Beach Community Group Condemns the City’s Push to Destroy a Critically Endangered Heritage Tree, the 3rd This Year.

by on August 8, 2016 · 0 comments

in Culture, Environment, Health, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics, San Diego

OB Torrey Pine Friends of Pen Tree logoFrom Friends of Peninsula Trees

Friends of Peninsula Trees, a tree conservation organization based in Ocean Beach and Point Loma, is leading the charge to condemn the City’s plan to cut down a Torrey Pine planted on Saratoga Avenue almost a century ago, the third of its kind destined for the chain saw this year. Recognized as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Torrey Pines are found wild in only three places in the world, including San Diego.

Despite this, and the existence of a City Ordinance that protects Torrey Pines from being destroyed, the Atlas Tree Service – a tree removal company contracted by the City – arrived in the morning of August 4th on Saratoga Avenue, determined to chop this iconic Heritage tree.

Friends of Trees rallied to stay the execution of the pine, named Esperanza (“hope” in Spanish), along with neighbors and other fellow San Diegans from as far away as Alpine. When asked City personnel were unable to provide documentation of an independent botanist’s assessment of the tree’s health.

Neither could they produce a permit that exempted them from complying with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, despite the fact that federally certified ornithologist Patrick Hord recently observed birds to be actively nest building in Esperanza.

“This is clearly a knee-jerk reaction by the City of San Diego,” stated John Ambert, Chairman of the Ocean Beach Planning Board.

“This City is responding to an unfortunate incident that happened in Pacific Beach in January; now railroading a process through that is deeply flawed, using reports that demonstrate a clear conflict of interest.

In February of this year two similar Heritage trees were removed in this same manner. We spoke out, condemning this rushed process, but our requests for transparency and public input were ignored. Now we are demanding the City evaluate the health of this tree objectively, and provide a public review process.”

Located on public property, Esperanza belongs to all community residents, many of whom have expressed a desire to preserve it by way of over one hundred petition signatures and calls to regional Councilmember Zapf. Last week Ocean Beach resident Crystal Rose Speros quickly responded to Esperanza’s imminent destruction by climbing into the tree, an action other residents have  expressed support for if such is necessary to keep the tree alive until an independent review of its health is conducted.

“The City has failed its due diligence in proving this tree is a hazard” said Renée Owens, biologist and President of Sage Wildlife Biology, an environmental consultancy specializing in endangered species.

“The City seems determined to eliminate healthy trees at a time when we should be pursuing actions that mitigate, not worsen, climate change.

The Forest Service just reported that 66 million trees in California have succumbed to drought since 2010, and San Diego’s own Climate Action Plan commits to increasing the urban tree canopy to 35% coverage by 2035.

At present we are only at 4 to 7%. We need to adopt enlightened strategies for coexistence with our valued natural treasures, not a trajectory of destruction based on fear-mongering or tunnel vision.”

Owens is also a member of the National Sierra Club’s Wildlife and Endangered Species Committee.

Friends of Peninsula Trees continues to gather signatures and letters to support their efforts. Please contact them ASAP to learn more about how you can help.

Friends of Peninsula Trees: Friends of Trees has a mission to save not just Esperanza but all of  Ocean Beach’s iconic Heritage trees, many of which residents fear will be targeted next.

They are calling on regional Councilmember Zapf and the Mayor to adopt a proactive approach to preserving the City’s natural history, including its arboreal legacies that provide tremendous character to communities and date back to the early 20th century history of San Diego. Meanwhile, Friend of Trees is taking steps to garner protection for Torrey Pines nationwide as an endangered species.

History: One local resident, 89 year old Mary Olive Shoupe was born across the street from Esperanza, and it was her father who germinated Torrey Pines from seeds and planted them prior to WWII.

When she was big enough she was enlisted to water the pines by hand, transporting small water buckets to and from 7 foot saplings. When asked why her father chose to plant Torrey Pines specifically she said,

“I remember very young hearing that they were only here in San Diego, and two other small habitats in the entire world. They were so rare they brought tourism to San Diego, an exciting place to see these healthy, wonderful trees.

They are so important to preserve not only because they are a unique part of San Diego’s legacy, but because they are good for our air, they help us breathe, and believe me, from my long perspective I can see we are going to need more and more healthy trees as time goes by.”

Vivian McCardle, 619-806-4301,
John Ambert, 805-801-2015,

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