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Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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Hugging Golf Course Trees

Uploaded: Jan 22, 2014
I served 9 years of the Parks and Recreation Commission, ending in 2012. Here are some thoughts I have about this golf course tree matter.

First, the Commissioners are not firebrands. They have various points of view, do not always agree, and do attempt to achieve consensus. Their purview can bring out all sorts of different interest groups with disparate opinions, and in my experience, the input is taken seriously when it is serious input.

A significant part of the Weekly's reporting was mention of a task force of Commissioners and various stakeholders. While that type of task force is not perfect, you do have "everyone in the room." I view it as a best practice for local Palo Alto government. I do not think the public understands or appreciates the time and effort required outside of public meetings for task forces to develop their recommendations that must then be reviewed and approved at the Commission and Council level.

Such a task force was in place for dealing with the tree issue at the reconstructed golf course.

Public input on what to do with the golf course occurred over several years. Many open meetings took place to get input and feedback from the public, for those who chose to participate.

The architect chosen to develop the initial design is from a blue ribbon golf course design firm, and had several alternatives for the Commission and City Council to choose from. The design chosen is very exciting, and while I am not a golfer, I can see how the new course will be a much more attractive place to play than is its predecessor.

The new design calls for removing trees, many diseased or inappropriate for salty marshland, and some that do not fit in the new golf course configuration. The latter trees are the ones that call for mitigation. Replacement trees will be compatible with the environment in which they are planted, and will grow and thrive as the years go on. Loss of canopy for a period of time? Yes. Better canopy in future years? Also a yes, particularly since there will be trees planted in other parts of Palo Alto as part of this project.

This golf course re-design is driven by a multi-county, multi-city effort to make major changes around San Francisquito Creek. After the El Nino floods of 1998, it was decided that entire creek, from the bay to the hills, including the golf course, Pope Chaucer bridge, and other bridges upstream, needed improvement. We are now, at long last, seeing some action.

I have long been an advocate of getting more recreational space for youth and adults In Palo Alto. "Soccer moms" were an indirect influence on carving out some golf course space for more recreation facilities, but they mostly don't spend time on these questions. They just want a place for their kids to play and to be able to spend time with fellow parents and kids in a positive environment.

We do not have enough space for families to achieve that objective. The new space at the Baylands can add to that capacity. That will help reduce out of town trips by car for games, offer evening activity as a result of lighting, and potentially offer a gym for all those volleyball and basketball players that have limited playing space in Palo Alto right now.

There is the space, but not the funds, to develop this new recreational facility. I will comment at another time about that funding matter.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm

The war on trees in Palo Alto is spiraling out of control.

Cutting down 600 (six hundred!) trees is simply obscene. As with California Ave., I don't buy the argument that some are diseased; rather, they are simply considered inconvenient. Yes, I suppose I could have attended a City Council meeting on the subject, but some of us are too shy to speak at public hearings. I mourn the absolutely unnecessary removal of these trees, and all others cut down to fit peoples' warped agendas.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 30, 2014 at 12:16 am

Just more nonsense. For months now they have been killing everything over at Byxbee park to sterilize the ground and make way for the native species. I wonder how much water in this worst drought that we are having is going to be needed to bring those fake hills back to the place they were before they started to screw with them?

Right by the Palo Alto Airport is such a brain dead place to put a golf course anyway. Ought to get rid of them both then maybe people could enjoy themselves without a plane roaring in their ears twice a minute out there, and enjoy the native environment and let it return on its own.

Posted by 100 more Council wants to bulldoze, a resident of Green Acres,
on Feb 6, 2014 at 12:58 am

The Maybell neighbors who fought the overdevelopment of that parcel wanted a chance to figure out how to save the established orchard of 100 fruit trees (that seem to need no watering) and the old oaks. That parcel has been a stopover for wildlife in the urban wildland patchwork connecting foothills and bay for decades. There is a nesting redtailed hawk there, among other things. Same neighbors essentially paid for Bol Park as well, City Council is just being childish and petulant not to let them at least try. They spent $600,000 more just holding that election earlier than later, and wouldn't have had to spend the money at all if they had just rescinded the ordinance and formed a working group with neighbors to come up with a better solution for all. Giving the neighbors a shot at a working group would cost far less, and could result in saving those trees in the last heritage agricultural site in Palo Alto. Across from a park and a school.

Our taxes pay for all those amenities downtown that we don't really get to use as much as our neighbors in the north. I looked at the per sq ft costs in the Weekly's front pages and they're pretty close and outrageous all over town, but we are getting the brunt of the overdevelopment lately but have none of the amenities. Many broken promises, too, such as at Alma Plaza. Holy cow, are they trying to turn El Camino into a tunnel/parking lot?

Why begrudge us the chance to save these trees and keep some open space over here? Especially just letting us figure out how to pay for it?

And while they're at it -- I think it's criminal that they are putting that money into a golf course, when less LOANED to the nonprofit at Buena Vista Mobile home park would save the housing of over 400 low-income Palo Alto residents, the last truly affordable patch in this town. Shame on this Council for so aggressively trying to force a $30million dramatically upzoned project that would have razed 100 established trees for 60 underparked spots (for a never well justified target audience), when probably a $6million loan (less than they loaned at Maybell) would save the homes of over 400 long-time Palo Altans. Shame shame shame for using "affordable housing" to suit their development purposes, while not lifting a finger to save real affordable housing in this town. Or to save trees we have, that don't need the kind of water new trees will, to survive this historic drought. Shame shame shame on them for choosing their pride and developer profits over residents, safety, canopy, and reason.

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