Larchmont loses two large ficus trees

| October 31, 2019 | 1 Comment

LARCHMONT FICUS TREES one week preceding their demolition.

Two healthy and mature ficus trees on Larchmont Boulevard, located in front of the Rite Aid store, got the axe last month despite efforts by the local neighborhood association to save the side-by-side trees.

Work to remove the two trees began Oct. 7 followed by removal and replacement of 90 linear feet of sidewalk. African fern pine trees, from 24-inch boxes, are to be installed as replacements.

According to Windsor Square Association (WSA) president Larry Guzin, who provided photographs to the Chronicle, the replacement tree wells have been moved to maximize exposure of the bright Rite Aid sign.

“The trees used to be in front of the newsstand and near the store’s door. Now, the landlord has created new tree wells at the northern- and southern-most points of the property. In fact, the tree trunk on the south may pose a traffic hazard because it is so close to the parking lot driveway.”

A city official with the Urban Forestry Division confirmed to the Chronicle that a tree of that size should be planted at least eight feet from the nearest driveway, depending on the species of tree used.

PHOTO ABOVE shows Ronald Simms building after Oct. 11 demolition of ficus trees. Two replacement African fern pines are visible.

The request to remove the trees was submitted May 15, 2018 by Beverly Hills developer Ronald Simms, landlord for the drugstore at 226 N. Larchmont Blvd., as well as the newsstand and the stores above the city parking structure (Trina Turk to Starbucks). At that time, the Windsor Square Association (WSA) opposed the trees’ removal, calling the request “unreasonable,” because the trees were not dead, diseased or dangerous. The WSA argued that there was never a claim against the city or property owner at that location on account of the slightly raised sidewalk.

In an effort to stop such “piecemeal decisions” in the future, the WSA proposed an Orderly Street Tree Replacement (OSTR) plan, which calls for the selective removal of trees over a 20-year period. The OSTR flagged the two trees in front of Rite Aid to not be replaced until 2023 and 2025 respectively.

Disregarding the WSA’s proposed plan, Simms and the Larchmont Village BID (Business Improvement District) moved forward with the request to the city to remove the trees.

Separate arborists were hired by both the property owners (BID) and local residents (WSA), who submitted contradicting assessments that supported the position of their respective clients.

Then, on Oct. 23, 2018, Councilman Ryu signaled support for the trees’ removal, telling the Chronicle:

“At my urging the city’s Department of Disability and its Urban Forestry Division both studied the site outside Rite Aid, and both came to the conclusion that the sidewalk was not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, and that further root pruning of the mature ficus trees would not be possible without killing the trees.” 

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  1. Finian Johnson says:

    Shame on Councilman Ryu and Ronald Simms for ignoring the wishes of our neighborhood. You both loose my support over this issue!

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