Commission approves removal of 7 trees on El Camino

The trees slated for removal are shown in the red squares.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The city of Menlo Park’s Environmental Quality Commission voted 4-3 last night (March 27) in favor of removing seven redwood trees at 1000 El Camino Real, at the corner of Ravenswood Avenue, a decision that was met with jeers from the audience.

After the vote, one woman stormed out of the meeting, yelling, “We are appealing to City Council, so don’t think you won!”

The owner of the office building wants to remove seven redwood trees that were planted some 40 years ago.

Underneath the roots is an underground parking garage. There are structural problems with the garage, which holds up the entire building, according to property owner Matt Matteson. The trees have to be removed in order for the building to be repaired, he said.

At least 30 residents attended the unusually tense meeting last night, with 16 going to the microphone to speak. Most wanted to keep the trees.

One group, called the Raging Grannies, even sang a song in favor of keeping the trees, which commission chair Scott Marshall noted was a first for the commission.
Some of the 10 people who spoke in favor of keeping the trees, such as Jane David, requested that the city and property owner do more “innovative thinking” in order to retain the trees.

Others, such as Angela Evans, cited climate change as a reason to keep the trees.
“Seven trees won’t solve climate change, but we all have to do meaningful steps and not the opposite,” Evans said.

Some who want to save the trees said removing them would send the message that parking spaces are more important than trees.

Safety concerns

But there were some who said that removing the trees would be a vote for safety, since removing them would allow needed repairs to take place.

“I never want to choose parking over the trees. But I would choose safety,” said Commissioner Ryann Price.

Those who wanted to keep the trees had suggested that the roots simply be cut in order to do the work on the garage, but Price said that would likely make the trees unstable, and susceptible to falling over in a wind storm.

Another idea offered by the public was to fill the garage with concrete, which would limit the ability of the trees’ roots to grow.

Ultimately, the commission voted 4-3, with commissioners Janelle London, Deb Martin and James Payne against the removal of the trees and Tom Kabat, Scott Marshall, Ryann Price and Rebecca Turley in favor of axing the trees.

In place of the seven trees, 14 oak and birch trees, which are better suited for the site, will be planted in their place, something Kabat mentioned helped ease his decision.

The group who wants to keep the trees has 15 days to appeal the commission’s decision to the City Council.