A row of skinny Mexican fan palms lines one side of Maltman Avenue as it climbs up from Sunset Boulevard, drawing the eye up a steep hill and becoming a defining feature of the narrow Silver Lake street. Three of these decades-old palms are located in front of a hilltop lot at 1308 Maltman, where developer David Berneman wants to build three homes. Berneman did not plan to cut down the trees but last October one of his engineers became aware that the city was requiring him to widen the street by five feet in front of his property, which would mean cutting down the palms. Berneman did not want to widen the street or cut down the trees, and he had assured the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council that the trio of palms would be preserved. Berneman of Ecocentric Development conceded that he would save money by not having to widen the street but that was not his major concern.
“Everyone wants to keep them,” said Berneman of the trees. “The first glimpse of the property will be those beautiful palm trees. I don’t want to get rid of those trees.” But keeping the palms and avoiding a wider street has proved more complicated than Berneman expected.
The city often tries to get developers to widen old and narrow streets like Maltman to meet modern standards. Convincing the city to drop that condition is not easy, Berneman learned. A visit to City Hall in December proved frustrating as staff members from Public Works and the Planning Department provided conflicting information about what needed to be done to drop the street-widening condition. Then he was told he might have to go through a costly review of the project. That’s when he called the office of Councilman Eric Garcetti’s office for help.
Earlier this month, Garcetti’s office introduced a city council motion that would lift the street-widening requirement and allow Berneman to keep the palms. The motion is now making its way through city council committees.
Berneman said he has worked with the neighborhood council and residents to make his project — which would require the demolition of a small house on the lot – fit into the existing neighborhood. Keeping those palms out front would do that, he said. “It just seems counter intuitive to build [environmentally-friendly] green homes and then tear down these trees.”
Sunsets won’t be the same without these Silver Lake palm trees. The Eastsider