178th Place in Torrance--a shady, tree-lined street--has...

178th Place in Torrance--a shady, tree-lined street--has a different look this week; the shade is gone and the only things lining the street are stumps.

And soon, streets elsewhere in the city may get the same look.

The city last month contracted to put the ax to 200 to 300 trees along streets scattered throughout the city. The trees, mostly carob and some liquidambars, are suffering from crown root rot, which can be caused by excessive watering, according to Montey Chamness, the city street department’s tree supervisor.

Over the next five years, Chamness said he expects the city to chop down thousands of trees afflicted with the ailment.


This week, workers were felling dozens of carob trees in the 178th Place neighborhood around Artesia Boulevard and Prairie Avenue.

And while city officials stress the necessity of chopping down the stricken evergreens, some residents complain that the city has taken away their shade and a buffer from the noisy San Diego Freeway.

“They are hollering about the greenhouse effect, but they are still chopping down all these trees,” said one resident who would not give her name. “The place looks like a desert.”

The root rot was discovered about three months ago during a routine inspection of city trees, Chamness said. “It’s basically scattered around the city,” he said.


Chamness said the problem’s roots go back 30 years, when large residential sections of the city were being developed. A tree-planting ordinance required developers to plant trees in front of every house along residential streets. The type of tree was selected by the city, which, lacking a horticulturist, chose a cheap and durable tree: the carob.

Carob trees, which have a rough, dark, reddish-brown bark and wide round leaves, are native to the Mediterranean region, where they thrive in heat and dry soil. The trees’ long brown pods contain a bean that is ground into a meal used to make a chocolate substitute.

But carob trees are susceptible to root rot, especially when they are more than 30 years old, Chamness said.

Once the trees are felled, the city will replace them with six- to 10-feet-tall eucalyptus trees, fern pines, Bradford pears and palm trees, which are less susceptible to root rot and cause less damage to sidewalks, Chamness said.

But it will take about 30 years before the new trees match the size and height of their mourned predecessors.