Trees in the Parkways

Maintenance: Responsibility of owner of adjacent property*

Palm Haven "Heritage Tree" species in parkways:
Washingtonia robusta; common name - Mexican Fan Palm
Initial planting: March, 1913 at sizes from 4 to 6 feet in height.

Mouse-over the gold "ingot" to view official code.

Planting trees in the Parkway: Requires a permit. No permits to plant a tree will be granted for locations next to Heritage Trees in Palm Haven unless it is to replace a Washingtonia robusta that is missing from its original location. Allowing a tree to sprout from seed is treated as a planting and must either be removed immediately or a permit granted to allow it to grow into maturity.

* Parkway tree maintenance is normally the responsibility of the owner of the adjacent property. However, due to the unusual requirements to prune the 100-foot tall Mexican Fan Palms, the City of San Jose DOT handles pruning to maintain consistency and safety. Proper treatment of the trees, however, is still an important responsibility of the homeowner and is discussed below.

To find out if there are Heritage Trees adjacent to your property, enter your address and click Search. Then scroll down to view the result:

Database Results Error
The operation failed. If this continues, please contact your server administrator.


Palms in Turf
When turf is planted near your Mexican Fan Palms, they should be separated from the turf by a small mulched area that prevents the grass from growing right up against the trunk. Weed-whip and mower wounds on palm trunks are permanent and provide an entrance for diseases and insects. Palms in turf should also be protected from sprinkler spray, both because the terminal bud may develop a heart rot disease and because salts from water evaporation can encrust on the trunk or leaves. Because irrigation schedules for turf are not adequate for palm establishment, the trees should be on their own schedule that will allow deeper watering to the 2' depth. This irrigation schedule applies to young specimens.

Palms in other groundcovers
The City of San Jose permits groundcover plants or groundcover materials in the parkways. Plant material should be kept away from the trunk of the Mexican Fan Palms to avoid opening the trunk base to disease and insects.

Acceptable groundcover materials such as mulch or gravel may be applied up to the trunk of a Mexican Fan Palm provided that water can drain through the groundcover material.

Covering any part of the Parkway with concrete or other impervious material is prohibited. The example at left shows a mulch base that keeps down weeds (and palm seedlings) while allowing drainage. The example at right uses no mulch but turf is kept away from the trunk of the tree.
Ralph Mize, San Jose City Arborist indicates both of these are acceptable ways to treat the base of the trunk of your Mexican Fan Palms.

Native palms grow at oases; they are not "drought tolerant." To some extent growth rate can be regulated by watering practices. In general, trees growing in sandy soils need irrigation more frequently than those planted in clay soil. Established palms of most species do well with slow irrigation to a 2 ft depth every couple weeks in summer and the same amount every four to six weeks in winter.

Palm tree care information excerpted from University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisors Pam Geisel and Michelle Le Strange publication "Palm Tree Culture" - 2003.
Additional information and approved text from San Jose City Arborist, Ralph Mize - 2005. For specific questions, you may contact the City Arborist directly at 408-277-2762.


What the City of San Jose says you cannot do to street trees:
No person shall, except with written permission of the director of streets and traffic, (a) damage, cut, carve, girdle or injure the bark of any street tree; (b) attach or keep attached any sign, wire, device or injurious material to any such tree or to the guard or stake intended for the protection of such tree; (c) allow any gaseous, liquid or solid substance or weed killer harmful to such trees to come in contact with the roots, leaves, bark or any part of any such tree; (d) construct concrete, asphalt or brick paving or otherwise fill up the ground area within four feet of any such tree so as to shut off air, light or water from the roots; (e) pile building material or other material about any tree in a street in any manner that will in any way injure such tree; or construct any raised planter around the street tree trunk.

And if the street tree is a Heritage Tree?
Any person who unlawfully vandalizes, grievously mutilates, removes or destroys a heritage tree shall incur a civil penalty in the amount of five thousand dollars for each such tree so vandalized, mutilated, removed or destroyed, the collection of which shall be enforced by civil action brought in the name of the city by the city attorney.

This penalty was increased in 2006 to $10,000 and up to $30,000 for repeated violations. 

Heritage Trees are clearly important to protect. In Palm Haven, they are its namesake and influence everything from its architecture to the kind of people who move in. Read on for some of the history of the Palm Haven trees . . .

Developer, Eaton, Vestal, & Herschbach, opened Palm Haven in 1913 with a high level of street and streetscape improvements. This included Macadamized streets, curbing, wide parkways planted with Mexican Fan Palms, and generously sized sidewalks. All this including the plaza in the center of Palm Haven and pillars and Wait Station for the trolley line.

As described elsewhere in this site, Palm Haven was a "Residence Park". The whole focus of the Residence Park concept was in the beautification and integrity of the streetscape. It is the one thing that unifies the neighborhood regardless of the many sizes and styles of homes built in it. Nearly all the parkways of Palm Haven were planted with Mexican Fan Palms at 25 feet apart in 1913 prior to its opening. Newspaper interviews with developer/partner Ashley Clinton Vestal prior to the opening revealed that the specimens of palm trees for the parkways were "larger and fairer specimens than we had expected to receive" and were planted at a height of 4 to 6 feet.

Arthur Cann Nurseries supplied the hundreds of palm trees.




Riverside Drive was part of the original Palm Haven development (originally called Riverside Avenue).  It only extended to just past Plaza Drive. The lots on Riverside were the least expensive and least desirable at the time which may explain why few sold before all of those above the 635 address were purchased en masse. San Jose attorney, Ralph McComish who lived at 1023 Bird Avenue and Stanley Halstead held them for later development. McComish died from complications after a freak accident on Christmas Day in 1924 while delivering gifts to the needy. (Read the article and final tribute.) Shortly thereafter, Riverside Park was opened and the remaining lots on Riverside Drive developed with it. Parkway trees were not planted by the developer of Riverside Park but instead, they encouraged buyers to plant matching Mexican Fan Palms to tie to the rest of Palm Haven. Some of the homes built on Riverside Drive have Mexican Fan Palms planted similar to the rest of Palm Haven but they are not evenly spaced like the rest - demonstrating they were planted after the homes and driveways were built.

Aileen Ortega, a resident of Palm Haven on 721 Riverside Drive since it was built in 1927, remarked in a 2002 interview that when she and her husband purchased their lot, they were encouraged to plant matching palm trees in the parkway. She and her husband had just finished a honeymoon in Canada and "fell in love" with the European White Birch. So they decided to plant them instead. The birches eventually died and were never replaced. She said she wished they had taken the advice to plant the Mexican Fan Palms as she saw today how important they are to the neighborhood and how they are so long-lived.

A big reason why Palm Haven stands out as one of the most intact historical residential districts today is because most Residence Parks that have survived have lost part of their streetscape appearance due to the use of other, shorter lived trees or trees whose regular maintenance fell into the hands of various homeowners through the years and often suffered or were changed as a result. 

Most of Palm Haven's original streets still have their original palms in place. For more on the parkway trees in Palm Haven, CLICK HERE.