The Torrey Pines of Ocean Beach

by on November 9, 2010 · 7 comments

in Culture, Environment, Labor, Ocean Beach

torrey pine longbranch js-ed

Torrey Pines in Ocean Beach. Photo by Jeff Stone.

There are a number of Torrey Pines trees in Ocean Beach, as any resident worth their salt can tell you. We have been concerned about one on the 4600 block of Long Branch Avenue – and are following that story so watch for an update.

Meanwhile, there’s an entire “forest” of them on the 4600 block of Saratoga Avenue.  Beginning this week, the City of San Diego has a crew out there doing trimming. Here is what Drew Potocki, the city’s “urban forester”, had to say about that work in an email to Thyme Curtis of Councilman Faulconer’s office:

I wanted to give you an update on our status with respect to these subject trees. First of all we have scheduled to trim the historic Torrey Pines on 4600 block of Saratoga St beginning Monday morning. Crews from West Coast Arborists, (city contractor) will be performing inspections of the trees structure as well as removal of any dead or broken limbs. This work is unrelated to the Long Branch tree but we thought everyone who loves these trees should know. I have attached the original story about the Saratoga trees which is always a pleasure to read [editor: which we post below]. Please share this information with … others who may like to know.

I have to do some more work and inspection around the Long Branch tree to make a final determination on its ability to remain. I will have the big tree crew nearby which will speed up our determination. If you have time to visit Saratoga during the work stated above I’m sure you’ll be impressed.

Letter from Stanley Cobb to William Brennan about the Torrey Pines of OB

The following information was provided to Mr. William Brennan, a resident of Saratoga Avenue since 1937, by Mr. Stanley Cobb in May 1993 via hand written letter, a month before his death.

During the era of the Great Depression, the WPA(Works Progress Administration) was formed to create all types of jobs for unemployed that would enhance civic need or beauty. One example was Hand Made Friars Road(all done with pick & shovel). This jurisdiction fell under the First County Supervisoral District No. 1 (Edgar F. Hastings-Supervisor). District 1 supplied all the picks, shovels, wheelbarrels & water for the daily horde of hand labors transported from all over San Diego.

Another huge beautification project being planned was planting young Torrey pine trees(one foot high-gallon cans) on both sides of the highway, from the gate to Cabrillo national monument.

Mr. Hastings chose my father(David Robert Cobb) to raise the trees. My father was a County employee($4.00 per day) at the time. We had 250′ frontage on Saratoga Avenue-enough room for a nursery and my father had sufficient knowledge of plants & trees. Permission was granted for gathering the pine nuts from Torrey pines State Park and the project was launched.

Seeds, in flat trays covered with cloth to sprout, to transplanting to progressive larger containers to finally one gallon cans took one to two years, using special loam mixtures created for that purpose.

The Great Transplant up on top of Point Loma took place(it would be a thing of beauty today, had it succeeded). It was doomed to failure due to no wire screen protection of the roots from gophers & ground squirrels below or rabbits & ground squirrels above ground plus irregular watering. There are a few survivors-near the entrance and near the fire station.

In Ocean Beach, several streets had their trees or bushes such as Cape May & Brighton had Oleanders, etc. Saratoga avenue, up from Sunset Cliffs Blvd., had nothing. So I believe my mother was instrumental in getting that accomplished, as dad had a few extra trees. They were spaced on both sides of the street with adequate watering basins, to be periodically watered with City trucks. Injury and carelessness eliminated over half of them. The few which survived have raised havoc with sidewalks, streets and even branches crashing into homes. I=m sure a few are the worlds largest. They are fed by an underground river of water(capped by the street) by every home up hill who waters a lawn or garden.

It’s ironic, planted to create jobs-that they did, constant maintenance will keep city workers always concerned.

Stanley R. Cobb (8-18-20)

4630 Santa Monica Ave

May 10, 1993

Native of Ocean Beach

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

OBWarZone November 9, 2010 at 11:58 am

The Saratoga Ave trees are amazing.


Richard Agee November 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Well I was just there and according to Drew Potochi who said and wrote :beginning Monday morning. Crews from West Coast Arborists, (city contractor) will be performing inspections of the trees structure as well as removal of any dead or broken limbs. There was alot of large huge branches lying in the street that were not dead nor broken, and just for the record , every individual from West Coast Arborists could NOT SPEAK ENGLISH !, now that’s a great crew to have cutting our Historic trees , I might a well been talking to the telephone pole. You know honestly I just got to tell you I don’t feel the city can be trusted , the law actually reads §63.07 Destruction, Injury of Torrey Pines Trees — Prohibited
That it shall be unlawful for any person or persons to cut, injure or destroy any trees
known as the “Pinus Torreyana” growing upon Pueblo Lots Nos. 1332, 1337 and
1338 or any other public lots or lands, belonging to and within the corporate limits of
the City of San Diego.
(Incorp. 1–22–1952 by O–5046 N.S.)
Do you see where the law says : unlawful for any person or persons to cut.

So I have to ask ? Who is taking it upon themselves to do these operations in violation of the law? Is it Mr Potochi ?


annagrace November 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Richard- it is apparent that you care about those trees. I’m glad you do, as one tree lover to another. I would like to throw a few observations into the mix.

The message, beyond your primary concern for those trees, is that you can’t trust the city (or city staff or city contractors who can’t communicate with you in English.) That message makes me feel sad & defeated as a retired city worker, although there is much about our city government that should certainly set off our shit detector alarms. But everything?

I’m just not convinced-yet- that the trees are being improperly maintained. I’m not a tree expert, but I have planted trees from seeds and gallon pots and have lived long enough in one place to be rewarded and sometimes horrified by the results. It is important to cut out dead and vulnerable wood, which can can fall from the tree creating damage below while tearing at the heartwood of the tree itself. It is important to remove growth that restricts airflow to the center of the tree. And it is important to be a good neighbor so that a weak branch which has grown into the adjacent yard does not kill a child or destroy a garage roof. Those are the demands of urban living- ongoing maintenance to benefit the tree itself and ongoing maintenance to preserve our social fabric.

I didn’t know Drew Potochi from Drew Barrymore until I went to a city council meeting a few years ago, when deep cuts were being made to our city departments. The city’s tree maintenance division was slated for elimination, including the one city arborist- Drew Potochi. Imagine that- one arborist in a city spanning over 300 square miles! It was heartening to hear so many citizens provide testimony to the importance of trees and their expectation of our government’s continued stewardship of them- perhaps you were one of those good souls, Richard.

Drew spoke last- walked up to the microphone in his work clothes, took a breathe and said “I am the Lorax. I am here because the trees cannot speak for themselves…” What followed was a passionate speech about trees- our urban trees. Their beauty. Their environmental significance. I fell in love with the man and emailed him my thanks that evening.

That budget session was a bloodbath for libraries and park and rec. The tree maintenance division of the city was eliminated, but Donna Frye stood her ground on our one arborist and I believe she transferred money from her own council district to pay his salary. That says something about both Ms. Frye and Mr. Potochi.

We will continue to see many activities that have been carried out within the City itself outsourced to the private sector. The people have spoken. There will be unanticipated consequences. At whom will you point the figure for those consequences?

You may be quite right Richard that the trees were maintained improperly. I encourage you to contact Drew and have a good discussion with him and report back to us That is the kind of citizen involvement our trees depend upon.

We must all be the Lorax.


obkat4ever November 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Richard Agee,

I live on Saratoga right where they are cutting the trees. I did speak to a hispanic gentleman who did speak great English. I spoke with him yesterday when I got home about 1:00 and he informed me that they are not cutting down entire trees, just trimming. Just wanted to let you know that you are wrong and your comment sounds racist. These guys are just doing their job, why don’t you blame the people who can speak english that sent them there to do the job?

I love all the trees in OB, we don’t have enough and we certainly don’t want any cut down that don’t need to be.


Richard Agee November 10, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Dear Mr obkat4ever

I was not wrong ,You were, when I was there at 7:55AM no one spoke english , you are wrong for telling me I am wrong , if they spoke english or someone did later in the afternoon well then so be it ,but early in the morning only three individuals were there.


jettyboy February 9, 2016 at 12:38 pm

I to love the trees, but what the feck does speaking English or Spanish have to do with being able to do the work assigned?
If you are bothered so much maybe you should learn to speak Spanish.


Dave February 9, 2016 at 11:08 pm

I have no idea what language trees speak, because whenever I’ve attempted to engage one in conversation, be it via my intoxicated English or broken Spanish, they’ve always found me too insignificant to answer.

As far as individuals who have much more experience than I in caring for trees, I don’t care a whole hell of a lot what their primary language is, and I’m personally embarrassed that after more than three decades living in a border town I’m still monolingual, as I’m sure many of those who only speak our city’s other slightly-less predominant language are.


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