Council office responds to Echo Park ficus fracas

Before and after tree cutting. Top left photo from Google Maps.

Who knew the pair of ficus trees at the southwest corner of Echo Park Avenue and Sunset Boulevard had so many fans?  After  the two trees were cut down over the weekend  for safety reasons as workers began repairing the sidewalk and building a new bus stop, many residents complained to local officials, including Councilman Eric Garcetti, about the trees’ destruction and the lack of public notification. One person, Rebecca Dessertine, even used her Twitter account to claim that Garcetti  was “murdering trees,”  to which Garcetti, in a Tweet of his own, said:

My office did not request nor was it notified of the tree removal plans. A full explanation is coming.

Today, the Council District 13 spokesman emailed the full explanation:

Our office was not aware of the tree removal until after it occurred.  The community was not informed, either – the BSS [Bureau of Street Services] 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.

Will this satisfy the fans of the ficus?


  1. The sidewalk was buckled due to the roots so that is a city liability. It’s a shame that it just couldn’t have been cut back. Those waiting for the Dash this summer are gonna get cooked!

    • I must point out, this was one of the reasons why the City Council’s vote to bar California fan palms was so ill considered.

      Many places in Los Angeles have a fairly substandard width for the right of way between the sidewalk and curb. I don’t know how it all came together, but the palm tree roots go mostly down, not out. I wonder whether the nature of the trees that were chosen to be planted there is connected to how narrow that right of way is in most areas.

      And now, without any understanding or thinking, the city is barring any new palms to be planted — they want other tress, I imagine like ficus tress whose roots spread out and are just too broad for the parkway. And this is the perfect example.

      And it is the perfect example of how ill considered and stupid our highly paid council members, yes including the local Garcetti, were in the vote. What they should have done is considering the different root so different trees, and maybe limited street trees to only those whose roots go pretty much straight down. But that is not what they did, so expect tress with proper roots to be coming down, and maybe trees with a bad match for the space to bee going up — only to be chopped down as soon as they get to any kind of maturity, like these ficus trees. Real good plan the City Council vote din a few years ago.

      • A simple google search would provide you with an answer. Palms don’t provide much adequate shade, and other tres are more beneficial for the environment: cleaning the air and collecting water.

  2. I’m not one to support the chopping of trees, but in this case, it was very overdue. That sidewalk is one of the worst in the city, the roots have taken over that portion of sidewalk for many years now. Many elder folks doing their runs during the day were very very careful when approaching that portion of sidewalk. Nice to hear a replacement tree is being considered.

  3. “BSS is planting new trees in the immediate vicinity”

    another lame and vauge answer from cd13

    • I wouldn’t call them trees. I would call them saplings. There won’t be trees for severl decades. That big, ugly hole there now will be there for decades to come.

  4. two trees 36 in. boxes, at least 20 ft. tall………………..nothing less

    • I predict 3 feet tall and dead / destroyed by September ..

    • That’s ridiculous. They would never be able to get a 36″ box in the space allocated for the planting area. 20 feet would be immediately impacting the utility lines. A 36″ box would need a serious amount of aftercare and not establish nearly as well as a #5 or #15. And have you seen the roots on those things? They almost all have major root defects such as j-roots and girdling roots that would end up compromising the health of the tree 15 years down the line. At least with a #5, the root correction is somewhat easy.

  5. Trees….. over-development….. Garcetti always absent or uninformed until after the fact, when nothing [satisfactory] can be done….. and it’s safe to “discover” what happened…… don’t forget to vote on March 5, or this “hands-off” pro will be sitting in the mayor’s office……

  6. I agree 100% with Hillchick. Mr. Garcetti seems to never know when something is happening in his district. Mainly when it comes to super developments! Look at the obscene empty lot at Sunset Junction. He claimed to have zero knowledge of that. And then never answered questions about it. Ever. Myself and some neighbors pestered him about it and he just ignored the blatant disregard for public notice. At least his war chest will be filled by developers $$$. Today it’s trees. What’s next??

  7. Despite the “I didn’t know excuse,” I say way to respond and try to make up for it.

    • Time will tell whether it will be made up. Or not. The real issue is the councilperson’s lack of knowledge/involvement/concern beforehand…. after there’s a public outcry what else can they say but “we’ll look into it.” In the larger issue, the kind of tree is irrelevant ….. and if it actually is that important, uh, where or where was Garcetti when they were either (a) planted, or (b) began to break up the sidewalk? Always a day late, but (as long as he keeps kowtowing to special interests), never a dollar short…..

  8. If anyone is still mourning loss of said ficuses, drive over to Temple where it crosses under 110 — you can view how the ficus is hell on pavement.

    • Well, I wouldn’t imagine that darrel has to stand at the bus stop with the blistering hot sun beaming down on him…Now, it feels like venice and union! With no shade or anything natural around, how nice…They can alway pour new concrete, but what about planting new trees’, that have been there for years’…What planet do you come from?

      • So apparently your comfort trumps accessibility for those in wheelchairs or are mobility-impaired, right? Ficus tree roots make sidewalks into obstacle courses. Sure they can “always pour new concrete”, but when it’s on top of protruding roots, it’s not going to last long.

  9. I feel that city officials have a habit of dropping the ball when it comes to Echo Park. I get the impression that they can really care less what the community thinks, this is such a crystal clear example. I get the impression from looking at all the cement and tar that Echo Park is just a “drive-thru community” that bridges the gap between freeways. Is this true, city “leaders”?

    The shade those trees provided is irreplaceable. I’m not buying that those trees were dangerous. Look at the hostile environment in which they thrived, what else can possible grow there? Have they not heard of tree trimmers? The sidewalk could have been raised higher. Look at all the cement they have to use now, after the fact. If there’s one (more) thing Echo Park DOES NOT NEED, its more cement and black tar parking lots! Who dropped the ball!?!?? What – the – hell ?!

    • Is that you, John Choi???

      • ha, totally!!

        this assault is a bit unprovoked, but i guess the election is around the corner and all.

      • Ha! No, it’s not – and that is really pretty funny. I don’t care who’s in office or running for office. I’m simply mad this happened (seemingly) without anyone’s knowledge, until it was too late. I’m really sick of all the tree-less sidewalks up and down Sunset. Baby saplings won’t provide the lush green canopy that was there. They threw those things away, it sucks.

      • NO! Not voting for him, either!

  10. I think it looks better without those trees. They were overgrown and were making that corner unsightly. It’s great that the city is going to beautify that corner and that new trees will be coming soon. I’m a tree-hugger too, but there does come a time when a tree’s usefulness has passed and it’s time to replace it.

  11. @Johnny, the ficus is not suited for urban living, their’s or our’s.

  12. They don’t cut those down in Santa Monica

  13. Now we have a much better view of Wallgreens!

  14. Well seeing the Wallgreens won’t matter. I’m sure Garcetti has already approved construction of a 9000 unit condo complex with 42 parking spots.
    But it will bring jobs!

  15. I wish they would respond that quickly to repairing the broken sidewalk at Park and Sunset where a water line broke 2 Months ago already…

  16. The hater’s War on Ficus is the result of not respecting how trees grow. We plant a tree in a tiny gap in the concrete, then act surprised when the tree does what it is supposed to do: search for water. Where does it find it? In the cracks around sidewalk and pavement, so that’s where the roots grow. So the sidewalk buckling is not the Ficus’ fault: it’s OUR fault, for not giving the tree enough space to collect water and grow. You’ll see that where Ficus are planted in ample soil, with regular watering, they grow deep and strong. They work well in parkway strips, for this reason. All that said, there are still more elegant trees for streetside shade, like the beautiful Camphor trees that leave dappled light underneath.

    The bigger problem here, and not acknowledged by BSS or CD13: BSS policy when they get a request for tree maintenance is to chop it down. That’s a result of both their short-sighted bureaucratic thinking and budget cuts: a fatal combination. Bureaucratic thinking: an oxymoron perhaps?

    • It is scientifically incorrect to say that plants “search” for water. Roots grow where conditions are conducive for growth.

      • NineDoubleOh2Sixxxer

        I disagree, as I walked out of House of Spirits with my case of Modelo Especial I saw the roots stumbling in the dark while they searched for water.

  17. I hope that if they actually do plant trees that they water them.

    • They will not water them and they should not water them. They will be more tolerant of drought stress that way. They will also form deeper root systems and be less susceptible to damage from high winds. Plus it is more sustainable to plant trees that can survive on our natural rainfall patterns.

  18. At least the beautiful wood power poles remain upright and standing proud on the street!

  19. it never ceases to amaze me how idiots continue to favor concrete or sidewalks over mature trees

  20. I think Garcetti has done a great job in this community and I will vote for him for Mayor.
    Also, I am looking forward to seeing the new urban trees planted before the spring starts that BSS mentioned at the start of this blog.

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