Fri08012014

News

"Brown is the new green," says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spending nearl...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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Business

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

DR. ALFRED HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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