City Forester Threatens Use of Police If Point Loma Residents Interfere With Cutting Down Palm Trees

by on October 20, 2021 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

City Forester:  “We don’t care what you think.”

By Geoff Page

The City of San Diego is moving forward aggressively to cut down iconic and historic, tall palm trees on Newport Avenue, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara.

They are lying to the public saying it is because of a safety issue.

These are healthy trees — there is no safety issue whatsoever. But, when talking to the city’s forester, Brian Widener, it soon becomes clear that he is one of those people who believe if you repeat a lie over and over, people will eventually believe it is true. No matter how many times he says it is a safety issue, it is still not true.

The city is not only using public safety as an excuse, they are bypassing all the normal procedures for removing city trees by designating these as emergency removals. There is no emergency, the city just does not want to take the time to explain to the public why removals are necessary.

To add insult to injury, the city had the airport send residents a letter dated October 8 but not received until October 14, and it stated:

“The Tree(s) identified above are scheduled for removal by a City of San Diego contractor within the next few weeks.”

The tree removal crews showed up unannounced Tuesday, October 19 and began cutting a tree before a resident stopped them.  This was not a contractor; these were City of San Diego employees.

In an email, Widener said, “’No Parking’ signs are placed in advance of the work.”  There weren’t any No Parking signs in sight anywhere nor was there any traffic control that is required to perform this work. This was a sneak attack, pure and simple.

The city tried again this morning but was stopped by resident Tracy Van De Walker. This despite Widener telling this writer on the phone Tuesday that he would see to it the city placed the proper 72-hour No Parking signs and would have traffic control. Widener lied again.

Widener told Van DeWalker the city would be back Thursday morning and would bring the police to cite her if she interfered. Again, no 72-hour No Parking notice. Anyone who cares about these historic palms should show up tomorrow at Santa Barbara and Newport to help stop this work.

Apparently, the San Diego airport authority conducted a survey of some kind and concluded that several of these old palms are a risk to aircraft. Keep in mind, the ground rises up from Santa Barbara and Newport to Venice St. The ground at Venice is as high as the trees are down the hill. Anyone looking at this from a regular person’s perspective finds this to be illogical.

The airport and the city have provided the information that has already been posted here in The OB Rag.  This is technical information, some of which was explained to this writer by a friend who is very knowledgeable about airports. And it was still confusing. That helped some but it also became very clear that the community deserved to hear a detailed explanation first, not the sound of saws first.

During a phone call, Widener was asked repeatedly what the hurry was in cutting these trees down and all he would say was it is a safety issue. He refused to consider delaying the removals saying “We need to do our job.” There was not even a hint of consideration for the community.

There is a tree removal process that is supposed to involve the planning board that represents an area, in this case it is the Peninsula Community Planning Board. The PCPB had not heard about this before being contacted by this writer. A presentation at the planning board’s meeting, explaining why the trees need to be removed, is the absolute minimum the city should do.  They owe the community that much. They work for us, it is not the other way around.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie Edmonds October 20, 2021 at 1:41 pm

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark . . . . :-/


Ernest Q. Dinklefwat October 20, 2021 at 6:58 pm

Brian Widener should be fired. His only concern, in a time when we should be trying to preserve all the trees we can, is the City’s liability. Or maybe there is something very lucrative about cutting down healthy trees. Either way, he recently stated that in the last fiscal year the City removed 2000 trees, and planted “a bit less than that.” Yet the ludicrous Climate Action Plan would lead you to believe the City is trying to increase the urban canopy. They are doing just the opposite. Aren’t there any environmentalist Democrats left in the City?


Harmon Huff October 20, 2021 at 7:34 pm

He did the same thing in Kensington. We wanted to hear why he was cutting down our pepper trees, and make our case that it wasn’t absolutely necessary. After being thwarted a few times by neighbors, he came in on a sneak attack on a “street-sweeping” day when no cars were parked under the trees.


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