Before organizers could mount a planned protest Saturday, Pasadena public works crews moved in Friday night to cut down about 15 ficus trees along Colorado Boulevard, famed across America as the Rose Parade route. The mature ficus trees had been the focus of much community debate after merchants demanded their removal because the trees were obscuring signs, wrecking sidewalks and damaging plumbing.

Ficus supporters say that the trees provide shade and beauty and that the problems could be dealt with in other ways, such as installing rubberized sidewalks to help accommodate root growth and keeping the trees trimmed.

"We should rename Colorado 'Bleak Street,' " said resident Christle Balvin. "We've lost our shade canopy. If I were a business owner, I would no longer want to locate on this strip. . . . It just looks awful."

The city plans in coming weeks to replace 38 mature ficus and carrotwood trees with palm and ginkgo trees. Many of the cut trees had been in front of Vroman's bookstore, a city institution. Vroman's employees released a statement criticizing the decision to remove the trees.

The protest went on as planned Saturday, with organizer Branislav Kecman, a Caltech physicist, gathering signatures on a petition to save the remaining trees.

City officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

-- Martha Groves

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