I thought that some background on the trees planted in our downtown area might be of some interest to you and your readers. Not sure if anyone “alive” knows some of the background.
Decades ago a major force in Los Angeles was a women named Mrs. Valley Knudsen. She was a supporter of planting more trees in downtown Los Angeles and the founder of Los Angeles Beautiful. However, her influence reached throughout southern California. Her husband’s family had been in the diary business, and this history is interesting in itself and may be accessed on the Internet.
The trees were having a hard time surviving the smog of downtown Los Angeles during the ‘50s and most all broad leaf evergreen trees suffered. The only survivor was the ficus due to its leathery leaf and extensive and invasive root growth. The options were limited but Mrs. Knudsen pushed the ficus for all downtown communities without consideration of the damage it could inflict.
Those making decisions in Laguna Beach at the time accepted the ficus as a good selection for the downtown area without knowing of the damage it would cause. This was due to uninformed staff and the belief in Mrs. Knudsen.
By this time the issue of smog was of less of a concern, however, in Laguna Beach it was never as much a problem due to the onshore and offshore winds.
It should never have been planted. One should look at the Point Loma Association in the San Diego area and learn from this organization that has pioneered community beautification for decades.
While Mrs. Knudsen did much good, this tree should not have been on her list of recommendations for planting in downtown environments.
Alberto F. Trevino, Laguna Beach