News

District will remove oak on new school site

Third arborist reports tree is filled with rot

A very large, very old oak tree on the new Upper Laurel School site that some people had asked the Menlo Park City School District to save really does need to go, a third arborist has told the district.

The arborist hired by the district after neighbors protested plans to cut down the tree has reported that the old oak is filled with rot, and the Menlo Park City School District says it will go ahead with plans to cut it down within a few weeks.

When people heard in late June that the large old oak tree, located on the school's boundary with 420-424 French Court, was to be cut down, several protested the school district's decision. The school site, 275 Elliott Drive in the Willows neighborhood, is the former home of the German-American International School and O'Connor School.

Although two arborists had already examined the tree and recommended its removal, the district contracted for a third opinion.

The report from Michael L. Bench, a consulting arborist from Prunedale, says the tree has "a fungus infection called Artists' Conk (Ganoderma applanatum), a serious heart rot decay pathogen." He says that while the fungus attacks the interior wood of the tree, "this disease does not significantly damage or impede the vascular system, and for this reason, the canopy commonly continues to thrive and grow normally."

Mr. Bench said "there is no treatment for this disease," and that the healthy leaves and branches of the canopy can "contribute to the failure."

Mr. Bench also took core samples from the tree to figure out how much of it is rotted and found "a high percentage of the interior structural wood of the tree is completely destroyed," he wrote. "I do not expect this tree to remain standing for very long, despite its dense beautiful canopy," he wrote.

"Because of the safety concerns, I recommend the removal be done as soon as possible," he concluded.

In a letter to neighbors, Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's chief business and operations officer, said the tree arches over two neighboring residences as well as a planned school playing field.

"As recommended by the Arborist, the tree will have to be removed in the next few weeks," he wrote.

Mr. Sheikholeslami said in the letter that the district "knows this will be a loss for the school and the community." The district plans to use some of the wood from the tree "to build a bench and an art piece," he said.

The district also plans to plant 70 to 75 new trees as part of the construction of the Upper Laurel School, he said.

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by ann haley
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:12 pm

What will removing the tree cost? Arborists--by name alone--tend to charge dearly for their services. According to my 'umble experience, a healthy looking tree is a healthy tree. Not rocket science, just common sense. and I happen to own ten acres of oak, semper virens, madrone.


8 people like this
Posted by Tree Autopsy?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:20 pm

I am saddened to hear that this tree is diseased and must be removed. I certainly hope that a tree autopsy will be performed and the results will be published. I am always suspicious of arborist findings -- it seems a case can be made either to take down or to spare a tree depending on the interests of the party engaging the arborist. It would be helpful to get followup data on trees which are taken down:
for trees which are removed -- is the reason for removing the tree confirmed in an 'autopsy'?
for trees which are spared -- does the tree thrive without endangering persons/property?


11 people like this
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Doesn't a sick tree infect other oaks? Isn't it a good idea to take down a tree that three arborists report is sick so that in case there is a big storm one day while school is in session it doesn't drop a huge branch on the playground during recess? This is a no brainer. Cycle of life.


4 people like this
Posted by Sheldon Kay
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:47 pm

What happens after the tree comes down, and one can see the cross section and find it is NOT "filled with rot"?
The tree is gone and it is too late. I have seen this happen with an oak accross the street from me.


17 people like this
Posted by 60 years of tree experience
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I have spent my life amongst trees in a mature forest with young saplings and venerable old shade trees. It is very true that rot can start with the already-dead wood in the core of the trunk, consuming everything out to the thin shell of living vascular cambium layer, leaving a tube of life surrounding a dead-of-empty core. All appears normal. The thin vascular shell can transport enough water up the trunk that foliage thrives, but alas that foliage is the wind-sail that bends the tree and it breaks or topples, often in a slight breeze (certainly the coming El Nino). When the tree falls, there is no prediction in what direction; structures, vehicles, and utility lines can all be hit unexpectedly. The "autopsy" is simple -- when the tree is carefully cut down, the enormous "donut hole" in the core becomes obvious, and it is clear that little would support the trunk in a storm. Taking trunk borings can demonstrate the internal rot, so a skilled arborist knows when the tree is doomed. Better to bring it down today in a graceful and controlled manner than have to clean up the carnage during El Nino. I love these old trees, and have planted hundreds over the past 50 years myself, but none of us gets out of this alive, even ancient trees.


4 people like this
Posted by Judy Horst
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Very few arborists ever rule in favor of saving Heritage Oaks or other significant trees when permits are filed to destroy them. That's generally because of feared liability should the tree cause something disastrous to happen in the future. It is safer to side with developers or school districts who want the trees removed. What a shame. Perhaps the school district should let the public see what the tree looked like inside--to either validate the arborist's report or repudiate it--since the public is not allowed on the property so see for themselves and public school districts don't answer to County Heritage Oak regulations and never have to go through any appeal process. What a shame.


17 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm

To all the anti-cut folks. We had a lovely 200 year old valley oak on our property about 30 feet from the house. Beautiful canopy and regularly maintained by McClennahan including trimming and support wires as needed. Then on a beautiful clear day the tap root snapped with a sound like an explosion. Tree came down on our house and the neighbor's taking out two family roms and a garage. If it had fallen 5 minutes earlier it would have killed two people, one in each house.
Interior of the trunk was rotted out.
It's sort of like people, one day they looked fine and robust and the next they drop dead at the steering wheel from a heart sttack and crash their car into someone.


4 people like this
Posted by GAIS supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 14, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Do you miss them yet? Heh. More to come with bulldozers belching smoke all day long for the next twelve months to be followed by buses rolling down Oak Court morning to evening forever. Remember, its for the kids. Ouch.


11 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 2:31 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

I didn't know so many tree experts lived in Menlo. They should have offered to expert opinions to the school district without charge and acceptance of full liability and all costs of clean up, should the tree fall and causes damages should they be wrong.


Like this comment
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Here's an example of why it becomes ne to remove a tree.
Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Money Talks
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 14, 2015 at 3:09 pm

I am strongly in favor of cutting down every tree in Menlo Park over 6 feet tall. There is always a chance that something might be wrong we can't see, and that they'll fall on someone or crush a house or car. They create such a nuisance when they lose leaves or require branch trimming. It's so much safer and tidier to hire a landscape architect to put in a nice 6' stucco wall and some shrubs. Shrubs aren't a danger to anyone. If trees expected to grow freely they should have chosen a better place than on personal property where people want to put in pool houses or driveways or carpool lanes. Fortunately, you can pay almost any arborist $3,000 to write a report and take down a tree because they all have something wrong with them and need to go.


Like this comment
Posted by GAIS supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 14, 2015 at 4:17 pm

Palo Alto claims to love their trees. Talk is cheap. Menlo Park walks the talk. When a similar tree was threatened five years ago, the community in Menlo Park rose up in protest and saved it. Here, not so much. Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Sheldon Kay
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 14, 2015 at 5:12 pm

I will say it again cause no one seems to give me an answer. When the tree is down and it is found not "filled with rot" what happens to that arborist?


8 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Sheldon,
The tree fairies use him for fertilizer. Happy now?


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 14, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Sheldon:

do you think, just maybe, the arborist took a core sample of the tree in question to determine if it was rotten? Just maybe?


Like this comment
Posted by Sheldon Kay
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 14, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Menlo Voter:

When the tree is on its side one will easily see if it is "filled with rot" or not.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 14, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Sheldon:

yes we will and I suspect it will be as taking a core sample is a such a simple procedure it would be stupid not to take one.


6 people like this
Posted by Read the article?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2015 at 12:01 am

Excerpt from the Almanac article:

"Mr. Bench also took core samples from the tree to figure out how much of it is rotted and found "a high percentage of the interior structural wood of the tree is completely destroyed," he wrote."


2 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 15, 2015 at 7:11 am

SteveC is a registered user.

Once again, people can't read and understand the written complete article.


2 people like this
Posted by Judy Horst
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm

There are core samples, and there are core samples. Depends on where the sample was taken. A core sample can pretty much prove anything the school wants it to prove.


6 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 15, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

It's all a conspiracy to kill trees!!!! Give me a break.


5 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 15, 2015 at 7:29 pm

The huge old Monterey pine in a neighbor's yard went from looking perfectly healthy to completely brown and dead within a three-week period after beetles ate it from the inside. Trees aren't like people.


14 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Requiring core samples of commenters prior to allowing them to post could prove useful.


10 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 15, 2015 at 7:58 pm

3 arborists have said the tree needs to go. It's old, it's sick and it's on a school site where kids will be all day long. Let's save the tree at the expense of the safety of the kids. Let this go. How many arborists need to look at the tree to convince the whiners that it needs to be removed. This has gone on long enough... Move on


3 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 16, 2015 at 12:57 pm

The tree in question was far removed from the previous school building on the property, and in talking with the representative at the school district who made the decision to remove the tree, there were no plans to build any structures near the tree. In fact, the tree is on the far edge of the school's property line. It's easy for people to say those of us who would like to see theee older trees saved want them all saved. That is not the case. All we ask for is an improved process for evaluating the health of the tree. It's not all about saving trees as it is looking at the process to avoid removing healthy trees. Many healthy Heritage Oaks have been killed because they were in the way of a new building and neighbors didn't see the permit to remove a tree in time to appeal it. In the case of the School District, there is no appeal process because the district doesn't have ask for a permit from the city or the county. It can do whatever it wants to do whether the tree is healthy or not. Just trying to level the playing field.


6 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 16, 2015 at 2:42 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Judy: Your expertise in this area. I believe the school board went thru a process to determine the need for the tree to be saved or removed. It is time for the tree to say good bye let me rest in peace. So easy to say so many trees have been removed with out need. Where is your proof??????


9 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 16, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"Many healthy Heritage Oaks have been killed because they were in the way of a new building and neighbors didn't see the permit to remove a tree in time to appeal it. "

Do you have some documentation to back this up or does it just "seem" that way?

Seems to me, in this case, three different arborists have looked at the tree. How many more would you need to find the playing field "level?"


2 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 16, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Judy and others unhappy re the diseased oak tree,
State law exempts school districts from many if not most of local building, planning and tree regulations. It's not productive accusing and complaining about the districts plans for the tree. If you want to change he process then go to your State representatives and have them change the law. I'm sure the Almanac will have a story if the law ever gets changed. Otherwise give it a rest, please.


Like this comment
Posted by Judy
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 16, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Exactly, now you know what I've been talking about--changing the process is the next step, for Heritage Oaks and other significant trees on school properties and those in the County.


5 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 16, 2015 at 8:58 pm

The heritage tree ordinance is unfair to home owners. It does not give any latitude to property owners who have good cause to need one removed. To often trees are left standing because it's "to big" to cut down. Driveways, house foundations, potential damage due to storms and heavy winds all can cause a major expense to a house or property owner when all they are doing is protecting their investment. The city does not care if it cost thousands of dollars to fix your house roof due to a branch falling as long as the big tree is saved. Common sense is lost on those who enforce this ordinance or feel that every heritage tree should be saved


5 people like this
Posted by Other side
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 17, 2015 at 12:55 pm

And too many healthy trees are cut down to make way for buildings. Especially new property owners are (apparently) not aware of Menlo Park's heritage tree ordinance or intentionally ignore it and make plans to build where there are heritage trees. Look at the MP Environmental Quality Commission agendas/minutes for information about appeals (and as was said earlier, many neighbors realize a heritage tree is being removed too late to appeal or can't/don't because of the appeal process/fees).

It is not hard to find a reason to remove a tree and an arborist who will support the reason. What we need is some accountability to determine of the trees that were cut down, how many were truly diseased/not diseased and of the trees where the permit was denied how many created a safety hazard and should have been taken down/are still standing and healthy/safe.


5 people like this
Posted by safer than sorry
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 17, 2015 at 1:12 pm

I'm certain the Park Service in Yosemite thought their oak was fine until it fell on the two teens last week.

I liked that tree at German American, beautiful old beast of a tree... but never felt safe near it... Diseased or not, it's better safe than sorry.


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

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