HANNAH HEINEMAN, Mirror Contributing Writer
Community members joined Santa Monica’s Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force on January 23 for the first-ever tour of Santa Monica’s urban forest.
Santa Monica’s City Council created the Task Force to help with the development of a long-range master plan to help ensure the City’s urban forest is perpetuated.
The chair of the Task Force, former Mayor Judy Abdo, told the Mirror the goal of the tour was to “give the Task Force’s members [and others] an overview of the urban forest of the City.”
The comprehensive four-hour tour covered all the City’s neighborhoods and a variety of the City’s street trees. According to Walt Warriner, the City’s Community Forest and Public Landscape Superintendent, Santa Monica’s current tree population is 33,802. Street trees make up 88 percent of the urban forest and 12 percent are park trees. He also stated that the average life of a street tree is 60 years. Tree roots frequently disturb the hardscape surrounding the tree and so the City has to prune the tree’s roots. This pruning can eventually lead to the decay of the street tree.
The tour began on Airport Avenue with a view of the date palms that had been planted as part of the improvements for that avenue. Warriner noted that the carob trees that are in a state of decline there would eventually be removed “as the streetscape design there moves further west.” He also discussed the 2,000 trees the City planted in 1999 and 2000 to commemorate the millennium. The tour drove by those that were planted in the 23rd Street medians.
Tour participants also had the opportunity to stop at a 90-year-old Eucalyptus Cornuta tree at Hill and 14th Streets. They then continued on to Ocean Park Boulevard and heard a brief presentation by City Planner Peter James on the Ocean Park Boulevard streetscape project. The goal of the project is to increase the permeable area on the boulevard and make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Right now there are 75 trees on the boulevard and nine of them will be replaced. More trees are also going to be planted. The Task Force will be reviewing the plan before it goes forward.
Warriner also discussed what would happen to the trees that are part of the landscape surrounding Santa Monica Place after its remodel. The magnolias will be protected when Macy’s is converted to Bloomingdale’s but the palm trees in the planter at 4th Street and Colorado will be moved. Trees from the Nordstrom’s area were moved to Virginia Avenue Park.
Another stop was at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel so all the tour participants could view the Moreton Bay Fig Tree that was designated a historic landmark by Santa Monica’s Landmarks Commission in 1976. Senator John P. Jones, the founder of Santa Monica, planted the tree in 1897. The tour also stopped at the cedar tree that was planted in 1912 and landmarked in 2002 at 918 5th Street.
The tour concluded with a drive by the palm trees that line Palisades Park and the area from the Pier to Venice.
For this fiscal year the City’s Community Forest Operations plans on trimming approximately 8,000 trees citywide, removing and replacing an estimate of 300 trees, and planting an additional 50 new trees. The current annual tree-pruning budget is $1 million.
After the tour Santa Monica Treesavers co-founder Susan Hartley stated, “The tour reaffirmed how fortunate Santa Monica is to have such an incredible public and private urban forest and our absolute need to protect, preserve and enhance it. What a breathtaking way to spend a Saturday.”
Contact Hannah Heineman