Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Carob Trees

Last night I was back at City Hall for a City Council meeting which included an Item on the fate of Santa Monica’s Carob trees.

In May (very shortly after the culling of the Ficus trees) Walt Warriner- Community Forest and Landscape Superintendent- raised a panic about the Cities’ Carob trees. Apparently, it was suddenly evident that most of the trees were riddled with rot and fungi and due for potential failure. At least 98 trees have now been removed. At a City Council meeting on May 22nd, it was recommended that further assessments should be made on 202 trees, the object being to see if they could be phased out gradually.

Last night Walt Warriner presented his report. Two independent arborists designated 189 of the trees with a high risk potential, saying they should be removed as soon as possible. This left only 13 that- although in poor condition- might survive longer with careful pruning.

No one doubts that the Carob trees have problems but is it really necessary to destroy a large section of the Cities’ canopy in one fell swoop? These mature, large canopied trees are doing an invaluable environmental job, and it would be harmful to the community to lose them all before replacement trees had a chance to mature. I fear that because one of the independent arborists- Cy Carlburg- was, on her own admission, involved with a tree that caused a fatality, the conclusions she reached were naturally colored by this very emotional incident. Yes, all trees have the potential of causing damage to pedestrians or property- and the Carob trees certainly have a possible risk factor but this factor has to be re-evaluated.

Fortunately, the Councilmembers are taking this very seriously- perhaps having learned a lesson from the slaying of the healthy Ficus trees? Councilmembers Genser, Shriver and McKeown put some very pertinent questions to Mr Warriner. The “point” system used to evaluate risk was questioned. It was shown that if a large, healthy Redwood was standing by a school playground, it would actually have the same risk factor number of 8 as a tree riddled with rot and due for removal!

Another query regards the replacement trees: it is planned that once street residents have agreed upon a particular suggested tree, those who wished could request a more costly one in front of their house. Apart from being very undemocratic, we would thus lose the wonderful, almost architectural unity of the avenues of same-species trees that make Santa Monica so special. The Councilmembers were also concerned about this.

The whole issue has been deferred.

Many of these endangered/ dangerous (?) carob trees are on 12th Street, where I stayed for some months in 2004, walking my daughter’s dog Bella along these avenues. As I have no immediate carob photos- and it is, unusually, raining today- I will instead show an image of Bella disguised as a Zebra……or a White Tiger?

No comments: