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Heritage Oak at risk -- Urgent

Original post made by MaryAnnMP on May 14, 2011

This is an urgent appeal to anyone who may be able to help - the SF PUC has informed neighbors whose homes are between 15th and 18th avenues (and between 15th and 14th avenues) in the North Fair Oaks neighborhood that they intend to cut down an enormous, 120 ft high, Heritage Oak.

They are laying pipeline for the Hetch Hetcy water system. For the last year, they've been clearing out brush and trees in preparation for the laying of the pipe.

This oak is of spectacular size and breadth, and provides living habitat to owls, hawks and many other birds and other forms of life in our area.

The PUC just TODAY - on Friday May 13th - left a note on all of the neighbors' doors saying that this enormous and precious tree WILL be felled - they claim that because of the roots, they cannot lay the pipe around it and so it must come down. I believe they may begin cutting this tree down as soon as MONDAY - so the situation could not be more urgent and time dependent.

I AM ASKING FOR YOUR HELP:

Is there anything that can be done VERY QUICKLY to delay/stop this action - either temporarily or permanently? Despite the fact that they own this land, there must be something that can be done to stop this.

I feel strongly that this organization is cutting down this heritage tree because they CAN - not because they MUST. Perhaps it's expensive or difficult and it's just easier for them to cut the tree down. And I feel strongly that this must be stopped. NO ONE is defending this magnificent tree - which has been there long before the PUC utility owned this land or ever laid the first pipe. There are at least 4 species of owls I have personally seen in this tree in the last 10 years and many other raptors and other precious wildlife as well - where will these animals go? Perhaps there are baby owls - right now - in that tree who will be killed when this tree is felled.

The killing of this tree is unnecessary - and it's wrong.

Please email or call me immediately - I'm putting everything in my life on hold to address this issue this weekend - Saturday and Sunday - May 14th & 15th.

Again - time is of the essence. In the past, the PUC has very quickly acted when they knew their actions were unpopular. I would not be surprised if they began cutting this tree down first thing Monday morning, May 16th. This is truly an urgent emergency for this magnificent tree and for the wild animals which call it their home.

email me: mamullen.mail@gmail.com

Comments (48)

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 14, 2011 at 4:48 am

Why don't you go to court and file a request for a temporary restraining order?

Stopping the downing of a tree is a textbook reason for granting a TRO.


Posted by Atherton neighbor, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

If there are any nesting raptors in the oak then it would be protected until the birds are though, which would buy a little time while you try to rally support. I doubt that Great Horns Owls would be nesting in May--but there could well be other types of owls or Red Tails active at this time.
Good suggestion from Pogo-- but how exactly does one request a TRO on the weekend--do you call the Sheriff's Department?
Probably a good idea to use Saturday to take a bunch of photos of the tree and it's context and brush up on how to make a citizens arrest.
Also take some measurements of the tree's girth at a few different heights from the ground at about three and six feet.
Cathy Hughes Anderson is Atherton's staff arborest and I believe she lives right in your neighborhood- great resource.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2011 at 6:44 am

How do you get a temporary restraining order? You go to court.

Seriously, you couldn't "google" your question? Web Link I only obtained 590,000 results in 0.14 seconds. It's called MAKING AN EFFORT. Don't complain when you hear the sound of chain saws if you can't even make the effort to google your question from the comfort of your home.


Posted by MaryAnnMP, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 15, 2011 at 7:25 am

This is from the original poster - Mary Ann - I wanted to weigh in:

THANK YOU for all your excellent suggestions.

We neighbors have talked to two lawyers about filing a TRO Monday - we are desperately seeking an attorney who can work pro bono to just file this initial TRO. The first two individuals we spoke to demurred on the basis that we may not be able to provide reasonable likelihood of prevailing - apparently that is the legal standard. However - I do BELIEVE we can prevail... for several reasons - all of which I will tell anyone who contacts me.

Is there anyone out there - can you ask your colleagues and your network - who would be able/willing to file a TRO in SM County Court first thing Monday morning?

We are gathering a huge group of neighbors to surround the tree and protect it - we are also trying to drum up major media coverage (i.e. news trucks) at 7am Monday to create a huge groundswell to STOP this action - as it has been taken quickly and without due process by the SF PUC.

If you ever took action for an innocent, please help right now. Feel free to email me directly:

mamullen.mail@gmail.com - Please do not abuse the privilege of my putting this email down here - I and other neighbors are truly laying ourselves down for this tree.

If you want to see it, use Google Earth and look at the 800 block of 15th avenue. Its canopy stretches wide....

THANK YOU


Posted by MaryAnnMP, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 15, 2011 at 7:28 am

ALSO - from the original poster (me)

The girth of this tree is FIVE FEET from the ground to about 6 feet up. It is 250 years old (some certified arborists have said 300yrs) and 100 feet tall. It has a canopy of over 75 feet.

It has been here since the Ohlone indians inhabited this land. It is part of the original forest floor.

Worth Saving?

YOU BET

Thank you.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2011 at 8:32 am

You don't need an attorney. It is far more compelling for the neighbors to show up in court and the less legalize they know, the better. There are facilitators at the court house who can help you file the motion - it's actually quite easy. The link I provided shows the form for California.

Any lawyer can tell you that stopping a tree from being destroyed is THE textbook case to justify a TRO, period. The reason is that the TRO is almost always granted is that once the tree is destroyed, there is no possible remediation. You don't have to go into a great deal of detail about your reasons, only that irreparable harm will come without the TRO.

Judges will issue an order to maintain the status quo and they can hear the merits of the two sides later.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on May 15, 2011 at 8:44 am

I would be happy to join any of you at court tomorrow to assist you if you want.

I agree with POGO you don't need an attorney, You need to request the TRO...Period

Good Luck


Posted by Atherton neighbor, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Pogo:--you are much faster than Google for good information.
Stogner:--nice of you to offer to assist.
Oak Tree:--is it feasible to divert around you? Sure hope so.


Posted by Great news!, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Where can I pickup the firewood?


Posted by Atherton Neighbor, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm

A couple of suggestions that might help:

As someone mentioned, Kathy Hughes Anderson (Atherton Tree Arborist) is extremely knowledgeable about Heritage Oaks and it is definitely worth talking to her.

In Atherton, a permit is required to remove any Heritage Oak and, fortunately, the approval process is not easy. It could be that a similar law exists in Menlo Park.

If there are owls and hawks (most likely Cooper's Hawks), this could be a very big reason to at least temporarily get a stoppage to the tree removal.

A local group that is very involved in our community (not just Atherton) is the Atherton Garden Guild. It is a wonderful group of ladies that might be willing to help out. They work with many organizations and could put you in contact with resources to assist you.

Also, KCBS radio specializes in local stories, and I know would be very willing to cover your efforts A call and explanation to them could get the story out on the radio very quickly and even possibly a van with a videographer out tomorrow.

Thanks to you and your neighbors for your efforts!


Posted by realist101, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Chop it down.. the water infrastructure is much more important than one old tree... yes, its a shame that it has to go... but look at all the ugly concrete, tar roads, freeways, and man made buildings that have already been placed here... if you want to look at it from an Ohlone Indian standpoint - the house you are sitting in now is litter to this "sacred" land... Why not focus on saving Flood Park where there are many trees instead of just one??


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm

realist101:

by your logic we should all go back to living in caves and mud huts like the native americans right? Where's your cave? I'd love to pay you a visit.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

KCBS, local channels 5 and 7, the SJ Mercury all have coverage/stories about the impending destruction of this oak tree. But the Almanac the local newspaper has zip, nada, nothing. Even after local residents have reportedly called the editors.

Those who care please show up at 7:00am Monday morning at 827 Fifteenth Ave to try to save the tree. That's just up the street from the Fair Oak fire station.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 15, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Some oak bits.

For those who wish to be there Mon morning - "Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who decided to stand their ground."

The oak was made our national tree by congress in 2004. Web Link

And I guess the PUC should read - The Mighty Oak and Me by KS Brooks.
"The Mighty Oak and Me was inspired by a real 300 year old oak tree in novelist K. S. Brooks' back yard. The tree constantly revealed new wildlife and wonders with its age and size. Neighborhood children were in awe of this "Mighty Oak," and when they would come by, Brooks would help them discover the magic of that tree and the value of all trees."


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2011 at 8:19 am

P.U.C. delays the cutting down of this 300 year old Oak.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 16, 2011 at 8:26 am

This is a terrific example of a small group of concerned local citizens taking action. Thank you for making the effort.

I wish you guys well!


Posted by Woodside Neighbor, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

BRAVO Mary Ann, for leading a worthy cause. And BRAVO Fair Oaks residents and all concerned neighbors for making a stand.

Besides being a thing of great beauty, a priceless asset to the neighborhood, a tree of this size and age is undoubtedly home to many species of birds, some of whom are undoubtedly nesting in the tree at this time of year.

What nonsense and short-sighted bureaucracy could envision removing such a venerable tree.

Carry on the good fight -- I applaud you whole-heartedly.


Posted by Carol T, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 makes it illegal to kill or disturb any birds except for nonindigenous species. This is nesting season, and it would be hard to believe that birds would not be killed if the tree is cut down.

We must put a stop to arbitrarily destroying habitat to animal species and nature's beauty while we pave our cities! These trees offer homes for these animals, beauty, oxygen, and shade for us.


Posted by Cynthia, a Morgan Hill friend, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm

GOOD LUCK! We have lost many beautiful old trees in our area to greedy developers and unnecessary city landscaping (for new sidewalks which could go around the tree, etc) and much of the cutting was done so unexpectedly that there was no time to protest.
I'm glad you have had the time to protest the destruction of your priceless tree- stay close to Granny and make as much noise as you can! Many of us are listening and wanting to help.
If you have costs involved, you should put out a plea for monetary help and I for one would be happy to contribute.


Posted by Cynthia, a Morgan Hill friend, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm

GOOD LUCK! We have lost many beautiful old trees in our area to greedy developers and unnecessary city landscaping (for new sidewalks which could go around the tree, etc) and much of the cutting was done so unexpectedly that there was no time to protest.
I'm glad you have had the time to protest the destruction of your priceless tree- stay close to Granny and make as much noise as you can! Many of us are listening and wanting to help.
If you have costs involved, you should put out a plea for monetary help and I for one would be happy to contribute.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on May 17, 2011 at 8:48 am

Another viewpoint-
• rather than donate money to help save the tree, donate that money
to a charity of your choice that is involved in saving children.
• I'll bet, at the end of the day, as a public agency, no permit
is required to cut the tree down - thus no restraining order
can be issued. Its a rule put in place for the PUBLIC GOOD.
• I'll also bet that once the tree is cut down and the rings counted,
it will turn out it is only about half as old as reported.
• Birds can and will fly to another tree: they have wings. 90% of
any eggs/fledglings lost would have been eaten by predators anyway.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

WhoR -

Nope, a public agency is subject to a TRO just like any other entity.

While I agree that birds will fly to other trees, it would be a shame to destroy, especially unnecessarily, such a beautiful, heritage tree.

My bet is that the public agency will figure a way around the tree.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on May 17, 2011 at 11:32 am

The TRO delay was in part caused by an employee insisting Mary Ann Mullen had to have an attorney represent her. After about an hour delay and a meeting with Supervisor Rose Gibson's very nice aide Maya, we proceeded to find out how it could be accomplished without an attorney. She realized there was a scheduling conflict which put it off till the end of the week most likely Friday and Mary Ann has time to choose an attorney if she wishes.

Best of Luck to everyone involved.


Posted by Wood vs Water, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm

BY not removing the tree, then what? Any idea how to get the pipes in without making a bend or a turn? Those have to run straight through the easement and not restrict the flow at that volumne and size. Plant a new tree, they grow like weeds and just live a long time. Once those trees get a disease or trunk rot..they are finished.
Hope you are willing to pay for your romantic idea. Have a numbnut or a hippie climb it and cause costly over runs.


Posted by Henry Riggs, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm

The tree is in the strip of land owned by the SF water department. They have fully engineered and bid the water pipe replacement, they are months behind schedule and don't want any distraction. I know of no reason why a slight bend cannot be designed - there are bends on Bay Rd - it will just take time to fabricate the radiused pipe.

As for legal arguments, SF established their path for the Hetch Hetchy pipes about two centuries after the oak tree set root, so how about they either live with proximity to the roots (roots do NOT go into water tight pipe and oaks grow slowly) or they can go around it. My bet, they will put a second pipe over the new water pipe as a root shield and call it a win.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Wood vs Water - that variety of oak doesn't grow like weeds - they take longer than any of us will live to get that big and beautiful. You can have the weeds. I'll take the oaks.

WhoRUpeople - "90% of any eggs/fledglings lost would have been eaten by predators anyway." Well then I guess you'll have plenty to eat if they cut it down.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on May 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm

County Officials and SFPUC met today.....

Web Link


Posted by Federal Law trumps SFPUC, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Carol T. brought up the Federal Migratory Bird Protection Act.
It was Prez. TR's legacy. Any Federal Game Warden of the Dept. of Agriculture can issue a "ceast and desist" order effective until after the nesting season. Eshoo's administrative staff can assist in getting to the right Federal official with the right authority. Or, try Speier, both like the publicity and would love to get credit for saving Mother Oak.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2011 at 7:03 am

Ed Harrington SFPUC Chief gets involved......Right On

"On Wednesday, Harrington sent a letter to Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson -- who represents the North Fair Oaks area between Redwood City, Menlo Park and Atherton -- and other county officials saying he will personally evaluate whether the tree has to be removed.
In his letter, Harrington also apologized that the utility did not notify neighbors until Friday of its plan to remove the oak Monday."

Spokeswoman Barry had publicly denied the Monday AM removal plan. It looks like that was the plan.

Web Link


Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

the tree is ugly. chop it down


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm

If we chopped down everything that was ugly, we'd have very few people and a lot of empty space.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Sad:

I am not the least bit surprised at your response. It is a typical reponse from you. As POGO aptly stated, if we chopped down everything ugly east Menlo and EPA wouldn't exist.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Hey Menlo Voter, why are you dissing my town? We have marvelous trees here! We have redwoods, pines, oaks, birch, gingko, yew, and many others I don't even know the names of.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 19, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Hmmm:

I was being facetious. Sad sometimes gets under my skin.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I grok you, too, Menlo Voter. We are so lucky in this area to have so many gorgeous tress. Many of them need care beyond what Mother Nature offers.

Here in EPA, a few years back, a lot of neglectful landlords put their tenants at risk by not taking care of trees, many of them oaks. A number of them - I think it was over a dozen - fell or split that year, crashing onto apartments & homes, creating real problems which could've easily been avoided w/regular pruning. Due to early rain, a lot of them fell early in the season - it was pretty unusual. Old trees were lost & it was sad.

I am sure in this case a workaround can be found - it's not rocket surgery. But you'd have to be blind or have no taste to think that tree is ugly.


Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 19, 2011 at 11:53 pm

comon, its a TREE, there are thousands of them in menlo park, there's nothing precious about it. if it needs to be cut down for utility purposes, then cut it down! there is nothing beautiful about this tree, i can go into the forest and find many trees that are much more impressive. the tree huggers wasting time arguing over this are only increasing the utility bills for the rest of us


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on May 20, 2011 at 12:15 am

Yes, go on into the forest! I'll take tree huggers over utility companies any time. Gas pipeline explosion, anyone? Tree huggers driving up your utilities bill? Naw, that would be the utility companies. Remember the internal debacle w/PG&E - the one well before the SB explosion?

They tried to railroad this one, and it didn't work. Good. You don't have to be a druid to appreciate an old oak - but you have to value nature.


Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 20, 2011 at 11:25 am

if i valued nature i would camp out in the mountains. we are people and we should make the land suitable for human life, and in this case, it means that we should CUT DOWN THE TREE. its a stupid tree anyways, just look at it, it looks retarded. probably a home for pests anyways. That tree is much more valuable to us as a table, or as flooring, or perhaps cabinets. Make it into tables and grow another one. That's a much better use of resources than hugging an old haggy tree that deserves to rot away anyways.


Posted by awed, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 20, 2011 at 11:38 am

So, a tree looks "retarded." Aren't tree hugger haters treasure troves of wonder?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm

C'mon Sad now your just "trolling"


Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm

mv its quite obvious that you are the troll here


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on May 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Questions for sadfsf: I don't mean this rudely, & of course, you don't have to answer, but may I ask your age range? 10-20, 20-30, or older?


Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 20, 2011 at 8:45 pm

lol wut? how old am I? sorry, even if i were in the age range you are interested in, im not interested in a relationship lol. unless you grind that tree into sawdust, maybe then i'd consider it


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on May 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Um, sad, I wasn't asking because I was flirting, sawdust or no :-)


Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 21, 2011 at 1:22 am

so the ordinance says "It is unlawful for any person to remove, or cause to be removed any heritage tree from any parcel of property in the city, or prune more than one-fourth of the branches or roots within a twelve (12) month period,"

LETS GRIND ONE FOURTH OF THE TREE INTO SAWDUST!!!!


Posted by MaryAnnMP, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm

The neighborhood coalition's most recent Press Release, issued yesterday:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Menlo Park, CA May 23, 2011

The SFPUC arborist's report dated 4/18/11 recommends tunneling under Menlo Park Heritage Oak tree (Granny) in order to preserve it. (see page 7 of: Arborist_Report_110418 attached).

It also states: "This is a tree to be protected and preserved during the Bay Division Pipeline 5 construction project" (see page 1 of: Arborist_Report_110301 attached).

Both reports were withheld from the public until the imminent destruction by the SFPUC of the Heritage Valley Oak named "Granny" was reported by the press on Sunday 5/15/11 and thereby prevented. The machine that could tunnel under the Heritage Oak currently sits idle nearby while the PUC discusses the tree's fate.

End of press release

If anyone in the community wishes to see the PUC's report, email me and I will send it to you digitally.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on May 24, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Great Job.....Mary Ann...You ROCK

Thanks for the update


Posted by MaryAnnMP, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm

The tree in question, a Valley Oak, reputedly of more than 200 years age, was inspected by two highly-respected, certified arborists in the past 7 days. Both men determined that the tree is in spectacularly good health (one compared its leaves to another Valley Oak nearby and noted that this tree's leaves are particularly dark green - apparently a sign of very robust condition).

The bottom line here is this: It has pretty much already been determined by both the neighbor coalition and the SFPUC (although more tests and meetings will likely take place) that the community can have safe drinking water for 2.5 million people with new pipes laid and preserve this tree - which is an historic tree resource - not just for the residents of San Mateo County, but for the overall State of California.

Further, some of the specific cost numbers issued by the PUC last week (to the tune of up to $437,000) to tunnel under the tree, included "change order" increases of up to 25%! This appears to most of us to be, at minimum, unreasonable. The number also covered a tunneling area of 100ft, when the area in question is not more than 78ft. In every area, these costs appeared to be unreasonably increased.

Independent cost estimates by the neighborhood coalition are underway, to ensure that a modicum of reality enters (and stays in) this collaborative process.

Again, this is not a discussion of: One Tree versus Water for 2.5 Million. Both are reasonably achievable, and are immediately feasible.


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