At the Ocean Beach Planning Board meeting tonight, the Board voted unanimously to allow residents and the City thirty days to make studies of the tree’s health, pursue alternatives to removal, and provide the Board with their results.
This decision – or indecision – by the planners to put everything off in effect put brakes on the City’s seemingly mindless rush to chop down the historically-protected Torry Pine that dominates the 4600 block of Long Branch Avenue.
With the status of the Torrey Pine in the balance, the Board first heard from Mary Wolford of the City of San Diego’s Street Division and then from Drew Potoki, the City’s Urban Forester, that the tree needed to be removed. Wolford even suggested that it would come down in 30 days. A number of so-called “independent” opinions from other arborists were cited by Potoki for his decision to remove it – but no hard evidence or scientific evidence was presented.
Hazards that the tree posed by its leaning into and over the street, plus the buckled adjacent sidewalk, and the complaint of a resident of possible movement of the tree during the recent storm all formed the basis for the City’s determination to cut it down.
The Board next heard from two Torrey Pine experts who had been retained by local activists who opposed the tree’s removal. Both Theron Winsby and David Shaw told the Board that the tree was healthy and not in an immediate danger, nor did it pose an immediate hazard to the neighborhood.
Comments from the audience and issues raised by Board members displayed a wide-range of opinion of the tree’s fate. And finally, in a compromise, there was a “stay of execution” with a motion to allow “all parties” 30 days to make any studies and evaluations of the tree, to pursue alternatives to its removal, and report back to the Board with their findings – in sufficient time for members to study the documents.