Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract: Native Tree Replacement Plan Threatens Local Hillside Ecosystem **UPDATED 5:05 PM

Photo: Diane Edwardson, September 28, 2011.  Say farewell to all the native California Black Walnut trees on the controversial 16-lot subdivision in the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract, if the native tree removal permits are granted.  (Click on photo to enlarge.)

A question we've not yet discussed with coming deforestation of the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract is:

"Why is the City department responsible for making the decision replacing protected native trees, allowing a completely inappropriate tree to substitute for the California Black Walnut Woodland?"

According to Andrea Alarcon, president of the Board of Public Works, the Dept of Street Trees, the City department who approves native tree replacement, is not allowing any new plantings of California Black Walnuts because of "Thousand Cankers Disease."  The disease has not been too well documented in Southern California, but is affecting other walnut species in other parts of California.

So until there is a treatment for Thousand Cankers Disease, the City is just going to allow complete removal of the protected Black Walnuts for development.

Photo: Diane Edwardson, September 28, 2011.  According to the developer's own tree expert, Jan Scow, the native Black Walnut trees in the controversial 16-lot subdivision are healthy, showing no signs of "thousand cankers disease."  (Click on photo to enlarge.)

The issue with the landscape plan is the replacement trees.  

The landscape plan was revealed to the community at a meeting on September 22, 2011.  
They plan to remove: 41 California Black Walnuts, 1 Coast Live Oak, as well as an undisclosed number of significant trees (greater than 8" diameter trunk that do not require a removal permit), but definitely more than 60 trees will be removed in all.  In exchange for removing the 42 protected native trees the landscape plan outlines replacement with:

21 - 5 gallon Coast Live Oak
43 - 15 gallon Coast Live Oak
9 - 36" boxed Coast Live Oak
12 - 15 gallon Bay Laurel
36 - 5 gallon California Sycamore
25 - 15 gallon California Sycamore
No California Black Walnut Trees will be planted.  

Photo: Diane Edwardson, December 22, 2009.  Native  California or Western Sycamore Trees are a riparian or wetland tree, depending on a high water table as in Marsh Street Park at the LA River.  (Click on photo to enlarge.)

California (also known as) Western Sycamore Trees are NOT hillside trees.  They are riparian or wetland trees.  They grow in stream and riverbed, are common in the Arroyo and along the LA River.  There are no Western Sycamores in the controversial 16-lot subdivision.  And they will not do well in compacted fill on a hillside. 

The Protected Native Tree Ordinance calls for specific tree replacement ratios but does not require like for like replacement of the 4 species of native trees. Alarcon mentioned at Sunday's meeting that the Board of Public Works is satisfied with sycamores as a replacement tree, simply because it is a "protected tree."  This completely ignores the point of protecting trees in their native ecosystems.  Sycamores are so inappropriate in this setting, you might as well plant some non-native, invasive Eucalyptus instead.

Photo: Diane Edwardson, December 8, 2002.  Western Sycamores are a part of the replanting of the Los Angeles River because they are a riparian tree.  (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Trees do not grow in a void.  Millions of years of evolution created communities of plants and animals that rely on each other for survival in Black Walnut and Oak Woodland. Similarly, sycamores have evolved with their respective plants, animals and insects in a riparian ecosystem. Planting sycamores on a hillside far away form the river is completely pointless.

The developer's own tree expert, Jan Scow stated publicly that he does NOT recommend sycamores for this site because they are a riparian tree.  So why are there 61 sycamores in the plan? 

If the City is going to bother protecting native trees, perhaps they need to require hillside trees be replaced with other hillside trees, like Coast Live Oak, if they are going to allow destruction of a complete Black Walnut Woodland.

The community will be meeting once again with President Alarcon the Board of Public Works, the developer and CD13 in the CD13 Glassell Park field office, 3750 Verdugo Rd, Los Angeles, 90065 tonight at 6pm

**5:05 PM: UPDATE: Tuesday night meeting at CD13 has been cancelled by CD13 because they heard an overwhelming message from the community to preserve the trees as long as possible.  It remains to be seen if they have a legal reason to so condition or deny the permits.  (My guess is, no.) This will still be on Wednesday's Board of Public Works Agenda.

The tree removal permits are on the Board of Public Works Agenda Wed, Oct, 5, 2011.  Click here for agenda.