Tue09162014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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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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