Woodland Hills Loses Some of Its Signature Trees


City crews began cutting down 39 diseased California pepper trees Tuesday along a stretch of Canoga Avenue from Ventura Boulevard to Arcos Drive that historians say are part of an original grove that gave Woodland Hills its name.

The trees--sealed off with yellow warning tape and barricades--are close to death and will be removed, said Robert Wallace, an arborist hired by the city to inspect the decades-old trees.

Some residents argued at a public meeting Monday that the 300 trees on Canoga Avenue hold historic value and the city should find a way to save them. Gordon Murley, president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, said that when he moved into his home in 1966, pepper trees stretched overhead from each side of Canoga Avenue.


“The pepper trees used to go down to Victory Boulevard. It was beautiful,” Murley said. “It was almost a canopy.”

A 1982 account in “The History of Woodland Hills and Girard” by Richard Cacioppo details how the original 1920s community of Girard came to be renamed Woodland Hills because of trees planted by developer Victor Girard.

Girard marketed the arid 2,886-acre West Valley ranchland south of Ventura Boulevard as a weekend retreat for Los Angeles residents through his Boulevard Land Co. He realized it needed trees to have a real country look for potential buyers.

Under Girard’s plan, pepper trees were lined up along Canoga Avenue between Victory Boulevard on the north and Mulholland Drive on the south. When Warner Center was developed in the 1970s, the pepper trees between Victory and Ventura boulevards were chopped down to widen the two-lane street.

City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski called Monday’s meeting, attended by about 25 residents, to inform the public of the need to remove 39 of the 167 trees Wallace inspected. The remaining trees will be pruned and monitored for decay and possible removal, said George Gonzalez, chief forester for the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services.

“As a consulting arborist, I’m putting my name on the line saying these 39 trees should be removed based on my life experiences,” Wallace said Monday night. “A few days ago, one of the trees suggested for removal fell. Thank God the homeowner wasn’t driving up when that tree fell.” The tree fell on Jan. 12 in the 5000 block of Canoga, Gonzalez said.


No matter how beautiful they are or once were, the pepper trees pose a hazard for which the city does not want to be held liable, officials said.

Gonzalez said the process of removing the trees and grinding the stumps should take about two weeks, and new trees will be planted in their place, he said.

California pepper trees will be replanted where possible, he said.