Saving the Saratoga Torrey Pine – a Waiting Game

by on August 10, 2016 · 12 comments

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

OB Torrey protest shift 3 ed1

Local residents wait Atlas out in their tree watch shift.

Organizers Have Created Tree Watch Shifts – Zapf and Mayor Are No-Shows

Directly across the street from “Esparenza” – the name protesters have given the Torrey Pine target for chopping – is a small group of local residents sitting in chairs, eating, talking, reading.

They’re the current shift on Saratoga Street doing a “watch” for any signs of Atlas Tree Service crews or equipment. If they are sighted, then the call goes out to dozens of residents and supporters to gather at the Torrey Pine.

They were there today, Wednesday, by 7 a.m. – some having breakfast and coffee. They told this reporter that an Atlas “scout” truck drove by to check them out and just drove on.

A few “no parking” signs are up. I was also told that a neighbor’s car was towed the other day.

Waiting the Opposition Out – Classic Tactic of Establishment

So, it’s become a waiting game, it appears. Between the City and Atlas on one side – and local residents, scientists, environmentalists on the other side.

The crews originally appeared last Thursday, August 4th with a crane, trucks and other equipment. But because of the actions of about a dozen OBceans – including Crystal Rose Speros’ climb into the tree itself – Atlas, the City and police backed off.

Everyday since, people have been waiting for Atlas to show up again. The waiting game continues. Who will give up first? Each side waiting until the other side relents.

OB Torrey protest shift 2 -edOf course, politically, waiting out your opposition is a tried and true tactic of the establishment. The powers that be – once confronted with protests and push-back at the grassroots on an issue – often simply back off and wait for a more appropriate time and moment to do what they originally set out to do in the first place.

The establishment has the money, the resources, the time to wait for local residents to become exhausted, too-tired to continue and keep up the fight, or too distracted by the demands of everyday life (jobs, school, family), or even lulled into complacency.

This is what the City and Atlas hope will happen. What if Atlas just shows up 6 weeks from now, swings into action and chops down the last remaining Torrey Pine on the north side of that block.

Of course, every day that Atlas and the City delays, is another day that disproves their claim that the tree needs to be removed for safety concerns and its instability.

But the “waiting game” is the classic ploy of the establishment. It was used around the police surveillance cameras. The camera installation was first announced to the community back last summer – a year ago – and we were told then by police and Councilwoman Zapf’s representatives that the cameras would be up by Thanksgiving, then by the end of the year . An opposition group formed, Citizens Against Privacy Abuse, who held a forum in December, gathered signatures, held small rallies at the Wall, and continued to make noise.

When the cameras didn’t go up by the end of the year, we were then told by the beginning of the year. And of course that didn’t happen either. Meanwhile, CAPA kind of faded away – the individuals were still around, but the group stopped doing things and holding meetings. Months go by.

And then, on July 22nd, the cameras were up and running, and Lorie Zapf held a press gathering to announce the great news. A few former members of CAPA were present holding up signs in opposition.

Meanwhile, back to saving Esparenza, the Torry Pine on Saratoga, the good news is that organizers have collected just about one hundred signatures from residents on that block as well as from residents from all over OB.

The tree watch network with its shifts has been organized. (If you are interested in taking on a shift, just come down to the tree in the middle of the 4600 block of Saratoga and sign up with the folks sitting across the street.) A similar “tree watch” network existed back in OB’s heyday during the Seventies, when it seemed the City and developers were just too casually cutting down the community’s trees.

Councilwoman Zapf and Mayor Faulconer Ignore Torrey Pine Protest

Not only has Atlas been absent in force, there is also a very deafening silence from OB’s representatives.

Neither Councilwoman Zafp nor her aids have been seen down at the tree – in fact, they’re not returning phone calls from residents. Popular Zapf rep, Conrad Wear, has not been there. Neither has Mayor Faulconer shown up – and he lives in Point Loma – nor his aid, John Ly.

They could have shown up to help negotiate some kind of resolution or agreement conducive both to local residents and the City.  This is what leaders do.

So, in a nutshell, the stand-off at the tree, the waiting game,  is demonstrative of the absolute failure of local government.

What with the seemingly unreasonable demands by the City about the tree(s), the lack of transparency, the lack of notice to the community or any efforts to get the community involved or give the village at least some kind of adequate notice, the suspect so-called reports that the City and Atlas are relying on, combined with the  total lack of city politicos involvement, no efforts at negotiation or settlement, we can see that local City government has totally failed the residents of Saratoga and the rest of the Ocean Beach community.

The response – or lack of – has also failed the Torrey Pines themselves – and has failed even the so-called environmental or “green” agendas and policies of Faulconer and the City. This is significant, for a lot of fanfare was raised as the City touted its passage of the green agenda.

Yet, here at the grassroots, down in the nitty-gritty, where the rubber meets the road, where environmental policies get tested, we see a City at the opposite end of any kind of ecological approach to metropolitan management.

We see a City operating as if no one is in charge. We see the City’s contractor in conflict-of-interest mode – the same company that a few months ago, chopped down the wrong tree over on Voltaire.

There are alternatives to just chopping down Esparenza – root study, careful trimming, support structure – reasonable alternatives.  But the City is not making one iota of an effort into looking into alternatives than making a massive mound of splinters.



{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Happyinob August 10, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Any way we can do an on-line
signature ?


Geeta August 10, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Strike One would have to be the police cameras. Strike Two may be Esparenza. Strike Three could be anything – ever more beer joints, ever more rising rents, continued attempts at over-sized construction on too-little lots, even more air b & b rentals, or who knows what.
What does it take to have city officials who actual care about the residents who live here?


EsperanzaofSaratoga August 10, 2016 at 3:56 pm

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Mahatma Gandhi

Sounds like we’re phase l. I’m still standing my ground!


Old Hippie August 11, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Dear Esperanza – tonight – Thursday, Aug. 11th – may be your very last night on earth – you’ve been here over 70 years on this planet, and your lucky stars may have just run out. It will all depend on the residents and locals of OB -whether you get to have another night or not.

I’m sorry dear. We tried to save you. But it’s with tears in my eyes that I now consider your true demise. Will the work crews take “trophy photos” of your stumps once they kill you?


Local One August 10, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Why oh why is it so difficult to have our Councilperson Lori Zapf, you know, actually represent us? Or, even speak to the community? Once again, Lorie Zapf proves herself to be part of the problem, and not a part of any solution.

The many volunteers in our community do a much better job than any city leader in protecting our quality of life…….for free! Vote smarter next time folks!

p.s. Did Lori or Kevin ever get back to you all about that big leak in the 30′ coastal height limit? Remember…it was said…decisive action!


rick callejon August 10, 2016 at 4:58 pm

zero + zero = zero


Tyler August 11, 2016 at 6:53 am

You guys can come pick up trash on the streets with me instead of waiting around on your butts to save a single tree that is a danger to public and private safety. Or go buy saplings and replace some of the neglected ones around the war zone.


triggerfinger August 11, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Did you determine it was a danger? If not then realize you are taking the tree trimming company’s word for it.


OFON August 11, 2016 at 7:23 am

Oh gosh Tyler, better lock your doors man. The speech police are headed your way with an arrest warrant for hatin’!


OB Activist August 11, 2016 at 8:59 am

Keep on with that trash cleanin’ young man! But repeat after me: “Virtue is its own reward. Virtue is its own reward. Virtue is its own reward.”


Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie August 11, 2016 at 10:12 am

I believe a GoFundMe is being set up to hire an arborist specialist, hopefully one is a specialist with Torrey Pines.


Wayne Tyson August 11, 2016 at 5:59 pm

I’m an actual tree-hugger.

I’ve also narrowly escaped death more than once at the limbs of trees, and a good friend of mine was killed by a falling tree (as was a woman earlier this year). Another friend spend several days in the hospital after a tree fell on him.

Do trees last forever?

Is it better to remove them before they kill people?

Is it better to leave them standing until they do kill or maim people?

If a tree that shows factual signs of future failure is not removed because of public opinion and political action, will that fraction of the public and the politicians who overrode the analysis of those competent to do so be willing to compensate any and all victims who suffer death, injury, and/or property damage, or will all taxpayers have to pay out millions of dollars and legal and other government costs?

Will the people who insisted that a weakened tree be retained (including politicians) apologize to the injured and the widowed and those whose property was damaged, or will they hold a wake for the fallen tree?

Is opinion the same as fact?


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