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Olberz Park tree, at ‘gateway’ to new City Hall, looking worse for wear a decade after replanting

Olberz Park tree, at ‘gateway’ to new City Hall, looking worse for wear a decade after replanting
A photo from the Valley Sun archives, left, shows the deodar cedar tree at Olberz Park in La Cañada Flintridge's Town Center before its replanting in 2007. At right, a photo of the same tree taken in June 2018. (File Photo)

As La Cañada Flintridge city employees prepare for a move later this year into a new city hall building in the Town Center, great care is being taken to ensure the new location is move-in ready.

Crews have emptied the former Sport Chalet corporate headquarters of its old office furniture, while plans ramp up for a $6.45-million renovation that will make the new space picture perfect and welcoming to all.

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But a majestic deodar cedar tree in the center of Olberz Park — essentially the front lawn of the new City Hall — is looking a little ragged these days, causing city officials to double down on their efforts to save it.

Reportedly taken from a residential property that once occupied the Town Center acreage before its development and replanted for posterity in 2007, the 60-foot city tree was inspected in January 2016 after staff and crews removing holiday lights from it noticed it wasn’t looking well, according to Patrick DeChellis, the city’s recently hired public works director.

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“The tree looked in poor condition, so it was brought to our attention. My understanding is, back in 2016, it looked a heck of a lot worse than it does today,” DeChellis said.

The inspection found the deodar was showing “low temperature damage” but was still producing new needles. A combination fungicide, insecticide and liquid fertilizer was applied later that month and again in March 2017 (along with soil probiotics) to help protect the tree while it was “under stress.” A third treatment was applied in February, city records indicate.

“We’re watching this one, and we’re going to get an updated arborist’s report,” DeChellis said, adding that results could be made available as soon as next week.

According to Valley Sun reports on the Town Center’s development in 2007, the 230,000-pound tree was moved from one part of the land to another, where the city planned to build Olberz Park to honor Sport Chalet founder and property owner Norbert Olberz.

La Cañada-based Mattix Development Partners, LLC, was the project developer selected to build the Sport Chalet-anchored shopping center after previous efforts failed to garner enough community support.

“We were not required to move that tree,” developer Darren Mattix said at the time. “But that deodar was so spectacular and so healthy we thought [saving it] was the right thing to do. But it wasn't the cheapest.”

DeChellis said Tuesday the city hopes to preserve what’s become a de facto local landmark.

“That is going to be the new City Hall and, as such, [Olberz Park] is practically the gateway to enter the new City Hall — it is important to the city that this tree survives,” he said.

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