Was Chinese Flame Tree on Voltaire Needlessly Cut Down?

by on May 10, 2016 · 7 comments

in Culture, Environment, Health, Ocean Beach, San Diego


Only the stump remains of a healthy Chinese Flame tree. Locals have spray painted “Why?” and “RIP”

We have to ask: Was the Chinese Flame Tree on Voltaire needlessly cut down on May 3rd by the City?

At the time of the cutting, locals who inquired of the crews doing the work were told that the tree was causing cracks in the sidewalk and needed to be removed.


This particular tree was 17 years old and had been planted along with other Chinese Flames, as well as other types of trees, along Voltaire as part of a project sponsored by then-Councilman Byron Wear.

The problem with the explanation is that there are numerous trees along that block of Voltaire that have apparently caused similar cracks in the asphalt or concrete, or that exhibit lifts to the sidewalk, or that have patch jobs around them.

Other than that, the tree was healthy, provided needed shade and had become part of the urban landscape on OB’s secondary commercial area.


Tree stump seen through the window of a local business.

Many residents – including people of the businesses in that stretch of Voltaire – are very upset with the city.  One staff person told me that due to the loss of shade from the tree, they had to move their products around the storefront to avoid the sunlight.


Colleen Dietzel of the Green Center is upset. Here she stands next to another Chinese Flame that also has caused a crack in lifts to the sidewalk.

Another employee told this writer that a local neighbor had complained for years to the city in efforts to get them to come out and trim the pine tree in that 4800 block. When that same neighbor found out about the Chinese Flame being cut down, they exclaimed that they believed that not only had the city cut a tree down instead of trimming it, the city had cut down the wrong tree.

The OB Rag will look into this allegation that the city had cut down the wrong tree.

Meanwhile, folks at the Green Center – across the street from the downed tree – are also outraged by what had happened needlessly they believe. Coleen Dietzel of the store told us that she had contacted both Councilwoman Zapf’s office as well as the mayor’s office. Now, she said, John Ly from the mayor’s office and Conrad Wear of Zapf’s are working together to track down what happened and why.

These trees are in the public-right-of way, thus part of the city’s responsibility. But in this case, has the city cut down a tree needlessly? The tree was fine and had made some of the surrounding hard surfaces move a bit. No big deal.

If the city cut down every tree that caused cracks in the sidewalk, or caused the sidewalk to lift some – our urban landscape would be denuded of the trees that give our community so much.

This is not the first time a tree in OB has been needlessly cut down or severely trimmed. Maybe it will be the last time before the local citizenry gather together to prevent these types of occurrences within our environment.

See the following photos of trees in the immediate vicinity with similar problems to the sidewalk:


Adjacent palm tree has a crack in the sidewalk.



Patch jobs on the tree’s sidewalk are very obvious. Was couldn’t the city done the same in this case instead of removing it?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

PL Local May 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Come on kids. Stop spray painting.


rick callejon May 10, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Yes, spray painting is despicable. Wantonly removing a healthy tree may be more abhorrent than spray painting an unshaded sidewalk in response to indiscriminate tree killing.


kh May 10, 2016 at 5:00 pm

I’ll clean the spray paint off if you glue the tree back in place.


Colin May 10, 2016 at 5:10 pm

If the cutter was a private contractor, as I believe has been the case for the recent spate of cuttings, I’d bet this is a case of minimal City oversight wherein the contractor has found it possible and profitable to cut virtually on its own authority and bill the City, due to some cozy or mismanaged relationship with a City staffer.


Frank Gormlie May 10, 2016 at 7:05 pm

Colin, you’re probably right on the first two – a private contractor was used and there probably was minimal city oversight. The rest is speculative.


Colin May 11, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Speculative, yes, of course, so I don’t really mean to too strongly infer, or impugn, based on those first two, even if the apparently fundamental fact of a healthy tree causing no real or unusual damage, or complaint that we know about, can be imagined suggestive of them, and does not conflict with the overall general context of what is known to sometimes happen, perhaps all too often, when municipal “department of public works” services, and many other public sorts, are publicly financed but sold to private profit.


joyce May 11, 2016 at 8:37 am

taking down a healthy tree should be a crime…..we need the shade, the beauty, nature……the sidewalks are repairable…..the tree cannot be replaced….not when it took 17 years to grow there…thank you to all the people who care enough to spray paint, protest….don’t let this go..the trees need our help….and we need the trees for so many reasons


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