Los Altos was built on apricots. But instead of appreciating the base of its culture, as it should, the City Council is set to deface the original fruit of its town.
The local apricot orchard surrounding the Los Altos Library is to be converted to an expanded municipal center that will incorporate upgrades to the city’s public services.
Historical leftovers like the apricot trees should be more valuable and important resources to Los Altos than more unused buildings like the current community center. The trees have reason to be there.
Previously, much of current-day Los Altos, including the school, was a thriving agricultural town. The majority of the land was occupied by apricot orchards. The scant 2 1/2 acres of apricot trees is now the last functioning orchard within the city boundaries.
The orchard should be viewed as the tangible extension of the museum, not a chance for redeveloping the downtown area.
The role that Los Altos took in bringing people to California will be erased when the bulldozer hits the earth.
While there are many plans for the whole 18 acres of public land that include the surrounding fields, orchard and city center, there are 3 proposals fighting for the orchard land. Nothing is finalized, yet tearing down and relocating the apricot trees mean tearing down a part of the Los Altos community.
Throughout the process of debating the future of the apricot orchard, the central rumor that such modernizations would be forbidden by the deed is indeed false. The deed of sale does not specify anything other than the details about the parcel of land.
“The way she [the former orchard owner] talked [about] it was part of the deed of sale,” former apricot worker Frank White said. “It would be in good taste to keep the orchard…to keep the aura of it being an apricot community.”
One of the options, relocation, would allow room for the possibilities of a pool, skate park, additional soccer fields, a new Los Altos theater or other facilities. But does it have to be the orchard that gets replaced?
Though it may be much easier to move the orchard than any of the other buildings, Los Altos needs to put a higher priority on its history.
By a 2008 estimate, the median age in Los Altos is 47.8 years old, and yet the council is emphasizing amenities that would mainly appeal to the younger generation.
Many of the town residents feel that the trees are “knobby,” “stunted” and “ugly,” but these features do not deter from the overall meaning of the landmark. Moreover, the orchard can still be improved upon. One idea is to add grass to the dirt for strolling ease.
While it may be true that the trees lack beauty, they continue to produce apricots each summer, and the library and city center would not be the same without the current orchard. Laying concrete around the library would only take away from its tranquil feeling and the view of downtown from San Antonio would be radically altered.
If expansion is necessary, why not remodel the current buildings and tighten the corner of the grove?
Yes, Los Altos does not have too many common places of civic use, but it is not necessary to uproot its culture to provide conveniences that could be positioned elsewhere.
If the trees were to be knocked down, there would no longer be a way to connect to the rich Los Altos history in such a physical way. The trees are a landmark in a small town with not much else to differentiate itself from other towns.
The trees set Los Altos apart from other neighborhoods, a fresh relief from suburban similarity in an otherwise monotone landscape.
It is a positive to remember and link ourselves to the past. Standing in the grove, it is easy to imagine nothing but orchards and fruit extending for miles in every direction, like the land used to be.
The apricot orchard should not be removed by the city. That would be tearing down our history and our childhood memories; Besides store-bought apricots never taste quite as sweet.