve from poisoning this fall. Stanford's facilities department decided to halt their poisoning program for 60 days starting in mid-September after environmentalists and bird watchers voiced their dismay about using an anti-coagulant to control their population. Stanford was trying to control the squirrel population to prevent damage to the arboretum trees.
Years of warnings about ticks bearing Lyme disease came home this summer when, for the first time, ticks in Palo Alto's Arastradero Preserve and Foothills Park were found to carry the disease. One tick out of 30 tested at Arastradero tested positive and two tested positive out of 131 ticks from Foothills Park.
The Menlo Park-based Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) had a banner year. The nonprofit organization secured 5,638 acres--the largest undeveloped property on the rural San Mateo County coast--in June. POST is paying $7 million over the next three years for Cloverdale Coastal Ranch, which abuts Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Butano State Park. The property is the largest POST has ever purchased, and one of the largest ever bought for conservation purposes in California. POST also launched a $28.5 million land acquisition campaign in September to buy 12 parcels threatened by development or soon to be sold. POST has saved more than 27,000 acres of open space lands in its 19-year history.
Mark Twain immortalized the red-legged frog when he wrote the "celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tried to keep the amphibian alive by giving it threatened species status in May. The once-abundant California frog only lives in pockets in 240 stream drainages in the coastal mountains of central California, including San Francisquito and Matadero creeks, which flow through Palo Alto. The threatened listing protects the critter from being harmed, harassed or killed by people and makes it illegal to destroy its habitat.
The San Francisco International Airport will be spending three-quarters of a million dollars to restore 7.2 acres of wetlands in Palo Alto. The airport, which is filling in 17 acres of wetlands for a major expansion, has to mitigate the wetlands loss by restoring marshes in the San Francisco Bay. Palo Alto benefits by getting free restoration at wetlands next to the former Palo Alto Harbor.
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