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New track might force removal of mature trees

A handful of half-century-old trees on North Keystone Street could be removed this summer because officials say their roots and canopies will likely damage a new track planned for John Burroughs High School.

A dozen of the Camphor trees along the 300 block of North Keystone Street line the sidewalk across from residential homes and will hang over the new track at Memorial Field, which is under construction.

If the City Council delays the issue any longer, officials say the sidewalk along that block of North Keystone Street — often used for physical conditioning for athletic teams and by students walking to and from school — will be closed for the beginning of the school year.

Debris from five of the trees — such as twigs, leaves and berries — could damage the track and prove difficult to clean. And underground root structures could damage the synthetic track and field surfaces, according to the city.


“I would err on the side of safety just because of the cost factor involved here,” said Mayor Jess Talamantes, who also sits on the project’s committee. “It’s just one of those things where I would hate for something to happen five, six, seven years down the road and all of a sudden that track lifting up due to roots when it could have been averted.”

Some residents on the block disagreed.

Barbara Buchanan, who has lived in her home for 20 years, acknowledged that the trees were messy, but argued it would be a shame to cut them down.

“It’s true they can be invasive and they can be tenacious, but they provide great shade,” Buchanan said. “I really hope they don’t cut them down, and I don’t think alternatives will provide nearly as much benefit for the shade or the atmosphere.”


Although the mature trees provide shade and environmental benefits, school and city officials argue that the limbs of the tress are “too large to consider trimming or removing without adversely impacting the tree’s health.” That leaves them with two options: daily maintenance on the track, which will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., or remove the trees entirely.

The school district agreed to plant 50 new trees around the campus and affected area if five of the large Camphors are removed.

“It has the potential to not only increase costs and not only create ongoing maintenance costs for the school district and for the city if we share in those, but it has the potential now to delay the completion of the project as well,” said Burbank Unified School District Supt. Stan Carrizosa. “I think we’ve all been very hopeful the trees and the track project were going to be more compatible than they are.”

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the project June 28 at City Hall.