Monday, September 21, 2009

The Lost Oaks of California Avenue

You think Leucadia's disappearing tree canopy is bad? Read this horror story of how small minded cubicle idiots clear cut 50 cherished old growth oak trees in order to replace them with smaller "tidier" trees.

17 September 2009

A week ago, California Avenue in Palo Alto was one of the nicest places in Silicon Valley. Palo Alto is unusual in having two downtowns, because it's a merger of two towns, Palo Alto, whose downtown is University Ave, and the older town of Mayfield, whose downtown is California Ave.

What made California Ave unique were the beautiful old oaks that lined the streets. Until the city cut every one of them down earlier this week. I was there this afternoon, and everyone is talking about it. People are in shock.

I'm still trying to figure out what happened. From what I can tell so far, the city cut down the trees as part of a plan sponsored by an organization called CAADA (the California Avenue Area Development Association) for "improving" California Ave. Apparently some planner decided that maple trees would be nicer than oaks.

If they were going to replace the trees, why didn't they do it gradually? This is hard to believe, but according to this news article, they thought the street would look more "tidy" if all the trees were the same height:
Officials considered doing the replacement project in phases, but eventually decided to "bite the bullet and do it all at once," said Ronna Devincenzi, president of the California Avenue Area Development Association. She said that will allow the new trees to grow in at uniform height, giving the street a more tidy appearance.
Tidy. They cut down mature oaks in order to replace them with a bunch of maple saplings because that would look tidier?.

CAADA says that the trees were cut down because 80% of them were diseased. I have trouble believing that. They didn't look diseased. When a bunch of trees in the way of a development project are suddenly found to be diseased, I look for alternative explanations.

We can't bring the trees back. The oaks of California Ave are gone, and it would take more than our lifetimes to grow them back. But we can find out how this disaster happened and try to prevent something similar from happening again.

If you'd like to know what happened to the oaks of California Ave, you can reach Ronna Devincenzi, the president of CAADA, at, and Palo Alto mayor Peter Drekmeier at

Update: 18 September

The mayor, city council, and city manager do not seem to have been consulted about the decision to cut down all the trees on California Avenue. Apparently that decision was made by someone else. It's still unclear who.

I'm now trying to piece together the chain of events that led to this terrible mistake. If anyone has any leads, please let me know at

See also,


  1. Can we whine about the trees a bit more? What about the bees?

  2. me and da boys at the unionSeptember 21, 2009 9:00 AM

    That's your Govt at work. Great peole everyone of them, deep thinkers all.

    Throw da bums out!!

  3. Dr Doom, you mean how America's domestic Honey Bee population is dying off from disease and being replaced by aggressive Africanized Bees that bee keepers can't work with, which is endangering our food supply? Those bees?

  4. I keep seeing a lot of dead bees on the ground. What is up with that?

  5. they must have the same arborist (tree surgeons/hacks) as our City.

  6. Hard to believe that no one in the City knew about it. Who authorized it?

  7. Same tiger(govt), different stripes(city). Same result, lost trees.

    Are they all this bad??
    Do they have any idea what they are doing??
    Are they all cut from the same molds?

  8. Yes, no, and yes.

    This is why a strong elected council and mayor is needed. As it is, staff and the city manager run this (and many) cities.

  9. Planners know what's best for you. Quit thinking and submit!

  10. Anybody know what happened to the kitten?

  11. "A city arborist had determined the oak trees were largely diseased."

    Code- the city want to cut down mature trees for whatever reason. They gave JR a $50 course to become an Arborist to back up their dirty work. Arborists are a fricken joke. They should call themselves the Tree Reapers!!!


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