Windsor Square Association seeks to protect area trees

| April 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

519 N. LARCHMONT healthy ficus is removed.

In the first week of March, Councilman David E. Ryu’s office contacted the president of the Windsor Square Association (WSA), Larry Guzin, regarding a request to remove a ficus tree at 639 N. Larchmont Blvd. Guzin and the WSA have been working with local stakeholders and the council office on Larchmont tree issues since January.

In an email to Guzin, senior field deputy Nikki Ezhari explained to Guzin that the property in question was outside of the Larchmont Village Business Improvement District (BID) and that the business making the request (Café Gratitude) “is being held up waiting for us to get back to them so they can move forward with the removal of the tree. It is causing substantial damage to their business.”

In response, Guzin urged the Councilman’s office to “please be patient” until he could consult with others.

For professional advice, Guzin turned to arborist Greg Monfette, a former longtime staff member of the city’s Urban Forestry Division of the Bureau of Street Services. Monfette found that the tree could be saved by severing some of the exposed roots and replacing a portion of the sidewalk to create a new tree well configuration. Monfette’s report was shared with all interested parties in an effort to find a solution other than cutting down the tree.

To confirm that these measures were satisfactory to Café Gratitude, the Chronicle contacted the Urban Forestry Division on April 11 to get a status report on the issue.

Paul Gomez, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works, said only that, “The matter you are inquiring about is still being reviewed by the City.”

Disappointing trend

The café that requested the tree’s removal was concerned about plumbing work required on the café’s premises. Local residents might recall a tree of similar size was cut down and replaced, for similar reasons, last year at 519 N. Larchmont Blvd.

Some neighbors were disappointed, however, to find that the former healthy, mature tree (with a thick canopy) was replaced with a small, shadeless sapling. See accompanying photo.   

Larchmont Village BID

In a related, but separate discussion, the BID continues to seek resolution on its plan to remove and replace 38 ficus trees lining Larchmont Blvd., between First St. and Beverly Blvd. The BID consists of the approximately 25 property owners on the Boulevard. They, too, seek to address the issue of damaged plumbing and busted sidewalks, as do many of their tenants, a large number of whom are members of the Larchmont Boulevard Association (LBA).

Windsor Square response

Following a presentation by the BID to several WSA board members in January, with subsequent follow-up meetings and the WSA’s consultation with independent arborists, the issue was formally presented and debated April 12 at the WSA board’s monthly meeting.

“The Windsor Square Association board discussed and agreed that the City’s mature Ficus trees on Larchmont Blvd. generally should be removed only if they are dead, diseased, or dangerous,” reads a letter stating the board’s conclusions.

Starting with the premise that trees have a natural life span, the WSA board concluded that a comprehensive replacement plan should be developed and agreed upon by all relevant stakeholders. (A diseased tree in front of Goorin Bros. Hat Shop at 141 1/2 N. Larchmont Blvd. was removed by the city on April 22 without controversy.)

“Such a plan should be implemented over multiple decades to ensure that mature trees on Larchmont are there for the enjoyment of future generations,” the letter concluded.

In response to a query from the Chronicle, Guzin said the WSA board’s tree committee hopes to work on the “next steps” in developing a plan through further meetings among the WSA, the BID, the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association and the LBA.

The Windsor Square Association board writes that its conclusions about Larchmont’s street trees are based upon the following observations:

(1) According to a report prepared by an arborist retained by the LVBID, using funds provided by the Fourth Council District office, 37 out of the 38 Ficus trees on Larchmont Boulevard between First Street and Beverly Boulevard are in good condition. These Ficus trees have additional life expectancies of up to 20 years. Pursuant to the arborist recommendation, no healthy Ficus tree should be removed unless the adjacent sidewalk first is lifted or removed to allow inspection for root issues and to allow for root pruning.

(2) Larchmont Boulevard Ficus trees give character to our neighborhood shopping area, helping to create the village ambiance that makes Larchmont Boulevard so attractive. Vibrant evergreen leaves look good, and the trees’ canopies provide dense shade to cool and protect the sidewalks. Proper pruning techniques will help ensure the appropriate canopies and tree health. Removing the trees, without good reason, would cause irreparable harm to the shopping district and, hence, to Windsor Square.

(3) “Good reason” to remove a Ficus tree does not include abutting owners’ or tenants’ need to maintain plumbing and sewer pipes, which is a responsibility of stewardship of any property in Los Angeles. The street trees are a public benefit to be protected, and sidewalk repair is a necessary City responsibility that goes along with stewardship of the trees, as is done well by the City of Santa Monica with its mature Ficus trees on Montana Avenue.

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