The great Echo Park ficus tree debacle of 2013

It might be a little dramatic to be upset over a couple of trees, but if you’ve been around the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue, it’s obvious that the street has greatly changed for the worse with the removal of two mature, bushy and green ficus trees.

For those of you who have remained indoors for the last couple of weeks and thus denied yourself the beautiful outdoors of Echo Park, check out the before and after photos below:

Before. Photos courtesy of Rosie Betanzos.

Workers install tiny foot wells for new, much smaller, trees. These guys do not like having their picture taken.

A statement posted on the Echo Elysian Neighborhood Council forum by CD13 Field Deputy Oliver DelGado sums up why the trees were removed:

On Saturday, February 23, the Bureau of Street Services’ (BSS) Urban Forestry Division removed two Indian Laurel Fig trees from the northwest corner of Echo Park Avenue and Sunset Boulevard. This was part of a sidewalk reconstruction project that was deemed necessary because of safety concerns.

Our office was not aware of the tree removal until after it occurred.  The community was not informed, either – the BSS tree removal policy requires a public posting of which trees will be removed and a public hearing only when  three or more trees are removed from a given site.

Our office contacted BSS’ Urban Forestry Division when we became aware of the removal. At our urging, BSS is planting new trees in the immediate vicinity, and the sidewalk repairs and new bus shelter are being completed in the next several days.

The key points here are:

  1. The sidewalk was damaged and dangerous – you can’t really get around that.
  2. BUT the BSS did not notify the community that the trees would be removed due to some self-constituted rule that the community didn’t need to know because there were only two – not more than three – trees removed. We agree with one commenter on the forum, calling it a “terrible excuse.”
  3. Echo Park is an involved community full of movers and shakers who seek real solutions, not cookie-cutter policies that neglect the best interests of the community. The BSS simply can’t get away with something like this without anyone noticing.
  4. There are new trees being planted that, from what we’ve been told, are not in-line with what knowledgeable community members deem appropriate.
  5. SHADE for bus-goers is a simple concept, one that can be provided by green TREES!

Concerned that other trees would be removed without notice, someone wrapped signs around trees on the other side of Walgreens along Logan Street.

So the trees are gone… it’s a done deal. But what’s next?

On tonight’s agenda, the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee will address the issue at 7:00 pm at Logan Elementary. The Echo Park Improvement Association is also keeping track, and in the coming weeks the Positive Energy Group/Crime Prevention will be holding a meeting specifically to address the issues of communication between city departments.

We’ll post more info when it becomes available!

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