Inspectors Find Evidence of Dry Rot, Decay, Fungus and Termites : Residents Oppose County Plan to Remove 326 Diseased Carob Trees

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works plans to cut down 326 diseased carob trees in front of homes in View Park and Windsor Hills despite objections by many property owners who argue that the removal will lower property values.

Alan Kelm, a county engineer, said the department ordered removal of the trees because the county might be held liable if a diseased tree fell, causing injuries or property damage.

"No one likes to lose mature trees in front of their houses, but the trees are unsafe and we have no choice," he said.

'Devalues Property'

County inspectors surveyed the carob trees late last summer and found evidence of dry rot, decay, fungus, termites and other maladies. The inspectors spray painted a red letter R , symbolizing removal, on each of the diseased trees. Many of them are more than 20 feet tall and more than 50 years old.

Residents, who are fighting the plan to cut down their trees, have dubbed the red markings "the scarlet letter."

"When you cut down a fully grown tree, it devalues the property," said Mary Jones, a View Park resident. "Why are they in such a hurry to cut down our trees?"

The county, which is responsible for maintaining trees on parkway areas between the curb and sidewalk, has offered to replace them with a variety of other young tree such as magnolias, Mexican fan palms, Raywood ash or claret ash, crape myrtles and jacarandas.

The offer was not enough to satisfy many of the residents.

"You can't replace a big tree with one of those little 8-foot trees and say it is even," said Leon Davis, whose large carob is slated for removal. "Trees are one of the reasons why people buy homes in established neighborhoods. It takes years to grow a tree."

The decision to remove the trees has the support of Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, whose 2nd District includes the View Park and Windsor Hills communities. "I know how important trees are in an urban community," he said. "However, human life is even more important and we must not risk injury or death that could be caused by the falling of a diseased tree."

8% Under Jurisdiction

The 326 trees slated for cutting represent 8% of the 4,200 trees under county jurisdiction in the View Park and Windsor Hill communities, said county engineer Bjorn Evensen.

"It is not like we are denuding the whole area," he said. "It is a fact of life that trees can only last so long, and these trees have a life span of about 30 years."

Evensen said the county plans to spend $500,000 to remove the old trees, plant new ones and make repairs to the sidewalks.

Removal of the trees has been delayed until after a meeting with community residents at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Knox Presbyterian Church, 5840 La Tijera Blvd.

"We believe that those trees which pose a threat should be removed, but we don't believe that all 300 trees need to be cut down," said Victor Parker, president of the United Homeowners Assn., a community group representing the View Park and Windsor Hills areas.

'None Knocked Down'

"They say that the trees are weak, but we have had a major earthquake and three major windstorms with winds 50 to 60 m.p.h. and none of the trees have been knocked down," he said.

Parker said residents were upset because they were never given an option to keep the trees. "We were just given two choices of whether we wanted a replacement tree or not," he said.

To ease the concerns, the county asked John W. Provine, superintendent of the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum, to review the findings. He agreed that the trees had to be removed. "Every one marked was in very bad condition," he said. "Most of the trees are so weak that they could fall at any time."

Provine said the carob was not well suited for planting in small parkways where they do not have enough room for their roots and tend to be over-watered. The carob tree ( Ceratonia siliqua ) is native to the eastern Mediterranean and best known for bearing long, flat, leathery pods with a sweet pulp used in making a chocolate substitute.

The trees scheduled for removal are on Addington Way, Angeles Vista Boulevard, Athenian Way, Aureola Boulevard, Bradna Drive, Brynhurst Avenue, Chanson Drive, Chesley Avenue, Circle View Boulevard, Crestway Drive, Crestwold Avenue, Enoro Drive, Escalon Avenue and Fairland Boulevard.

Also, Fairway Boulevard, Floresta Avenue, Floresta Way, Hillcrest Drive, Homeland Drive, Inadale Avenue, Keniston Avenue, Kenway Avenue, Knollcrest Avenue, Lorado Way, Marvale Drive and Maymont Drive.

Also, Monteith Drive, Mount Vernon Drive, Mullen Avenue, Northland Drive, Northridge Drive, Olympiad Drive, Overdale Drive, Parkglen Avenue, Presidio Drive, Southridge Avenue, Springdale Drive, Stocker Street, Valleydale Avenue, Valley Ridge Avenue, Verdun Avenue, Victoria Avenue, Vista de Oro Avenue, West Boulevard, Westmount Avenue and 62nd Street.

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