I have to admit, I used to take trees for granted.
I was lucky. I grew up in a neighborhood filled with trees. As kids we used to play all day under a canopy of lush green.
And I’m still lucky. The street I live on now is lined with trees. On weekend mornings I go running, and it’s amazing how many different shades of green I see.
Parks are cool, too. When I was younger I thought going to a park was boring. Now I really enjoy just strecthing out on the grass in a shady spot.
I’ve been reading lately how the drought, and our reaction to the drought, is affecting trees. Of course, we’ve all been in a panic to save water, and it’s probably no surprise we’ve made mistakes. The City of LA has been criticized for its decision to stop watering medians, which will have a negative impact on the trees planted there, and since everything is connected to everything, this will cause further negative impacts.
I can’t blame the City Council, because I’m just as ignorant as they are when it comes to this stuff, but we all have to educate ourselves and think before we act. If not, our response to one crisis will just create another.
The City of LA has had trouble with trees for years. One of the biggest problems is that trees have roots.
I’m sure everybody in LA knows of at least one place where the sidewalk is slowly busting upward. And not only is this a safety hazard, but it makes it really difficult for people with disabilities to get around. Years ago the City started cutting down ficus trees so they could repair the sidewalks, and in some neighborhoods the residents went wild. A lot of people love trees, and it is pretty traumatic to see one you care about being chopped down. After struggling with angry residents for a while, the City backed off. But that left them back at square one, and in some areas the sidewalks were really getting dangerous.
I was at a meeting recently where a representative from the Bureau of Street Services talked about this issue. He said that after fighting for years with people who were ready to chain themselves to ficus trees, the Bureau has decided that it’s best to let the residents decide whether or not a tree should be removed.
But he did mention one site where the Bureau plans to pull out the chain saws. There’s a row of trees on Vine just below Sunset. They are large and dense, and I think beautiful, but that spot has become a magnet for the homeless. This stretch has also become a hot spot for crime, and so the City has decided the trees have to go.
I’ll miss them. These photos were taken after they’d been trimmed, and you don’t really get a sense of how dense and dark the canopy ordinarily was. In the middle of the city, with traffic all around, you could feel like you were standing in the forest.
Trees aren’t permanent, but they live so long it seems that way. Many of the species that we find in our neighborhoods have an average life span of a hundred years, and some will live for two or three hundred years. Though they change over time, they seem like a fixed part of the landscape.
My mother still lives in the house I grew up in. Not too long ago the house across the street from her was sold, and the new owner cut down a large tree that dominated the front yard. It took some getting used to. I had played under that tree when it was a kid. It was part of the landscape of my childhood.
There’s a growing awareness of how important trees are to the ecology of the city. They take CO2 out of the atmosphere, protect the soil and cool our neighborhoods. I have to thank Councilmember Paul Koretz for introducing a motion on tree health (Council File: 15-0467). It’s still making its way through committees and city departments, but hopefully it will come up for a vote soon.
There’s a feeling I get when I’m walking through a quiet neighborhood at dusk. As the light fades, the trees lose their color. The shadows deepen. The branches and leaves rising up around you turn to silhouettes against the twilight sky.
It feels so peaceful.