By Matthew Wood
The Torrey Pine on the 4300 block of Orchard Street estimated to be more than a century old is still standing, but neighbors wonder for how long.
A tree maintenance service team, scheduled to cut the tree down last week, was persuaded by Doug Harvey and Mary Cairns, neighbors across the alley, to postpone the job. They had reached out to Chris Caplaneris, the owner of the house where the tree sits, to trim branches that reached out over the alley. That somehow turned out into Caplaneris deciding to take out the entire tree, the neighbors say.
“This all came about because we wanted some branches to be pruned,” said Harvey, a real estate agent who says he is in the process of obtaining a degree in landscape architecture. “We’ll live with some sap.”
Caplaneris confirmed he plans to have the tree cut down, but refused to answer further questions. His son Peter, who lives in the upstairs building on the same property, was sympathetic to the cause of saving the historic tree, but also hoped neighbors would look at the bigger picture.
“I’m a tree-hugger too. I love this tree,” he said. “But it’s causing problems.”
Namely, the roots of the tree are creating plumbing issues for Caplaneris and his next-door neighbors to the east, who said they have already fixed cracks in their garage and driveway and patio caused by the tree, costing thousands of dollars.
“We fixed it three years ago, now we gotta fix it again,” said Adelaide Dasilva, who has lived in the house next to the Caplaneris family for the past 30 years. She also claims she fell while cleaning pine needles from the roof of her garage, resulting in $7,000 in doctor bills.
“I don’t want to spend money like that,” she said. “My husband works so hard (as a fisherman). Every time he comes home, he cleans the pipes. Water doesn’t come through.”
So the tree remains until the Caplaneris family obtains all the right permits, Peter the son said.
There has been some debate as to the legality of uprooting a Torrey Pine sitting on private land, a species of tree that is a protected species and San Diego County claims most of the Torrey Pines that exist.
“The bigger issue is, what are Point Loma and Ocean Beach going to do to protect these trees,” Cairns said of the vagueness of the law. San Diego Municipal Code 63.07 prohibits destruction or injury of Torrey Pines within the corporate limits of San Diego, but doesn’t specify if that covers private property as well.
Harvey estimates it would cost between $4,000 and $4,500 to take the entire tree out, which would also entail bringing down electrical wires that are close to the branches of the 40-foot-tall pine. His suggestion to have what is called a tree lacing done – “trying to get it to grow up, not out” – would cost around $3,000, of which Harvey says he offered to pay $1,000. Cairns also offered $500 toward the procedure.
He thought the situation would be simple when he originally asked Chris Caplaneris about pruning the branches.
“He said, ‘Do what you want,’ which I wasn’t expecting,” Harvey said of his original conversation with his neighbor. “Then he does a 180 and wants to take the tree out.”
Both the Caplaneris family and their neighbors say they don’t want to see the tree go.
“This tree is special. It’s of an age and size that puts it in another category,” Harvey said. “This predates all of us. It deserves respect.”
Peter Caplaneris concurs, but takes a much more pragmatic approach, saying his family already had to pay $500 for the original trimmers to come out.
“It’s not designed for a yard,” he said. “If the neighbors want to take it, we’re cool with that. But at their expense. If he wants it, let him keep it.”
Matthew Wood is a recent transplant to Ocean Beach by way of Chicago, where he lived for 13 years while working at the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, AOL CityGuide and The Heckler. He writes a local music blog for Examiner as well as a personal blog detailing his adventures from the Midwest to this crazy beach community. He has assimilated to the OB lifestyle by eating a lot of fish tacos and walking around barefoot. An avid sports fan originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., he is a huge supporter of University of Michigan athletics and Detroit sports teams. He personally apologizes for the Tigers beating the Padres in the ’84 World Series, but not too much.
Link to Examiner blog: http://www.examiner.com/music-scene-in-san-diego/matthew-wood
Link to my personal blog: http://matthewcwood.com/
Torrey Pines in Ocean Beach and San Diego
Editor: Torrey Pines are so special there’s a park named after them. The OB Rag along with local tree activists saved a Torrey Pine on the 4600 block of Long Branch Avenue back in Jan. 2011. It was quite a saga – check it out here. OB has a long history of having the protected trees.