Reprieve for Ocean Beach Torrey Pine Holds for Now – Residents Continue to Mobilize – Demand Time for Independent Analysis

by on August 12, 2016 · 9 comments

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

OB Saratoga 4600 block google

4600 block of Saratoga in OB from google maps.

This morning – Friday, August 12th – around 7 a.m. on the 4600 block of Saratoga Avenue in the heart of Ocean Beach, there were no signs of Atlas Tree Service trucks or crews, no signs of of any city officials or police barricades and patrol cars, and the ubituious ‘no parking’ signs were nowhere to be seen.

In stead, about 2 dozens residents and supporters were sitting or milling around, some of them giving interviews to the nearly half-dozen TV stations and reporters. These folks were responsible for the City’s last-minute temporary reprieve issued yesterday evening – backtracking on their plans to chop down the giant Torrey Pine across the street from where people were sitting this morning.

It was just yesterday, Thursday, in the middle of the afternoon that the City released a press statement announcing that the City and Atlas were moving ahead and would remove the tree Friday morning. The community scrambled for a showdown. Calls went out for OBceans to assemble before the trucks arrived at 7 a.m. Calls were made to the various city officials and agencies, and calls and pleas were made to the US Fish and Wildlife agency.

In the meantime, representatives from the community had met with City officials on Wednesday, the 10th.  People were still going out with petitions to gather signatures from local residents asking for a halt to the tree’s removal. Way more than one hundred have been collected. A gofundme page was set up and at least $800 has been raised.

Something happened.

We’d like to think that the public and agency pressure worked. Somebody – the Mayor perhaps? – made a call down the chain of command, and by 6 pm Thursday, the City issued its backtrack, and suspended the removal of “Esperanza” – the name locals have given the towering Torrey slated for execution. This was confirmed by this reporter last night by a discussion with the City point person on the issue, Katie Keach.

The City stresses that this is just a “temporary” suspension, that they still maintain their position that the tree is unhealthy, unstable and needs to come down. However, the press statement also stated that the City would work with Ocean Beach … on something that is not quite clear yet.

Even though a reprieve was obtained by the organizers and tree-watchers on Saratoga – who, by the way, have been out every day this week working in shifts –  there is still deep distrust of the City and its contractor, Atlas, among those who sat and discussed the situation this morning.

They realize that they might have to face off with the City again as early as next Monday.

In the meantime, residents are in discussions with an independent arborist, who is a Torrey Pine specialist. This arborist company has already come out to Esperanza to review the conditions and the main man has tons of questions for the City and has begun his critique of the tree’s maintenance – or actually, lack of maintenance.

The residents also have lots of questions. Such as, when was the last inspection done – besides the more recent ones the City is currently relying on – ? That report needs to be reviewed.

When was the last trimming done? Locals say it’s been 5 years.

When was the current sidewalk in front of the tree installed?  What roots were trimmed in order to put in the sidewalk?

And why isn’t the City following its own guidelines and policies in the care and maintenance of its trees?

The main thing right now that the residents want – and this was confirmed by the arborist this morning – is time; OB needs time to have an independent arborist do their own study, their own root collar study, time for an evaluation of Esperanza by someone who is an expert and who is working for the community – and not for Atlas or the City.

No one, neither any of the City’s or Atlas’ arborist reports nor the arborist that the community is talking to, state that there is an imminent danger from the tree falling. The negative reports on the City’s side were done as early as this past March – 5 months ago. None of the experts are declaring an immediate collapse of the tree.

So, there is time. There is time for the City to wait for the community’s own study. In fact, the arborist stated that it would be more favorable to the tree if his study is conducted during cooler weather.

An extension is needed – and it is one of the top demands of the residents and supporters who have mobilized around this issue.

Another demand/ request from the City wanted by the residents is some kind of explanation why the City has not maintained the Torrey Pines on Saratoga as per City Policy No. 900-18, “Public Tree Protection” – that went into effect 11 years ago, June 13, 2005.

A new group, Friends of Peninsula Trees, has a facebook page and a gofundme account (which we will publish once we have a good online address), to help with the costs of an independent arborist.

One organizer made a plea for everyone to call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency, as active birds’ nests have been sighted in Esperanza, and the removal of a tree with good nests is in violation of Federal law.

Residents are beginning to take a long view – and they want to obtain “Heritage Tree” status for Esperanza and the other Torreys on Saratoga.

As this morning’s strategy meeting broke up, a time for a weekly meeting was set up, commitment were made of the different tasks.

The pressure will be on the City’s politicians – none of whom, by the way, have appeared out at the tree site. A few people commented on how different OB was being treated compared to a recent situation in Grantville where a widow threatened to chain herself to a tree that her husband planted in protest of the City’s plan to remove it. Well, indeed, Mayor Faulconer came out, hugged her, told her he would help her get the tree saved – and just recently the tree made the Heritage Tree list.

Without notice from the City, residents will be out on the street once again on Monday, August 15th. Join them, take a shift, make calls.

Here is the GoFund Esperanza page.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

gwen August 12, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Great work for now, OB!
Waiting for the hugging to begin, once the tree is saved.


Frank Gormlie August 12, 2016 at 4:42 pm

No popping of the corks yet. This is far from over.


Lori Saldaña August 12, 2016 at 6:07 pm

So happy to read that an independent arborist has been brought in to do an evaluation.

As a new homeowner with several large trees to manage (40-60 years old), I have new-found respect for the care and proper trimming, watering, etc. of mature trees, and appreciation for their value: shade, habitat, etc.

FYI- here’s one way the city responds (or doesn’t) to dangerous tree complaints: When I lived in Bird Rock 15 years ago, a large eucalyptus branch fell on my neighbor while she was gardening in her front yard.

The tree was on city property. She was bruised and scratched, but chose not to follow up with the city for her medical bills.

However, I wrote the city a letter, and sent them a photo, and advised them that several trees on our street (5400 block of Waverly Ave. in La Jolla) were hazardous, and the city needed to trim them.

They responded that they had evaluated the trees and they were found safe.

A few months later an even larger branch fell, in the middle of the night, on the sidewalk. If it had fallen a few hours later, it might have landed on kids walking to get to Bird Rock elementary school at the end of the street.

We finally got an arborist’s attention when an invasive insect began damaging the trees, and he came out to inject them with some chemicals to try to save them. He told me they were 70-80 years old, and also that he was one of the last 2 arborists still on city staff.

The city saved the trees, but not the arborists’ jobs. The city has an Urban Forester, but contracts out other tree services, and many of the people who show up to do the work are not trained well.

The result: healthy trees are removed and/or damaged with poor “trimming,” and other problems can result. For example: one tree trimming crew drove into a community park near my home, to trim eucalyptus trees last year, and the weight of their truck and chipper trailer broke an underground water line.

I saw water leaking and notified city employees who fortunately were nearby. It took a while for them to fix it- not sure if the company had to pay for the repairs, but considerable water was wasted as the result of their “maintenance” activities.

So- thanks for pushing for more accountability and oversight of these private contractors, being paid with taxpayer dollars, to do these jobs.


Ben August 12, 2016 at 8:43 pm

With all due respect Lori, you clearly dont knowmuch about trees, trucks, or water infrastructure. Private tree crews dont weigh much, orcost much. Euc’s are called widowmakers for a reason, unlike torrey pines. Cutting uecs safely is very expensive, unlike torrey pines. Contrary to popular opinion,most aborists get into the biz because they love trees and have spent years doing their homework.


Ben August 12, 2016 at 8:51 pm

And please go on record, here, providing examples and accounts of who exactly “are not trained well” isn’t your job to make sure that contractors are not awarded our tax dollars? do tell


Lori Saldaña August 12, 2016 at 9:24 pm

Ben- I don’t understand the question.

I’m a teacher. My current job has nothing to do with awarding city contracts.


KIP of Voltaire August 12, 2016 at 9:02 pm

I think that I shall never see A poem as lovely as a tree. & of course, we need trees to produce more oxygen for all us humans & cows ( 7 billion & 70 billion) to be able to have air to breathe.


Lori Saldaña August 12, 2016 at 9:21 pm

I agree most arborists do their work because they love trees- and the city of San Diego needs to hire more of them. Arborists often provide supervision, but they are usually assigned to evaluate trees, not do the actual climbing, cutting, chipping etc. when trees are removed and/or branches thinned.

Re:the weight of tree trimming equipment- the workers I saw cutting the trees near my home drove a large, heavy truck and pulled a chipping trailer behind them. Something that day contributed to a broken sprinkler head- it was part of the irrigation system, not a water deliver pipe. They drove directly under the trees, worked all day cutting/chipping eucalyptus branches, and their tire marks were clearly visible, sunk deep into the dirt, where they worked. A pool of water began forming in this area after they left and soon was running over the sidewalk.

Finally, re:the costs of eucalyptus: I agree eucalyptus trees are expensive to maintain and trim- and even more expensive when they injure and kill people. My neighbor was bruised and scratched from being hit by a relatively small branch. But she was luckier than the daughter of the woman who shared a room with my grandmother, at a local assisted living facility, about 12 years ago.

We visited them one day and learned a large eucalyptus had toppled in Old Town earlier that day. We had heard about it on the news. What we didn’t know was that it was her roommates’ daughter who was at the park walking with her small dog that morning. The dog survived- the daughter did not; the tree killed her.

I recently visited Old Town State Park, and noticed the eucalyptus trees have been removed from that area. The state understands the risks of this species. It’s time for city of San Diego to remove them from our local parks as well, and replace them with safer species.


Jason Ford August 15, 2016 at 8:23 am

Neighbors of OB Torrey Pine – some are letting go ….


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