Silver Lake carob trees cut down amid safety fears

One of the defining features of Descanso Drive has been the gnarled, approximately 90-year-old carob trees that rise from the median of the winding Silver Lake street. One of the other hard-to-miss features of the same street is the cracked, buckled and bumpy pavement damaged by the roots of those  same trees. Last week, the city crews began the job of cutting down half of the 20 carob trees on the 3200 block of Descanso and trimming the rest after determining the that rot and decay had made the trees a safety hazard.

The trees, some of which are 45 inches in diameter and rise 35 feet high,  have been a source of pride and complaints for many years. In 1991, plans by the city to cut down most of the then  31 trees  as part of street improvements prompted some residents to come to the defense of the carobs, according to an L.A. Times story.

Apparently most of the Descanso carobs were allowed to stand but over the years decay and other damage had thinned the number of trees down to 20, according to city officials.  Early this year, Council District 13 asked for a “tree hazard evaluation” after it was contacted over the potential safety risks posed by the remaining trees, according a Bureau of Street Services report. The inspection and evaluation of the trees found that the trees were in fair to very poor condition. Said the report:

Nearly all of the subject trees contain some form of structural defect or fungal infestations. The tree canopies are thinning and losing foliar color. During the course of inspection, it was determined that eight of the subject Carob trees possessed severe fungal infestation, signs of insects, and cavities and decay in their main trunks. The extent of damage is such that all of these eight trees present a significant risk of failure. lt is the Bureau’s opinion that the risk posed by these leaning trees warrants their removal as soon as possible.

Since the Board of Public Works Commission approved the removal of eight carob trees last month, another two were identified as needing to be removed, bringing the total number of trees to be cut down to 10, said spokesman Paul Gomez with the Bureau of Street Services. The 10 remaining trees will be pruned and monitored every six months to determine their condition, he said.

The carob trees will be replaced with five California Sycamore trees.

And what about that buckled and cracked pavement on Descanso? Gomez said there are no plans to make any repairs.


  1. It’s always sad to lose very old beautiful trees, but they are trees after all, and they were creating a hazard. I’m neutral on this, but I tend towards always preserving them.

    • As a resident of the street, I feel it should be noted that in the last year or so, two different trees, on two different occasions, have dropped large branches and totaled cars. Not in any kind of weather, either. Just out of decay. It took a lot of phones calls and a petition to finally get the city to do anything about it.

      • I hate to say this, but in the past year we’ve had two large sycamore branches come down. Neither damaged anything, but it was scary. This may be more likely to happen with older, bigger sycamore trees.

  2. the next step is somehow making this street a bit more drivable. i know it’s a tall order but it really is in rough shape. what to do?

    • And you would think this would be the time to rebuild and repave the road, BEFORE new trees are planted. Because after they’re established, doing any serious roadwork or excavation could damage or even kill trees by disrupting their roots.

  3. If I were a resident on that street, I’d want to know a bit more about sycamores; I know that Live Oak trees are protected and a homeowner can’t build within six feet of the tree’s drip line or cut any branches of more than three inches’ width without a permit. I’ve heard that sycamores have a similar status, so if the city were planning to plant one right in front of my house, I’d want some reassurance that it wouldn’t prevent me from rebuilding or adding on to my house if need be.

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