News

Golf course renovation spurs canopy debate

Parks and Recreation Commission to consider mitigation strategies tonight

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.

Comments

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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I'd really like to see *more* trees planted. Unless the existing trees are hazardous or diseased, why not build around them? Recently researchers discovered that older trees sequester *more* carbon than younger ones (the reverse was long thought to be the case) so it doesn't make sense to cut down old trees. Please let the trees stay. Thank you.


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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm

This golf course project is and will be a disaster perpetrated by the soccer moms who wanted still more soccer fields. "It's ok, we'll just take a little space from the old farts!". They have already destroyed 3 holes and revenue is already way down. Watch, after the chain saws and fun with bulldozers it will take at least twice as long as the projected year and a half and cost millions more than budgeted for. There is not a chance an increase in revenue will cover the costs. All they will do is price the old farts out of a recreational opportunity. AND kill 500 trees (Don't worry, they will be replaced with grass). Did anyone ask the golfers if they wanted this along with the projected increased greens fees? Pretty slick how they got the golfers to pay for the soccer fields.


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Posted by No-brainer
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2014 at 2:46 pm

The great architect Frank Lloyd Wright always built AROUND trees that were "in the way". Why not practice this here in this case, if the trees are healthy.

Seems really counterintuitive to chop down 500 trees and then pay big money to replace them!


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong --- but I don't think soccer moms are the culprit here...

Something about a flood control?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 21, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Nothing in this article gives a the reason these trees are slated to be cut down - is there a reason for this?
I've been noticing the bad air quality here for weeks now - no wind, no rain, no air circulation. And somehow we should be cutting down mature trees and replacing them with seedlings? How is that going to make life in Palo Alto better?


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Posted by Jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm

When the golf course was built in 1956 it was the only course between San Jose and San Mateo. At the time there was some grass seed thrown on barren land that had virtually no trees on it. The city then planted some trees which had great difficulty flourishing because of the soil conditions. Many have fallen and some became unsafe and some simply died.

The creek widening project took some of the golf course land and the City Council proposed that we look at taking some land for playing fields. Over the years numerous golf courses were built and our course has been facing more competition though it has remained modestly profitable. Over the last 10 yrs it has returned over $2 million to the city coffers.

We have an opportunity now to create a vastly improved course which should be more profitable for the city. The new trees will supplement the remaining trees and golf course fees will create a fund to help increase the canopy in all of Palo Alto.

The increase in fees to play golf should be modest because the renovation should bring back golfers and thus increase the rounds played and thus the overall profitability of the course. Additionally more natural plants will become part of the course and there will be less turf and less water used.
A great deal of time and effort has been put into this project and it is ready to go. There are already 4 well regarded firms ready to bid on this project. Whether or not you play golf I am sure you understand that a profitable golf course can help do good things for our city.


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Posted by Social Butterfly
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Let's get some PROFESSIONAL golf course designers in here. This "project" will never hold up to being another "Pebble Beach" but for all the money the City is ready to spend you would think so...........


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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Dear Crescent Park Dad, a little history lesson here taken from the pages of the Palo Alto Online. (Search Golf Course Renovation)

"Friday Jul 16, 1999

After undergoing a $5 million renovation, the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course will unveil its new look to the public beginning July 24. "

So the golf course was renovated in 1999 at the eventual cost of $6 million. That investment is going to be bulldozed.

Then in 2004 Pat Burt and company started looking for places to put more soccer fields.

"Sept 2004

Pat Burt said they hoped for something "better than what exists today.

Golfers seemed most skeptical out of all the constituents. The idea of shrinking the 180-acre golf course didn't sit well with some, especially because the course went through a $6 million renovation recently. "We just spent $6 million for new irrigation and the reaction is that it's a good place to play," said Craig Allen, who participated in the project. "Where's the money coming from? I think it's going to come out of my pocket."

Then came the flood control project that would have cost the city nothing (Option A). But Noooooo they had to have the soccer fields too (Option G).

"July 13, 2012.
The City Council unanimously agreed Monday, July 23, 2012 to approve a $7.5 million redesign of the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, a project that will move at least 15 of the course's 18 holes, create a new levee to contain flood water from the fickle creek and make 10.5 acres available for three athletic playing fields. Despite some reservations from local golfers, council members enthusiastically embraced the most expensive and dramatic design option on the table — a plan known as "Option G." Under Option G, the creek authority would pay about $3.2 million for the golf-course redesign and the city would contribute $4.3 million, with the local revenue coming from golf-course fees over 20 years."

So the way I read this is that the Soccer Moms (and Dads) won and the golfers get to pay for it unless we the golfers vote with our feet because we can't afford it anymore, then we all get to pay for it.

So remember these two numbers: It is supposed to take 1.5 years to build and cost $7.5 M. The cost of the lost revenue during construction which is not insignificant is not figured into the cost of the project. Anyone want to bet what the final numbers will be?

Construction already began last spring because 3 holes were bulldozed so dirt could be stored on the course. Revenue is already down. They have yet to award the contract for construction.


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Posted by San Francisquito neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 22, 2014 at 12:35 pm

They are cutting through the golf course to make the San Francisquito flow faster into the bay. More than the golf course are being affected by this. I am one. Preparing for the "Hundred Year Flood".


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm

The golf course was in dire need of renovation/bulldozing even before the project. With so many golf course vying for the duffer's dollar, Palo Alto GC was the red-headed stepchild of the golfing community. Not well maintained, boring design, ugly. Most of the "trees" (using the term loosely) on the course are little scrubby things smaller than 6' high that you'd uproot if you had them in your own yard. The new course design looks entertaining, uses significantly less water and will be an attraction to the area, not a golfing afterthought.


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Posted by JanN
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2014 at 5:49 pm

No Way!!
MUST KEEP OUR TREES!
PLEASE. We Need Them Truly.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 24, 2014 at 6:50 am

@Midtown,
Curtis Williams told me the soccer fields out there, which kids would all have to be driven to, are intended for adults to take some of the pressure off of the fields we have in town. It's supposed to go along with their boondoggle gym out there, i.e., don't blame it on "soccer moms and dads".


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Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2014 at 9:32 am

The tree mitigation plans calls for removing many trees that are non-native, or diseased or dying. What is not being mentioned in this thread is the fact that 30-40 acres of the golf course will be restored to wildlife habitat, something that has been missing from this site since the golf course was originally built. Local wildlife will thrive much better in this habitat than they would in the current model of irrigated greens and sand trap design.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 27, 2014 at 10:30 am

Yes INDEED it was the "soccer moms" who wanted to do a major re-do at the golf course. Hear ye, hear ye - read all about it in the PA Weekly!! The golfers didn't want it. Staff didn't want it. NOBODY but the mommies wanted it - and they forgot to include mommy and daddy parking. This course will NEVER recover from the self-serving idiotic thinking and a council that couldn't say NO!! What was requriedired by the ArmyCorps of Engineers and needed was a drainage ditch to get flood water out to the Bay and that didn't require a total re-do of a golf course that was just rehabbed a few years ago. And even Arrillaga stuck his nose and wallet in this to offer money to build a gym!! Whoaa there. And the trees? It's a nice course. Mt. View now has a nice course, but it had to be rescued from total mismanagement. This city is so badly run, it's pathetic. Time to move . We're thinking about it - and ready.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Florida
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2014 at 4:22 pm

I replied to another article, and now see this one of the same date. Boy, "Midtown" is either an angry old fart or just misinformed. Or, maybe both :)

I have followed this closely and actually READ many of the documents. All, but the way, are on line except for a few. It amazes me (well, not really) that so many negative comments are made without most of the posters knowing even 1/10 of the story or background. In "Midtown's" case, I would place the knowledge at 1/100.

Before I forget: About the Frank Lloyd Wright comment…Yes, he did work around trees when they were healthy, but usually he only had to deal with a few trees that were true icons to a site. Mr. Wright rarely tackled huge acreage projects. He never designed a golf course (100-200 acres). All of his projects that did require large landscapes were fully intended to destroy anything there naturally. Just look at his plans for large resorts, state capitals, etc.

As I have stated before, the City is planning to leave many of the healthy trees, especially the very large ones.

As for "ruining the course", I seriously doubt that will be the case. From a study of the plan, the new course will be a great layout and fun, too. I am not sure where "Midtown" is coming from blaming soccer moms for pushing this project through. I read exactly one meeting recap where there were soccer advocates who had comments. To my knowledge the support has been golfers, parks people and even environmentalists who want to see the wall to wall grass course opened up with native areas and a better (more compatible) landscape design. Not to mention is the importance of shifting the course to make room for the flood control project.

I cannot comment on "Midtown's" rant about the course as it stands now. From what I have been told, they had to close a few holes to bring in dirt for the creek project and golf course. What does "Midtown" expect? An instant golf course? Hey "Midtown", this is not as easy as owning a set of Sea Monkeys. "Midtown" also rants about how the project will cost more and take longer. Maybe he is right. His glass, however, is half empty.

"Midtown" also rants about the late 1990s investment. Has he even read one page of the proposed plans? Gosh, I would have hated to have him as a student in my English class. This boy (or girl) either does not read, or chooses only to read what they want. Maybe they just listen to nay-sayers. All of the useable drainage from the 1990s is staying in place, including some very large pumps that help de-flood the area. Also, much of the 1990s work is overdue for renovation.

I will agree: Not every public project goes perfectly smooth. I share the concern about overages and budgets. Especially in this day and age. However, the real threat is misinformation of the type we see in some of the posts here. An awful example of gossip-gone-wild…hysteria against progress…closing the eyes to change…etc.



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