The idea of the March 5 sit-in at the lobby of Santa Monica City Hall, according to Treesavers organizer Jerry Rubin, was “Tree Dialogue Not Tree Destruction.” The hoped-for dialogue between Treesavers and the City has not yet come about, but the sit-in did result in an exchange between the activists and Councilmember Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom.
Bloom, who was returning from a meeting about storm run-off in Malibu, said he had not been prepared for what he encountered when he entered the City Hall lobby shortly after 5 p.m. Treesaver activists sat on benches and on the floor. As they held up “Save The Trees” signs, they were watched over by police officers and photographed by members of the press.
Bloom arrived as Rubin was talking to the assembled activists, telling them that they had to “double and triple” their efforts to bring about a “town hall meeting” at which the fate of the ficus trees on 2nd and 4th Streets would be the subject of discussion that might change the City Council’s resolve to relocate and cut down some of the trees.
When Rubin asked Bloom to try to bring about a new Council vote on the tree action, he replied, “I’m only one of seven,” adding that the prevailing opinion on the Council is that the trees designated for removal must be removed.
“I realize we have a difference of opinion,” said Bloom. “I don’t think that I can change most of your minds or that you can change my mind.”
With Bloom still in the room, however, many of the activists wanted to question him on what might happen next and what he might be able to do.
Bloom was asked if he knew when the trees slated for destruction were to be cut down. He replied that he did not have this information. Treesavers members have been taking turns watching the trees on 2nd and 4th Streets, in case workers begin work on the trees at any time.
One activist, Hilary Kaye, asked him: “You said your mind could not be changed by us. We are the people who elected you.” She wondered why Bloom could not respond to the opinions of the people who had elected him.
Bloom replied that while it was obvious that both he and the Treesavers had analyzed the problem very carefully, they still had differences of opinion and that the decision that had been made by him and others “ought to be respected.”
Treesaver Michelle Modglin said: “There wasn’t enough public input [before the decision was made].” She noted that although the City had send notification to tenants within 500 feet of the trees scheduled for work, the location of the trees in the downtown business area meant that most Santa Monica residents were not notified.
“People feel we live in a country that does not listen to us,” Modglin added.
Someone else brought up the idea of letting the voters decide the fate of the trees with an initiative. Bloom said he thought this idea would not be feasible, as the activism of the Treesavers would be pitted against an opposition capable of raising more money.
In the end, Bloom and the Treesavers listened to one another, but neither side’s opinions changed. Rubin thanked Bloom for his time, Bloom left, and a number of the activists stayed for the Planning Commission meeting, where they hoped to garner more support.
The next Treesavers meeting will be March 20 (“the spring equinox”), 7 p.m., at the Ken Edwards Center.