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Treesavers Continue with Plans to Save Ficus Trees:

Although the Landmarks Commission has denied landmark designation for the ficus trees on 2nd and 4th Streets, Treesavers is going forward with its crusade to save the trees, according to Treesavers founder Jerry Rubin.

Rubin plans to appeal the Landmarks Commission’s decision to the City Council. “I would imagine it seems the likely date that it would be heard would be February 12,” he says. “They’re having a special meeting on January 29, so they could hypothetically put it on there.”

Appeals of Landmarks decisions have generally been made by property owners who want to demolish or alter their properties and don’t want to have their projects prevented by the regulations that apply to designated structures. The Mirror wanted to know if an applicant can appeal a Landmarks Commission decision to deny a designation.

When asked this question, Thomas Nitti, attorney for Treesavers, cited the Santa Monica Municipal Code, which states in Article 9.36.180, “An appeal to the City Council of an action of the Landmarks Commission shall be processed in accordance with the following procedure: (a) Each of the following actions by the Commission may be appealed to the City Council: (1) Any decision relating to an application for the designation of a Landmark.”

City land use attorney Barry Rosenbaum verified the procedure and said that to his knowledge, no one has ever appealed a denial of designation.

According to Nitti, the trees will continue to be protected, despite the defeat of the landmark designation, through February 22, the date of the hearing on the Treesavers’ lawsuit against the City. The suit will be heard in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Treesavers has obtained a forester’s report from an independent forester, Alden Kelley. His report differs in its analysis of the trees’ health from that of the City’s forester, Walt Warriner. While Warriner’s report cites that growth of the tree roots and branches poses a hazard to the safety of the sidewalks, and that reconstructive pruning would result in “tree disfigurement or canopy imbalance,” Kelley’s report maintains that “most or all of the damaged trees are salvageable, with acceptable degrees of safeness.” Treesavers hopes that Kelley’s findings will be taken into consideration at the hearing.

Rubin and several members of Treesavers recently attended the State of the City luncheon hosted by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, where they talked with a number of civic leaders. “I think we made some progress talking to some of the business leaders there. Some of them sound like they’re willing to change their position on [the tree issue],” said Rubin. He added that Mayor Herb Katz told him that he was amenable to meeting with Treesavers.

In the meantime, Treesavers will continue to meet, with the next meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on February 11 at the Environment Now office, 2515 Wilshire Boulevard. Members of Treesavers will also speak at Rubin’s Activist Support Circle at 7 p.m. on January 30 at Friends’ Meeting Hall, 1440 Harvard Street.

Rubin is also seeking support for saving the trees by having people sign his 100-foot “Save the Trees” scroll. Supporters have written statements and drawn pictures of trees on the scroll. “We’ll take it to meetings and to any group who wants to see it,” says Rubin. He is willing to provide members of Treesavers as guest speakers for local organizations.

Rubin’s best hope is that the City will reconsider the plan to remove and relocate or destroy the trees.

“What it comes down to is we’d still like to work out a win-win solution. I never wanted to sue the City in the first place. I’d prefer that we resolve it in a Santa Monica environmentally friendly way.”

Treesavers may be contacted at 310.399.1000 or online at treesavers.blogspot.com.

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