Ficus Bulldozed: Palisades Village Tree Update

By Sue Pascoe

The two towering ficus trees in front of the Mobil station on Sunset at Swarthmore were bulldozed down on Sept. 10, one day after a city Public Works hearing downtown at 10 a.m.

Some residents were upset because they felt they had not had adequate notification or posting of the hearing, per the Brown Act. They told the News that they received the e-mail notification on Sept. 6 in the afternoon; meetings of this nature must be posted at least 72 hours in advance.

The News spoke to Elena Stern in the L.A. Department of Public Works, who said that a paper posting had been done downtown, which satisfies the law. The notification did not have to be posted in Pacific Palisades.

This is one of the ficus trees that will be replaced.
This is one of the ficus trees that will be replaced.

Shortly after the trees came down, Highlands resident Steve Dickey re-posted Palisades Village Landscape Details from Caruso Affiliated’s Facebook page on Nextdoor Palisades:

“In addition to our attention to architectural detail, we take tremendous pride in creating beautiful landscapes at our properties. . . . A big part of this plan includes trees that provide beauty and shade covering for more enjoyable strolling, dining, shopping, and picnics and playtime in the park. In fact, our current landscape plan has us planting more than 110 trees. And we don’t plant small trees; we plant healthy 48” or larger boxed trees. The city requires 24” trees. But our plan includes 48”, 72”, 84” and even 96” boxed mature trees.

“Additionally, we are working with the city and community organizations to see how we can beautify the park at the Palisades Recreation Center. Many residents have asked us to help. Our goal is to identify and plant three dozen or so beautiful trees at this location, as a number of them have died. If you support this initiative, please let us and Mike Bonin’s office know. With your support, we can make it happen.” According to the plans approved by the Department of City Planning on April 28 (Caruso Palisades Village document, p. 14): “All significant, non-protected trees on the site proposed for removal shall be replaced at a 2:1 ratio.”

Currently, Caruso has been given permission to remove 43 trees, which means 86 replacement trees. The document continues: “Note: Any excess replacement trees which are unfeasible to be planted onsite or along the public right-of-way shall be donated to the Urban Forestry Division, so these trees can be planted in nearby public places.”

Residents believe that the Palisades Recreation Center would be a perfect place for additional trees. At a Park Advisory Board meeting in July (“Park Trees Face Grim Future,” Aug. 3), Steve Dunlap, a spokesperson for the city’s forestry division, explained that the park trees have suffered from the drought and from watering restrictions imposed by the DWP. Additionally, Recreation and Parks must now pay its own water bills.

The trees proposed for Caruso’s Palisades Village are jacaranda, the Chinese flame, crepe myrtles, ironwood and flowering pears.

The News asked Dunlap about the possibility of using any of those trees in the park. He said, “Based more on surviving insect attacks and drought, jacaranda, crepe myrtle, Chinese flame tree, Chinese pistache, and Island ironwood would work. I’m not sure about pears; they get fire blight.”

The center island at the park, which was once shaded by stone pine trees until their demise early this year, is supposed to be reconfigured for parking. No trees will be planted there until the project is completed.

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