COSTA MESA : Protesters Thwart City Removal of Trees

About 15 people staged a protest Wednesday morning to save several 50-foot ficus trees in front of their warehouse, contending that the trees "make the place look like a community and not a business park."

But city authorities said the trees' root system represents a potential safety hazard by causing the sidewalk to buckle. About 10 trees lining the 1200 block of Logan Avenue had been scheduled to come down, authorities said.

"There have been lawsuits filed against the city because the trees tear up the sidewalk and people trip over it," Police Sgt. R.J. Bell said.

Five officers were summoned to the demonstration about 7:30 a.m. to "make sure neither side hurts the other side," and one protester was cited for standing in the street, Bell said.

"He was endangering himself by standing where he was standing, and he wouldn't leave," Bell said.

Employees at the Piecemakers warehouse who arrived to see city workers chopping down the ficus that provide shade and shape to the street stood in front of the trees to prevent the cutting. So city workers moved down the street to cut other trees, and warehouse employees did not try to stop them.

"If no one else on this block cares about their trees," warehouse manager Stephen Scherfee said, "that's their problem."

Scherfee, who helped organize the protest, said that he and others at the warehouse have voiced their concerns to city officials and volunteered to cut the roots to prevent them from damaging the sidewalk.

"Basically, we've just been getting the runaround," said John Ready, 40, a cabinetmaker at the business. "We think it's unfair that the city is going in and doing whatever they want and we, who spend more time here than we do at home, can't say anything about it."

The four trees in front of the warehouse were not removed Wednesday, and city officials would not say whether they will be cut down at a later date.

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