Point Loma Palm Trees Have a Date in Federal Court – Tuesday, Nov.9

by on November 5, 2021 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

Marc Steven Applbaum, the attorney for the Point Loma couple suing to stop the Palm Trees from being chopped down, announced he has obtained a temporary injunction to stop any immediate cutting, and the future of the Palms will be decided in Federal Court next Tuesday, November 9. [KUSI]

How a decision to figure out whether the FAA / Airport / City of San Diego are all being straightforward with the citizens of Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Bankers Hill has to go to Federal Court, seems on its face ridiculous, but because with the FAA the Feds are involved, it must.

Hopefully, at court, the FAA will reveal their numbers that makes this whole thing an emergency. And if the numbers indicate that low-flying planes are disturbed by the Palms, then we’re all in trouble.

What a bureaucratic mess. No one believes the narrative that there is such an emergency, the Palms have to be chopped down immediately to prevent any catastrophic incident involving aircraft. After all these years, the trees are now a menace to public safety. And must be removed so quickly that none of the normal procedures (public hearing, permit, second opinions, etc.) are being followed. In fact, city crews tried to get ahead of the PR mess curve and managed to lope the top off of one of the stately trees before local residents got in the way of the chainsaws.

Screen grab of Brian Widener, the city forester at the center of the Palm Tree controversy.

What a Public Relations nightmare this must be for the city, the Mayor, the councilwoman, the airport. Literally, again, no one believes the official story. It’s ludicrous.

And thank goodness for public activism, the activism of locals in preventing any more executions.

But the City, mayor and Councilwoman are sticking by the official story. Why, just last week at the OB Town Council meeting, the plight of the Palm Trees came up and the official line was once again trotted out. Here’s a report in the PL-OB Monthly on it:

According to Kohta Zaiser, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s District 2 representative, the action follows an assessment mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration of potential obstacles along flight paths for San Diego International Airport. Zaiser said the palm trees targeted for removal — about 70 feet tall — are or soon will be at heights that can interfere with instruments used for landing along flight paths used during inclement weather, when planes fly at lower altitudes. “There isn’t a whole lot of discretion here on the city’s end,” Zaiser said.

Work on the trees began the third week of October but was soon paused following complaints and street protests from residents. A local couple have filed a lawsuit trying to stop the removal. “We are lobbying the federal government to see if there’s any wiggle room, any type of leniency here,” Zaiser said. “I do just want to be upfront that there very well could not be.”

During the discussion, audience member Keith Fink said in a comment on the virtual meeting’s chat board that “if planes are coming in that low, we’re in big trouble. This is clearly absurd and needs further investigation before we start cutting down trees.”

This reporter contacted Mayor Gloria’s office and asked for his latest statement on the Palms. Anthony Santacroce, City Spokesperson, told me in an email that it was written two weeks ago and remains the city’s current statement on the matter. It was written by Santacroce. Here it is:

“At the request of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and San Diego International Airport, the City of San Diego is planning to remove approximately 20 palm trees from two locations in Ocean Beach and Bankers Hill. The trees are located on City property.

According to the FAA, during inclement weather conditions these trees may interfere with the designated flight path and potentially cause arriving planes to be diverted away from the airport. We understand the community’s concern over losing these tall palm trees, which are not native to our region.

The City will prioritize working with the adjacent property owners to plant new leaf trees that will add to our urban canopy. In addition to providing shade and lowering temperatures, native trees support the City’s climate action goals of removing air pollution, reducing storm water runoff, and creating a more sustainable and resilient San Diego.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr Jack Hammer November 5, 2021 at 3:26 pm

Thanks to all for speaking for the trees!!!!


David November 6, 2021 at 12:06 pm

Great. This city once again proves it is a terribly run city. Communication should be it’s first priority! Thank You for slowing this action and keeping our trees!


cc November 8, 2021 at 5:19 pm

As prior chair of PCPB for 2 terms, (and on several local representative Airport Committees over a decade), we dealt with this issue (not for ‘aircraft’ safety), at least once before, with these same Palms with a private party adjacent to them. These palms are an Historical issue as well as Safety for residents on the ground and the Community. The Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (ALUCP) is dual PURPOSE by Federal Law..it also serves “for the Safety of Residents Below” takeoff & landing areas! Whereas in Balboa Park, trees are cut, they are at a considerable distance from residential areas (in the Park) and builders have may have provided waivers before building. Here the Palms are both HISTORIC and Individual Homes, and Schools (DENSE Populations) are near or ADJACENT! The Public must have (by the BROWN ACT) definitive, Open Involvement in any such decision which can easily affect their investments (homes) or lives!

These are the FAA’s ‘rules’ for ALTITUDES in Densely Populated Areas: FAA Home ? Airports ? What are the FAA guidelines with regard to flight safety altitudes? 600 ft above my school/house just doesn’t seem to me to meet the guidelines concerning the safety of those on the ground.
FAA Response:The Federal Aviation Regulations do not prescribe minimum altitudes for aircraft when necessary for takeoff and landing. Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 91 prescribes the rules governing the operation of aircraft.
Sec. 91.119 – Minimum safe altitudes: General.
Except when necessary for takeoff or landing,no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:
(a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.
(c) Over OTHER THAN congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.”

Indeed, thsee ARE RULES that FAA Airport Tower Operators and Aircraft Pilots are MANDATED to Operate Above: when it comes to SAFETY on the GROUND. An ’80-100 foot separation’ of TREES is A Minor ‘rule’ compared to the ACTUAL REQUIRED Altitudes for SAFETY (below) These ‘trees’ and the Public Safety Rules demand Respect instead of constantly being ‘tested’ & ‘pushed’ for private gain. As quite a few locals witnessed an aircraft ‘leaving Lindbergh’ in the 1970’s actually Clip a tall tree on private property upon takeoff at the top of Chatsworth, Several of these hilltop areas includes Densely-populated Local Schools and Many Residences! Allowing an ‘easy catastrophe’ upon ignoring these altitude rules is Mandatory. When that home off Chatsworth was ‘sold’ the airport finagled a deal with the new owner to ‘trim’ their trees in the early 2000’s. This is Different. These trees are owned BY the Public, who is also concerned with The Community’s Resident’s ‘SAFETY.’ UNACCEPTABLE is the answer to this question. In addition, such palms actually ‘protect’ buildings adjacent from high winds, as they bend, being used in many tropical locations by builders all over the world, including FL and HI. https://www.gardeningchannel.com/best-wind-resilient-trees-and-shrubs-list/ & https://www.treehugger.com/how-do-palm-trees-survive-hurricanes-4858412 Please educate yourselves on the LAWS. They are meant for Your Safety, no matter what ‘payoffs’ the airport operators/politicians ‘plan.’ Residents & Schools, Please: Make some of NOISE about it!


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