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Local Activist Arrested in Tree Protest

By Lookout Staff

September 4 – Local activist and City Council candidate Jerry Rubin was arrested Wednesday after chaining himself to two Downtown ficus trees, but his act of civil disobedience failed to stop their removal.

The trees on 4th Street were among seven ficus trees being uprooted and moved to a nearby park to pave the way for an $8.2 million streetscape project along 2nd and 4th streets in Downtown Santa Monica.

"It's worth it to do everything we can to save these trees," Rubin said as he was led in handcuffs to a police cruiser.

“I didn’t want to be arrested,” Rubin shouted in response to a reporter’s question. “We wanted to have a meeting and for them to call off the construction company even for a day. The City Manager’s office refused.”

City officials said the trees are lifting sidewalks and being damaged by large passing vehicles.

The trees’ removal comes nearly four months after City officials averted a possible showdown with protesters in the media spotlight by giving no warning before chopping down 23 ficus trees along the two streets in the early morning hours.

Members of Treesavers -- the grassroots group that staged public demonstrations, packed the council chambers and took the City to court ten months ago -- rushed to the scene too late to chain themselves to the trees and put into practice the lessons they had learned in special civil disobedience classes.

This time, Rubin and his group – which had been protesting the relocation of the seven trees for weeks – were ready.

On Tuesday night, Rubin had the chain he used tucked away in a knapsack when he attended the local Democratic Club’s endorsement meeting. He said he was ready to chain himself to the trees and risk arrest.

The removal of the seven trees leaves 127 ficus trees along the two Downtown blocks that flank the popular Third Street Promenade.

The long delayed removal of the 23 ficus trees began in May, three days after an Appeals Court rejected a case filed by Treesavers in March and lifted a temporary stay order, capping a headline-grabbing battle between the City and Treesavers.

In addition to removing and relocating the ficus trees, the streetscape project will add 120 new ginko trees, as well as decorative up-lighting to the remaining ficus trees. The project also calls for repairing sidewalks or curbs damaged by their roots.

In addition, the project calls for enlarging tree wells, installing new pedestrian lighting to illuminate sidewalk areas, enhancing six mid-block crosswalks and adding accessibility improvements for the handicapped.

Treesavers has said the group does not oppose the overall project, only the removal of the trees.

The group – which contends only a few of the ficus trees posed enough of a hazard to warrant removal – has been lobbying City officials to start a tree commission.





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