Commentary: Trees integral to Laguna's charm

Around 10 years ago the residents of Balboa Peninsula were stunned to awaken one morning to find the city cutting down all of its grand old ficus trees.

At the time a Laguna Beach councilmember was quoted in the paper saying, "We could never do that here, could you imagine the uproar?"

Now it appears our city leaders have decided to do just that. I received a map of downtown, which shows eight trees to be replaced in the downtown area. Three of the four are ficus trees on Mermaid Street. Three of the beauties are on Ocean Avenue. Two eucalyptus trees are on Forest Avenue, including one that so beautifully frames the clock.

The excuse being given is that they have "outgrown their planters." A recent article in one of the newspapers stated that the Planning Commission is looking at the feasibility of removing the four trees in front of the old Big Dog building for the new restaurant coming in.

Commissioner Robert Zur Schmiede called the trees "gargantuan." What is wrong with gargantuan trees? I understand that the sidewalks must be replaced upon occasion but I think it's a small price to pay for such a wonderful shady downtown area.

I have never heard of a single broken pipe or any of the other reasons often given for the removal of these trees ever happening downtown. Sadly, by the time people read this I fear the destruction will have been done.

And I find it inexcusable that there was no opportunity for public discussion on this matter. Take a walk from Whole Foods to the newsstand and really soak it in. After you pass Wells Fargo there is a barren stretch in front of Laguna Drug's parking lot with one sad little tree. No shade, no birds, no charm.

Now envision the entire street like this. And forget about the beautiful lights at Christmas; how do you string lights to a 6-foot high tree? While it is probably too late to save the eight that are slated to be felled, I urge you to contact the City Council before all of our old trees are gone — before it is too late.

Perhaps once we have a better view of the hideous BofA building, people will have a better idea of where we are headed.

JASON PANNELL is a resident of Laguna Beach.

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