News - January 26, 2011

Menlo Briefs: Heritage tree's fate rests with council

After voting to spend $7,500 in city funds to design a home around a controversial 70-foot heritage redwood tree, the Menlo Park City Council will decide the tree's fate at its Jan. 25 meeting.

Kim LeMieux, who owns the property that the tree sits on at 240 University Drive, asked the city last July for permission to cut down the tree to build a new two-story house. The Planning Commission agreed, but the Environmental Quality Commission did not. Since 2008, the city has approved 652 tree removals, and denied only 21, according to Rebecca Fotu, environmental programs manager.

When Ms. LeMieux appealed to the council in October, it voted 3 to 2, with John Boyle and Rich Cline dissenting, to pay an architect to attempt to plan a house around the tree instead of immediately allowing her to cut it down.

The new design, according to the staff report, suggests eliminating a basement and requires several zoning variances. Ms. LeMieux said the plan isn't economically feasible.

The tree served as the backdrop to another controversy as well regarding remarks Councilman Andy Cohen made to Ms. LeMieux about her attractiveness prior to the vote.

The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, in the council chambers at the Menlo Park Civic Center, 701 Laurel St.

Driver allegedly strikes bicyclist

A 48-year-old man encountered a gold Lexus while riding his bike along Avy Avenue in Menlo Park on a sunny Thursday afternoon, that much seems certain.

The nature of the encounter, however, remains under investigation. According to police spokeswoman Nicole Acker, the Lexus may have rear-ended the bicycle around 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 20.

But when the rider told the driver — an elderly woman with a British accent — she'd hit him, the driver allegedly responded, "No, I didn't," and drove away.

The bicyclist reported the accident to the police one hour later. He did not get the car's license plate number, and although the police log reports the incident as a hit-and-run with injury, he was physically unharmed.

Streetlights go green

About 20 percent of Menlo Park's 2,300 streetlights will start to shine a little brighter and burn a little less energy once the city finishes replacing 445 sodium bulbs with light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures.

The $323,154 project is funded by an energy conservation grant and the Community Development Housing Fund. Engineering Services Manager Chip Taylor estimated the swap will save the city $29,000 a year. The LEDs should also cut Menlo Park's annual carbon dioxide production by 123,000 pounds.

Streets selected for the new lights include Santa Cruz Avenue, Willow Road, El Camino Real, and Middlefield Road.

— Sandy Brundge


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