Sunday, September 14, 2008

Relocation of Ficus Trees: 1

No sooner had I returned to Santa Monica- on September 1st- than I heard that the City Council were preparing to relocate seven Ficus trees on 4th Street. To re-cap: see past posts re. Ficus trees/ Treesavers, from May backwards.

On May 16th 2008, after an eight month battle with Santa Monica Treesavers, the City Council cut down 23+ stately, healthy Ficus trees on 2nd Street, totally ignoring the fact that nearly 11,000 residents and visitors had signed petitions to keep the trees. Initially, they planned to relocate a further 31 of these mature trees- and why? For so-called "design" reasons and some misconception that shoppers don't like shade!

At least for the moment they are compromising and reducing the number to 7- but how can we trust them not to both cull and transplant further trees in the near future? Less than 50 years old they could live for another 100 years if left where they were. Although the City Forester- Walt Warriner- insists that they have a 95% survival chance, our independent highly qualified Arborist- Alden Kelley- thinks otherwise. Following this up by giving scientific reasons, based on percentage of root ball to diameter of trunk, he states: "This would be a very costly way to torture the trees to death- most transplants would fail in 10 years or less in my opinion".

It is believed that the transplant cost per tree is approximately $11,000- to be born by Taxpayers who want to keep the trees where they are?

On September 3rd I therefore joined a number of Treesavers to witness what was happening on 4th Street. When the contractors arrived and proceeded to hack at large roots, Jerry PeaceActivist Ruben- a co-founder of Treesavers- chained himself to the tree. Upon the arrival of the Police, through them he tried to enter into a dialogue with Kate Vernez from the City Manager's Office, but she refused to come to the site. After continuing to work around Jerry's tree for some time, the contractors moved to another tree. Jerry unchained himself and followed them, still trying to negotiate peacefully with Kate Vernez through the Police. He never entered the restricted area around the tree, but suddenly the Police handcuffed Jerry and removed him to the Jail where- having been offered $10,000 bail- he spent the night. If the police do not drop charges there is the possibility he could be jailed for one and a half years- for what?

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