Friday, August 26, 2016

2 Freeway: What Difference Do Trees Make? Part 2

Photo: Diane Edwardson, July 18, 2009.  The scale of the loss of trees on the 2 Freeway adjacent Corralitas Drive is only evident when people are in the photos with trees.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

It's hard to imagine the southbound lanes of the 2 Freeway are about 15' away from the urban hikers of The Big Parade 2009 on Corralitas Walk.
Photo: Lupita Chapa, August 5, 2016.  A month after the Silver  Lake Fire, CalTrans began removing the 50+ year old enormous Eucalyptus and Brazilian Pepper Trees (that for the 26 years I've lived on Corralitas Drive) have formed a 30-40' tall green barrier between Corralitas and the Southbound lanes of 2 Freeway.

Don't expect to see new trees planted here. CalTrans is under water restrictions imposed by Governor Brown.  If we're lucky, we might get some ground cover to help prevent erosion.  I've spoken to two CalTrans representatives who have told me, on multiple occasions - even before the Silver Lake Fire, trees planted on freeway parkways do not clean the air, control dust, mitigate sound, provide psychological benefits or provide a safety barrier.  I guess trees lose their ability to do those things when they're planted on freeways. 

Yes trees planted today won't mitigate much right now.  However, that is no reason to ignore the long term effects of tree planting.

Earlier this year Doug Brown, Senior Landscape Architect for CalTrans was quoted in a Scientific American story, "When managed properly, trees are proven cost-effective mitigation measures that sequester carbon.”  (Sequestering carbon is how trees remove pollutants from the air and store it underground.) 
Photo: Lupita Chapa, August 5, 2016.  As far as public safety goes, there is only about 50 feet of guard rail near the freeway signs that cross the freeway, which are north of where the cars usually fly off the freeway  - to be stopped by the large (now removed) Eucalyptus.

CalTrans is concerned about the safety of drivers, not the safety of those who have chosen to live next to a freeway because it was affordable.  Until the Silver Lake Fire, and CalTrans' subsequent removal of trees their landscape experts deemed necessary, trees made living across the narrow street from the freeway tolerable.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

2 Freeway: CalTrans Picked Up Trash

Photo: Corralitas Neighbor, August 25, 2016.  A CalTrans crew picked up trash the CalTrans crew of tree trimmers left behind last week.  The neighbor said in a text "There were CalTrans people all over the bottom of the hill, along the highway and under the bridge [Rosebud] cleaning and working when I left this morning. "
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 20, 2016.  Remarkably, the Silver Lake Fire, which burned most of the 2 Freeway parkways between the Red Car Property and Riverside Drive, did not burn this part of the parkway from Rosebud & Allesandro to Riverside Drive where the Brazillian Pepper Trees were a pretty solid wall of green.  Neighbors were sad to see the green go last week.  CalTrans left the first enormous Eucalyptus in this shot, the same tree is still standing in the first photo.  It is the tree where the Red Tailed Hawks have a nest near the top third of the tree.  The hawks returned with fledglings to the nest on the night of the fire. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Corralitas Drive: Feeling Exposed

Photo: Gary Vlahakis, July 26, 2016.  Neighbors on the short end of Corralitas Drive are feeling awfully exposed to the 2 Freeway since CalTrans cut down trees in the past month.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

With only about 50' of guard rail near the freeway signs (in the above photo), neighbors don't want to let their kids play out in the street after CalTrans cut down trees since the Silver Lake Fire.  Neighbors directly across the street from the southbound lanes of the 2 Freeway, are asking for a sound wall and trees.  The 50+ year old Eucalyptus trees (the pile of trees in the above photo) did prevent more than one car from flying off the southbound lanes of the 2 Freeway in 2015.
Photo: Gary Vlahakis, August 10, 2016Corralitas Drive south of the Rosebud Overpass on the 2 Freeway used to have a lush stand of trees to block the view of the freeway.  Now, living next to the 2 Freeway is louder, dirtier and less safe.  

Last month, a CalTrans representative told me the vegetation along our portion of the 2 Freeway was originally planted for erosion control on the steep slope.  He said trees on the freeway do not block sound, clean the air nor serve a safety purpose.

Worth noting in both of these photos is the scale of the cut wood, trees and retaining walls in relationship with the workers, heavy equipment and trucks.  There are only 8 houses on this part of Corralitas Drive.  Six homes lost a bucolic view when the freeway was built in 1960.  (Two homes were built in the last decade.) 

CBS Los Angeles posted a collection of photos from the Silver Lake Fire by photographer Matt Hartman, Shorealone Films.  The photos primarily show the 2 Freeway on fire.

Monday, August 22, 2016

2 Freeway: What Difference Do Trees Make?

Photo: Diane Edwardson, May 20, 2012.  More than 100 people appreciated the shade of the trees on the southbound 2 Freeway parkway as they took  Corralitas Walk from Allesandro Way to the Corralitas Red Car Property on Day 2 of The Big Parade 2012.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Photo: Lupita Chapa, August 5, 2016.  Six weeks after the Silver Lake Fire, a clump of 3 big trees and a smattering of smaller trees will not provide much shade now.  In the past month, CalTrans has removed trees on the 2 Freeway to further reduce the fire danger.  

The Eucalyptus on the Red Car Property slope has sprouted new growth near the trunk and larger branches, but should be trimmed back to reduce further fire danger.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Riverside Drive: Chopped

Photo: Red Car Property Neighbor, August 15, 2016.  Last week, a large crew clear cut all of the trees and brush on a number of vacant lots on Riverside Drive between Gilroy and Fletcher. This is well beyond brush clearance.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Photo: Red Car Property Neighbor, August 15, 2016.  A large crew worked quickly,   removing all evidence of all the protected native Black Walnuts as well as all the other trees on what appears to be 8 or 9 vacant lots.  Most of these lots are the same lots where the property owner cut down more than 15 protected native trees without permits in August 2014.  

We don't know if the property owner was fined for the 2014 tree removal.  These lots were a testament to the hardiness of California Black Walnuts, as many of the larger trees cut down in 2014 were growing back.
Photo: Red Car Property Neighbor, August 15, 2016.  According to CD13, the developer secured a permit from the City's Department of Urban Forestry to remove 1 protected native Black Walnut Tree.  Dozens of Black Walnuts were cut down last Monday.  In addition to the numerous protected native trees of all sizes, they also removed an unknown number of significant trees (with a trunk diameter of 8" or more).  Those trees don't count.
Photo: Red Car Property Neighbor, August 15, 2016.  We've said it before.  The City's Protected Native Tree Ordinance doesn't do what it purports to do - protect our native hillside habitat by protecting specific native trees.  Instead, it just gives developers a formula for cutting down our native trees, which are becoming more scarce every day.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Riverside Drive: Lots Clear Cut Of All Trees

Photo: Red Car Property Neighbor, August 15, 2016.  Monday, I received an alarmed email from a neighbor, saying a large crew was cutting down ALL of the trees on the Riverside Drive lots (between Gilroy and Fletcher) where, in 2014, more than 15 protected native trees were cut down without permits from the City.  Trees were also being cut down from an adjacent Red Car Property lot as well as one or two lots not included in the unpermitted tree removal 2 years ago. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Photos from more than one neighbor, were posted to Twitter as soon we received themInquiries and photos were also sent to CD13.  A CD13 representative responded that a permit was issued to remove one protected California Black Walnut Tree on one lot. 

Two years ago, we reported illegal tree removal as it was happening.  In 2014, they chopped down the largest and healthiest Black Walnuts first.  Like Monday, it was a large crew that moved quickly.  At the time, there were no applications pending with Building & Safety.  No permits for protected tree removal were applied for either. 

Today, there appear to be 8 or 9 building permits for homes, in various stages of plancheck, submitted separately for each of the 8 or 9 substandard lots.  A permit for removing 1 protected Black Walnut Tree was issued for just one of the lots.  It is not the same lot for which grading permits were already issued.

Expect a lot of grading activity as (according to the applications submitted) they will be cutting into the hillside and building retaining walls. No discretionary actions by City Planning were involved, so there was no public review. 
Photo: Diane Edwardson, May 24, 2016.  A couple of months ago, I was impressed at the number of protected California Black Walnuts had grown back on the lots from the August 2015 carnage.

CD13 did not respond to  questions regarding whether or not the property owners were ever fined for illegal 2014 protected tree removal.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, May 24, 2016. The Eucalyptus tree in the center of this photo is the large Eucalyptus still standing the first photo, as was the Black Walnut directly to the left of it.  

Also worth noting: the dry Arundo on the top of the hill is also still standing on the Red Car Property Lot C.  Neighbors are still awaiting brush clearance throughout the Red Car Property.

Riverside Drive: Mudwatch, January 10, 2016

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

2 Freeway: CalTrans Butchers Trees, Leaves Piles Of Trash

Photo: Gary Vlahakis, August 15, 2016.  CalTrans began cutting down Brazilian Pepper Trees on the northbound lanes of the 2 Freeway that were NOT burned by the Silver Lake Fire on June 19, 2016, yet left the load of trash on the slope.  For scale - that retaining wall along Allesandro Street is about 6 feet tall.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

It should come as no surprise that CalTrans removed the trees northeast of the Rosebud Overpass at Allesandro.  I had to call their government relations flak shortly after the fire to ensure he was aware the giant tree where the Red Tail Hawks nest (the first large tree on the left) was not even scorched in the fire.  At the time,  he was not sure if the tree was destined for removal.  Trees were evaluated by CalTrans tree experts and biologists. 

A month ago, the CalTrans rep told me they would be removing trees that were a danger to their roads and drivers.  They are not in the landscape business, it is not their job to make make it attractive for neighbors.  (Mitigations for living next to a freeway be damned.)  In the past few weeks, neighbors alerted the tree removal crews to the longstanding hawk nest as well.
Photo: Gary Vlahakis, August 15, 2016.  If you look closely in this section alone, there appear to be at least 3 clumps of Brazilian Pepper Trees removed.  As of today, the trash was still there.  We don't know what was under the sawdust.  

CalTrans will not be planting new trees. 

August 22, 2016, UPDATE: A neighbor forwarded a service request sent to CalTrans to pick up the trash on the 2 Freeway.  You can file service requests on CalTrans' website.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Corralitas Drive: Trees Made Living Next To The 2 Freeway More Tolerable

Photo: Diane Edwardson, July 29, 2015.  There was was a dense thicket of trees on the parkway adjacent to the southbound lanes of the 2 Freeway.  To better grasp the scale of the trees check out the two DWP workers hanging from the telephone pole on the right.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Photo: Corralitas Neighbor, August 9, 2016.  For the past few weeks, CalTrans has been butchering what's left the 2 Freeway trees, many of which were indeed damaged by the Silver Lake Fire, June 19, 2016.
Photo: Gary Vlahakis, August 10, 2016.  Today, residents who previously had a 40' wall of vegetation, now have a noisy, dirty constant reminder they live next to the freeway.  There are limited guard rails and now there are only 3 big eucalyptus to hopefully prevent cars from flying off the freeway.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Red Car Property: New Park Bench

Photo: Gary Vlahakis, August 5, 2016.  The City will not pick up dumping from the Red Car Property.  It's not a park, it just looks like one.  (Click on photo to enlarge.)

However, as you sit on the new bench, notice the dry brush still has not been cleared except where neighbors have cleared it back from their fences.  Bamboo, arundo and dry pine trees are on the Lake View side of the Red Car Property.  All three are highly combustible and have no business being so close to homes. In the distance, in the canyon, you can see the tops of dead eucalyptus trees, also highly combustible. 

Large 6 to 8 inch long burning embers blew through this corridor during the Silver Lake Fire on June 19, 2016.  Neighbors as far north as India Street and Roselin, just off the Red Car Property, reported seeing the embers fly past their homes.  We were very lucky indeed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Red Car Property: Eucalyptus Does Support Wildlife

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 16, 2016.  As much as I hate non-native, highly combustible, ever more dead and dying eucalyptus trees in our dry landscape, they do provide food in the form of bugs for wildlife, like this Oriole.  I suspect it's a male Scott's Oriole. in a dying eucalyptus on the Red Car Property near Adelbert. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Through the years, Red Car Property neighbors have asked me about birds with strikingly contrasting yellow and black feathers. (I'm no bird expert but I do shoot photos of raptors and unusual or scenic bird sightings.) There are several different types of birds with yellow feathers around the Red Car Property; most do not appear to live here year round.  This is the first time I've seen this particularly stylish bird.  The shape of its beak also caught my eye.   

If you live adjacent to the Red Car Property and have backyard wildlife photos or video to share, send them to along with the date, where the photos were taken (your address will not be published) along with a brief description of what the wildlife was doing at the time.  It's also helpful to provide a wide/establishing shot, to help understand what drew the wildlife to your yard in the first place. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FEED OR TOUCH WILDLIFE.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Corralitas Drive: Trees Used To Make Life Next To The 2 Freeway Tolerable

Photo: Diane Edwardson, July 17, 2015.  The wall of trees on the 2 Freeway used to shade Corralitas Drive in the summertime enough to play on the street until mid-morning.(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Corralitas Walk, the sidewalk between Corralitas Drive and Lake View and Allesandro Way, remained in the shade until early afternoon.  Corralitas Walk was mitigation for the state taking the secondary vehicle access away from Corralitas Drive when they built the 2 Freeway. 
Photo: Gary Vlahakis, July 22, 2016.  After the June 2016 Silver Lake Fire, CalTrans removed trees that were deemed unsafe.  With no trees on the 2 Freeway, Corralitas Drive at the Red Car Property only has shade until the sun comes up over the crest of the slope of the southbound lanes.

Trees may not block sound, but the scale of the 50+ year old stand of trees made living across the street from a busy freeway tolerable.  Now it's louder, dangerous (inadequate guard rails) and inhospitable. Neighbors no longer feel safe letting their kids play in the street in front of their homes.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

Red Car Property: Tracking Birds Near India St

Photo: Gary Vlahakis, july 25, 2016.  Either a very large bird or a little dinosaur walked around the Red Car Property near India Street early Monday morning. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

I immediately thought Great Blue Heron or Egret since India St is not far from the LA RIver and we always see Great Blue Herons fly between the river and the Silver Lake Reservoir. 
Photo: Gary Vahakis, July 25, 2016 (enlarged from the first photo above).  Some of the rear facing toes are not as long as they appear to be, some of the prints seem to include the lower part of the bird's leg, expanding back from the first 3 toes.  (For scale, that's Vlahakis' foot. He is about 6'3" tall.) 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

2 Freeway Rosebud Ave Overpass: Trees Showing New Growth After Silver Lake Fire

Photo: Corralitas Neighbor, July 27, 2016.  Yesterday, we noticed a lot of new growth (see arrows) sprouting on the Eucalyptus trees on either side of the Rosebud Ave overpass of the 2 Freeway, about 6 weeks after the Silver Lake Fire.  These two trees were still there as of 8:30 AM today.

Considering I witnessed a huge explosion of flames when the fire hit the Rosebud overpass, I'm impressed any of the "smaller" eucalyptus survived.

CalTrans is cutting down trees its tree experts deem unsafe after the fire.  We're looking at a big heat island on the 2 Freeway because so many trees were affected.  Like the Red Car Property, the 2 Freeway is our backyard.  We will continue following the demise and recovery of trees on the freeway as well as the Red Car Property.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2 Freeway: Why We Bitch About Losing Trees

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 12, 2015.  I wanted to compare photos from about the same time of year.  CalTrans hasn't watered the parkways on the 2 Freeway in decades, yet, there was a thriving wall of trees, making living across the street from the 2 Freeway tolerable. The trees also provided habitat for a variety of wildlife. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

A little over a year ago, a car crashed on the 2 Freeway. If it wasn't for one of those enormous trees, it would have flown into the Red Car Property. The fire engine gives a good idea of scale of the trees.  
Photo: Esteban Gonzalez July 21, 2016. Many of the Brazilian Pepper Trees (the mid sized green trees in the first photo)  burned to a crisp in the Silver Lake Fire due to landscape management practices that allowed the build up of dry understory.

The super green trees in middle of frame, in post-fire shots, are in a neighbors' front yards, not on the freeway.
Photo: Corralitas Neighbor, July 27, 2016.  Stumps are gone and we'll likely lose a few more Eucalyptus from this section  of the 2 Freeway, adjacent to Corralitas Drive. Today they removed more large trees from between the north and south bound lanes.

CalTrans policy is not to replace landscaping due to statewide drought restrictions on watering.  These homes are less than 75' from the southbound lanes of the 2 Freeway.  At the urging of Assemblymember Mike Gatto, CalTrans is now looking into options for landscape solutions across from these homes on Corralitas Drive. However, from my experience, residents must actively engage CalTrans to make anything happen.

We hope the very large Eucalyptus at the corner of Allesandro and Rosebud where the hawks nest year after year, will remain intact as it was one of the few trees in our corridor  not damaged by the heat or the flames of the Silver Lake Fire.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Red Car Property: New Growth

Photo: Jonathan Vandiveer, July 15, 2016.  Protected native California Black Walnut Trees on the Red Car Property have been sprouting not only new leaves, but a substantial number of flowers too.  Some of the new leaves and flowers are even on the same stem where the leaves went brown almost immediately after the Silver Lake Fire. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Photo: Jonathan Vandiveer, July 15, 2016.  If you look closely at the above photo, you can see lots of flowers about to bloom. 
We are all tired of so many depressing photos of brown trees that did not burn in the Silver Lake Fire, yet were "cooked" by the heat. It is a relief to receive photos from multiple Red Car Property neighbors of the native California Black Walnuts Trees acting as if it were spring again. 
Photo: Vandiveer, enlarged from previous photo.  Those green blobs are walnuts that would ordinarily look more like this.
Photo: Stephanie Bartron, July 12, 2016.  Bartron, Red Car Property neighbor, garden designer and co-author of The Drought Tolerant Garden Handbook for Los Angeles County, noted the pattern of growth appeared typical per studies of California native tree recovery after wildfire.  Native trees evolved with our drought/deluge/fire seasons.

The new growth sprouted close to the Black Walnut Trees' trunks.  The dry leaves will drop and serve as mulch on the denuded slope.  So much water was poured onto the slope fighting the fire that all the burned grass, foliage and topsoil were washed off the steep slope.  The mulch of dry leaves is necessary to help the soil retain moisture and put nutrients back into the soil.

Bartron advises consulting a certified arborist if your trees were damaged in the Silver Lake Fire.  Considering CalTrans is clear cutting portions of the 2 Freeway near the Red Car Property, we need to save as many trees as possible to help counter the effects of air pollution. 

Last fall, it was even more odd when the Black Walnuts were simultaneously dropping leaves and walnuts while blooming

We'll be following the recovery of trees from the Silver Lake Fire.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

18 Acre Elysian Park Parcel: Sand Fire

Photo: Esteban Gonzalez, July 22, 2016. Friday afternoon, smoke and ash from the Sand Fire in Santa Clarita became the dominant feature in our air quality, growing worse overnight.

Most people don't realize the vacant lot at the northern terminus of Echo Park Ave is a part of Elysian Park.  The "18 Acre Parcel" continues downslope in both directions, preserves native oak and walnut habitat and includes a basketball court on Riverside Drive.  The parcel, like much of Elysian Park, is directly surrounded by diverse residential neighborhoods, including Elysian Valley, Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract and Elysian Heights.  It was acquired by the City in the late 1990s using Prop K funds.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Red Car Canyon: Silver Lake Fire Could Have Been Worse

Photo: Diane Edwardson, May 25, 2016.  The large palm tree in was among the the once dense overgrowth of trees and shrubs on the Lake View side of Red Car Canyon.  Some neighbors routinely cleared and removed brush 10' back from their fence on the Red Car Property. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Over the years many eucalyptus trees went down in this part of the canyon. The dead tree on the ground here, went down in 2010.   Eucalyptus also seem to go down or drop large branches in the summer months throughout the neighborhood too.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 20, 2016.  In 26 years I had never seen so much daylight through the Lake View side of Red Car Canyon. You can see just how close the fire came to homes on Lake View.  LAFD was able to stop the fire before it reached homes on Lake View with a combination of precise water drops from helicopters, crews on the ground both on Lake View and on the Red Car Property.
Photo: Lake View Neighbor, June 16, 2016.  Wildland fire crews armed with shovels, pick axes and chainsaws went in after  helicopter water drops to reduce the vegetation.  It seemed these crews were everywhere the day of the fire where the temperature before the fire was already 106 degrees.
Photo: Red Car Property Neighbor, July 8, 2016.  Like the trees throughout the Red Car Property near the fire, almost all the trees are brown, but many are showing signs of life with fresh growth.  Neighbors are wondering when the Red Car Property owner will do brush clearance which should include trimming trees and brush. 

A check of the LAFD Brush Unit's website indicates, somehow, the two Red Car Property lots that were on fire 6-19-16 were both inspected a few days before the fire and were somehow in compliance? Everyone who lives nearby had been asking me when the lots would be cleared.  Nothing was done prior to, nor after the fire. If you live adjacent to the Red Car Property and are concerned about the dry brush, report the hazard to LAFD.  It often helps to send photos.  Be sure you include your address & phone so they can find which part of the property you are talking about: 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

2 Freeway: CalTrans Taking Down Really Big Trees

Photo: Jonathan Vandiveer, July 21, 2016.  Wednesday, CalTrans began cutting down trees damaged by the June 19, 2016 Silver Lake Fire adjacent to Corralitas Drive.  According to Vandiveer, "a worker said that they're not removing all of them 'just the ones that burned.'"  Of course very few of the big Eucalyptus actually burned, they mostly just got toasted from the extreme heat of the fire.
Photo: Red Car Property Neighbor, July 21, 2016.  It's hard to get a sense of scale of just how big the trees were that CalTrans removed were. We'll be looking at those photos over the coming days.  But those two large stumps (when they were trees) on the right stopped cars from flying into the Red Car Property last year as there are no guard rails on most of this slope.

Red Car Property: Lots Of Tree Activity Today

Photo: Jonathan Vandiveer, July 21, 2016.  One month after the Silver Lake Fire, It appears someone the DWP may be trimming trees around above the power lines on the Lake View side (left side of photo) of the Red Car Property.  Neighbors were unable to confirm.

We  received word from CD13 yesterday that DWP was in the area and would be assessing the poles on the slope above the Red Car Property.  DWP will be replacing at least one.  Neighbors expressed increasing concern to CD13 regarding the power lines in the trees that were now drying out after the fire.  Some neighbors have also had difficulty in getting answers from the DWP, when attempting follow up with DWP regarding trees and powers lines.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 20, 2016.  This photo was taken the day after the fire, compare it with today's photo.  Many of the trees on either side of the canyon did not catch fire, but are suffering from the extreme heat of the fire.  Almost all are now exhibiting new growth.  The California Black Walnuts in particular are coming back quickly.  (We will be following the trees' recovery from fire.)

Red Car Canyon: Falling Trees Ahead

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 9, 2016.  This pine tree has finally gone beyond a 45 degree angle. That's not a branch, it's the whole tree. The only thing holding it up is another pine tree on the opposite side of the trail.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 9, 2016.  The large tree at the Charles Lacy Memorial seems to have died this winter.  Perhaps it just couldn't take another year of drought.  Bees used to love this tree.  It used to host some pretty cool mushrooms too.