Echo Park urban forest goes from trees to twigs

Newly planted tree/twig at Echo Park Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.

Ficus that was cut down/Photo from Google Maps

The cutting down in late February of a pair of giant ficus trees that shaded an Echo Park bus stop drew a lot of complaints from residents and tree lovers.  In response to the ficus fracas, the office of Councilman Eric Garcetti stepped in and arranged to have new street trees planted at Echo Park Avenue and Sunset Boulevard to replace those that were cut down by the city’s Bureau of Street Services, which cut down the approximately 40-foot high trees to build a new sidewalk.   This past weekend , two new trees were planted at the corner. But don’t go looking for large trees.

In fact, it’s easy to miss the newly planted tree since their trunks are barely wider than a finger. It’s not clear what type of trees these are or who even planted them.  But any bus riders seeking relief from the shade should be prepared to bring an umbrella for at least a couple of years to come.

Finger (left) and new tree (right)


  1. better than concrete!

  2. There needs to be job losses due to this abuse of power!

  3. What type of trees?

    Will they get grates and guards? If not, they’ll get the same abuse as all of Echo Park’s other small street trees.

  4. April Fools! Great one City of LA or whatever agency did this… you wacky guys almost got me and the neighborhood there!!! So thanks for punking us and making everyone think this is what a great city like LA thinks is an acceptable solution to making the urban experience more acceptable– you did Ashton Kutcher proud!!! Sooooo really, um when will the real larger replacements trees be planted you crazy prankster jokster guys you… love ya!

  5. how pathetic… if you look at the top of the tree they just planted, you can see that the top of the tree has been cut off so its not going to get any taller then where it is right now. THANK YOU ERIC GARCETTI FOR DOING NOTHING AGAIN, but wants our vote for mayor of LA…good luck with that one

    POS trees thats what they are

    • Trimming the top of a sapling will NOT keep it from growing taller. It will encourage it to grow fuller and ultimately to provide more shade. It’s just going to take some time.

      • That’s the problem: Time. Its going to take several decades for a tree to grow to maturity again. Meanwhile, there will be a big, ugly hole there, and a sapling ain’t going to help at all until most people here now are long gone. In fact, by the time that sapling matures, they will be ready to replace the sidewalk again — so will probably just cut it down again, just a vicious cycle.

        So, what has been ruined will be ruined for a long time to come, sapling or not.

        • By “several decades” do you mean 50-70 years? That seems like a bit of an exaggeration. Most well established trees can start putting on a lot of growth in their 3rd year. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s going to take a while, but it’s worth it in the end.

  6. As long as the trees planted are not fiscus trees, then this is a step in the right direction. Fiscus trees, while providing shade, make our city services more expensive in the long run due to their invasive root systems that destroy sidewalks and wreak havoc with our pipes and underground utilities.

    • Im sorry I dissagree with you, to this day I dont know of any tree that exists that does not have a root system that is not invasive to anything man maid. what do you expect? for it to be the same hight and shape for 100 years? I would rather spend the tax dollars on fixing the curb and creating jobs then to have to spend thousands on medical bills because of some breathing problem I could develope as a result of our dirty air.

      dont you understand how much more important they are in cleaning our air per square feet versus this little dinky twig of a tree that is probably going to die since no one is going to water the dam thing? I mean you have to be some kind of person to complain about fixing something like the curb which is what we are taxed for anyways and not benifit from the clean air you would breath from these trees and take for granted every day.

      • Fiscus trees have a very shallow root system and also grow very fast (by tree standards). The roots end up destroying sidewalks and sewer lines in a way that other trees do not.

        I am not anti-tree, but fiscus trees are the wrong type of tree for urban enviroments. Tehre are many sidewalks in LA that are un-passable for those in wheelchairs due to these trees. As a fan of walkable, accessible urban living, fiscus trees are not the way to go.

        This tree does look puny and it will take a while to grow, but unfortunately there aren’t many options (I’m not sure how feasible it is to plant a full grown tree without it dying, but I’m not much of an arborist).

        In the meanwhile, the city could build a shade structure for bus patrons. I would love that.

        • John

          let me get this straight…

          Fiscus trees have a very shallow root system and also grow very fast (by tree standards). The roots end up destroying sidewalks and sewer lines in a way that other trees do not. and your also saying that Ficus trees are the wrong type of tree for urban enviornment, but your not much of an arborist…

          what tree do you know of that does not damage anything man made in this world please, because if there is one, I would think the entire city would be planted with that exact same tree all over the place…

          come one dood, you make my head hurt.

          and thats right your not an arborist, lets not forget that one…

          sorry if this comes off rude but this is frustrateing , how many people dont know how things really work.

          • There are plenty of trees that don’t have the destructive power of a ficus. You don’t have to be an arborist to be familiar with them or their attributes, just google Los Angeles Street Trees and the city’s street tree guidelines will come up. There are 150 trees that offer a range of sizes, growth habits, water needs, color, flowering or non flowering….

            Many types of trees have been planted in Los Angeles that turned out to be a bad idea. Eucalyptus sucks up tremendous amounts of water and drops branches when it’s in distress. Camphor trees have aggressive roots like ficus. Alianthus grows in dense thickets that are difficult to eradicate and produce chemicals that prevent other plants from growing around them. Coral trees can split in half under their own weight.

            We’ll be dealing with the fallout of those trees for years, but the city has been working hard to make good decisions for the future. All trees come with challenges but for a short list of trees that make good alternatives to ficus, just look at some California natives.

  7. I thought everyone agreed that ficus trees make horrible street trees and should be replaced. It’s better to put in a smaller tree because, once established, it will grow faster and stronger than a larger new tree. What this means is that you have to suck up a few years where the tree is not as big as you would like.

    Welcome to good planning. Whoever planted this tree was thinking about the long term, not just about the whiners who complain but don’t know what they’re talking about.

    • Mick

      The only person who does’nt know what there talking about is you. James does have a valid point here, if you look at the tree in the picture provided by the eastsider that tree is not going to go anywhere.

      so your theory of a few years for it to bet big enough is not going to happen when the top of the tree is completely cut off. I dont think anyone has to suck up anything, we all live in the same area and have to be equally herd and not dictated on what we have to do because you say so.

      • Well, although I do know what I’m talking about, it’s a bit of a struggle to understand what you’re trying to convey. I think I’ve been able to decipher it though. You’re concerned that the main trunk of the tree has been cut and you think this means that the tree will no longer grow.

        As someone else mentioned, the cut may have been made to encourage the tree to branch more and grow a wider canopy, rather than growing straight up in a columnar fashion. I understand James’ concern, but the very photo that he references shows the branches growing above the cut mark, so to say the tree will never get taller is already false today, much less in 5 or ten years.

        When I say that you have to wait for a tree to grow, I’m not really trying to dictate your behavior, just pointing out a law of nature

  8. The city doesn’t water it’s tress. Maybe this should have happened at the start of the rainy season to at least to have given that pathetic twig a chance. Ficus trees have a high oxygen output and the old tress were attractive.

    • I agree with AP.

      Mick since it seems since you understand the laws of nature, wouldnt it be kind of contradictory to say that topping off a tree would encourage new growth? Topping off a tree is what one would do if they do not want the tree to grow any taller. and in most cases the tree dies in the end.

      the way those braches are sticking out of that tree it doesnt look like that tree is going to go very far, but I guess this will be the classic wait and see game.

      • Cutting off the top of the main trunk will encourage the tree to grow in new directions — besides just up. It will grow a broader canopy in a shorter amount of time. There’s nothing contradictory about it. When you say that trimming a tree will prohibit new growth is like saying that having a haircut will prevent your hair from growing long again.

        When you prune a tree, the tree must create new branches quickly if it is to maintain it’s growth. That’s how trees work. The pruned branch may be stunted, but several other branches will spring up in it’s place to make up for the loss, and in time, you will four or five branches where there was just one.

        Also choosing this time of year to install new trees was wise too. This is spring, the growth season for ALL PLANTS. If this had been done in the fall (when admittedly, it there was more rain) the trees would be entering into the winter period – shorter days, shedding of leaves, periods of hibernation and NO NEW GROWTH. In the spring, the days are getting longer, there is more sunlight and the trees spring to life.

        Ficus trees are difficult landscape trees. They may have a high oxygen output, but so do Jacoranda, Silk Floss and most of the other trees that LA uses for public landscaping. Ficus trees happen to have root systems that spread incredibly fast. When I moved into my house, the previous tennant planted a ficus tree in the back yard. That tree destroyed both the Garage and the sewer line in less than seven years. I had to cut it down so that it did not destroy any more of the property. If you look around, you will see that most mature ficus trees are surrounded by uneven, broken sidewalks.

        Broken sidewalks are an immediate hazard to anyone running to catch a bus on that corner, and a potential lawsuit for the city.

        • Border Dude

          I did not say that trimming a tree will prohibit new growth is like saying that having a haircut will prevent your hair from growing long again.

          I said, if you can read correctly… Topping off a tree is what one would do if they do not want the tree to grow any taller. and in most cases the tree dies in the end.

          I dont know where you think you can compare hair growth to tree growth, but if thats the way you understand it, thats why you did not see what I actually put down above your comment. I would get my money back if i were you. where ever they told you that little bit of info you just displayed above…

          I know the diffrence is between pruneing and topping off a tree, you should look that up before you try and to confuse or distort what i actually wrote.

          if you look around and date the tree wo when they were planted that should show you how long the city has been putting off on prioritizing on fixing its infrastructure, these trees are at least a 100 years old, your going to tell me the city has never had enough money to fix its problems and the last 100 years when the trees were first put in? you have to be some kind of stupid to think other wise.

          when our pipes break your going to say that everyone flushed their toilets at the same time and caused a sudden water pressure that broke the old pipe? get real dood, thats a loead of crap your saying above…

          • Resident, see SKR’s comment below about the difference between topping and pruning. I think it will clear up some of your confusion.

  9. Stop planting trees they are evil!

  10. Pasadena has tons of very large ficus trees – on Colorado and Green Street as examples. Instead of ripping all of these trees down, they periodically fix the sidewalks and cut the roots in the process. Not the most economical solution, I’m sure, but it is one reason Pasadena has been named a ‘Tree City USA’ by the Arbor Day Foundation. Wouldn’t it be great if L.A. was named such in the not to distant future?

    • Finally someone with some sense on this site, thank you…

      Kuddos to you dave

    • Dave, you’re never going to get me to agree that it’s worth spending time and money to sustain a ficus tree, but you make a good point that there are a variety of options when address the advantages and disadvantages of various street trees.

      If only L.A. had the resources that Pasadena does. As it stands, the city doesn’t have enough money to maintain the sidewalks at a minimum safe level. I’m afraid that the city will never be able to handle the drastic repairs that you describe. It would be much more realistic to plant trees that don’t require such herculean efforts to make them fit in our cityscape.

      • OK let just break this down for a min

        what it cost to cut the tree down in man hours, fuel and street closure.
        what it cost to dispose of the tree properly
        what it cost to fix the curb after that was done
        what it cost to prucahse & plant the new stupid tree and man hours to plant the thing.

        as appose to just fixing the curb itself, would have been much more cost effective and everyone would have been happy in the end. The reason why our wonderful city never has money to fix anything is because they keep wasting it on useless councilmen wages like Eric Garcetti
        who now wants to run for mayor, good greif you think Villaregosa was bad… I would strongly advise anyone who knows of Garcetties work to not vote for him, please…

        • If you really want to do the math for just repairing the sidewalk, make sure you factor in the cost repairing it every 5 years when the roots push it up again.

    • Pasadena does have lots of ficus street trees, but they have been cutting them down:




      Green St. lost a lot of large ficus after the windstorm of December 2011. They are very dense, and catch the wind. When planted as street trees, they don’t have root systems big enough to anchor them:


  11. I think that most people can’t wait for anything. Trees take at least three seasons to be established.
    Newly planted but grown a number of years in the Nursery .Things are on a cycle. Give it time.
    3 to 4 years is not much time.
    It won’t be the size of the other but it should look good in 3.
    Let’s see.

    kind of tree is it?

  12. Yay for new trees!
    I wonder how much time the people complaining about this actually spend on that corner.

    • Here I’ll tell you since you seem to want to make stupid comments. I spend 10 to 20min everyday wating for the metro and dash bus.

      I wonder how much time you spent thinking of this stupid question since you happen to think your the only one who stands on that corner.

      • Wow, you are really angry. I had not intended to make anyone so furious over my comment. My apologies for being so offensive.

  13. When I drove by this morning the soil looked very dry. Shouldn’t it be watered regularly in the beginning?

    • Not going to happen unless the citizens take it on

      • This is true. If people want these trees to live, they should be watering them now and through this summer.

        If people care about their height, they should know that more water will make for more growth.

        • Hi Pretty Whiney , sorry to be so blunt about this but why dont you go and use your water like it doesn’t cost anyone to use water in LA to water that tree.

          • The reason I know that you have to water the tree: I made a guerrilla sidewalk opening for a tree (framed it out with 2x4s when the sidewalk was being repaired, between the day the framing was done and the day the pour happened) and planted a tree in it myself two years ago. I’m also the one lugging water down the block to it from my house in summer (I have a system). Sounds crazy, no? But true.

            The cost of water is nothing, of course. It’s the time, will, and effort.

            So, basically: if you want to make something happen, do it. If you know anything about the funding and manpower of the LA Dept. of Street Services these days, you’d know this is true.

        • why dont you water the tree then since you have an endless amount of water supply and money to pay for it.

          and if you think ” people should” meaning you also, I would hope to see you being the first person to drop a 5 gallon bucket of water every other day to keep this POS tree alive through out this summer like you said above…

          Sorry Pretty Whiny

  14. Thank you Dave…Well said.
    Same thing goes for Santa Monica.

    Same old Eric Garcetti and his current crack staff.
    God forbid if he winds up Mayor. The Mayor of do nothing.

    • Santa Monica has been cutting down ficus trees right and left. They recently replaced a bunch of monstrous ficus on 2nd and 4th with ginkos I think.

  15. awww this little tree makes me sad. it looks so frail tethered to those to poles for support, like Charlie Browns Christmas Tree. Is this really the best you can do In an election year Garcetti?

  16. your conscience @ ep

    What if she makes it, like dizzy does! Then we can dub her the miracle tree. True beauty from the concrete of Echo Park and Sunset.

  17. They should build condos or loft spaces on the spot where the tree stood. It’s where your “eastside” is heading anyway.

  18. They didn’t ‘top’ the tree. They pruned the leader back to encourage fullness. That the pruning happened at the top of the tree is irrelevant. It is where on the branch that the pruning cuts occur that matters. Topping is when the pruning cuts happen in the middle of the branch with no new leader to take over. That causes all kinds of problems as the new growth that comes of that cut ends is very weak. The proper way to prune is to prune back to an existing branch or bud so that the plant’s energy is directed to that smaller branch or bud. This also encourages dormant buds to grow increasing the fullness of the plant.

    • a hah… did a proffesional arborist tell you that one? I would get your money back where ever you learned that load of crap you just said.

      • How about this from a Doctor of Forestry.
        “A reduction cut (also called drop-crotching or thinning to a lateral) is a method of pruning used to reduce the height of a tree. When done properly, branches are cut back to a lateral branch at least one-third the diameter of the limb being removed and large enough to outgrow lateral branches directly below . The lateral branch becomes the source of new terminal growth and subsequently the tree maintains a natural form. This is an appropriate pruning technique for decurrent or rounded trees but should never be used on excurrent or pyramidal trees except to remove multiple leaders. Unfortunately, many tree cutters (certainly not certified arborists!) claim to thin to laterals when in reality they are topping the tree. Also known as hatracking, height reduction, canopy reduction, heading back or stubbing back, this type of pruning cut removes a terminal shoot back to a point where there is no appropriate lateral branch to take over the terminal role. In response, multiple shoots (or leaders) begin to compete for dominance, resulting in the infamous “hydra” look. What has now been created is a highmaintenance, potentially hazardous tree that must be constantly pruned. Pruning a tree yearly is certainly not environmentally sustainable or cost-effective – but it does keep tree cutters in business”

        I’m a Landscape Architect and avid horticulturist. I have been dealing with trees and arborists for decades. Maybe you should take a class and learn something about trees.

  19. Another lame response from Eric Garcetti’s office. And another reason to leave the “Mayor” unchecked in May.

    • I agree with you, wes. Another Garcetti debacle – reminds me of the Semi-Tropic Spiritualists Tract.

      • Troy

        Aint that the truth, Thats what I’ve been saying all along. after 20 years living here in this community, I know first had the destruction Garcetti has done and Im flaburgasted by anyone who supports his work.

        your right on the money, Eric does not have my vote!!!

  20. Oh for heaven’s sake, the trees will grow. It’s not going to take 30 years, many trees grow big and full enough to look attractive in just a few years. They’ll have leaves much sooner than that, usually trees are bare or dormant when they’re planted so they can put their energy towards getting established.

  21. The trees at 1549 EP Ave took 15 years to be what they are today, that’s more then a few to me.

  22. I use to live in that building address and remember when they were first put in. That is exactly what cheap ugly trees end up looking like, they are awful and make a mess with the seed pods and the branches are all over the place. good going mayors 1 million cheap ass tree planting all over LA.

    • actually slow growing trees are expensive. fast growing trees like ficus are cheap,

      • boy you have an answer for everything huh? I wonder why they dont pay for you to be in the city council.

        I would preffer a ficus tree which looks more fuller and serves a purpose with shade then that slow ugly looking yellow flower tree R mentioned above my comment over on 1546 echo park ave.

        as appose to slow growing trees that are more expensive, I would never park my car under a Jacqueranda tree where I would have to pay for a new paint job every year.

        pick one
        jacuqeranda tree ficus tree
        ruins car paint job that costs breaks side walks you get taxed to
        me more money and anyone fix anyways
        who parks under those stupid trees

        I would go with the Ficus tree, more O2 output per sqaure ft the those expensive ornamental trees that end up looking all ugly when they city comes and hackes away at them or what ever they call it trim with a chainsaw.

      • Not when you calculate the cost of replacing the sidewalk and curb concrete, if not the water and other utility lines when the ficus roots destroy the surrounding land.

  23. NVMD on the comment above the layout didnt come out like the way I typed it up in the first place. skip the pick one part…

  24. In California, it is the responsibility of property owners to take care of trees, sidewalk etc. City only take care of streets.

    City of LA, Pasadena is like that too

    If you live in new city, you pay taxes for the city to maintain. That’s the only way to have city take over

  25. We all depend on each other, nature – humans – animals. Parks are so incredibly important for everybody.

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