City to Chop Down Another Torrey Pine on Saratoga – Locals to Protest

by on August 3, 2016 · 5 comments

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

OB Torrey Pine Aug2016 trree signIt was announced at Wednesday night’s OB Planning Board meeting that the City is planning on chopping down another large and old Torrey Pine on the 4600 block of Saratoga Avenue.

The announcement immediately caused a stir in the packed audience (the packed house was for the presentation on the new 7-Eleven planned for OB)  – and a number of people said they would be out there on that block on Thursday morning to protest.

On Tuesday, August 2,  John Ambert – head of the Planning Board – was told in an email from John Ly of the Mayor’s office that regretfully, the tree was coming down this week.

OB Torrey Pine Aug2016 signThe signs are already up. Signs limiting parking on that block have already been posted up and down the block.

Here is the substance of the email to John Ambert from John Ly, Director of Outreach, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer’s office”

The City will be removing the beloved 68-inch Torrey Pine on the 4600 block of Saratoga in advance of the upcoming storm season. This towering tree has served the Ocean Beach Community for more than 75 years and was rightfully designated a Heritage Tree through the City’s Conserve-A-Tree Program.

Unfortunately, despite recent aggressive pruning measures to preserve the tree, it still poses an elevated risk to the community.  This past spring a large limb that likely counter balanced the tree in severe wind events was removed because it was hollowing and severely decayed.

The City has monitored this tree closely over the past few months and several arborists agree that even after eliminating the risk of the decayed portions, the balance of the tree and signs of root upheaval indicate the risk of possible and potentially catastrophic failure.

The tree will be replaced with a specimen compatible with the City’s Climate Action Plan goal of increasing canopy cover. The new tree will offer the Ocean Beach community long-term growth potential with root and canopy structures suitable for the Saratoga site.

The tree will be removed in the upcoming days.

John Ly

Meanwhile, John Ambert of the OBPB, sent out a call over social media about the City’s plans. Here is what he said:

OBceans, the City of San Diego has decided yet again to remove another Torrey Pine from the middle of the 4600 Block of Saratoga.

I have not been told exactly when, but an unconfirmed source told me it is going to be this Thursday (8/4) and Friday (8/5).

I just went over to the 4600 block Saratoga tonight but did not see any “No Parking signs” or postings about the scheduled trimming. [OB Rag has since confirmed that the signs are now up.]

The Torrey Pines on this street are over 75 years old and are an endangered species.

The City’s reasoning is “the balance of the tree and signs of root upheaval indicate the risk of possible and potentially catastrophic failure.”

Realistically, the City is having knee jerk reaction to their liability of large trees in the public right of way.

The City has ignored my request to see the Arborist’s report or have a 2nd opinion. Instead, they use the same company who will cut the tree down tomorrow (Atlas Tree Trimming Service) to confirm the need for the work. Talk about a conflict of interest. I

f you care about these ancient trees, I urge you to get on the phone and call the news and city representatives. Please show up tomorrow morning and give these guys hell.

The fact they are steam rolling through this process with zero transparency and insufficient public notice is shameful and unacceptable. Contact our reps and tell them this lack of transparency is wrong. Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s director of Outreach, John Ly: 619-236-6330 ; Senior Representative / New OB liaison Anthony George 619-236-5980 ; or Lorie Zapf’s office (619) 236-6622 to tell your local representatives whats up.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

ByronWear August 4, 2016 at 11:45 am

I served as OB’s Councilmember from 1995-2002. I worked to save the Saratoga Torrey Pines by installing the metal curved sidewalk. We extended their lives another 20 years. These Torrey Pines are very old and have become an immediate hazard to the public by three experts. We must now think of public safety. I worked to plant many trees in Abbot and Volaire St and saved the palms on Santa Barbara Street by under grounding the utilities. I am as sad as many of you. It is time to think about a new Torrey Pines grove and begin planting perhaps at the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park at Ladera St or other appropriate parks. Torrey pines do not make good street trees. So the noble Torrey Pines have provided shade and enjoyment for 80 plus years and their time has come and gone. Let them go with dignity and inspire all of us to plant for the future generations.


John August 6, 2016 at 7:53 pm

Because politician Byron Wear and three companies who profit from tree chopping say so ?

Nope. Nice try!


triggerfinger August 4, 2016 at 1:19 pm

“[Bill] Harris said that all stakeholders within a 300-foot radius are required to be notified at least five days in advance. No Parking signs are also required at least 48 hours in advance. Harris said that it’s common practice to notify the resident who is at the location of the tree on the public strip via mail.”


Lori Saldaña August 4, 2016 at 1:38 pm

I just called Lorie Zapf’s office (619-236-6622) and encourage others to call TODAY.

Let them know you OPPOSE the removal of this tree, and want it preserved. It is a native, endangered, healthy tree. It is a violation of law to remove it during bird nesting season.

I left a detailed message for the representative for OB, asking various questions about this removal. In addition to the points listed below I asked the following:

1) Why is the city removing a local, endangered tree on public land when MORE trees are needed, for the city to meet the Climate Action Plan goals?

2) Why is the City removing a healthy tree during bird nesting season, in violation of federal wildlife protection regulations?

3) Is the city aware that Torrey Pines are not only endangered- they are also native, and pose much less a risk than non-native trees?

Please call and add your comments: 619-236-6622


Lori Saldaña August 4, 2016 at 10:29 pm

How big can a Torrey Pine tree get?
When properly cared for, they can get quite large and not pose a threat. But it appears from various photos that this tree has not been well cared for.

Here’s a report of one that was estimated to be 126 feet tall, and planted in 1888.

We clearly have a problem with many large trees in San Diego: lack of proper maintenance and care. The city has an Urban Forester, but very few arborists on staff. Instead, they contract out tree services to private contractors, and don’t maintain them as a resource for the city that provides shade, cooling, and aids in meeting greenhouse gas reduction and climate action plan goals.

While this tree may ultimately require removal, hopefully it will also trigger a review of the city’s contracting and result in better care of mature trees in San Diego’s “urban forest.”


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