OB Planning Board Head on Torrey Pines: ‘Crews Had No Authorization, Gave No Notice, City Did Not Engage Community, Plus Possible Conflict of Interest’

by on February 11, 2016 · 4 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

OB Torrey Pines saratoga 2-9-16 kb girlhug

Woman hugs Torrey Pine before it is cut down, 2/9/16. Photo by Kathy Blavatt.

Editor: John Ambert is the Chair of the OB Planning Board. While on Tuesday, Feb. 9th, the city moved to cut down the Torrey Pines on Saratoga, Ambert spent much of the day behind the scenes trying to get answers and force the city to reconsider its action. We applaud him for those efforts and post the following memo he sent Councilwoman Zapf’s office. His points are spot-on.

By John Ambert

On-Site Permitting: The Atlas crew could not produce any permits today what so ever. No Tree work permit, no road closure permit, no authorization from the city. Absolutely nothing. If this is indeed for emergency purposes, this kind of activity must have some sort of authorization from the City to demonstrate this is a coordinated activity. Also there was no notice provided to residents or postings around the area. The city needs to do much better in this department.

OB Planning Board 8-5-09 002-sm

A typical meeting of the OB Planning Board.

Community Engagement: Given these are 100+ year old trees, the community is very sensitive to any actions taken to these historic Torrey pines. Also because they are a protected tree, having crews come in without explanation to the residents is seen as direct assault on these historic trees. I understand this action was taken as an emergency response based on the events that occurred in PB, but there needs to be some sort of outreach to engage the local community with what is happening. I recommend a facebook or twitter feed operated by the city, to blast out projects like this as well as showcase all the other great work happening in the community.

Arborist review: You mentioned that the arborist had a 3rd party report performed by Atlas who is also the tree trimming company contracted to perform the work. It seems to me that would be a conflict of interest, having a report and the work performed by the same company. This appears to be something that needs follow up to understand how these processes are performed and what steps are taking to develop these findings.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page February 11, 2016 at 10:54 am

John, appreciate the efforts you made. If what you said, that Atlas provided the report that said the trees had to come down, that does not appear to be a conflict of interest, it very clearly is a conflict of interest. Also interesting was watching the City’s alleged “arborist” go to every man on the 8 to 10 man crew and shake their hands one at a time as if he knew them all. That very much looked like a conflict of interest.


Elisa Brent February 12, 2016 at 11:42 am

Heartbreaking to see such grand trees demolished in the name of safety. What proof is there that these trees were dangerous? I agree that this sounds like a conflict of interest on the part of Atlas. What recourse does OB have when Atlas killed those 100 year old trees? Something significant needs to be done to honor those trees.


Geoff Page February 12, 2016 at 11:45 am

Atlas is not the guilty party here, they are just contractors. Sergio Arias, who identified himself as the city’s “arborist” but has the title of horticulturist, made the decision. One thing that will be pursued is replacement trees of some kind. The permit they used was a tree replacement permit so they will be held to that. As for proof of the trees danger, none has been offered.


Nicole February 12, 2016 at 10:42 pm

If it is true that the Torrey Pines need to come down due to safety issues, it would be great to repurpose the trees. The large trunks and branches would make great benches, tables and play structures at the Saratoga Park down the street. Many of my favorite parks include natural and repurposed wood as part of the play area. I hope there can be some discussion and collaboration to make this happen. I know there are many community members that would be willing to help in this effort. This is an ideal location for the trees as they can continue to be treasured by all.


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