A giant deodar cedar tree — a local landmark known intimately by students and teachers of the La Cañada Flintridge Community Center Preschool — will soon be cut down after a heavy branch fell last week, striking a wooden playhouse.
Maureen Bond, executive director of the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge, said the damage took place sometime overnight on April 25 while the facility was unoccupied. The center's board of directors, which happened to meet later that same day, sprang into action and called for immediate removal of the tree.
"Now that we know, we have to act," Bond said.
The center commissioned an arborist's report, which indicated the over-mature tree had an apparent history of branch failure, likely due to past incidents of drought, improper pruning and uneven hydration. The report concluded the tree's being in the constant presence of children constituted a high risk and recommended its removal.
Report in hand, Bond sought advice from the Public Works Department, since the preschool sits on land owned by the city of La Cañada Flintridge and leased to the community center.
Interim Public Works Director Jesus Armas said Tuesday while deodar cedars are not a protected species in that section of town, the tree's removal would still require permission because it's located on public property. Rules regarding trees in the public right-of-way were applied in this case, and the arborist's recommendation for removal was considered.
"With that estimation, and our concern about the potential harm to children, we authorized its removal," Armas said.
Under the terms of the city's lease agreement with the center, Community Center officials are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the property, Armas said, including covering the cost of the arborist's report and the tree removal.
Bond estimated the removal could cost as much as $5,000 but said officials were not concerned with the cost if it meant keeping preschool staff and students safe.
"We are all saddened to see this gorgeous tree removed," she said. "[But] we are about saving lives, and that is what this is about."
Bond said the Community Center's board will discuss in the future whether to replace the deodar with another smaller tree or examine other shade options for the preschool play yard.