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Huge cedar outside City Hall will be cut down

The star of Mountain View holiday event won't see another Community Tree Lighting; city officials cite tree's poor health

Attendees leave the annual Mountain View Community Tree Lighting Celebration on Dec. 3. City officials plan to cut down the huge cedar before this year's holiday event, citing the tree's poor health. Photo by Magali Gauthier

Santa Claus will surely be there, along with carolers and free hot chocolate for all, but something will be missing from this year's Community Tree Lighting Celebration. Its star attraction, the tree, will not be there.

The huge cedar at Mountain View's Civic Center Plaza, best known as the light-covered tree at the center of the annual tree-lighting event, is on its last limb and must be torn down by the end of the month, according to city officials.

The tree, believed to be 80 years or older, has withstood a lifetime of changes in downtown Mountain View, persevering through earthquakes, hailstorms and plenty of dogs using it for some relief.

But the tree has been rapidly decaying in recent years. Since around 2015, its leaves have been sparse, stunted and brownish. After seeking advice from an outside expert, city officials say they decided it was time to take down the tree before it became a hazard.

The tree has essentially been on life support for the last few years, said the city's forestry manager, Jakob Trconic. City maintenance crews have tried different irrigation techniques and fertilizers to prop up the cedar's health, but nothing has pulled it out of a steady decline. A 2018 survey indicated the tree was at one-tenth of its original vitality, and its condition isn't expected to improve.

"Over the last three years, it's just been a downward spiral for the tree itself," Trconic said. "We really want to keep this tree around, but we just can't see doing another Tree Lighting. I don't see there being much left of it."

Notices announcing plans to take down the tree were posted last week. Assuming no one files an appeal, city workers say they plan to chop down the cedar by the end of October.

The Civic Center Plaza tree is an Atlas cedar, which is known as a hardy species that can reportedly survive for centuries, given the right conditions.

Trconic has his theories for why the tree may have deteriorated early. In particular, he believes the tree was likely dealt a setback in the early 1990s when City Hall and its underground parking garage were under construction. During that excavation, workers damaged part of the tree's root system, and it likely hurt the tree's lifespan.

On a side note, the Civic Center Plaza cedar actually wasn't the city's original choice for holiday events. Around the time when City Hall was being built, city officials thought a larger, more robust tree located in the roundabout at Castro and California streets would be a perfect candidate for holiday lights and decorations.

But that plan got the ax, literally. The story goes that construction workers got the two trees mixed up and took a chainsaw to the one on Castro Street before anyone who knew better noticed. City officials decided the cedar tree at the Civic Center Plaza was the next best option.

Now, city officials say they want to quickly find a replacement tree in time for the Tree Lighting Celebration. Trconic said he is trying to determine the right species and other details, but expects to plant a 72-inch box tree as soon as possible. Assuming the timing works out, he believes a nascent tree can be planted in time for the Dec. 9 Community Tree Lighting.

"We're going to buy a new large specimen, but it certainly won't be anywhere near the stature of the existing tree," Trconic said. "It may be a little Charlie Brown tree this year, but hopefully it'll grow into a nice big tree."

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Comments

24 people like this
Posted by All Things Die
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 9:02 am

This tree was loved and adored and dressed up and loved and cherished and admired and loved and lived a longer healthier life than most any of its kind.
What more could a tree ask for?
Don't be sad over what is gone, rejoice in how much it gave you while it was here.

Well done tree, and thank you.


2 people like this
Posted by Business as usual
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Interesting how priorities are assigned, there is a Canary Island Pine tree in Parking Lot 9 along the parkway that is older, taller and in worse condition than the Cedar tree at City Hall. The Canary Island Pine tree has been horribly mangled by utility companies over the years to make way for the utility lines along View Street. Clearly a danger to nearby homes, condo's, pedestrians and vehicles in the parking lot. Had this tree been located at City Hall, it would have been removed long ago. I'm guessing the tree would be very expensive to take down, the city would prefer it to fall down and deal with the liability later. At least city hall workers are safe with the Cedar being removed. Arborist opinions differ by who is asking for an opinion. Reminds me of the Japanese garden at Pioneer Memorial Park that required the removal of some "unhealthy" trees, meanwhile calls to the city regarding the Canary Island Pine are ignored.


4 people like this
Posted by Glen
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 16, 2019 at 12:27 pm

Here's the process for appealing a heritage tree removal:
Web Link


25 people like this
Posted by It's rotten and will fall
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Appealing the removal of a rotten tree is akin to appealing the removal of a dangling piano on a rotten rope suspended above people.


4 people like this
Posted by The Registrant
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 1:18 pm

The Registrant is a registered user.

"At least city hall workers are safe with the Cedar being removed."

As will the hundreds of people who gather under it for the multiple holiday fairs and ceremonies, and the hundreds who fill the plaza for theater events as well as the people and children who play in the fountain next to it and plus the dozens who literally stand under it daily.

Given the number of possible victims at risk, this should quite rightly be a priority over a parking lot tree. I hope you're seeing the bigger picture now.


2 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 1:20 pm

Good. Ugly dying tree needs to be cut down.


6 people like this
Posted by PhD
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 16, 2019 at 2:12 pm

PhD is a registered user.

MV-Voice article from 2016:
"Dry and dying from drought, trees to be chopped down and replaced"
Web Link

I'm not sure why current article claims that "tree was likely dealt a setback in the early 1990s" and does not mention that "city officials say they have been prohibited from irrigating the trees" as in article from 2016.


8 people like this
Posted by Angela T.
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Yes, I remember this wonderful tree, as I pushed my dear little son (now 27) in his stroller under its mighty branches on our way to/from the little yogurt shop on a nearby street corner. What memories! I would like to echo the words of a previous contributor by simply reiterating: Thank you, Tree - and adding: You will be remembered and always loved.......


32 people like this
Posted by Reader X
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 2:57 pm

@PhD:

If you read the comments in the article you linked to, you would see a more careful explanation of the 2016 situation.

The city was specifically prohibited from irrigating the ornamental grass in the median. Because the grass and the tree occupied the same area, the trees suffered as a consequence of the regulation.


2 people like this
Posted by zap
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 3:10 pm

"If you read the comments in the article you linked to, you would see a more careful explanation of the 2016 situation."

So...... the city has been prohibited from irrigating the tree. Right?


80 people like this
Posted by Reader X
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 3:44 pm

@zap:

"So...... the city has been prohibited from irrigating the tree. Right?"

Incorrect.

If you READ THE ARTICLE, the city has tried many irrigation techniques on the stricken cedar (5th paragraph).

While drought rules were in effect, irrigating standalone trees was permitted. Trees planted amidst ornamental grass were not allowed to be irrigated using the installed sprinkler system. Spot irrigation would have been acceptable for the stricken cherry trees in the center median but that method was not employed.

Note that these rules were in effect for government property. There was never any outright ban of residential irrigation during the drought years although irrigation was only allowed on certain days by area and excess water runoff could be cited for a violation.

If I recall correctly, the city continued to water certain recreational lawns in some city parks. In those cases, the grass was not considered ornamental; healthy grass was necessary for safety reasons because of the intended use of those particular areas.


8 people like this
Posted by Old Mountain View
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 16, 2019 at 7:54 pm

Came here to find people complaining about the tree removal who didn't real the whole article.

Was not disappointed.


16 people like this
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 16, 2019 at 9:32 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Good riddance!

That tree is awful looking and always has been. They should have planted a new CHRISTMAS tree in the Castro median when the old one was mistakenly cut down THIRTY YEARS AGO. Could you imagine how big it would be now??? It’s now time for a proper “holiday” tree (to be properly PC) to replace that nasty old thing and it will fit very nicely with the now ubiquitous GSSV holiday market every December in civic center plaza.


1 person likes this
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 16, 2019 at 9:36 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

On another note, maybe we could transplant one of the giant Redwoods that were “saved” on Sierra to City Hall?


Like this comment
Posted by The Registrant
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2019 at 4:08 am

The Registrant is a registered user.

I think it's funny how some people get angry at trees :)

Don't think you're off the hook you rocks, and shrubbery, your days are numbered as well.
Good riddance to you all! MEH! MMMMEH!!!!!

LOL :)


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