OB Planning Board Chair Calls for Work Stoppage on Cutting Down Torrey Pine

by on August 8, 2016 · 8 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics, San Diego

OB Torrey protest 80416 street copCalls for Independent Botanist and Community Review

Editor: John Ambert is the Chair of the Ocean Beach Planning Board. The following is his request to the City to issue a work stop to the cutting down of the Torrey Pine currently target by Atlas Tree Trimming Service, contractor to the City.

By John Ambert

As you may know, the City of San Diego has decided to remove a third, 75 ft tall Torrey Pine Heritage Tree from the middle of the 4600 Block of Saratoga in Ocean Beach. Crews attempted to remove the tree on the morning of August 4th, but a group of residents rallied to stop the effort.

In fact, only after work was stopped, did the City of San Diego provide the requested backup documentation for this project. All documents provided to the community, including email correspondence with the city, can be provided upon request

After a thorough review, it has been determined the documentation provided by the City of San Diego is very questionable, raising great concern about the validity and the legitimacy of this project.

The three tree assessments provided are inconsistent about the health of the tree, and vary about the actions that should be taken. All three assessments are written by the same company who is contracted to perform the work, Atlas Tree Trimming, representing a clear conflict in interest.

In addition, the documents provided are missing any Nesting Bird Surveys completed. As active bird nests have been found in this tree, a survey would be required by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

Contrary to the statements of Bill Harris on August 4, proper notice was not provided to nearby residents about the project, and many had their cars towed without a road closure permit.

Last but not least, per SD Council Policy 900-19 B.2 “all tree removal permit requests will be sent to the Community Planning Groups,” which has not happened to date. When added up, this lack of objectivity combined with a poorly executed permitting process is completely unacceptable.

The Ocean Beach Community has dealt with this situation earlier this year when 2 Torrey Pines Heritage trees were removed in a similarly abrupt and non-transparent manner. In an email to D2 Lorie Zapf’s representative Conrad Wear on February 9, 2016, we requested more transparency, independent assessments, and public engagement from City leadership, but this request was ignored. Now the same process is repeating itself.

Our community has worked to protect these Heritage trees, and engage the city to maintain them in a safe way. The preservation of these Torrey Pines are listed in OB’s recently adopted Community Plan & Local Coastal Program 11/9/15 see CE-105) . The fact the City of San Diego leadership is rail-roading this project forward with zero transparency, questionable documentation, and insufficient public notice is shameful and unacceptable.

We are requesting work stop on this project until an independent botanist has reviewed the health of the tree, and the community groups have the opportunity to review the information to be distributed per CP 900-19.

Please share this information in hopes that we can get the city to engage with the community and find a compromise regarding this situation.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page August 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Excellent, John, it is great to see all the involvement and effort from you and everyone else.


triggerfinger August 9, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Thank you John for sticking your neck out on this!


Posey August 9, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Thank you John. I’m glad you’re on the OB Planning Board!


south ob girl August 10, 2016 at 9:53 am

Thanks John!! Bravo!!


Posey August 10, 2016 at 9:55 am

A group of us are linked up via text. We’re calling the Zapt and Fauchner offices. No one from their office is getting back to us. Our taxes pay their salary. John volunteers too much of his personal time to serve our community as Planning Board President. If they are not getting back to him, that’s unbelievable. He is the highest representative of our community. We don’t pay them to rule. We pay them to govern. Maybe we go down and occupy the city council offices that we pay for. If we do, they may order the Police we pay for to arrest us. But maybe that’s exactly what we should do.


triggerfinger August 11, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Let’s pay a tree trimmer to “assess” the trees in front of Lorie’s and Kevin’s homes, then cut them down without notice. I’ll pitch in to pay the fines.


OB Dude August 11, 2016 at 1:37 pm

I guess a recall of the mayor is always an option?


Betty August 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm

I was going to say that the lack of response from city officials Falconer and Zapf was unbelievable but, sadly, it’s believable.
The only downside of trying to protect this rare tree is, if the money isn’t spent to remove it, Zapf might see it as an opportunity to buy another police camera for the beach.


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