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City Prepares to Remove Carob Trees

By Jorge Casuso

November 24 – The City of Santa Monica will begin removing 44 failing carob trees, many of them in the upscale North of Montana neighborhood, pending the go-ahead from the City Council Tuesday night.

The decision comes six months after the council delayed action when residents complained the City failed to inform them that some 300 carob trees were slated for removal across the city.

The City already has removed 98 of the trees deemed at "high risk of failure," meaning they were likely to fail, had a large part that was likely to fail and were in "high-use" areas, said Walt Warriner, the City's urban forester.

After further study, 189 trees with a lower risk of failure were reassessed by the City, Warriner said. Of these, 177 trees are recommended for removal -- 74 have “very poor viability,” 91 have “poor viability” and 12 “moderate viability.” The other 12 trees will be pruned.

“None of the 177 trees were considered to be in good health or condition,” Joan Akins, acting director of Community Maintenance wrote in a report to the council. “The displacement of pavement by roots and the associated root pruning requirements limits their viability as street trees.”

Signs will be posted on the targeted trees, and the trees will be removed two weeks after the posting.

Members of Treesavers, a group formed to fight the removal of Downtown ficus trees, said there is a better relationship between City officials and residents.

“It seems that they’re improving their dialogue with neighbors,” said Jerry Rubin, the leader of Treesavers. “But we want to get more information and details. They’re trying to save a few, and that’s positive as well.”

Residents had complained that the City did not inform them of plans to remove 300 of the city’s 630 carob trees officials said were failing, putting property and residents at risk.

The residents only found out about the plan when the City called a press conference to announce its plan. The conference drew more residents than reporters. The council then delayed the item and reassessed the trees.

During the past six years, staff has recorded nearly 90 failures of carob trees throughout the City, Akins said. Of those, more than 40 have taken place since July 1, 2005.

Two of the tree failures have damaged cars, and there have been four known limb failures, she said.

“The tree failures have occurred during all types of weather and range from limb to total tree failure,” Akins wrote in her report.

“The majority of the failures involve decay in the limbs, the trunk, or root mass,” she wrote. “The presence of this decay is not always visible on the tree’s exterior.”

City staff has been working with neighborhood associations to select appropriate species to replace the trees slated for removal, Akins said.

The plan to remove the carob trees comes in the wake of the controversial removal or relocation of 30 of the 157 ficus trees that line 2nd and 4th streets Downtown to pave the way for an $8.2 million streetscape project.

Treesavers has called on the council to establish a Tree Commission that would give residents a say in planning the city's urban forest.


“The tree failures have occurred during all types of weather and range from limb to total tree failure.” Joan Akins




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