Construction Dewatering Threatening 300+ Year Old Oak; Council Hearing Monday 8/10 8:15 PM

300+ year old heritage oak, 2353 Webster, Palo Alto threatened by construction dewatering

We need your help immediately!  On Monday, August 17, 7:30 PM (but may be earlier or later), Palo Alto City Council (rescheduled from this week) will decide on the neighbors’ appeal of the Development Department’s approval of a two story house with a large, deep basement at 2353 Webster.  Construction of this basement, as proposed, risks damage and possibly death to the 300+ year old legally protected oak tree at the back of the property.

Comment either by joining the meeting remotely (phone 1(669)900-6833 / Zoom meeting ID 362 027 238  ) or by sending e-mail to

The construction of the proposed 10-foot deep basement at this location, where the groundwater level is high, would necessitate dewatering, the pumping out of groundwater in order to build below ground surface.  Drilling the dewatering wells will damage the canopy and roots, while dewatering will stress the tree from sustained loss of soil moisture on which the tree depends.

We are not asking for any change in the 2,953 square foot above ground floor area , footprint, or location of the residence.  And, while the safest alternative is to simply not build a basement so as to minimize mechanical disturbance within the critical root zone, a basement may be acceptable under appropriate conditions.

We request that:

  1. The City not allow this magnificent 300-year old oak tree, in the prime of its life, to be cut down under any circumstances
  2. If a basement is constructed:
    1. Limit the basement floor surface to a maximum depth of 8’ 0” below ground surface. Dewatering will not be required if the bottom of the excavation is sufficiently above the water table (and you have a good and careful architect and contractor).  A basement deeper than 8’ will almost certainly require dewatering, however, the applicant will need to determine the depth of the basement that can be constructed without requiring dewatering.
    2. No groundwater shall be discharged to either the storm drains or sanitary sewer. Any incidental groundwater discharged onsite shall be outside the critical root zone, so as to not increase risk to the heritage oak.

Please let Council members know that you are counting on them and City Staff to uphold the objectives of Palo Alto’s Tree Protection Plan  and Dewatering Ordinance, and that you agree with Save Palo Alto’s Groundwater’s proposals for protecting this community treasure.

Comment either by joining the meeting remotely (phone 1(669)900-6833  or Zoom meeting ID 362 027 238  ) and / or by sending e-mail to

Comments from residents are critically important.  The Staff Report (page 4) states “if the applicant were to propose to remove the Valley Oak tree, the application would be processed administratively”   City Staff would then issue a permit to cut the tree down!

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5 Responses to Construction Dewatering Threatening 300+ Year Old Oak; Council Hearing Monday 8/10 8:15 PM

  1. admin says:

    By suggesting cutting down the 300+ year old tree, the Development Department has made it clear they value a basement more than Palo Alto’s Tree Protection and Dewatering Ordinances. They are incredibly out of touch with the community that pays their salaries. Council needs to reprimand them in no uncertain terms.

  2. rita vrhel says:

    This 300+ year old majestic oak needs our support. The new owners knew the tree was there and liklely the price of the property reflected the expectation of certain building limitations.

    To cut this tree down or for it to “have an accident” and die really demonstrates a lack of understanding that money and profits are not the prime reason to exist. The average spec home in Palo Alto, according to Ken Deleon’s 9/2019 report indicates “….Palo Alto is a great place to build with an average 39% return on speculation homes”.
    Although the current plans have one main outside entrance, the original plans for this 3 level home had separate 3 entrances, one for each level. The new owner states they intend to live in the home but wait and see, it will be sold. SHAME; SHAME

    • Hans and Rudith Weber says:

      WE ARE WITH RITA !!!!!

      When will this DEWATERING stop.?
      Why are there still permits available?

      Safe Trees ,they preserve life.
      Digging for basements does not.

    • Carol Kiparsky says:

      Right on Rita!
      This truly exemplifies the shallow values people associate with our town nowadays. I hope you are available to speak at Council tonight.

  3. Peggy McCurdy says:

    Developers and “house for spec flippers” should be aware that a heritage oak can greatly increase property value. How can they consider endangering a 300 year old valley oak?

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