Street widening threatens Silver Lake palm trees

Photo by Fire Monkey Fish/Flickr

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.”

Related post:
Sunsets won’t be the same without these Silver Lake palm trees. The Eastsider


  1. It’s good to see conscientious developers in Los Angeles, who remember the city is worth preserving.

  2. The Mexican fan palm is not a native palm, it’s an invasive species having about a 100 year life cycle. They are also very messy dropping palm leaves and seed on cars, yards and streets. So this street will forgo modernization in order to preserve a group of invasive plants that are already at the end of their life cycle. Amazing.

  3. Agreed, Candice! The trees add so much to the character of the street, and the City should consider that over widening Maltman.

  4. i agree with el batmanuel, just cause someone decided to force these palms on us doesn’t by any means we should be obligated to them. they’re messy, evasive, costly to property owners and tax payers for maintenance and in my opinion not attractive at all. natives are where it’s at!

  5. i live one door down off of maltman, and do not like living with those palm trees at all.

    1- they drop palm berries everywhere, which make my dog & neighbors dogs SICK
    2- they propagate like weeds; i am constantly pulling them out of my vegetable garden
    3- they are the worst when the winds begin to blow! the falling fronds trash balconies & yards, wreak havoc on the cars & people on the street & sidewalk, and force folks to climb onto their roofs several times a year to remove them.

    really, what developer has ever had any genuine concern for a community in which they are building, unless they are building their own home? they are just trying to save $.

    down with the palms!

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