San Marino to replace 35 ficus trees along Huntington Drive

San Marino’s Huntington Drive is in for a dramatic face-lift next year under a city plan to cut down 35 decades-old ficus trees that business owners blame for damaging sidewalks and buildings, leaving messy droppings and obscuring signs.

But not everyone is happy to see the trees go. Some residents argue that the large-canopy ficus provide valuable shade and contribute to San Marino’s character.


Trees along the south side of Huntington between Kenilworth and Del Mar avenues, and on the north side of Huntington from Kenilworth to Ridgeway Road, are targeted for removal. Five or six trees on the two blocks between Bedford and Monterey roads also would go.

Officials plan to replace the ficus trees with a variety of Chinese pistache that will eventually grow to a similar three-story height but with a lacier canopy, less invasive roots and no troublesome berries dropping off, said city arborist Ron Serven.

The pistache, a deciduous species with leaves that change color in the fall, would be 10 to 12 feet tall when planted, similar to pistache already used to replace three problematic ficus trees on Mission Street, Serven said.

Serven estimated the targeted ficus trees are 50 to 60 years old.

Resident Miriam Nakamura-Quan objected to the plan, saying the ficus shield traffic emissions and noise while also concealing dilapidated building facades.

“When the trees are cut down, they will reveal old, outdated and ugly storefronts,” said Nakamura-Quan.

But the council’s decision was a relief for Kraemer Jewelers owner Steve Gilmore, who said the ficus trees have presented problems throughout the business’ 50-year history.

“Anybody who does business on that sidewalk doesn’t like these trees,” he said. “Leaves I can deal with, but the lady who took a header in front of my store? That stuff is going to go on forever” until the ficus trees are removed.