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Camphor trees back in Burbank spotlight

A decision by Burbank City Council members last year to not remove a row of trees despite concerns the foliage would damage a new multi-million stadium at Burroughs High School has caught up with them.


FOR THE RECORD: This story incorrectly spells Vahe Hovanessian’s name.



Mere weeks before the $12-million Memorial Field remodel is set to open, it has become clear to stakeholders — including some on the City Council — that debris and berries from the Camphor trees is marring the site, even as construction on the track remains ongoing.

Debris from the nearby trees could even threaten a warranty negotiated between Burbank Unified and its contractor for the new track, district officials say.

The news has fueled a spat between school and city officials over whether the trees should be removed. In July, the City Council voted 3-2 to keep them despite concerns that roots and droppings could mar the athletic facility.

“What I refuse to allow happen is for this community not to understand who the culprit is in this particular vignette,” school board member Larry Applebaum said in an interview last week. “This is not the school district, this is the city controlling what the city has rightful control over and choosing not to do anything, which is going to cost the taxpayers for decades to come.”


Applebaum and others reiterated this week their request that the city remove some or all of the dozen Camphor trees on North Keystone Street. They are dropping berries that are staining newly laid cement walkways and hampering the complicated, multi-layer installation of a new, all-weather track, they said.

“If there is material that should drop and stick to that surface, and we can’t get it off before it adheres, then it has the potential to compromise how [the final layers] would adhere,” Burbank Unified Supt. Stan Carrizosa said.

The contractor has said he might chose to invoke a provision in the contract that would protect against issuing a full warranty because of the interference, Carrizosa said.

“If we had a 100% warranty, they might choose, based on how they were able to apply it, to make it an 80% warranty because of the impact that any of the debris might have had on the application,” Carrizosa said.

The superintendent likened the berry stains to a ding in a new car, adding that the district does not have the budget for a full-time, on-site maintenance worker.

Carrizosa said that the district would pay to plant 10 new trees of a different species for every one Camphor that is removed.

During a City Council meeting last week, resident Vahe Hovenessian said that the situation is urgent and the decision should be obvious.

“Replace them with beautiful trees that are going to grow, and if anything, dedicate those beautiful trees to all the different wars to surround our Memorial Field,” Hovenessian said. “Let’s take the opportunity and do something positive with it, as opposed to having a fight over whether trees are good or bad.”


The council did vote to review their original decision, making good on a promise to do so if any new information surfaced. The original vote to keep the trees was based on a recommendation from parks and recreational officials who said their impact could be mitigated through aggressive trimming and other maintenance.

Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy, who originally voted to keep the trees, described them as a community asset.

“The whole field and all the donations were done for the students and the community as a whole,” Gabel-Luddy said. “I am sure no one has lost sight of that. It is probably going to come down to whether or not the surface can be maintained.”

Others said the evidence was compelling, but stopped short of saying how they would vote during the meeting tomorrow.

“I was alarmed when I saw what was on that concrete,” Mayor Jess Talamantes, who also originally voted to keep them, said in an interview. “I am thinking, ‘Boy, this has only been down three weeks, think what it is going to look like three, five, 10 years from now.’”