The Board of Public Works this morning approved the removal of nearly three dozen Echo Park street trees – including a towering ficus described as big enough to have its own Zip Code – and the planting of more than 100 new trees along Sunset Boulevard.
The tree removal and planting is part of a $750,000 project that will include new benches, trash cans, sidewalk improvements and other features along a 1.3-mile stretch of Sunset between Rosemont Avenue and Everett Street. While some Echo Park residents havevoiced opposition to the tree removal, no one spoke in opposition at today’s hearing.
City officials initially proposed cutting down 58 trees for a variety of reasons, including those that had damaged surrounding sidewalks or appeared to be sickly or deemed inappropriate as street trees. But the list was whittled down to 35 to preserve some large ficus that provide shade for bus passengers and pedestrians, said Christine Peters with the office of Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.
Most of the trees that will be cut down are relatively small gangly chitalpas that fared poorly on Sunset Boulevard in addition to some olive trees and a banana plant, she said. But the removal list also includes one the largest trees on Sunset Boulevard, a giant, 35-foot high ficus between McDuff Street and Laveta Terrace that stretches half-way across the street. After being shown a photo of the tree, one of the Public Works commissioners quipped, “That thing has it’s own Zip Code.”
Peters said that tree specialist had determined that the tree, which had buckled and broken the surrounding sidewalk, posed a safety hazard. “As much as we all fought to try and see what could be done to save it, the experts came back and said … it could potentially cause a public hazard and tip over.”
More than 100 new trees –a combination of Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) and Australian Willow (Geijera
parviflora) – will be planted along Sunset Boulevard as part of the project, which was financed with federal funds.