As Palo Alto prepares to chop down more than 500 trees as part of a renovation of the local golf course, city officials are looking far beyond the Baylands in their quest to replace the lost canopy.
The options for mitigating the loss of 543 trees in and around the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course will be the subject of a Parks and Recreation Commission discussion tonight. The commission will consider a plan by staff to invest $200,000 in mitigating the loss of trees around the golf course and an additional $20,000 in annual maintenance fees, which would be deducted from golf fees.
In a memo, officials from the Public Works and Community Services departments lists a number of variables that should be considered as part of the city's mitigation plan. Some of these, including number of trees and size of the canopy, are quantifiable. Staff estimates that it would cost between $130,000 and $200,000 to replace the downed trees based simply on the quantitative analysis.
Others benefits are "qualitative" in nature, including general health of the ecosystem and new recreation opportunities. These, staff wrote, "cannot be measured easily, or require lengthy time frames to determine whether success or reversion occurred."
The proposed mitigation strategy, which the commission is scheduled to sign off on tonight, would include benefits of both sorts. Under the plan, about 300 trees would be planted at and around the golf course, though these species would be smaller than the ones taken down. In addition, staff is recommending that the city plant native grasses in the Baylands, thereby enhancing the natural habitat. The city also proposes to increase the number of trees at the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve by protecting existing seedlings and thus enabling them to mature.
The recommendation is to invest at least $200,000 in mitigation for tree planting and maintenance for up to five years. After that, $20,000 would be invested every year between 2019 and 2034 from golf course revenues.
The golf course renovation was prompted by a regional flood-control plan spearheaded by the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority. Last year, the council decided to go beyond the golf course adjustments relating to the flood-control project and to reconfigure the entire course, with the goal of highlighting its Baylands setting and making it more attractive and profitable.
While the proposed renovation has received the support of the council and local boards and commissions, some commissioners have expressed concerns over the past year about the high number of trees that have to be taken down. At a hearing last July, Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Ed Lauing said he and his colleagues have been "entirely comfortable with" the planned axing of trees.
At that meeting, Rob de Geus, assistant director of the Community Services Department, said that under the city's plan, all trees would be replaced within a decade -- though not all would be at the golf course.
"A lot will happen on the golf course, but the new golf course and Baylands isn't a good place for a lot of the trees," de Geus said.