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Fallen tree in La Jolla’s Windansea raises safety concerns

A fallen tree on Nautilus Street landed on a parked car Nov. 1.
A fallen tree on Nautilus Street landed on a parked car Nov. 1.
(Suzanne Baracchini)

The city of San Diego says it will ‘evaluate all cedar trees for health on this block by the end of the month.’

A toppled tree near Windansea Beach is raising concerns among some residents about the rest of the trees that line a local street.

A tree planted next to the sidewalk in the 400 block of Nautilus Street fell onto the road at about 5 p.m. Nov. 1, landing on a parked car. No injuries were reported.

The city of San Diego removed the tree.

Area resident Suzanne Baracchini, a member of the Preserve Windansea Beach Association, said six other trees of the same species on that block are larger than the one that fell.

“My concern is public safety,” she said. “I was impressed with how quickly the city removed [the fallen tree], but they left the stump, which has to be dug out, and there are others that need to be evaluated.”

In an inquiry sent to the city and shared with the La Jolla Light, Baracchini asked whether the city planted the trees, whether the type of tree was approved for that type of location, whether the city has a maintenance log for the trees, and when they were last trimmed and evaluated for public safety issues such as falling branches, trip hazards cause by the roots and the risk of the whole tree falling.

A tree that fell Nov. 1 spans almost the whole street in the 400 block of Nautilus Street.
A tree that fell Nov. 1 spans almost the whole street in the 400 block of Nautilus Street.
(Suzanne Baracchini)

“These remaining trees present major public safety issues along Nautilus Street ... one of the busiest streets in La Jolla as it is the main artery to Windansea Beach,” Baracchini wrote. She said she hoped to meet with city officials to “discuss a plan moving forward for the evaluation ... and the maintenance or removal of these trees to eliminate any public safety hazards that exist as a result of these trees.”

Before the tree fell, it was “lopsided and unmaintained,” Baracchini told the Light, and she had never seen city crews working on it. “The root bed of the tree didn’t look healthy and was starting to push up bricks on the sidewalk,” she said.

“Surrounding one of the trees, the sidewalk is raised around six inches,” Baracchini said.

San Diego city spokesman Anthony Santacroce said the trees, by being in the public right of way, are the city’s responsibility.

“Trees that are believed to be or reported as potential safety hazards are evaluated by certified arborists for health, size and age to determine what course of action is needed,” Santacroce said. “The city’s forestry team will evaluate all cedar trees for health on this block by the end of the month.

“Trees will be slated for removal if they are dead, in advanced declining health and are determined to be imminent public safety threats. Some large trees may need corrective pruning to accommodate their growth.”

The city trimmed two trees on that block in January, he said.

Workers also will evaluate any sidewalk problems that may exist. “If the existing tree space is limiting growth of the tree, then the city may be able to expand the space around the tree next time the sidewalk is in line for repair,” Santacroce said.

The city typically does not remove healthy trees, regardless of size, he added.

Residents say this tree in the 400 block of Nautilus Street has raised the sidewalk near its roots.
Residents say this tree, similar to one that fell in the 400 block of Nautilus Street, has raised the sidewalk near its roots.
(Suzanne Baracchini)

Baracchini said she was relieved the tree didn’t fall the night before, which was Halloween. “I walk that street and have seen people fall at that location. At nighttime, anyone that is not familiar is facing a nightmare,” she said.

Baracchini noted two recent lawsuits levied against San Diego over reported trip-and-fall incidents in La Jolla.

The first suit, filedin April, stated that in January 2020, a resident was walking on the sidewalk on Pearl Street when she tripped in an empty tree well and fell and hit her face on the ground. In June, another suit was filed after someone tripped on raised decorative pavers and fell on the sidewalk next to the Empress Hotel in September 2021. ◆