Canopy and Landscape

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WSA position on Larchmont Trees

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

The Windsor Square Association (WSA) board discussed and agreed that the City’s mature Ficus trees on Larchmont Boulevard generally should be removed only if they are dead, diseased, or dangerous.

That said, and understanding that trees have a natural life span, a comprehensive replacement plan should be developed and agreed by the City’s Urban Forestry Division, the WSA, the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association (LVNA), the Larchmont Boulevard Association (LBA), and the Larchmont Village Business Improvement District (LVBID). 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 foregoing conclusions of the WSA board 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.

Larchmont Boulevard Trees

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

WSA is concerned about the future of the trees that line Larchmont Boulevard in the business district.

A copy of the letter WSA president Larry Guzin recently sent to Councilmember David Ryu regarding the trees can be found at this link to our Facebook page:

Larchmont Village Trees

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

The Ficus trees lining the business district of Larchmont Boulevard have long been the subject of heated discussion. Some people love them for their broad, shady canopy, their interesting branch structures, and the way they define the shopping district. They bring some of nature’s softness to our urban landscape. Others hate them because the strong, thirsty roots buckle the sidewalks dangerously, leading to possible lawsuits, and damage the plumbing of the businesses nearby. The fact that the Larchmont trees have been harshly pruned into awkward lollipop shapes is another strike against them.

What — if anything — to do? Early last month, a small group of merchants and residents gathered to hear a presentation on the subject by an experienced urban arborist, sponsored by the Larchmont Village Business Improvement District (BID).

The arborist began by explaining that all trees have a certain life span, and opined that the Village trees, planted in 1955, may be reaching their natural end. He said he had assessed the health of each tree, noting the condition of the visible roots and branch structure. While heavy root pruning has been necessary to try to prevent regular sidewalk damage, that pruning can also lead to root rot and general stress. Although the arborist cited three individual trees that he believes are beyond repair and should be removed soon, his report to the BID stated: “there are various alternative options that can happen to assist in the retention of most of the trees.”

The arborist’s report concluded: “All trees that produce into substantial canopies will eventually cause root damage. However, if the proper root damage prevention is done, and then maintained on a regular basis, coupled with routine and timely tree maintenance the potential for root damage can be minimalized.”

Of course, if the three trees are removed, what goes in their places? A different species? The arborist had a few recommendations of trees that have been successfully used as replacements for old Ficus trees, such as African Fern Pine or Brisbane Box. There is already one young Brisbane Box in front of Pickett Fences, and interested citizens can check out Brentwood Village to see how that community looks at mature street trees there. However, some communities, such as Santa Monica, handle their Ficus trees more successfully— continuing to replant the species in some places, such as along Montana Avenue. According to one of Santa Monica’s city foresters, they have an “aggressive sidewalk repair program,” and they prune their trees less often and more naturally, which leads to slower root growth.

Before any irreversible action is taken on Larchmont, the WSA believes more voices need to learn what’s in the music and then maybe join the chorus. This will take a bit more time. In the meantime, the existing Ficus trees should be rehabilitated with more skillful pruning, for as long as they can continue to grace our charming village.