Tree Removal, Replanting Done for Public Safety
The City takes great pride in maintaining its urban forest and appreciates the benefits of trees (there are over 500 in the downtown area alone) in our community. A recent decision to replace two trees downtown and to remove two others due to safety concerns was not taken lightly. However, the safety of our citizens, their children and the City’s visitors is paramount. When the location permits, our City is determined to replace any tree that must be removed for safety reasons.
The trees identified for removal ranged in height from 50 to 80 feet and have an estimated weight of 3 to 6 tons depending on the size of the individual tree. More than $18,000 was spent on studies and peer reviews involving three different professional arborists who are all certified by the International Society of Arborists (ISA). During the studies, scientific techniques were employed to gather information about the internal health of the trees, including resistograph and sonic tomograph testing to measure internal decay. This process resulted in a clear consensus to replace two trees (one on Broadway and one on Glenneyre).
Two trees located on Mermaid Street had one arborist documenting that the risk to the public was “high” and not appropriate given the proximity and frequency of people, vehicles and structures around the areas where the trees could fall. The other arborist thought that trimming the crown and removing limbs on the trees could reduce, but not eliminate, the danger levels to “moderate” or “low.” Given the stakes involved, the decision was made to protect the public and remove the trees.
The results of all tests were made available to the public and discussed at the Dec. 11, 2018, City Council meeting.
On July 16, 2018, a 35-foot eucalyptus tree in front of 580 Broadway suddenly fell on the road, smashed a parked car and also hit a travelling car. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it serves as a reminder that decaying trees can be a threat to public safety and that is something the City of Laguna Beach takes very seriously.
City staff is pleased to be planting 30 new trees in vacant tree wells in the downtown area. The City is evaluating different tree well treatments (brick, grates, or permeable bark) and will consider the appropriate tree well treatments along with other possible improvements to lighting, streets, trash enclosures, parking, etc. It makes sense that time is taken to coordinate future improvements to ensure that they complement each other, and that construction-related disruptions are minimized.
Removing trees that have been a part of our community’s canopy for years is not something any of us like to do. However, when faced with expert recommendations and scientific information that the trees are not safe, the City must always act to protect the public.
John Pietig is the city manager of Laguna Beach.