Portola Valley lifts sanctions over felled trees


It hasn't rained much this winter, but 13 new native oak trees and vegetation are reported to be growing vigorously on a Portola Valley slope on an undeveloped property at 18 Redberry Ridge. The lack of moisture and bad timing may have been critical to the death of three madrones that were also planted in the spring of 2013, according to staff report for the Jan. 8 Town Council meeting.

The news is probably welcome to property owner David Douglass, who paid for the new trees and efforts to get them to thrive. His plans to build a house on the 2.1-acre property have been on hold since the town learned of 18 significant trees there that had been felled without a permit -- including in an open space easement -- in late December 2012 or early January 2013.

The new oaks, which have the benefit of irrigation, are one element of a remediation program to reforest the slope, part of an agreement negotiated in April 2013 between Mr. Douglass and the council. The agreement included a $75,000 fine for the downed trees and $150,345 to cover costs of replanting and maintaining the plantings over the succeeding five years, officials said at the time.

The weather has not been helpful, Town Planner Tom Vlasic said, adding that staff would be monitoring the program as it proceeds. There are "several more very hard checkpoints ahead" for Mr. Douglass, he said.

Mr. Vlasic summarized for the council the successes so far and the work still to be done on the remediation effort. The council voted 5-0 to open the door to Mr. Douglass to present his building plans to the Architectural and Site Control Commission. "I'm willing to release the hammer-hold on their head(s)," Councilwoman Maryann Moise Derwin said before the vote.


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