Saturday, July 08, 2006
The Ungreening of Pomona
Thursday night I attended a community meeting at Lincoln Park that was slated to be about "historic tree removal." KInd of a peculiar title for a meeting, since I thought that living in a historic district meant our trees were protected. Turns out that a couple of weeks ago, several healthy, old growth palm trees were yanked out of the ground and taken away from the Lincoln Park Historic District. When concerned citizens approached the private contractor who was extracting the healthy trees as if they were rotting teeth, the company said they were working at the direction of the City. Apparently, the City deemed that the trees were an "imminent threat" to the power lines above, so no official notice was given before the Monday morning yanking took place. (As for what qualifies as "imminent," well the City later revealed they've known about the problem for six years.) Resident witnesses allege that in addition to the trees under the power lines, another healthy tree that was nowhere near a power line was taken out and away by the contractor. It was suggested that because there was no City worker there to supervise the overall tree yanking, perhaps a mistake was made. Ooops! By now, it's in some other lucky city's ground, perhaps Claremont even.
At the meeting, the City official boasted that a "deal" had been worked out where the private company removed the trees for FREE in exchange for the right to sell the tree and keep the profit. Mature palm trees fetch a hefty price on the open market, much higher than a reasonable price of removal, so this sounds more like a swindle than a deal. The City claimed that the company told them it would have otherwise charged $4,500 for each tree they removed. Even at that unreasonable removal price, I believe most palm trees are worth more. An old neighbor in Los Angeles was offered $15,000 for his front yard palm tree, which he (not so promptly) declined. The City rep at the meeting said the City felt "lucky" to find someone to cart these trees away for us. Huh? This is literally like thanking someone after they rob you.
The icing on the cake is that there is still a dead palm tree in this exact same location, but the company refused to remove that one, saying the dead one was the City's responsibility to remove. Too bad I don't have a digital camera yet, or the dead one would have been the photograph for this post.
The meeting was filled with angry people who couldn't believe that the City gave away both our trees and our profits to a third party. Sometimes anger is not a bad thing. One of the main reasons why many of us live in Lincoln Park is not only because of the awesome architecture, but because it is so lush and green here.
Several times during the meeting the City rep referred to certain trees as "junk trees," meaning those grown by accident, like when a bird drops a seed that eventually grows into a tree. I have one of those in my backyard, and it is about 4 stories high. Several people corrected him that there are no trees that are junk, especially those that have been in the ground for several generations. The City rep said that the City would work hard to protect "specimen" trees, but that a "junk" tree was not worth the same effort. If I remember correctly, the involved trees were Mexican Fan palm trees, which fell into the City category of "junk" trees. Isn't that like the Humane Society saying it's okay to euthanize mongrels, as long as they save the purebreds? Not cool.
I did learn something new, however, and that is that there is indeed a problem with So Cal Edison needing to keep their power lines free of obstruction from trees and their branches. There are certain palm trees, mainly the shorter, stumpier ones like the Mexican Fans, that can grow into the lines and become a hazard. Other trees can grow into the line, but are not a problem. So. Cal. Edison is supposed to be notorious for bad hack jobs of trees that breach their power lines. So. Cal. Edison has been known to "top" trees that get to be too much of a nuisance to keep trimming, which is why the City intervenes first in order to save the trees from certain death. Both So. Cal. Edison's safety needs and the City's safety needs trump the historic ordinance, that's why they have the right to remove trees in an historic area. That part seems reasonable to me. I know that some residents have had to take out diseased trees, but they replace them with new trees and no greenery is lost.
Underground power lines would solve this issue. When asked by the residents, Councilwoman Lanz refused to even dialogue with Edison about the possibility of putting the lines underground in this area as a way of saving the historic trees. The consensus in the audience was that this is a conversation that needs to happen, before it is simply ruled out as an impossibililty. I'll bet money that at least part of Pasadena's Historic areas have been able to get underground power lines installed to protect their historic trees.Whatever happens, it was agreed that the City won't ever yank out trees without proper notice, and that we will find a way to replant these trees elsewhere in Lincoln Park, rather than giving our green and monetary riches away.
Several attendees, including a very vocal, local nursery owner, offered to provide the City with names and numbers of companies who perform economical tree removal. The nurserer named one company that removed similar trees in another City for $700.
btw, other trees on the short list for removal are the palm trees on the northwest corner of Jefferson and Gibbs. These palm trees are overlapping magnolia trees, so these palms will actually be better appreciated somewhere else.
For the sake of our oxygen and shade-deprived kids, let's keep on hugging those trees -- wherever we are in Pomona. Hopefully the City now gets it and we won't need to install alarms on our trees to alert us of impending TTTTIIMMMBERRRRRRRRRRRRR.