Fig tree hacked

La Crescenta leaders on Friday raced to save a prized Moreton Bay fig tree that has found itself in the middle of a tug-of-war between developers who want it cleared out and residents who say it's a living, natural artifact.

Residents have been rallying for the 100-year-old tree at 2620 Foothill Blvd. since early summer, when a previous developer started excavation work on a controversial project. Supporters of the fig feared then that it had been irreparably harmed by the cut branches and excavation work, but it survived.

But on Friday, crews arrived on behalf of a new developer and started hacking. Within minutes, the tree's supporters reacted in swift fashion, calling friends and mobilizing a community rally.

But by the afternoon, it appeared it might all be too late. Combined with the prune earlier this year, the tree had lost nearly half its mass, with huge trunk-sized branches covering the ground below.

Mike O'Bannon of La Crescenta stopped as he walked his dog past the lot, gawking at the pruned tree.

"Look at that big giant trunk they took off; it's insane," he said.

In arguing for the fig tree, community leaders have said that recently adopted design and development rules for the Foothill Boulevard corridor protect mature trees, and that county officials should step in and halt the work.

But a representative for Los Angeles-based Newstar Realty & Investment, which took over the property, said the company got the go-ahead from Los Angeles County officials to cut down the two front trees on the property.

Removing the trees would increase the building's visibility, he added.

A representative for the county planning department could not be reached Friday night.

Tree supporters said they planned to organize at the site Saturday morning in an attempt to prevent crews from starting back up. They had already planned to rally, but some said they had been assured the Moreton Bay fig was not to be included in the group of cut trees.

Friday evening, after the crew had stopped working for the day, the disappointment had reached a new water mark.

"It's been a tree this community has loved for a long time," Danette Erickson, a member of the Crescenta Valley Town Council, said as she took stock of the damage. "I'm sure when the community sees this, they will be outraged."

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