How much should Atherton spend to protect trees? | News | Almanac Online |


How much should Atherton spend to protect trees?

Civic center and Caltrain electrification will cause loss or pruning of trees

Atherton's City Council members asked in November how much they'd have to spend to redesign parts of the new civic center to save 13 heritage trees scheduled to be cut down as part of the project.

They have their answer – it ranges from $35,000 to $425,000 per tree, and could take up to 10 months. Now council members must decide how much time and money they're willing to spend to save the trees.

When the council meets on Wednesday, Dec. 20, members will have another tree-related decision to make – whether saving one tree and the pruning of 11 others is worth adding 10- to 15-foot taller poles on the Caltrain tracks?

The council won't be pondering these questions in its usual time and place, but from the Main House in Holbrook-Palmer Park, from 6 to 7 p.m. At 7 p.m. the town hosts its annual holiday party for town volunteers in the park's Jennings Pavilion.

Civic center trees

The town says 18 heritage trees, with a 48 inch or greater circumference at 4 feet above the ground, must be removed to make way for the civic center. There are 15 oaks, two redwoods and a carob.

The Planning Commission in October approved the permit to remove the trees. Arborists say five trees are unhealthy trees and should be removed, and the civic center architects have already found a way to save three trees previously scheduled for removal.

The least expensive redesign to save one of the remaining 10 trees would cost between $35,000 and $58,000 and take at least seven weeks, a report from architects WRNS Studio says. That redesign would also eliminate a planned parking space.

The most expensive redesign, to save a tree that is now located at what would be part of the new police and administration building, would cost between $225,000 and $425,000 and take a minimum of 10 months, the architects say.

Caltrain poles

A group of Lloyden Park residents have protested Caltrain's plans to place 45-foot-high poles (with cantilevered arms spanning two sets of tracks) near their neighborhood. The arms support the wires needed for Caltrain's conversion to an electric rail system.

Caltrain says replacing the five two-track poles with twice as many 30- to 35-foot-high, one-track poles means one more tree must be removed, and 11 more trees pruned by less than 25 percent of their canopy.

Caltrain, which says it would also have to pay to redesign the pole change, has the final say on what goes in, but the council plans to send a recommendation.


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8 people like this
Posted by The Lorax
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 19, 2017 at 5:07 am

Why wouldn't the same rules apply to Heritage Trees for the proposed new Civic Center as apply to Atherton TAX PAYERS building on their lots? If the proposed property is too large for the lot, and trees need to be cut down, the answer is NO.

So let's change the title of this article to "How much should Atherton spend to protect its police department?" and get to the overblown cost of this Taj Mahal Civic Center. NO TREES TO BE CUT. No $55M of TAXPAYER money on the Civic Center. Respect the will of the voters on the parcel tax issue. Scale it down. WAY DOWN. Then no trees need to be cut, and no taxpayer money needs to be wasted, and maybe the police will not feel so protected that they feel they can railroad a complaint investigation and not need to interview cops who have had a formal complaint lodged against them for months.

Someone needs to speak up for the trees. And the tax payers. Cops, I'm not so worried about. That union is too big, too rich, too powerful and too strong, and it's bought too many Atherton council members.

6 people like this
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 19, 2017 at 8:22 am

The construction cost for the Library is $15 million. The construction cost for the City Hall and Police Department is $22 million (Web Link). Except for the Police Department which is currently way overcrowded, the space is approximately the same size as existing uses, just consolidated into one building.

The buildings themselves are not causing the removal of any heritage trees. What's causing the removal is the requirement for roads and parking. Like it or not, this development is a commercial facility, not a residential one. It has different requirements for development.

Residential property owners are granted permission to remove heritage trees on their properties. That's a routine occurrence but only after they evaluate design options for saving as many as they can.

That's what is going on here. You are certainly entitled to your opinions, but at least, let's keep the facts straight.

7 people like this
Posted by The Lorax
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 19, 2017 at 9:01 am

Thanks for explaining what's going on here. I was confused. I didn't realize that $55M was the cheapest option available to the tax payers for improving existing facilities. Thanks for clearing that up. It all make so much sense.

5 people like this
Posted by Get on with it
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Dec 19, 2017 at 9:52 am

Just build the civic center already. If trees have to come down, so be it. Offer up the wood as free firewood or build some benches out of it. Plant some new trees and get on with life. Let's now waste any more time with redesigning. Get on with construction already.

7 people like this
Posted by The Lorax
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 19, 2017 at 9:56 am

Hey Get On with It, will the same rules viz a viz trees be used if I want to rebuild my home? Can I just knock them down and get on with it?

9 people like this
Posted by Get on with it
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

@The Lorax,

I don't know what Atherton's current rule is, but yes. Remove what is dead/dying, relocate what you can, and take down what you can't. Replace the removed trees at 4X or 8X or whatever the ratio is, and pay for each heritage tree removed -- $20k or $50k or $100k, whatever. I think measures like these are pretty standard up and down the peninsula. At the end of the day, you build what you need to build, and you end up with as many or many more trees that when you started.

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