By Maria Medina

MENLO PARK (KPIX 5) — A half dozen healthy redwood trees growing in the heart of Menlo Park are slated to get the ax this summer in order to save a nearby building, the co-owner confirmed Monday.

“I’m really very disappointed to have to do this,” said Matt Matteson of the Menlo Park Center Office, which sits on El Camino Real and Ravenswood Avenue.

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The Menlo Park Environmental Quality Commission voted last week to uphold the city’s decision to allow the removal of seven redwood trees in order to make repairs to the office building’s underground garage, which is suffering from water damage.

Matteson said they can’t wait any longer or the structure could fail.

“It’s a life safety issue,” said Matteson. “We have to protect the occupants of the building and these seven trees are unfortunately located right where we need to get to, to do these repairs.”

But critics argue there has to be a way to save both the trees and the building.

Jen Mazzon was among the dozens who attended last week’s meeting, and tried unsuccessfully to convince city staff to vote against the redwood removal.

“I mean, they’re just majestic trees,” she said. “We’re removing healthy, native heritage trees on city owned land and it’s like, wait a minute; that just doesn’t add up.”

City staff hired an engineer and arborist to look at other options, including leaving the parking garage as is and moving the redwood trees to another location. But each option seemed to reach a dead end.

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Matteson said he’s been working on the issue for a half a decade, including researching alternatives. But he said the roots of the redwood trees need to be cut in order to install a water barrier to prevent further damage to the building, which means it would leave the trees unhealthy or unstable.

“Those alternatives exist,” Mazzon said. “They just cost more money.”

Anyone can appeal the city’s decision within 15 days of the vote, which would be no later than April 11. By the way, the city’s logo is a tree.

“The irony is not lost on a lot of folks, for sure,” said Mazzon.

Matteson, however, plans to plant other heritage trees with less invasive roots in place of the redwoods. He said dozens of heritage trees remain on the property as well.

Mazzon argued that the water barrier that will be installed has a life expectancy of three decades, and fears the heritage trees that will be planted could be uprooted when the barrier begins to deteriorate. She said the current plan means the city will be right where they are today when that happens.

But Matteson said the decision was not an easy one for him as well.

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“I planted these trees 37 years ago. I’ve been caring for them ever since,” he said. “To assert that I’m uncaring about them somehow, is untrue.”