City Forester Agrees to Keep Long Branch Torrey Pine – and Make ‘Corrective Measures’

by on November 27, 2018 · 9 comments

in Ocean Beach

In response to some push-back from Ocean Beach residents, the city forester dealing with the Torrey Pine on Long Branch Avenue has agreed to keep the tree and make some “corrective measures” to it and the surrounding area.

On Monday, November 26, Brian Widener, City Forester of the city’s Urban Forestry Program sent an email to the members of the City Forestry Advisory Board advising them the program “will be retaining the 44-inch diameter Torrey pine at 4633 Long Branch Avenue at this time”.

He stated the city would remove 3 branches, reduce the crown by up to 15%, and paint the adjacent curb red. Widener added that the city would take the corrective steps no earlier than 2 weeks from Monday. Which means no sooner than Monday, December 10.

After these measures have been taken, the city will immediately assess the survey nail for any movement of the tree. And then every 6 months after that.

Widener also warns in his email if city arborists observe in the health and safety of the tree, they could approve its immediate removal. The community would be given 30 days notice of its removal, barring imminent danger.

All this is good news for those OBceans engaged in trying to save this Torrey Pine yet again (it was saved by the community in 2011-12) as Widener had given strong indicators the city was going to chop the towering tree down. That’s when people in the community responded by sending him letters and emails (see Kris Schlech’s letter; Kris is a retired biologist who has been active in the save Peninsula trees group).

The corrective measures Widener says the city will take include:

  • 3 branches within the tree will be removed as defined in the November 12th arborist report.
  • The crown of the tree will be reduced by up to 15%.
  • The curb adjacent to the tree will be painted red to create a no parking zone – 40 feet in length.

Here is the full email from Brian Widener:

Good morning CFAB members,

The Urban Forestry Program will be retaining the 44-inch diameter Torrey pine at 4633 Long Branch Avenue at this time.   Starting no earlier than 2 weeks from today, the following corrective measures will be made to the tree and surrounding area:

  • 3 branches within the tree will be removed as defined in the November 12th arborist report.
  • The crown of the tree will be reduced by up to 15%.
  • The curb adjacent to the tree will be painted red to create a no parking zone – 40 feet in length.

Immediately, after the corrective measures have been made to the tree; the survey nail in the tree will be assessed for movement.   The Urban Forestry Program will be analyzing the survey nail every 6 months for the lifespan of the tree.  In September of 2020, a tomograph reading of the tree will be made at the same location that was read in November, 2018.   The tomograph reading of the tree will continue every 2 years for the lifespan of the tree.

As clearly expressed at the November 14th Community Advisory Board meeting, if for any reason the city’s certified arborists observe signs of a decrease to the health or safety of the of the Torrey pine, the City Forester may approve the immediate removal of this tree.  Excluding any imminent risks, the community will be given 30 days notice before tree removal.

As discussed at last week’s meeting, the structure and character of this tree will be altered with applying the corrective measures above.

Finally, I will be reaching out to the community for assistance with planting new trees in all empty tree locations on this block.   Neighbors or the community in large must water the new trees for the next 3 years.  As these trees become established, they will begin to provide the ecosystem services that the Torrey pine has provided to the community for the past decades.   Thank you, and let me know if you have any questions.

Brian Widener
City Forester, Urban Forestry Program
City of San Diego
Transportation & Storm Water Department, Street Division

T (619) 527-8050

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

retired botanist November 27, 2018 at 12:44 pm

YAY! Let me be the first to say thanks to the CFAB Board and Mr. Widener :-). The corrective measures outlined above were proposed in WCA’s arborist report and represent, imo, a good approach in addressing the needs of these very special trees as well as the responsibilities of the City in keeping both trees and people safe. Since the Long Branch Torrey came under the cross-hairs of removal in 2010, this tree has continued to provide another 8 YEARS of function and service to the community, the wildlife, the environment, and the world in general. With luck and attention, it will provide another eight years! A happy outcome indeed!


Kathy Blavatt November 27, 2018 at 2:51 pm

HISTORY LIVES… Literally! This living pine is a true Christmas tree and gift to the many of the residents of Ocean Beach.


Tracy November 27, 2018 at 11:36 pm

Yea! Community letter writing and pushback does work.

I’m thankful that I won’t need to chain myself to this glorious tree any time soon.


thequeenisalizard November 28, 2018 at 9:37 am

Great news! I do however question the red curb no parking of 40 ft. Parking on this street is hard enough. The locals living here know not to park under the tree because, in spring, it drips “sap from hell”, which is extremely difficult to remove from vehicles.


retired botanist November 28, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Hahaha, and honestly no offense meant- trying to be lighthearted, but dripping sap really is a 1st world problem :). We heard it all in 2016 on Saratoga: ruinous sap, children wearing helmets, creaking limbs in the middle of the night, collapsing sidewalks, pine needle litter accumulation, psychotic residents…you name it and it was reason to take down the trees.
But to be fair, parking is a problem in all of OB and I do understand that frustration. Marking the curb red allows the City to avoid a lawsuit if a car gets crumpled, or sapped. You know, “park at your own risk” sort of thing. Seems a reasonable compromise trading one parking spot for a 100+ years of street shade, beauty, and wildlife :-)


thequeenisalizard November 30, 2018 at 10:08 am

Completely agree! The dripping sap is just a neighborhood joke. We all love our tree, sap or not!


retired botanist November 30, 2018 at 1:29 pm

I’ m so glad :-)…and it IS hellishly sticky! :-)


Theron Winsby January 29, 2019 at 5:11 pm

The Torrey pine trees might drip sap but if they were pruned properly and on time, they would not drip as much and they would be healthier.
I am glad this tree stayed in 2010 and is still going to stay here now!


Frank Gormlie January 29, 2019 at 7:34 pm

Theron – great to hear from you! Your expertise on Torrey Pines is so much needed these days. The large Torrey that tragically killed those 2 people is being used by some to go after all Torreys.


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