Video: Tracy Van De Walker Fights to Save OB Palms

by on October 29, 2021 · 12 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach

Tracy Van De Walker is a resident of Ocean Beach and recent palm tree activist. She became the center of the fight to keep the palm trees on Newport Avenue standing, when she stood in front of the trucks and chainsaws to protect the trees.

The FAA states the trees are becoming a hazard to their radar scanners as they are growing too tall to keep up.

Tracy believes the trees are too iconic and historic to Ocean Beach to remove. OB Rag caught up to Tracy on Tuesday to let her tell her side of the story and show why these trees should be here to stay.

Reported by Carson Davis; Video by Charles Landon

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Vern October 29, 2021 at 2:03 pm
Douglas Blackwood October 29, 2021 at 6:34 pm

Good to see activism is “still alive & well” in OB! Thank you Tracy, & all who banded together to save the Palms!


Douglas Blackwood October 29, 2021 at 6:54 pm

Go Tracy Go!
We stopped: the Jetty (70’s) extending the Stub through the surf zone: 90’s sewage outfall off Dog Beach, & a proposed boardwalk for the whole beach (OBPL). Perhaps the Rag will re-publish that segment of OB history? We must stand up for OB!


jason November 1, 2021 at 7:46 pm

Get them out. Palm trees are a nightmare not only to maintain but they are water suckers and environmentally horrid! Period. Plus they emit pollution. They are Useless icons! Replant with low emitting trees that give shade and do more than these rat motels.

I commend her for the activism but I think a bit more looking into the trees might be a better option. She should stand against them instead of for them if she wants any sort of change for the environment and our water situation.


triggerfinger November 2, 2021 at 10:10 am

“We should put a missing persons ad out in the newspaper, because I don’t know where [Jennifer Campbell’s] at, I’ve never seen her .”



Vern November 2, 2021 at 10:18 am

Washingtonia robusta, Mexican Fan Palm, mentioned in the link is native to Baja California.

The Washingtonia filifera, also known as desert fan palm, seems be the only “native” California palm tree.

The palms the city wants to destroy are neither.

Now, on the other hand, San Diego Airport has plenty of “low-water” palms!

“… When arriving at SAN, one of the first things people notice are our beautiful palm trees. We have over 600 of them – a mix of Queen, Medium Fan, Mexican Fan and Date – on the airport’s grounds. And while we are delighted that the palms have become visually synonymous with a warm and wonderful San Diego vacation – there is more to these lanky and lush plants than meets the eye.”


Geoff Page November 2, 2021 at 10:42 am

Water suckers? These trees grow in the parkway of Newport, calling them water suckers is idiotic. What water are they sucking up? Rat motels? Maybe you need to take a look at the actual trees in question. Rats are not climbing 70-foot tall palm trees. And your pollution article was not at all convincing that these few trees are causing anyone any problems.

This is about some specific trees, it is not a movement to plant palms around the world. Get a grip.


Jason Minos November 2, 2021 at 11:46 am

Trees have roots. Roots go under the ground, in the dirt, suck the water.

Maybe you also need to take a look at the tree’s in question?

Roof rats can climb.

Who said anything about a movement to plant palms? I stated, remove them for more shade type low emitting trees. We need more shade in the future with climate change upon us. A tree canopy is more suited for this rather than what is there now with palm fronds. Palms 50ft-197ft up do not provide much shade and take water from the ground that we need. Native Palms are fine, just no need to keep planting them.

Shoot even Miami freakin gets it:

Grip is tight dude. Palm trees suck and they are useless unless producing delicious dates. I cut all mine down around my home. Goodbye!


Geoff Page November 2, 2021 at 1:19 pm

So, are you saying the palms are sucking up groundwater on the top of Newport Ave? Seriously?

Why would a rat climb a 70-foot tall tree? For what? The only place to hide would be at the very top. I think rats are smarter than that.

Your range of height “Palms 50ft-197ft” is ridiculous. Where on Pt. Loma is there a 200-foot tall palm? But to continue, what’s wrong with leaving the palms and planting trees underneath them. I drove through miles of coconut groves in southern Mexico under which were banana trees. Seemed to work fine.

I don’t know if you have visited Miami in the summer months, if not, it is an entirely different world there.

So what did you plant after you cut down all the palms? Specifically.


Nathan November 4, 2021 at 2:55 am

@Jason Minos the article you shared says “…city officials are working to reduce the concentration of palms to 25% of the total canopy by 2050. The city says the cutback—intended to help reduce urban warming, improve air quality and absorb more carbon and rainwater—will be accomplished…”. So here you are claiming that the palms consume a lot of water, yet the article you shared insinuates that the non-palms will consume more water than the palms, so which is it?

SoCol has the great privilege of being bathed in sunlight and since single rows of palms don’t provide heaps of shade, this could be beneficial to SoCal’s massive rooftop solar opportunity. Palms offer a good compromise in this scenario because you still get the visual appeal of trees but reduce the shading issue they cause to solar panels. SoCal has insane potential to become a massive distributed renewable electricity generator, without consuming virtually any additional land. I’m talking about filling all that existing (frankly useless) roof space with solar to produce huge amounts of electricity in a distributed manner to reduce the amount of land needed for solar/wind farms. This also means electricity doesn’t have to travel far to get from source to load, which will be extremely important once all heating/cooking and transport goes electric. We’d need distributed (household/community/grid-scale) battery systems to buffer the supply and demand of this electricity and some relatively minor changes to the grid will need to be made, but this is entirely achievable. If you plant massive overhanging trees with the aim of shading people’s roofs, then say goodbye to that opportunity.

Palms are monocots, which is the main reason they grow ‘narrow’ instead of ‘wide’ as most dicots (oaks and other ‘shady trees’) do. Because of this, once they’ve established a trunk, the width of their trunk and individual roots remain largely the same. This is unlike most dicots, whose trunks and roots continuously widen with age, which is why dicots cause more damage to footpaths/kerbs and other structures around them than palm trees do. These structures are commonly found in the immediate vicinity of palm trees in high-density areas like SoCal, just go for a walk and you’ll see what I mean.

Regardless, the reduced shade and carbon capture of palms is exaggerated, since they grow ‘narrow’ they don’t have the same spread of most dicots but because of this, many palms can be planted in the same ‘floor area’ that a single dicot consume.

I think we can all agree that palms are statistically less likely to fall or snap in strong winds, but in very strong winds some fronds may break off. Dicots often get ripped out of the ground or drop massive limbs during strong winds, which can do a lot more damage than a few falling palm fronds. From a survivability aspect, the palm is incentivized to not snap in strong winds because if it does then it is dead and cannot regrow. Usually, the fronds break off before the trunk snaps or is uprooted, allowing the tree to survive (fronds can regrow later) and reduce its ongoing wind loading. However, most dicots are capable of regrowing after large limbs have come off, so the incentive isn’t as large for them. Finally, the structure of palm ‘wood’ is fundamentally different to that of dicot wood, which contributes to palms’ flexibility and sturdiness.


Geoff Page November 4, 2021 at 10:45 am

THANK YOU, Nathan! This is what I love about this forum, I just learned a great deal about palms in this discussion. Fascinating.


A. Ninteman November 5, 2021 at 10:51 am

Tracy Van de Walker for citizen of the year! She put herself in harms way to stop the killing of 100 year old trees that the city was trying to covertly eliminate without community oversight. Then she enlisted the services of a lawyer to further block the situation till Ocean Beach could get involved and get informed.
Tracy Van de Walker, you are wonderful…


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