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Removal of old tree on Torrey Pines Road prompts concern and city presentation at LJCPA

A eucalyptus tree was removed from this location along Torrey Pines Road, leaving one eucalyptus onsite.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Prompted by the removal of a eucalyptus tree on Torrey Pines Road, San Diego city forester Brian Widener spoke during the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s Oct. 7 meeting to explain why the tree was cut down and how the city documents and handles mature trees.

LJCPA trustee Dan Courtney raised concerns that the “close to 100-year-old” tree was removed recently from the public right of way on Torrey Pines near La Jolla Shores Drive.

“It has a real impact when these trees disappear,” Courtney said. “It impacts the character of the neighborhood; we start to get a more urban feel with more exposed concrete and losing the canopy.”

Widener said the eucalyptus in question “wasn’t under protection status … and had an issue during a winter storm earlier this year with broken out limbs. We had an arborist look at it” and determined it should be removed.

Courtney said the city initially took off some of the branches, “then the tree was cut down and we didn’t get a reason until the tree was cut down.”

He asked LJCPA President Diane Kane to put the item on the meeting agenda because “we need a spotlight on this because once these 100-year-old trees are gone, they’re gone. And we won’t see another one like it in our lifetimes.”

Widener said his department “manages over 200,000 street trees and we think we have over 600,000 park trees as well.”

“Tree removals are the last option,” he said. “We do our best to try and figure out how to save a tree. If that means we have to trim the tree, trim roots or trim half the tree … we will do it.”

He said all public requests for tree maintenance or removal must go through the city’s Get It Done app.

There also is a “conserve-a-tree” list with about 400 trees citywide that are protected from removal. “So if a resident wants to remove or trim a tree on that list, it must go through the Community Forest Advisory Board,” Widener said.

The list is not available to the public, but some LJCPA trustees wanted to view it so they could see which trees in La Jolla are on the list and if more could be added. Trustee Glen Rasmussen said a group had taken an inventory of all of La Jolla’s old trees, and he asked to see the protected list so he could see which trees in La Jolla are on it.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association discussed tree removal and other issues during its Oct. 7 meeting online.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

According to the city Climate Action Plan adopted in 2015, the goal was to have 15 percent urban tree canopy coverage citywide by 2020 and 35 percent by 2035.

San Diego Senior Planner Lesley Heneger told LJCPA in May 2018 that “La Jolla comes in at around 24 percent canopy coverage, which is quite nice, but we don’t want this area to rest on its proverbial laurels, because the goal is 35 percent. Even if you are at 24 percent and feel like you’re ahead, there are some areas that are at 2 percent and others that are at 10 percent. Currently, San Diego is 13 percent covered in trees.”

Another study of San Diego’s tree canopy percentage has not been done since that report, but Widener said he hopes to have one done “in the next six to 12 months.”

Other LJCPA news

“Spaces as Places” update: Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said the city’s “Spaces as Places” initiative would be heard by the City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 26.

The Planning Department developed Spaces as Places as a program for making temporary outdoor spaces that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic permanent. A Spaces as Places design manual released in September identifies five types of spaces that could be permitted: sidewalk cafes; “social curbs;” promenades created by closing a street to vehicle traffic; outdoor dining on private property such as a parking lot; and “streetaries,” previously referred to as parklets.

The San Diego Planning Commission and the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee both voted to support the measure.

Concours d’Elegance: LJCPA voted unanimously to support next year’s Concours d’Elegance car show, which was canceled in April 2020 amid the pandemic. It moved to Viejas Casino & Resort in Alpine for 2021 but is scheduled to return to La Jolla on April 24.

Event chairman Michael Dorvillier told the board that “we’re replicating what would have been the 2020 and putting it in 2022.” He said the Concours will feature a ticketed event with cars on the grass at Scripps Park and a free component of classic cars lined along the street for the general public. Proceeds will benefit the La Jolla Historical Society.

Upcoming election: LJCPA member Janie Emerson said outreach is beginning for the next LJCPA trustee election, which will be held in March for six available seats. To be eligible to run, candidates must have attended three LJCPA meetings in the 12 months up to and including the February meeting.

“There are 106 members; 25 of them have attended three meetings and would be eligible as a trustee. As of the last meeting, we have an additional 13 that would only need to attend one meeting to be eligible to run,” Emerson said.

Learn more at lajollacpa.org/about/elections.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org.