City: No Plans to Remove Ficus Trees Along Green Street

City seeks input as to whether or not to continue planting “Ficus microcarpa” trees along Green Street

Published : Wednesday, July 11, 2018 | 5:49 AM

Despite a planned community meeting to discuss their future, Pasadena tree lovers should not fear for the hundreds of ficus trees lining Green Street, city officials said this week.

None of the 247 ficus trees on Green Street, along with the 476 others in the city, is slated for removal, according to Charles Peretz, public works administrator.

The City of Pasadena has scheduled a Ficus Tree community meeting for Wednesday, July 25 at 6 p.m. at the Central Library Donald R. Wright Auditorium 285 E. Walnut. The meeting will focus on the Green Street ficus tree canopy, said Peretz.

“The city wants to solicit public input regarding the advantages and challenges that the ficus trees on Green Street pose.” Peretz told Pasadena Now Tuesday. “We want the community’s input to help us assess whether or not it would be appropriate to amend our master street tree plan, or whether we should retain it as is and continue the practice of planting ficus trees.

The Green Street ficus trees provide an impressive shade canopy, says Peretz, but also create maintenance issues.

Peretz emphasized that the result of any community input, or any proposed actions, would not involve the removal of any of the existing trees.

“This is simply going forward when there are vacancies in the area of decision as to what species would be planted in those vacancies,” Peretz explained.

The city doesn’t have any ficus alternatives to offer up at this stage. Peretz said the focus remains on the core issue: are the ficus acceptable to the public?

“If the community indicates that planting a different species is what’s appropriate, we then start to ask questions about what characteristics, and what types of species are community members desirous of, and then we go from there,” Peretz explained.

Activist Lori Paul says the City is asking the wrong questions, and too late.

“What [the City is] not considering is history,” says Paul. “Would you want to design a new town or community today and plant ficus or Indian little fig or any of the ficus species that grow to be very large trees? Probably not. They do require more space.”

Paul continued, “The right question is, ‘Do we want to change the shaded historical character of Green Street by changing the species of tree in the midst of the preservation of the character of the city?’ And you know, my answer would be ‘no.’ “

She explained that with mature, large ficus trees, it becomes necessary to replace some from time to time due to damage or disease.

Replacing a ficus with a different tree which presents a smaller profile with less of a canopy “would forever change the character of Green Street,” she said.

Taking an even longer view of the situation, Paul offered, “Right now people are flocking to Green Street during this intense heat wave. Everybody goes into a parking lot and wants to park under the shade.

“And so,” Paul continued, “these are heat island effects in cities, and we can reduce the heat island effect by planting these large shade species that those of us who are of a certain age, remember. We used to go to May Company in Los Angeles or to Pasadena and these old communities were urban communities that had these huge shade trees that you could park under.”

Noted Paul, “All you need to do is look at a cityscape in an old Laurel and Hardy movie, and you can see these street trees. And unfortunately we’ve given up our commitment. Trees are the answer, and unfortunately no one wants to allow the land and the space necessary.”

According to Peretz, following the community meetings, the Public Works department would bring the issue to the Urban Forestry Advisory Committee with a staff recommendation.

The City, said Peretz, would then schedule a public meeting of the Design Commission to share both the City staff recommendation and the advisory recommendation of the urban forestry committee.

Peretz added, “Public Works would then present its recommendations at a public meeting of the city council where we would share the recommendations of both the committee and the commission, along with the input received from the public, and the staff’s recommendation for the council to consider.”

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