Fate of Bluebird Canyon trees debated

Bluebird Canyon residents debated Tuesday about a report from a certified arborist who had inspected city-owned trees there.

Recommendations included the removal of 11 of the 31 city-owned eucalyptus trees in the heavily wooded neighborhood, which has been divided on the issue.

The 26 residents who attended the meeting hosted Tuesday by Public Works Director Steve May at the Community Center appeared to have been brought no closer to agreement by the report.

"Some residents don't want to see any of the trees removed; others want them all removed," May said.

Arborist Ed Black's report identified the trees by number, giving a description of their condition — diseased or badly maintained — and locations that present a potential danger to people or property, which determined his recommendations.

"These are beautiful trees, and I hate to see them taken out," Black said. "I am hoping someone will replant the trees further from the road."

Black's recommendations were challenged at the meeting by tree advocates who asked for a peer review.

Resident Virginia Morse said an arborist she and her husband hired did not agree that two eucalyptus trees they cherish should be removed.

"We don't own them, but they are the view we have," Morse said. "If they are taken down we would have a better ocean view, but we love those trees.

"If they were really dangerous we would take them down, as long as it is based in fact, not in fear."

Her husband, Mace Morse, agreed to fund a peer review.

"The more heads on this, the better," Black said.

May muttered, "It's only money."

The city paid $10,000 for Black's report.

"We choose him because of his experience," said May. "He has worked for the city in the past, and he could do the work in the time frame we had."

May said that he might ask for a peer review of specific trees, but not for the entire report.

"Let's make sure we come to a conclusion that's intelligent, not just because someone did a report," said Ruben Flores, owner of Laguna Nursery.

Ted Keyes said he trusts Black's report but thinks residents from other neighborhoods should butt out of the discussion.

"This is an upper Bluebird Canyon issue," said Keyes. "A lot of people outside the neighborhood have something to say and shouldn't."

His position was disputed by Todd Green.

"Keeping this a neighborhood issue is contradictory to what the town is all about," Green said.

He said people who don't live in the canyon should not be silenced because someone thinks the trees are none of their business.

Green, a Bluebird Canyon resident for 25 years, said he and his wife moved there because it was a neighborhood and the eucalyptus trees define it.

"Eucalyptus are the dominant trees in the neighborhood," Green said. "Losing 11 of them is huge. We need a comprehensive plan."

Flores recommended phasing the removals to minimize the impact.

"When we went before the council in November, a lot of people said let's have a study," said canyon resident Sue Kempt, co-chairwoman of the city Disaster Preparedness Committee.

"We are looking at 31 trees, 11 that need to come out. Not all the trees are going to disappear," she said.

May's agenda for the meeting was to focus on safety related to tree stability — issues such as the trees falling on people, cars, structures, utility wires and roads.

Fire hazards attributed to the trees were not on the table at the meeting.

However, resident Sue Keyes said consideration should be given to fire officials' opinions that eucalyptus trees located too close to the road could impede the safe evacuation of the box canyon if some of the trees were uprooted or limbs broke, and all of them present a fire hazard.

"I thought the report by the Fire Department was important," Sue Keyes said. "We are looking at [removing] a minimal number of trees and the Fire Department feels strongly that they are a fire danger."

May asked to be notified of any trees that appear to need immediate attention before he makes his recommendations to the City Council in August.

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