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Menlo Park school district to further study oak tree removal

 

The Menlo Park City School District has promised to further study a plan to remove an old oak tree on the campus where the district is getting ready to build the new Upper Laurel School. Some residents had objected to the planned removal of the tree this week.

According to an email sent on Friday, July 3, by Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's chief business and operations officer, the district decided to remove the large oak tree at the school border and 420-424 French Court after consulting with arborists who said "the risk to property and life is too great to maintain this tree."

Because there were "tree collapses in the area during the last winter, the district believes that removal of this tree is most prudent and safe," Mr. Sheikholeslami said. "This decision was very agonizing and difficult," he said, but the safety of the public and students always takes precedence.

The tree was to be removed sometime this week.

But Monday afternoon Mr. Sheikholeslami sent another email to district parents.

"Although the District believes that given the tree's size, decay, and risk to property and life warrants its removal, the District will conduct further analysis, and if the tree is removed, we will ensure a comprehensive tree planting plan for the campus, along with considerations for the tree's legacy," he wrote.

Mr. Sheikholeslami said that the district had done work on the tree "to mitigate the risks." He said that neighbors who live near the tree have also "voiced their concern" to the district.

At least two residents protested the tree's removal by writing to the district and to Menlo Park officials. Penelope Huang, who lives on Arnold Way, protested the announcement of the tree removal at the beginning of a holiday weekend. "An oak tree such as this one has probably been growing longer that the "America" we just celebrated this weekend has been in existence. It cannot just be replaced!" she wrote.

"Oak trees can be cabled and stabilized as they grow and there are fine examples of this all over Menlo Park including in many places in the Willows," Ms. Huang wrote. "I sincerely hope the School District and City of Menlo Park will reconsider this decision and allow for appropriate public comment before the chain saws go into action."

"I am confused as to why this tree was considered perfectly safe in this location while the school was leased by the German American School, but is now deemed unsafe for the new school?" Ms. Huang said.

Dana Gleason, a resident of Haight Street, also wrote protesting the removal of the oak tree. "There are too many trees being cut down in the Willows and in the Veterans facility -- this affects our microclimates, our visual satisfaction, our local birds and small wildlife and our overall quality of life," she wrote.

"The drought is affecting many of our trees; finding ways to support our trees during the drought will benefit all of us; cutting them down is not a solution."

By July 13, the district expects to have the Upper Laurel site cleared, and to be able to begin putting in utilities and working on the foundation of the new school.

Comments

11 people like this
Posted by sf
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 6, 2015 at 12:16 pm

[Post removed; off topic]


2 people like this
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Two people unhappy about this decision is newsworthy?
Has the district considered cabling the tree but deemed it too risky?

I'm curious if the protesting residents have kids. Menlo's upsurge in students hasn't happened in a vacuum. Have these residents contributed to the need for more room for students?


2 people like this
Posted by Central Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Good. Another point to agree trees can pose a risk. It sometimes seems that arbitrorists do on occasion seem to help progress for our city and schools (and golf courses) with tree removals. As a resident of Menlo Park "Tree City" I hope when it's done, that they'll plant a few more trees around that bigger school. Or that the city take some additional risk mitigating steps to save the tree.


Like this comment
Posted by sf
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 6, 2015 at 10:36 pm

[Post removed; this thread is about a plan to cut down a tree. Start another thread if you want to discuss a different topic.]


7 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 7, 2015 at 8:43 am

First off it is not just two people protesting. A lot of the neighbors in the Willows want to save the tree and an Oak as old as that one should be protected, it was here long before any of the houses and schools. Do you expect the writer to find everyone supporting the tree and quote them?

Second what does it matter if they have children or not? This is about saving an oak tree that is hundreds of years old. The school district should at least look into ways to preserve it. And as the letter from Penelope pointed out, it was OK as long as the German School was leasing it, so why did it all of a sudden become a risk and need to be removed within a week?


3 people like this
Posted by Chris Cummings
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 7, 2015 at 1:12 pm

As one of the neighbors protesting, I can assure Water that it's much more than two people who are unhappy about this tree removal. Actually, considering that the district only sent out notice a few days before the planned removal, and only sent it to people in the immediate area of the school - the amount of interest and protest aroused in just a couple of days is quite a lot!

Editor's note: The story has been updated: Web Link
Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's chief business and operations officer, said: "Although the District believes that given the tree's size, decay, and risk to property and life warrants its removal, the District will conduct further analysis, and if the tree is removed, we will ensure a comprehensive tree planting plan for the campus, along with considerations for the tree's legacy."


1 person likes this
Posted by Council Email Log
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 7, 2015 at 1:21 pm

The following email was posted on the City Council Email Log (Web Link)


-------------------------------------------
From: domainremoved <Cat>
Date: Wed, 8 Jul 2015 00:11:51 +0800

All,

This is the reply that I received from staff:
Our City Arborist has confirmed that this tree is on School District property, which means the City's normal jurisdiction does not apply. Public schools are legally part of the State of California and therefore not subject to City ordinances, such as the Heritage Tree Ordinance.
All the best,
Heather Abrams
Environmental Programs Manager
City of Menlo Park

So, I am told that there is absolutely nothing that I can do to help the tree, since the land is considered part of the state and not part of Menlo Park. I just wanted you to know that I tried, but am unable to halt the decision on the tree. If you have any further questions about the city’s legal position on this, please feel free to contact Heather, as above. Maybe the school will listen to the weight of people speaking up, but they seem to have made up their minds. It’s sad to lose such a tree. Thank you for emailing us, though, and trying.

If the tree must come down, I suggested to the school representative, Ahmad, that the wood be given to an appropriate company who could turn the wood into beautiful furniture that might be sold to raise money for the school and/or used by the school. There is a business in downtown Menlo Park that does nice things with fallen trees and reclaimed wood, as an example. I would hate to have that beautiful wood go to waste and I think making something that can raise money for the school or otherwise be useful to the children would be a way to honor this tree. In any case, I have made this suggestion to Ahmed.

Again, thank you all for caring about our beautiful trees in Menlo Park and for taking the time to reach out to us.

All the best,

Catherine


Catherine Carlton
Mayor, Menlo Park


1 person likes this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 7, 2015 at 2:55 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

I hope the School District completes a full evaluation of this tree prior to calling in the chain saws. It's also great to have the city figure out they do not have jurisdiction in the matter.


3 people like this
Posted by Former MP resident
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2015 at 4:04 pm

The issue of school district vs. city jurisdiction reminds me of the passionate debate just a very few years ago about removal of trees at Oak Knoll School. I sympathize with the neighbors who understand that old oaks take decades and centuries to grow, and that they aren't just any old tree to remove and replace with a tree of a quick-growing and short-living variety.


5 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 7, 2015 at 4:27 pm

A number of years ago an old oak tree fell down in our neighborhood unexpectedly due to the wind over night. This tree landed on a car and narrowly missed a house. The tree looked healthy but the roots had decayed and it became week. Sometimes it's necessary to remove a tree for everyone's safety. No one wants a tree to fall down in a school yard where kids play all day. If test have been run and they show the tree to be diseased and a threat to the school occupants, it's time to remove it. Because of its location its not a good idea to hesitate.


3 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 7, 2015 at 6:28 pm

I lost an old oak this last winter after spending thousands on it over the last 10 years. There comes a time when the right decision is, Cut the Tree !! Haven't you heard of 'Die with Dignaty' ?


3 people like this
Posted by Judy Horst
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 9, 2015 at 3:26 pm

A few concerned citizens have made a difference, challenging the School District's desire to remove a Heritage Oak on property being developed for a new school in the Willows. That's a good thing. Having just talked with Ahmad Sheikholeslami at the School District, he indicated that the tree will remain on the property for now, even as construction begins. He is getting another arborist report, and it seems that if the tree poses any danger, right now it is to several neighbors who have complained about the tree for a number of years. Whether it's a School District or large developers building larger homes, there are ordinances to protect Heritage Oaks and other Significant trees. But, they are only as good as the citizens who make sure they are enforced correctly and who challenge permit applications if needed. It's not easy, but necessary as we are finding out in Menlo Oaks.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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