BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Editor
The Palo Alto City Council voted tonight (June 6) to nearly triple the number of trees that cannot be removed by homeowners.
The city will protect 224,000 trees from removal on private property, up from 82,000 previously, Public Works Director Brad Eggleston said.
Four new species and trees with trunks wider than 15 inches cannot be removed. The previous rules only applied to Valley Oaks, Coast Holm Oaks, and Coast Redwoods.
Councilman Tom DuBois said the new ordinance is one of the most significant changes the city council has made in recent years.
The new rules bring Palo Alto into compliance with tree ordinances in Los Altos, Mountain View and Menlo Park, he said.
“With this order, we are moving from being behind to being in the middle of the pack,” he said.
But several members of the public have taken issue with the limits the new ordinance places on the removal of a tree and the additional burden the ordinance places on property owners.
Tiffany Griego, senior general manager of Stanford Research Park, said many projects in the area would have been thwarted by the tree ordinance, including Mayfield Place apartments and the Mayfield Soccer Complex.
Stanford and its tenants care about trees, but the city’s ordinance has unintended consequences, she said.
“We want to warn you not to tie your hands,” she said.
Architect Randy Popp agreed. He said the ordinance requires homeowners to hire an arborist to do a property-wide tree report, even if there is a development in front of the house and the trees are on the outside. back.
Proponents of the ordinance said Palo Alto’s canopy is part of its infrastructure, and the trees provide valuable shade and sequester carbon.
Councilor Greer Stone showed a picture of a tree that had been felled in his garden on Layne Court in January. He said he woke up one morning to the sound of hacking and chainsaws. When he looked outside, three trees that gave him shade and protected his privacy had disappeared.
As summer approaches, Stone said her apartment was getting unbearably hot earlier in the day.
Stone said about 20 trees were felled in his apartment complex and the city, tenants and neighbors were not given advance notice because the trees were unprotected.
Under the new ordinance, property owners are required to send notices to residents within 300 feet, and neighbors can appeal to city council.
Stone asked if the ordinance could be rushed through to prevent more trees from meeting the same fate, but City Attorney Molly Stump said it would go into effect in 45 days.
Trees can only be removed if they are dead, dangerous or troublesome, or if they are damaging a house.
For development projects, the owner can only cut down a tree if maintaining it would take up more than a quarter of the land, making the project financially unfeasible.
Bigleaf maples, loblolly cedars, blue oaks and California black oaks have been added to the list. They will be protected once their diameter reaches 11.5 inches, measured 4.5 feet off the ground.
Protections for all trees over 15 inches wide do not apply to invasive species or heavy water users.
The city will hire a project manager, a planning technician and a specialist to review tree-cutting permits and enforce the rules. Their salary will cost $300,000 a year, about half of which will come from higher fees on tree-cutting permits and the other half will come from the general fund.
Councilwoman Alison Cormack and Councilor Greg Tanaka – the council’s pro-development members – wanted to put off the ordinance for another day. Cormack said she was concerned about the unintended consequences expressed in comments by Griego, Popp and others, and Tanaka said he wanted the city’s Planning and Transportation Commission to look into the implications.
Council approved a draft ordinance on October 18, and then the Architectural Review Board and Parks and Recreation Commission considered the ordinance in April.
Five other council members voted for the Planning and Transportation Commission to evaluate the ordinance over the next year and suggest possible changes.