Village landlord seeks to remove ficus trees

| August 2, 2018 | 0 Comments

SHADE-PROVIDING trees on Larchmont should be saved, say critics of Rite Aid landlord’s removal request.

The city’s Urban Forestry Division recently received a request to remove two mature, side-by-side ficus trees at 226 N. Larchmont Blvd. The request was submitted by Rite Aid landlord, Beverly Hills developer Ronald Simms.

“The Windsor Square Association opposes this request because these trees are not dead, diseased or dangerous,” said Larry Guzin, president of the Windsor Square Association (WSA), in a post on social-networking site Nextdoor.

Guzin noted that it is “unreasonable” to remove these specific trees as there has never been a claim against the property, and the sidewalk is still in “okay” condition:

“We cannot expect to live in a billiard table-smooth world,” he protested.   

The post by Guzin garnered more than 50 comments from local residents outraged at the prospect of killing multiple shade-providing trees in the neighborhood. The lush tree-canopy in Larchmont Village gives the shopping district a unique ambiance, say local critics of the request.

“Please keep these trees,” commented Windsor Square resident Sylvia Stickells, who also raised a good point: “Remember the tree removed in front of Burger Lounge? It was never replaced (apparently ‘too close’ to the entry of the parking lot) and now that is such a hot spot.”

In a letter addressed to Simms, which was obtained by the Chronicle, Guzin urged the property owner to abide by the neighborhood’s “Larchmont Boulevard Ficus Tree Plan,” which he attached.

“No one has yet lifted the sidewalk to give an arborist the opportunity to determine whether or not it is feasible to root prune these trees, and keep them,” read the letter.

The removal of these trees would cause irreparable harm to the neighborhood, the letter concluded, submitted on behalf of the WSA.

To find out if Rite Aid Corp. officers were aware of the brewing controversy, we contacted the Pennsylvania-based pharmacy for comment.

“This is a matter between the city of Los Angeles and our landlord; as a tenant, Rite Aid is not involved,” said corporate spokesperson Ashley Flower. “Further questions should be directed to City Council,” she most helpfully suggested.

Not so fast

Property owners on Larchmont Boulevard reject any allegations that suggest they are not acting with the best interest at heart for the neighborhood, said Larchmont Village Business Improvement District (BID) spokesperson Heather Boylston, who represents the shopping district’s property owners.

“Something that we all agree on is that nobody wants to lose the canopy of trees on Larchmont. We just aren’t in agreement on how to do that,” said Boylston.

For the past two years, the BID has been working on a plan to address broken plumbing and sidewalks caused by invasive roots of the ficus trees, planted almost 60 years ago.

“We think that it is best to do it over a long period of time,” said Boylston, who suggests that a long-term plan to periodically replace old trees is the best way to minimize the impact on Larchmont.

As it currently stands, however, the Larchmont BID and the WSA have not been able to agree on a comprehensive approach to the problem.

The WSA has indicated that it will only support the removal of trees if they are deemed “dead, diseased or dangerous,” said Boylston, while the BID is advocating for an approach of gradual replacement. The debate has continued for more than a year with both sides committed to their approaches.

“I am hopeful that a plan will be agreed soon,” said Boylston, who notes that some property owners are eager to address the issue.

What plan?

The suggestion that WSA has stymied a proposed long-term tree removal plan is just not true, said Guzin in response to Boylston’s comments.

“We have not been provided with any comprehensive plan to replace the trees for us to even comment on,” he said.

According to Guzin, the BID is conflating the issue of the Rite Aid trees with the need for an agreed approach for all Larchmont property owners:

“The BID’s position is that one property owner — Ronald Simms — is willing to pay to remove and replace his trees, and maybe other property owners will do likewise. I don’t call that a plan. That is one guy who wants to remove two trees from in front of his property where those trees’ canopies now soften the glare from the bright, non-conforming, oversize Rite Aid wall sign.”

If the BID is serious about implementing a long-term “rotational management” plan for the 39 ficus trees on Larchmont, at the very least, notes Guzin, the group should work with its residential neighbors to identify which trees will be removed when, and why.

“It’s my hope we can reach consensus. We don’t want to have a fight with our friends and neighbors ­— the business interests on Larchmont — but they have to be reasonable about this,” concluded Guzin.

By Billy Taylor

Tags: , , ,

Category: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *