Southern California Edison has delayed the removal of five of the estimated 100 eucalyptus trees in Bluebird Canyon.
The removal, which was scheduled for Thursday, was opposed by environmentalists and irate canyon residents, some of whom appealed to the City Council at Tuesday's meeting to intervene. Although the council took no action, and in fact has no veto power over Edison projects, public opposition resonated with the utility.
"Our arborist, David Faasua, is not proceeding until he gets clarification on candidate trees for the historical list and looks into the California Environmental Act form given to Edison," said SCE's regional manager, Steve Nelson. "The trees probably won't be removed before the end of the year while we investigate."
However, routine maintenance will be performed on trees in proximity to high-voltage poles to maintain clearance, Nelson added.
Edison based its original intent to cut down the trees on a survey that indicated a threat to nearby power lines, which could start a fire, or fall across the one road in and out of the canyon, blocking access by emergency vehicles and the evacuation of endangered residents.
"We were told that if anyone tried to chop down the trees, we were to contact Edison," said jubilant canyon resident Eleanor Henry.
The issue was not on the council agenda, but five speakers opposed the removal of the eucalyptus trees during the public communication period.
"The trees won't fall down if they are laced," Henry said. "They haven't been trimmed in 10 years. Ficus trees downtown get trimmed every year."
Sheryl Seltzer gathered signatures from 20 canyon residents who opposed the removal of the trees without further study.
"Put it on hold," she said. "Hire an arborist."
Mace Morse said people moved into Bluebird Canyon knowing the dangers of narrow roads with only one way in or out in an emergency, and they still chose to live there.
He said 40 residents signed his petition, asking the council to take a second look at what they consider the rash decision to support the removal of the trees.
"Those trees make Bluebird Canyon," said Stacy Brettin. "If they are removed, we'd be like every other city."
City Manager John Pietig said the city has been put on notice of a dangerous situation, and the staff concurred.
"The city would be in a very bad position if anything happened," Pietig said. "A few months ago, a tree fell on a women who resides in Bluebird Canyon. The tree did have an arborist's report three or four years before that said it was fine. But a branch fell and hit the woman in the head."
Councilwoman Verna Rollinger opined that the removal of five trees would not have much of an impact on the canyon's fuel load and said an arborist should be consulted.
Public Works Director Steve May also endorsed the Edison proposal, calling it a safety measure.