This fall, 42 trees will be uprooted on 3rd Street between Fairfax Avenue and La Cienega Bouelvard, while 98 new trees will be planted, as part of a beautification project sponsored by the West Third Street Business Association.
The trees to be uprooted include a number of unhealthy fruitless olive trees the business association had planted six years ago, as well as ficus trees that have damaged the sidewalk and other infrastructure.
All of the new trees that will be planted are blue Palo Verde trees. Joan McNamara, owner of Joan’s on Third Restaurant and president of the West Third Street Business Association, said the idea of the project was to create a uniform look on the street, with a single kind of tree lining the sidewalks.
“We wanted uniformity to make the street look like a single destination,” McNamara said. “This way, people will see the same thing when they drive by, and it will look like a cohesive neighborhood.”
Because local businesses were given the opportunity to opt out of the program, not all of the trees on the street will be removed. Nine locations chose to keep the trees they already had, while 10 locations without trees chose not to have a Palo Verde planted.
Though McNamara had been involved in developing the project, she chose not to remove one of the olive trees in front of her restaurant.
“We love our tree,” she said. “It’s a really mature, beautiful tree. There’s nothing wrong with it, so it’d be a shame to replace it. The other olive tree is not a thriving tree, however. It’s sort of dying on the vine. There are lots of those up and down the street, so we’re replacing that one.”
The project has been approved by the Los Angeles Board of Public Works, with support from the City Council’s fifth district office. However, some members of a local homeowners association have recently objected to the removal of the trees.
Richard Platkin, who writes a tree column for the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association newsletter, noted that the Third Street Business Association had planted many of the trees being uprooted just a few years ago.
“Approximately six years ago this same corridor was planted with fruitless olive trees by local businesses, with support from the local certified neighborhood council,” he wrote in a letter to the Board of Public Works. “Contrary to the staff report, most of these fruitless olive trees are doing just fine. Where they have not been properly watered or pruned, some trees are stunted, but nearly all of the 29 trees proposed for removal are a wonderful addition to the Third Street Corridor. It seems quite bizarre to us that the same local commercial organization which originally planted the fruitless olive trees, with recommendations from the Street Tree Division and approvals from the Board of Public Works, would now propose to pull out these very same trees.”
As part of the project, the West Third Street Business Association has taken responsibility for maintaining the Palo Verde trees that will be installed. In addition, the association is helping to fund the tree replacement, which will not involve funds from the city. The Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC) will plant the new trees, while private contractors are currently bidding to uproot the old ones. The Los Angeles Department of Urban Forestry refunded money to the business association because staff cuts rendered them unable to undertake the project.
Representatives of the West Third Street Business Association said they were not yet sure what would happen to the trees that were uprooted. However, Meghan Shearer, LACC program manager, said it would be very difficult to keep them alive.
“We’ve had requests to save the trees, but it’s almost impossible on a streetscape to save them because of the root mass,” Shearer said. “To dig them up, we’d have to destroy the entire sidewalk. I’m not sure what exactly is going to happen to them. I know there is a demand for old wood for urban furniture, but I don’t know if they’ve been in touch with carpenters about that. The ficus trees that are coming down are tremendous trees, so I hope they get used for something else.”
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