Dripping Trees to Get Spray Instead of the Ax

Times Staff Writer

They drip a sticky film on the windshields of parked cars and drop slippery leaves that Culver City residents say make walking on grass and sidewalks hazardous.

The sticky substance is waste matter from thousands of aphids that feast each spring and summer on the leaves of about two dozen evergreen trees on Whitburn Street. Thirty-four Whitburn residents have signed a petition urging the city to replace the trees with another species.

But the City Council on Monday ordered that the trees be sprayed three times and fertilized for a year at a cost of $25 per tree. The council will decide in a year whether to replace the trees.

The plan passed 4-1, with Councilman Richard R. Brundo the lone dissenter. Brundo said that the city should remove the trees, but replace them at the residents' expense. The city-owned trees are in a parkway between the sidewalk and the street.

Professor Testifies

Edwin Tarvyd, a Whitburn Street resident and Santa Monica College biology professor who testified before the council about problems caused by the trees, said he was satisfied by the city action.

"I'm happy they are giving the trees a chance. I thought that they were going to pass the buck," he said.

Under Culver City law, the city can't remove city trees unless they are stressed or dying due to disease or unless they pose a threat to safety. Officials from the city Municipal Services Department said the Whitburn trees were neither stressed nor a safety hazard.

Because the trees are infested by aphids, the solution was to keep spraying them as needed, the staff reported, and although the waste matter from the aphids was a "nuisance," it did not warrant removal of the trees.

Residents, however, maintain that the sticky film and slippery leaves make the trees hazardous, and that the trees are sickly, their growth stunted.

Tarvyd, who brought three tree reference books to the City Council meeting and a copy of a tree survey conducted by the city in 1977, said that the trees, called diamondleaf, were brought to the area 35 years ago from eastern Australia, which has a tropical climate.

Because California has a milder climate with less rainfall, the trees are less bushy and grew to a height of only 20 feet--one fourth their maximum size, he said.

Tarvyd said that aphids excrete a sugary substance that sticks to leaves. He said the leaves stick to the bottoms of residents shoes and are tracked into homes and soil carpets.

He said that many people have slipped on the leaves over the years, although no one has been seriously hurt. The tree in front of his house drips onto his car, forcing him to clean his windshield each morning, he said.

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