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.