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LAGUNA BEACH : Free Trees Are New Problem for City

The City Council, which historically has jealously guarded Laguna Beach’s open space, is hoping to protect the land from other possible intruders: trees.

California ReLeaf, an organization that plans to plant 20 million trees in the state this decade, has offered to donate 125 trees to the city, and Laguna Nursery agreed to plant them if the city would be responsible for their maintenance.

While accepting the gift “in concept,” council members disagreed with their staff’s suggestion that the trees be planted in undeveloped, open areas. Instead, officials indicated that the trees should be planted along Laguna Canyon Road or in more developed areas of the city.

“I don’t think we should be using our open space as a place to put things,” said Councilwoman Ann Christoph, who recommended that an open space management plan be created before such a decision is made. Pristine land can be damaged if unnatural irrigation systems are installed, Christoph said.

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“It does not look natural,” she said. “That’s not what we preserved those lands for.”

The city has acquired several thousand acres of open space over the past decade, according to a report presented to the council by City Manager Kenneth C. Frank. The areas listed as possible planting sites included Sycamore Hills, more than 400 acres east of Laguna Canyon Road where staff members suggested that 75 trees might be planted, and the property at the corner of El Toro and Laguna Canyon roads.

The council, however, voted unanimously to gather opinions from various city committees before deciding what to do about the trees.


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