Crystal Rose Speros Is the Ocean Beach Hero for the Week – Saves Torrey Pine Temporarily

by on August 4, 2016 · 41 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics

OB Torrey protest 80416 in tree good

Crystal in the Torrey Pine. (Photo by Frank Gormlie)

A young, local woman, by the name of Crystal Rose Speros, climbed up into the Torrey Pine the City wanted to chop down this morning – dramatically bringing any work on the tree to a half – at least for the rest of this week.

OB Torrey protest 80416 circle good

Protesters circling the Torrey Pine targeted for destruction. Screen capture from Ch8 News.

A small crowd of residents and OBceans had gathered around the Torrey by 9 am on the 4600 block of Saratoga, some willing to stay until threatened with arrest or more.

OB Torrey protest 80416 crowd goodThey had gathered under the threat of the City and its contractor, Atlas Tree Service, of cutting down another one of the Torrey Pines on that block, as it had been announced at Wednesday’s OB Planning Board meeting. A dozen people at one point surrounded the large, towering tree with a huge trunk, holding hands in a display of peaceful defiance.

OB Torrey protest 80416 street copThen around 9:30 or so, Crystal decided to climb up into the tree, becoming a local “Julia Butterfly” – to applause and acclamation. Her parents were on hand, and papa Greg was very worried at first.

A handful of San Diego police officers and Bill Harris from the City were on hand as well, at first.

When it became clear that Crystal and all the supporters on the ground were not going to move or get out of the way, Atlas’s crew folded its tent, gathered the cones and signs, lowered the crane – and finally drove away with all their trucks and equipment.

One of the Atlas workers told a few of the protesters that they would be back on Monday, as they had another project on Friday. Also one of the crew workers told people that “I don’t want to cut down the tree.”

The crews will be back – but Crystal and the other organizers of the action, like Rick Callejon, Vivian, and Virginia and her dog who also refused to budge, and the woman who own property across the street from the targeted tree, Karin, and her sisters, all should take credit for galvanizing their neighbors and friends.

Near the end, there must have been 2 dozen people milling around, including the leadership and some members of the OB Planning Board, and 4 of 5 TV stations. When the last truck left, Crystal came down – to applause and more interviews and hugs and hand shakes. She actually while up in the tree gave several interviews, and even sang Joan Baez’s song “Pave Paradise”.

Crystal has lived in OB and Point Loma all her life; she just turned 19 and plans on attending NYU in the Fall. One of the reporters asked her why she did it, and she responded: “The tree is defenseless, it has no one to defend it.”

This is more to the story, of course, of how the City lobbed off one huge branch of the same Torrey Pine awhile ago, and is now claiming the tree is “unbalanced” and is a “hazard” and “needs to come down”.  Of how many residents don’t trust Atlas any more – especially after they cut down the wrong tree on Voltaire several months ago.

Of how people plan on returning Friday morning and again on Monday morning – to do this whole thing over again.

But, for today, for this week, Crystal Rose Speros is our hero.



{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Geena August 4, 2016 at 3:08 pm

The city lobbed off a huge branch and now claims the tree is “unbalanced”??????
Sounds as if the city is unbalanced, to me.
Other cities and towns are planting trees to cool the Earth.
Is San Diego doing such a thing?


Local One August 4, 2016 at 3:41 pm

When will we finally have had enough of that duo Lorie Zapf and Kevin Failconer (sic) abusing our community without any consideration for the residents? Oh yeah, Kevin was trying to accept a bribe from that developer Mr. Azano without any notice, until caught, as reported yesterday in the U-T. That’s how it works in this city, residents be damned (e.g. 30′ coastal height limit violations approved by Failconer’s DSD stooges).

Wake up folks, the elected GOP don’t give a damn.


Ian August 4, 2016 at 4:35 pm

It’s pretty selfish for people who don’t live on the street or under the tree to get in the way of preventative safety measures.


Geoff Page August 4, 2016 at 5:43 pm

A big hurrah for all the folks who jumped in today, I think it was wonderful, especially for Crystal climbing the tree. It’s great to see a community effort like this that could only happen in OB. I wish I could have been there with everyone. This is the kind of thing that gives activists hope and motivation. Fantastic!


rick callejon August 4, 2016 at 7:44 pm


A good number of residents of the 4600 block of Saratoga were involved today in opposition to the tree being cut down. Other residents of that block were taken by surprise by the intent of the city to dispose of a healthy 75-old-tree.


Jan Michael Sauer August 4, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Best photo of the year ! Wish that I had a poster of Crystal in the tree.


Ian August 4, 2016 at 9:35 pm


Who? I live under the trees on this block. I’m interested in hearing from someone else who lives under them, and experienced their “dancing” in the strong winds we had last winter, and thinks that we should ignore experts and leave the sick trees to fall into their house.

The trees I live under are not sick, and I don’t advocate for their removal if they are healthy, and have been told by the workers that they are fine (for now).


Geoff Page August 5, 2016 at 10:05 am


What proof do you have that the tree is sick? You cannot trust the city. The two trees they cut down in February were examined by an arborist who works for the company that got the contract to cut the trees down, is that a report you would want to rely on? The city’s “arborist” is not actually an arborist. His report on the two they cut down was criminal in its lack of real information about those trees. He had pictures of what he said showed evidence of upheaval such as cracked concrete and some gaps behind the curbs but when I asked for the “before” pictures he had of the trees to substantiate what he said was movement, he had none at all. The city wants the trees down for a lot of reasons NONE of which have to do with the health of the trees.


Frank Gormlie August 5, 2016 at 10:23 am

Geoff – your similar act last February was part of our inspiration


Geoff Page August 5, 2016 at 11:59 am

Well, thanks, Frank, but I just got there first, the folks who showed up this time were there too, it’s a group effort of folks who care. I think this tree is benefiting, hopefully, from the sad death of its compadres on Saratoga.


Frank Gormlie August 5, 2016 at 12:02 pm

I realized yesterday that this targeted Torrey is the last one on the north side of the 4600 block of Saratoga. And there aren’t that many on the south side.


colleen dietzel August 5, 2016 at 12:21 am

Thank you to Crystal Rose and her family for saving this tree today. Big thank you too for our awesome OB Planning Board who had 4 members there. We all need to call our mayor’s rep John Ly at 619-236-6330 and Council member Lori Zapf’s rep Conrad Wear at 619-236-7351 and demand that they provide a public meeting in Ocean Beach before anymore Torrey Pines are removed. Stay informed and activated at


Local One August 5, 2016 at 11:03 am

Lori Zapf issued a statement saying”multiple arborists” had inspected the tree and reported it to be unstable. Ok, if true, why not share copies of those reports issued by “multiple arborists” with the O.B. community?

This whole matter, and the community’s skeptism of whether they are being told the truth, could be cleared up in just a few minutes. However, past experience with Councilperson Zapf indicates that all we’ll hear is……..crickets,


Geoff Page August 5, 2016 at 11:37 am

They said the same thing the last time and when I did a Public Records Request, all they had was Atlas’s report and one by the city’s “arborist” that. oddly enough, mirrored the Atlas report. But, all of this is public record so if they are not willing to provide the reports, remind them these are not private documents and they must be produced.


nostalgic August 5, 2016 at 11:47 am

You actually need to make a public records request. Go to:
Search on “Public Records Act Request” or go to:
and fill out the form.
You may not like what you get, but you will get it.


Geoff Page August 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Yes, that is the correct process, but why would a city official, who works for us, not just provide a document they know they would have to provide under a records request instead of making us go through that process? That official, be it Zapf or anyone else, needs a butt kicking.


nostalgic August 5, 2016 at 1:08 pm

But Geoff, you just said “I did a Public Records Request.” I was only telling people how. I am a big fan of yours, so this is not sniping.


OB Realist August 5, 2016 at 1:26 pm

It’s time for some sensible dialogue of FACTS, not one based on feelings about “saving a poor defenseless tree”. People’s lives are at stake end-of-story. We live in a civil society. This isn’t some issue about some developer coming in an unjustly removing a healthy, vibrant tree, this is an immediate, clear and present, PROVEN danger. Not everything is a conspiracy, sometimes common-sense does actually prevail.

We’re all heartbroken to see a tree go, but human lives, saving homes and public safety must come first, period.

What makes you think saving a majestic tree that’s dying and proven by several arborists (not just the city’s own) to be an IMMEDIATE hazard for “catastrophic failure” is out of line? Are you an arborist? Chances are, you’re not! I have seen and read the reports, in detail.

Nobody at The City or in OB is interested in un-just removal of trees. Trees have a lifespan, and those of us who live in, under and around these trees have rights far greater stake in the matter than any protesters-period, end of story.

Are you protesters going to pay for my home being destroyed, my family being killed, my foundation being destroyed, all to save a tree? Are you? No, you’re not, so you don’t reserve the right to pass judgement on those most at-stake in this issue.

Let’s not forget the beloved, OB musician, Nicki Carano in PB on her way to OB to play in a band, or the one in Mira Mesa that nearly killed 2 reporters, or Escondido, or Point Loma, or the huge one that fell in the middle of OB Elementary? Imagine how many innocent CHILDREN would have been killed were they in session? Imagine all the lives that will be killed if another falls thats was fully preventable?

Why don’t you protesters, instead focus your energy in more positve ways like graffiti removal, beach cleanup, or visiting senior citizens in need, or walking for Cancer? There are more pressing matters at hand in OB that we can all agree on. Let’s focus, as a Community on those.

Woman Dies After Tree Crushes Car in Pacific Beach

Falling Trees Cause Destruction in San Diego

Winds Bring Down Massive Trees in San Diego (OB Elementary)

In Point Loma, a massive tree came down on Talbot Street, blocking the road for hours.
They were strong enough to bring down a hundred-year-old tree at Ocean Beach Elementary.
“The tree completely uprooted from the bottom. It didn’t bust from the base. The roots completely came up and it uprooted from the soil,” said Peterson. Trees shattered memories and property. On Pescadero Avenue, a tree snapped at its base too.

Massive Torrey Pine Tree Crushes Historic Cottage


RK August 5, 2016 at 5:09 pm

Bingo! I agree OB Realist.


Charlie August 6, 2016 at 10:40 pm

Logical. Reasonable….. beat it, kook! Just joking. The hand-wringers would be the first to this their winge-mittens skyward should a tree fall on the beloved Prius.


Geoff Page August 5, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Nostalgic, I’m very sorry, I think I was misunderstood, I did not mean to imply that you were sniping at all. I was trying to say that you had provided good information for anyone wanting to do a records request. My following statement was just a commentary on the attitude of the city officials who have so far refused to provide the arborist reports. I just meant to say that it should not be necessary in this instance to do that if they have reports they can give us. I’ve seen this happen before, city officials saying they would not provide something and telling a person to make the public records request, which would be unnecessary if we had cooperative officials. They know they will have to cough up the documents, they are just trying to make it as difficult as possible, hoping the person won’t have the will to follow through. Once again I was not being critical of you and I hope this clears that up. Ar we ok?


nostalgic August 6, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Of course we ar OK! We are always on the same side.


Geoff Page August 7, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Ok, good to hear.


Terry August 5, 2016 at 9:15 pm

way to go Crystal!


Frank Gormlie August 6, 2016 at 12:51 pm
Charlie August 6, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Great, that right wing, sensationalist rag would go down great here.


rick callejon August 6, 2016 at 12:53 pm

OB Realist,

Thanks for authoritatively informing protesters on what issues they SHOULD be focused. I hope the misguided dissenters will do the right thing next time. Please continue to determine what is Proper Behavior.

btw—Do you really live in a tree?


Facts Not Feelings August 6, 2016 at 2:32 pm

OB Realist –

Finally a voice of reason. Thank you!

Trees have a life spans. Regrettably, this dear giant has reached its last days due to root upheaval from recent wind storms, limb rot and the inability to root stably in the cement, urban streets.

I have reviewed the multiple arborists’ reports (from a simple public records request.) These independently hired master arborists agree the danger is an iminent, catastrophic failure. Surely this would result in grave loss of life & property. None of us want that.

I am sure no one could possibly appreciate and love the trees more than those who live within the danger zone. Those people who are afraid to speak up and tell their side of the story surely will be vilified.

Some protesters value their feelings over facts and will not listen to reason. Some have even begun harassing neighbors and spreading rumors, lies and misinformation. This works against our common goal of the safety of all citizens of OB.

I wish all OBceans would value people’s lives over trees’ lives.

Let’s give our beloved Torrey Pine a dignified farewell. Together we will replant, rebuild and repair our strained relations over this matter.


Geoff Page August 7, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Facts Not Feelings, I am very interested in this particular line from what you wrote:

“I have reviewed the multiple arborists’ reports (from a simple public records request.) These independently hired master arborists agree the danger is an iminent, catastrophic failure.”

How did you manage to review the “multiple” reports? The city never responds to a Public Records Request in a matter of days. What reports are you talking about and where did you see them? If you have the reports, post a link here so everyone can see them or tell people where the reports are for viewing. Frankly, I’m skeptical of your claim to have seen the reports so make me a believer.


RB August 6, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Has anyone ever hiked Torrey Pines State Park to see the trees in nature?
You know those little, scraggly Torrey Pines struggling to fine water in this coastal desert, without water from city landscaping and swearer lines.


John August 6, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Has the City produced a report for this tree removal? In a City famous for producing bureaucratic reports ? Or does it take the axe wielding geniuses at Atlas (the same service that couldn’t identify a pine tree on Voltaire St) as the gospel?

Sure looks to me Atlas Tree Service has become judge, jury & executioner of trees in OB. I wouldn’t trust them to sweep up leaves around my place!


Local One August 6, 2016 at 6:24 pm

As Ronald Reagan once famously said “trust, but verify”.

Unfortunately, there’s no longer much trust left in the City’s elected leaders, so verifying that “multiple arborists” deemed the tree to be unstable would be advisable.

Third hand accounts of having read those arborist’s reports does not necessarily make it a true.


Frank Gormlie August 7, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Ronald Reagan also said, “If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.”


Retired Botanist August 6, 2016 at 7:51 pm

OB Realist/Chicken Little – Facts? The Torrey Pine is an endangered species that grows naturally only in San Diego and Santa Rosa Island (total pop. ca. 7,000, which for plants is a very small #) The species does not have any federal status listing, an unfortunate truth for many diminishing rare plant species. Outside the National Park Service and State Natural Reserve, only local ordinances apply, that being the City in this instance, and no tree can be removed without a permit. In particular, note:
§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 …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.)
Unless Atlas keeps hacking at it, the tree is not going to fall next week-that’s reading tea leaves-no question the City has tried to ‘sneak in’ the removal of these trees without adequate public feedback. Instead, why not celebrate the presence of an incredibly beautiful species in your front yard?
Because you live near the tree, under it, or across the street sounds a bit entitled to me, it’s on public space which belongs to us all. In this debate, there are other principles as well, not the least of which is the overreaching of the City.
Take a deep breath, your O2 is likely coming from that very tree. And its potential replacement? An invasive species like pepper tree or jacaranda (note Voltaire story). Your view down Saratoga St. is one of the most impressive in the entire City, not just OB. Too risky for you as a proximal homeowner? I’ll refrain comment on that. My thanks go to Crystal for slowing the knee-jerk reactions.


Rick Chalmers August 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm

The owner of Atlas Environmental is an experienced, certified and talented arborist. He is also a PL native and resident. I can personally vouch that he does not personally harbour any ill wishes or grudges against mature trees in our neighborhoods!
I do not like the idea that any consultant for cutting down city trees also happens to be a tree removal contractor. That arrangement stinks. However I’ll set aside judgement until the facts are understood.
Perhaps if y’all are unable to access any reports or recommendations, you should contact the company directly in order to request the details:


John August 8, 2016 at 9:42 am

A “certified and talented arborist” would know difference between a Chinese Flame tree and a common pine tree. A responsible contractor would take utmost care that correct tree is removed. And yes, the report is in and ‘conflict of interest’ is front & center.


Frank Gormlie August 8, 2016 at 9:55 am



Frank Gormlie August 7, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Neighbors of the Torrey Pine – which has been named “Esperanza” – are planning to be there at the tree Monday morning. Some media will be coming. Atlas had posted no parking for all week. The neighbors are forming a group to save trees and seem dedicated to the cause. – from our friends at the Green Center.


Crystal Rose November 3, 2021 at 8:08 pm

Hi ! It’s Crystal Rose here.

I am brought back here through climate change research I have been engaged in tonight. Never would have thought to read these comments before…

I didn’t climb the tree as an idealist who values their “feelings over facts” as one or two seem to think.

In fact, I climbed the tree as a 19year old who just returned to her hometown from NYU due to extreme emotional hardship. When I saw the police and the frustration of neighbors due to lack of transparency from the city I felt terrified. Would someone be arrested? Were they going to cut down this living being without thoroughly and calmly explaining the “imminent” danger to concerned neighbors who love their trees? That’s the thing, if it was a proven danger, then okay! Show those facts, don’t be shady and try to cut it down early in the morning without warning the neighbors or distributing the facts….

Your “valuing tress over human live” bit has really peeved me. I am back in Brooklyn now, teaching children music and taking care of older folks. This event was much more than just saving a tree. It was about respecting the tree and what it represents- age and strength. Respect of nature and neighbors. And if it was a hazard, the information could’ve been clearly explained before hand. The discussion could’ve happened.

Please watch yourself with the feelings over facts loaded language.

One day of information and communication with the whole couple of blocks could have created clear communication and determination for the livelihood of Esperanza and all the neighbors. You should see what happens to tree limbs in the parks out here in Brooklyn during storms….

I really appreciate the support here and hope to visit my hometown soon. Let’s be kind and communicative with all our neighbors, not just the privileged with access or power.


Geoff Page November 4, 2021 at 10:52 am

Crystal Rose,

It was not clear to whom you were referring when you wrote these two sentences.

Your “valuing tress over human live” bit has really peeved me.

Please watch yourself with the feelings over facts loaded language.

Can you clarify that please?


Frank Gormlie November 4, 2021 at 1:25 pm

It appears that Crystal Rose was responding to someone called “OB Realist” way up the comment tree. Here’s Crystal Rose 5 years ago:


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