Laguna Beach has always been a city of trees. The earliest photos from 1910 show large groves of trees planted by the early homesteaders. And, for many of us, that’s why 50 to 75 years ago we chose to live here rather than in neighboring coastal cities, which were treeless.
Trees gave our early artists a green framing to their beautiful blue landscapes. Trees shaded our streets, making the pedestrian experience more enjoyable. Trees brought shoppers to our unique downtown village, a more pleasant purchasing environment compared to the surrounding sterile malls.
Thirty years ago, our village elders recognized these advantages when they wrote the Downtown Specific Plan, which would be the blueprint for Laguna’s future to maintain its charm. They showed trees along all of the sidewalks downtown, spaced 30 feet apart to offer shade to walkers. They recommended the parking lots be designed with planter boxes, trees, and “softening” elements to add charm and reduce the feel of a concrete downtown.
But today, it has been said that there is a “war on trees.” You might ask, “Why would that be?” Well, some of our neighbors have forgotten the benefits of trees and now focus only on the occasional problems trees can cause. It’s true, trees do need care from experienced professionals to be healthy, safe, and beautiful. While we have an excellent cadre of professionally trained arborist citizens actively advising our paid city staff, there is concern that city staff does not have the time, expertise, and allocated financing to see that trees get the adequate pruning they require.
For our downtown shopping village to be economically successful, it must offer a charming environment. Otherwise, why on Earth would a shopper come here to fight for a parking spot when a mall has plenty of free parking? Our early business leaders knew charm to be a vital ingredient for success when they drafted the Specific Plan, and it holds even more truth today. So that we can keep our downtown vibrant and the shops we love open and profitable, save Laguna’s charm by maintaining our downtown trees!
Downtown Laguna “Mature” Tree Count (in pedestrian, level downtown area):
|In 1920: Estimated from historic photos||700|
|Recommended in 1990 Specific Plan: (about)||650|
|Today’s count: (about)||460|
Let’s save Laguna’s downtown charm (and its businesses).
Greg and Barbara MacGillivray, Laguna Beach