Wed05042016

News

MV council adopts rent dispute ordinance, despite reservations

Despite criticism that it lacked teeth, the Mountain View City Council approved last week a second reading and adoption of a controversial program aimed at resolving rental-housing disputes between tenants and landlords.

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alwa...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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Preserving heritage trees

I would like to follow up on an article in the Town Crier on Heritage Oak trees (“Neighbors mourn, but Los Altos justifies removal of giant oak trees,” Oct. 9). I do appreciate that our neighbors and city officials followed the letter of the law and probably had the best of intentions. Still, I believe that this case and the removal of a third Heritage Oak on an adjacent property within the last year raise several issues, namely, tree stewardship and homeowner vs. community rights and responsibilities.

The main problem with the current law is that it does not allow for an independent assessment of a tree’s health, provide for public notification or specify the homeowner’s responsibility for caring for heritage trees. I know what such care entails because I have two Heritage Oaks on my property. There are always risks involved living near such trees, and costs can easily average up to $1,000 per year. But I assumed those risks and responsibilities when I purchased my property.

Without an independent assessment or clear lines of responsibility drawn, it is too easy for conflicts of interest to arise or for lawsuits to be threatened. For example, my arborist, who did not inspect the trees on these two other properties, is aware of cases where there was a clear conflict of interest, with the arborist providing the tree assessment the same one who would eventually earn thousands of dollars to remove it.

Also, the homeowner may not have a clear incentive to maintain the tree. The tree that was taken out earlier this year developed a fungus that the prior owners ignored while they sought to sell the property. The new owners told me that they would not have purchased the property if they could not have removed the tree to make way for their new large home, which maximizes the lot’s buildable footprint.

I also don’t believe that you can look at a tree and think it is like a carton of milk with an expected expiration date. Normally, if properly maintained, these trees can provide benefits for generations, hence the term “heritage.” But an owner may not want to incur maintenance costs, especially if a tree limits remodeling options.

I respect homeowners’ rights to develop their property, but what rights should we afford the tree and the community? Heritage trees that may have been around for more than 50 years become part of the community landscape and provide countless environmental benefits.

A city planner told me that it is neither difficult nor expensive to notify neighbors when the city issues a tree-removal permit. Mountain View’s Heritage Tree Ordinance, Chapter 32, Article II, requires public notification when a removal permit is issued and public hearings to review any appeals. It also clearly states that a homeowner is “responsible for maintaining and preserving all Heritage Trees in a state of good health.”

Los Altos Hills delineates its policies in Title 12, Article 4 of its Municipal Code. It requires, in part, that the town mail written notice of the removal permit application to owners of all abutting properties, with limited exceptions. If the town receives protests within 10 days of the date of the mailing, the Los Altos Hills Site Development Committee schedules a hearing.

I and other neighbors gladly would have paid my arborist to inspect my neighbor’s trees, even if it only gave us peace of mind that the trees required removal. For a small administrative cost, our community could have avoided shock and suspicion and gained consensus.

If this column awakens your inner Lorax and you agree that the city of Los Altos should modify its policy toward heritage trees, please contact the city council and/or write to the Town Crier to make your voice heard. Perhaps this is also an issue for GreenTown Los Altos.

Terese Blockus is a Los Altos resident.

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