The scheduled removal of the ficus trees on 2nd and 4th Streets in downtown Santa Monica has been halted until October 26 by a temporary restraining order.
Jerry Rubin of Treesavers made the announcement at a special meeting held on the front lawn of Santa Monica City Hall on the evening of Friday, October 5. TV stations KTLA and KNBC were present, along with about 50 activists.
The restraining order was issued by the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, by Judge John P. Shook. According to attorney Thomas A. Nitti, who filed the petition for the order as a pro bono action, the City of Santa Monica’s attorneys were unable to mount a satisfactory defense against the Treesavers’ contention that the City had not filed the correct categorical exemptions.
The restraining order will prevent the City from cutting down or in any way removing or attempting to remove any of the ficus trees on 2nd and 4th Streets unless it can be proved that a tree is dangerous to the public.
Rubin spoke of the restraining order as a victory for the activists but cautioned that the struggle is far from over, as a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for the Superior Court at 9 a.m., October 26.
“The Chain Saw Massacre of the trees has been postponed,” said Rubin. “We’ve been given a stay of execution. But we want it to be off forever!”
He said that meetings of the Treesavers will continue (the next one is scheduled for Wednesday, October 10, 7 p.m. at the former Eddie Bauer store space at Santa Monica Place).
Environmental activist John Quigley has joined the fight to save the trees and offered to meet with those activists who are still interested in non-violent civil disobedience actions in case such actions become necessary. However, the all-night vigil and other actions planned for Monday, October 8 (the slated starting date for tree removal) were cancelled for the time being.
Rubin and Susan Hartley also met with City Landmarks staff on October 5 and filed an application for landmark designation for the trees on 2nd and 4th Streets.
Hartley said that the staff had some resistance to their determination to have all of the trees designated. Only a few trees have been designated, and a group designation would be setting a new precedent. Hartley, however, pointed to the recent landmark designation of Palisades Park, which includes many trees.
Rubin and others are hoping that another City Council vote can resolve the issue. He is urging everyone to write letters to the press and to City officials.
“We are reasonable treesavers,” he said, “but we are passionate treesavers.”