It’s been a year since the term “Treesavers” came into Santa Monica’s vocabulary. The group was formed on September 12, 2007 in response to the City’s plan to remove and/or relocate over 50 ficus trees on 2nd and 4th Streets in the downtown area. Recently, the City has been relocating some of the ficuses to the Civic Center area, and Treesavers spokesperson Jerry Rubin, after chaining himself to a tree, was arrested for “willfully obstructing a police officer and interfering with City employees.” He was released on his own recognizance and is scheduled for arraignment on September 26.
Rubin and about 25 Treesavers met on September 12 at the Promenade Playhouse for a bittersweet celebration of their first year. The floor of the Playhouse stage was adorned with a tree made from green and brown frosted cupcakes, donated by Yummy Cupcakes.
Rubin gave a brief history of the group’s actions and his legal dilemma. “I don’t have an attorney yet,” he said. “If I have to, I will represent myself. I’m willing to do community service.” But he hoped that the City would drop the charges.
At this time, Rubin is continuing with his campaign for City Council.
He urged the activists not to despair and not to give up. “I think that we have done tremendous work together. Just because it isn’t the happiest of anniversaries doesn’t mean that we can’t be happy and proud.”
The best hope shared by most of the group is that Santa Monica might get a Tree Commission. The formation of such a commission is a plank in the platform of the several Treesavers who are running for City Council, including, besides Rubin, Susan Hartley, Herb Silverstein, and Linda Piera.
The Mirror asked members to comment on their experience with Treesavers and their outlook on the future. These were some of the comments received:
Gloria Lambden: “I think that the City Council is obviously aware of our presence here but it doesn’t seem to make that much difference. They are always one or two steps ahead of us, and they really don’t want to save the trees. We have an ally in Kevin McKeown; he’s a very good Councilman. But I am disillusioned with the City. They’re just not interested in dealing or taking notice of what we want. I would like to think [that things] will go bette,r but unless we get new, supportive people on the City Council, they will just be the same.”
Linda Armstrong: “It’s a positive experience to be involved with [Treesavers], but the Council ignored everybody’s wishes in spite of a thousand signatures. They just went ahead and cut them down. I still can’t understand why they did it.”
Joe Faris: “It’s been great meeting together with like minds about the trees, and though we don’t seem to have the kind of control that we would like over their destiny, it seems to me all the more important that we’ve been brought together to form a visible opposition to politics as usual.”
Some members were reticent about going on record with their feelings about the City, but they spoke of what trees meant to them: “They are selfless and giving – they don’t ask for much,” “Trees fill the palette of the earth with color,” and, “Trees give life – and ultimately they gave their lives for us.”
The meeting ended with a Treesavers walk along the two streets where the trees were removed. Rubin did not accompany the others – he has been ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from 4th Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Colorado Avenue as a condition of his “O.R.” release.