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.
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.