Menlo Park: Commission recommends approval of plans to cut down 99 heritage trees


The Menlo Park Environmental Quality Commission recommended Aug. 31 that requests to cut down 99 heritage trees on three sites in the city be approved.

In Menlo Park, a heritage tree is generally defined as one with a trunk diameter of 15 or more inches, or for native California oaks, 10 or more inches.

The trees in question included 59 heritage trees at 1300 El Camino Real, where a 420,000 square-foot mixed-use development by Greenheart Land Co. has been proposed; 39 trees at the Sharon Green Apartments at 350 Sharon Park Drive; and one tree on San Mateo Drive.

Four members of the commission, with three members absent or abstaining, recommended the City Council approve the plan to cut down 59 heritage trees at the Greenheart site and plant 120 new trees, according to a staff report. In all, the developer plans to cut down 138 trees on the site.

The commission also recommended that the council ask the developer to preserve or relocate nine native trees on the back of the property, and use California native plants in landscaping, according to Heather Abrams, environmental programs manager.

The recommendation to remove 39 heritage trees on the 15.6-acre Sharon Green Apartments site was also approved by four members, with three members absent or abstaining.

The property owner, Maximus Real Estate, plans to replace the 39 heritage trees and cut down an additional 22 non-heritage ones. The commissioners said the council should ask the property owner to replace the trees at a greater than 1:1 ratio, stagger tree removals, consider preserving trees approaching heritage tree size, and set a quota for the number of heritage trees that must remain on the property, Ms. Abrams said.

Maximus Real Estate has submitted plans to renovate the exteriors of the Sharon Green buildings and redo the landscaping. Those plans are scheduled to go before the Planning Commission on Sept. 12, according to Kaitlin Meador, associate planner. The tree removals would clear the way for the proposed new "children's adventure park" playground, courtyard, turf area and bocce ball court to be installed.

The Environmental Quality Commission voted 3-2, with two members absent or abstaining, to deny an appeal of a tree removal permit at 1080 San Mateo Drive. The tree, a coast redwood, had been recommended for removal by a forester and an engineer who said it was causing damage to a garage slab and encroaching on the neighbor's fence and pool.

The removal permit was approved by the city arborist in April, but then appealed in June by nearby residents Sally Cole and Horace and Betsy Nash. With the appeal denied, the property owner now has permission to remove the tree.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


36 people like this
Posted by Semper Virens
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 6, 2016 at 8:26 am

I'm aghast at the Planning Commission's approval of the 99 heritage trees approved for removal (except for those deemed by the city arborist as damaging current residential/business structure or diseased and not expected to be "cured". Isn't Menlo Park a "tree city"? Developers need to design around our heritage trees and the mitigating efforts are not sufficient to excuse such a mass removal. Kudos to the residents who asked for an appeal of the decision, which was denied. Residents have to pay for arborist examination and then a review by the city for one tree on their property and developers get a somewhat qualified pass for nearly 100 trees. Shame!

17 people like this
Posted by J. Adams
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 6, 2016 at 8:46 am

SAVE THE GUILD THEATER! Do residents know that the historic downtown Menlo Park Guild theater on El Camino real is on a month-by-month lease and is on its last legs after its run from the 1920's? We lost the Park theater(where a crater and some construction material now stand)some years ago after a move to Save the Park Theater failed, so sometime soon we will lose our only other theater in our city that shows independent films - our only remaining movie house. Yes, the exterior and some of the interior needs renovation (an ADA compliant restroom, new seats, new projection and sound system, air conditioning), but let's not lose its weird but charming interior "wings" and lights or its marquee - as happened with the Park theater down the street some years ago. I'm going to try to circulate a community petition (look for me near the Menlo Park Farmer's Market) and am writing to appeal to Mark Zuckerberg's philanthropic generosity that he has extended to Menlo Park, by asking him to become involved in this campaign to save our not-so grande dame of a movie house.

Landmark Theaters, which leases the building, has renovated its Palo Alto Aquarius theater, but along with gaining comfy seats and accessible restrooms, we lost the wonderful "aquarium" decor and the distintiveness of the old Aquarius; let's not lose the funky details of the Guild's interior in a remodel. Palo Altans and others are rallying around Palo Alto Square theater; let's rally to support our only Menlo Park independent movie house! You can contact me at

35 people like this
Posted by Calypso41
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Calypso41 is a registered user.

I am horrified to hear that the heritage trees at 350 Sharon Park Dr. will be cut down. This was an award winning apt. complex. Who needs a bocce ball court - I really think people can live without it. Time to protest removal!

29 people like this
Posted by MenloM
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 6, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Wow I thought "heritage tree" meant that the city would try to preserve it. They probably want to get rid of the beautiful oak trees. Menlo park once again bows to developers.

11 people like this
Posted by Willows Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 6, 2016 at 12:43 pm

It's a shame to lose the beautiful redwood on San Mateo Drive, but too often property owners plant these as fast-growing screens, not realizing they can eventually reach 200 feet in height and encroach on built structures. This one appears to be more than 30 years old - older than the last time the house was sold, so current owners are not the source of the problem. Another consideration in selecting trees is that with the current drought, conditions in our microclimate are not good for redwoods. Many are dead or in decline. Choose your trees carefully!

12 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Sep 6, 2016 at 1:08 pm

It saddens me to see Menlo Park's beautiful trees destroyed to suit development. At this rate, Menlo Park will be just another concrete city. It also annoys me that while those trees can be destroyed, some of us in Portola Valley have to tolerate the hazards of large, neglected Eucalyptus trees, a non-native species, that prevent native trees, bushes and other plants from thriving due to Euk's toxicity and huge roots that soak up water.

If we're going to condone cutting heritage trees, let's get rid of toxic trees as well.

30 people like this
Posted by Greed is Good
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 6, 2016 at 1:10 pm

New motto of the City of Menlo Park: "Greed is Good". Remember this at the voting booth. A city that has preached about maintaining its small-town feel; a city that once boasted about its status as a Tree City; a city that employs a full-time arborist to fight homeowners but gives away the farm to developers - today's Menlo Park is a sell-out to the highest bidder.

There are times when heritage and significant trees can't be saved for reasons of safety, but a so-called "Environmental Commission" in favor of cutting of 99 trees -- NINETY NINE LIVING TREES -- on property that is already developed to co-exist with the trees -- is disgusting. What environment is the Environmental Commission in charge of, to be exact? Apparently a man-made concrete urban environment and not the natural environment. There are plenty of ways to be friendly to development and fill the tax coffers without turning beautiful, shaded and private residential areas into opens plains. Shame on everyone associated with this disaster.

18 people like this
Posted by Alyda
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 6, 2016 at 1:24 pm

It is unbelievable to me to think that Menlo Park of all places would allow these 99 gorgeous trees to be cut down. What is the city council thinking....perhaps money in the pocket. Let the community decide.

8 people like this
Posted by semper mirabantur
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 6, 2016 at 1:25 pm

Friends, not all heritage trees are created equal. Here is how the City of Menlo Park defines a heritage tree. 1) applies to any type of tree - Monterey Pine, Eucalyptus, Evergreen Pear included.

Menlo Park Definition of Heritage Tree
1) Any tree having a trunk with a circumference of 47.1 inches (diameter of 15 inches) or more measured at 54 inches above natural grade.
2) Any oak tree native to California, with a circumference of 31.4 inches (diameter of 10 inches) or more measured at 54 inches above natural grade.
3) Any tree or group of trees specifically designated by the City Council for protection because of its historical significance, special character or community benefit.
4) Any tree with more than one trunk measured at the point where the trunks divide, with a circumference of 47.1 inches (diameter of 15 inches) or more, with the exception of trees that are under twelve (12) feet in height, which are exempt from the ordinance.

Please check out the Sharon Park property before getting too wound up about these "heritage" trees being removed. The City and community are not losing anything at all special.

17 people like this
Posted by palominogal
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2016 at 2:02 pm

The thought of this tree pillage is horrifying. Can't believe in this day and age of global warming that trees of this size are still being hacked down. Shameful. Something's rotten in Menlo Park.

16 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 6, 2016 at 3:42 pm

To my knowledge, it's the property owners who apply to have their trees removed. To save or make more money.

I'm tired of our Planning Commission approving every developer's or land owner's requests, regardless of the overall vision of Menlo Park. And please don't tell me all 99 or even 50 are in disrepair or another silly reason to cut down old trees. What's next - cutting down old Menlo Park people?

14 people like this
Posted by Seen it before
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 6, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Greenheart (Bogus name) does not have a building permit. Is not the company jumping the gun? I recall a council approving the removal of a beautiful palm tree on el camino real because a development was proposed. It was another 9 years before that development was built. Meanwhile the people who took the bus that stopped there and had appealed the removal, missed the shade the tree gave. Standing out in the heat of the sun, waiting for the bus, the appellant got a taste of the stupidity of the bureaucracy within the city hall.
And now some real estate investor wants his property cleared. Why doesn't he first clean up the trash, the weeds, the falling down fence that we have been looking at for years. Menlo Park at its best. Can't wait to re-elect the two incumbents for another 4 years of build, trash and get cozy with the next developer.

17 people like this
Posted by Judy Horst
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 6, 2016 at 5:17 pm

I posted my summary of the meeting on another thread about this. Perhaps you can find it where the original article was posted last week. In short, in two of three issues being discussed, the trees are in the way of the developer's plans. In a close call the home ownere was allowed to remove a very healthy large redwood. Sadly, only two of us remained for the third hearing about the 99 Heritage trees for the El Camino development. All living things will be scraped from it to put in a parking garage beneath a "podium" that will house residential and commercial buildings. We asked questions and proposed some alternatives to save some trees, but think the development was a foregone conclusions. The podium had to be built the way it was designed--no smaller to accommodate any living tree.

People have to show up and make their voices heard, or we will get the community developers want. There are opportunities to protest Sharon Green on the 12th at the Planning Commission, and this can be protested at the City Council.

4 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 7, 2016 at 10:27 am

Welcome to Los Angeles annex ! LA is not pretty, plenty of groomed concrete.

4 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 7, 2016 at 1:40 pm

@neighbor - yes, and a shame. The new buildings are allowed little visual appeal, landscape-wise. There was a time when how a building was going to fit in with MP's abundance of landscape designs was a serious consideration by the Planning Commission, especially as buildings became larger. Now there's buildings, maybe a swath of gardens and the rest is concrete.

I noticed there are 14 comments to this thread - yet, there's 2440 views. Lack of interest?

10 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 7, 2016 at 2:55 pm

No Beth, just that everyone is saying the same thing so no need to chime in.

But i'll bet half of these posters haven't walked around the Sharon Park apartments to see which trees are marked for cutting (pink ribbon) and which are staying. Most of the cutting ones look like pretty sensible decisions. Someone should go over and do a Tony Orlando to the ones people feel irked about.

But where were the protests when that big redwood at Roger Reynolds got the go-ahead for chopping. There's still time to save that!

2 people like this
Posted by semper virens
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 7, 2016 at 8:17 pm

Re the tree at Roget Reynolds - it hasn't been cut down? I believe to lodge a protest you have to pay a rather substantial amount of money (that is, $100 or something like that) - not really that much but it really stops protest, doesn't it. Do we know when it will be cut down? How about another kind of protest? Tie oneself to the tree - won't damage the tree and they don't have to cut the chain, but you can make a point if you get a photographer there.

1 person likes this
Posted by Been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 7, 2016 at 9:56 pm

$200 for the appeal. (only $135 to apply to remove a heritage tree)

2 people like this
Posted by semper virens
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 8, 2016 at 9:43 am

interesting that the fees aren't the same, although I understand there are administrative costs to question a decision, but how about public posting in advance of the deadline for response, say 30 days before a removal is approved, and the fee being $135 too?

Like this comment
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 8, 2016 at 12:49 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

It should be a higher fee. The San Mateo Dr. tree is causing damage but the issued permit was appealed. I would be in favor of the appellants being held for liability damage or destruction of pvt. property.

Like this comment
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 8, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

I've commented on this situation several years ago: "Is it easier to get a permit to remove 62 trees than 1 tree in Menlo Park?"

Web Link

The answer of course is: yes. Individual homeowners are held to a different standard.

3 people like this
Posted by Samoa
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 8, 2016 at 1:52 pm

Really sad that Menlo Park does not care to try to protect its trees. Part of what makes Menlo Park a nicer place than neighboring communities like Sunnyvale, San Carlos etc is the tree cover. It adds character, beauty, and shade. Really horrible decision. I am less and less interested in making Menlo Park my permanent home.

Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 8, 2016 at 1:57 pm

SteveC: Please clarify what property damage is being done during the appeal process?

SemperVirens: Agree permit fees should be same for removal and appeal. Great idea to publicly post list of trees before removal is approved. More transparency!

1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 8, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

A notice is posted on the tree that is requested to be removed along with info on who to contact if one doesn't agree. If you don't go by a tree often enough to see the notice how can you genuinely complain about its removal?

3 people like this
Posted by Judy Adams
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 9, 2016 at 9:13 am

Dear "Menlo Voter"
Excellent point - unless it's in the Almanac I don't know what trees are scheduled to be taken down if I don't happen to walk by. I can check with the City to see if they post somewhere or if we can get "arborist alerts".

1 person likes this
Posted by Trees!
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2016 at 10:15 am

I love Menlo Park's diverse tree canopy -- taller, shorter, older, younger, deciduous, evergreen, etc. Trees add to our community both up close and from a distance.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Apr 12, 2017 at 1:02 pm

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

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

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Why is it becoming increasingly impossible to open a restaurant on the Peninsula?
By Elena Kadvany | 29 comments | 5,367 views

An Easy Emissions Win
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 903 views

Helping Partners Become Couples (vs. Helping Couples Become Partners)
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 727 views

It just takes time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 635 views

Sugar Detective
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 545 views



On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Register now