Axe may soon fall on Echo Park street trees

Echo Park ficus trees that would be cut down as part of beautification program.

More than three dozen Echo Park street trees – ranging from giant ficus to scrawny chitalpa and even a banana tree – along Sunset Boulevard will be cut down and replaced with other trees as part of a beautification program.

A public hearing will be scheduled to allow residents to weigh in on the tree removal, according to black-and-white notices from the city’s Urban Forestry Division  that have been taped to the 37 trees that will be cut down. A hearing date has not yet been set but the Bureau of Street Services expects the tree cutting to begin in 60 to 90 days, said spokesman Paul Gomez.

Some of the trees have died while others, including the banana and olive trees, are not allowed to be planted along city streets. The trees are being removed as part of a $750,000 street and sidewalk beautification program that also includes new sidewalks, benches, solar-powered  trash cans and other changes to a nearly mile-long stretch of Sunset Boulevard through Echo Park.

The federally-funded program will also pay for new street trees, which in this case will include  Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis), Australian Willow (Geijera
parviflora), said Gomez.

Residents who would like to be notified of the public hearing can sign up online by clicking here.


  1. What a waste of money. Better to use the time and city dollars on trimming the overgrown trees in the local neighborhoods covering street lighting and having to crouch down when walking to not get hit by branches when taking a stroll. The clowns must be running this Rodeo.

    • “The federally-funded program…” – so, not city dollars. And not that I disagree with your comment, but generally speaking, beautification can bring more tourism, which will in turn bring more tax dollars for practical efforts like the one your proposed.

  2. Tree trimming needed all over the city, those over grown trees are breaking sidewalks! Simple maintenance can save a lot of money, city of Los Angeles.

    • Trimming the trees will not help with broken sidewalks. It’s the type of tree that matters. Trees like ficus, camphor, etc are beautiful trees but have strong and aggressive root systems that will buckle pavement. Additionally, trees like ficus drop alot of litter that stain the streets and create a slip hazard certain times of the year.
      There are much better street trees.. like the Chinese pistache (beautiful red leaves in the fall), Tabebuia, etc.

      • It’s about proper maintenance and care. Rooting of growing trees could be controlled. No matter what tree is planted, the roots will most likely come up above ground. Who’s to say this won’t happen with the new trees?

        • That’s just inaccurate. Ficus trees have absolutely no business in any public space. They’re Home Depot-friendly trees because they’re shiny and green, and they don’t die in truck beds, but their root systems are native to the Brazilian rainforest, where they must compete with a dense tree canopy. They tear up sidewalks, destroy foundations of homes and provide minimal to no wildlife habitat. If you love trees, do some research.

    • Well said Globos!

      • TrueFreedom and VanillaGorilla are factually correct. The rest of the comments are well-intended but not correct. The kind of suggested maintainance is expensive and unlikely to work. More location-appropriate trees need to be planted.

        • “Correctness” is worth very little to those who take the bus, who live in the neighborhood, who walk down those streets everyday and love those trees the way they are. Echo Park is wonderful, but it does not have the amenities of other neighborhoods. Those trees are as characteristic of the place as Echo Park itself. I think they need to be understood as neighborhood landmarks, not as “street trees” in the generic sense. I think technocratic comments like this one are unhelpful.

  3. The link to sign up didn’t work for me, for some reason (I’m getting an application error?).

  4. Does this plan include removing the trees they just plant along Echo Park Ave and Sunset that have died already? They started this tree removal this past winter. If they are continuing this project I hope they take care of the trees they replace them with. It’s a shame to lose the shade of the existing trees.

  5. where can a person see detailed plans and renderings of what the improvements will be? Also. why can they not incorporate some of the mature trees into the new plans. If they replace the mature trees with 6 foot sticks that will take 10-15+ years or more to mature — it is a disservice to the community and hardly a beautification effort. Any tree replacement should be at least 12ft tall (or whatever the max is that would could survive being planted, so that it can be enjoyed NOW and not just 20 years from now).

    • Echo Park resident

      Totally agree. Sunset looks so barren without the large trees that were removed last year — and the teeny twigs the city plants do not provide any shade for pedestrians, nesting area for birds and other animals and are easy targets for vandalism (ie: drunk people ripping off branches, knocking the trees down, etc).

    • Just a follow up to my original post. I recognize that ficus trees seem to cause a lot of havoc to sidewalks and other city infrastructure like water pipes and acknowledge that in many instances, the tree just gotta go, as much as the shade is nice and the tree it self is nice. But the city really needs to (budget to) replace the trees with more mature trees than is typically done today. I’m not an arborist so I don’t know what the recommended height or age would be but it seems something at least 12-15 ft tall and not the 6ft tall saplings would be something the community can enjoy today and as tomorrow as they mature. The ones on the corner of Echo and Sunset for instance will be lucky to be around in a year let alone 5 years. When you look at the trees on the Sunset Strip after they the sidewalk/street renovation, it looks so sad and desolate, the trees so tiny compared to the mish-mash of trees that were there before.

  6. These trees are what gives Echo Park character and separates it from looking like Hollywood and other surrounding areas. Without them its just more concrete and glaring sun.

    And definitely agree, those trees taken down last year made the area look tremendously barren and there replacements were most scanty.

    I do understand that the roots can kick up the sidewalk, and the argument has been made concerning the handicapped and elderly, but most curbs around here don’t even have transition ramps on the corners, and I definitely know of several severely damaged sidewalks that have not a tree in sight?

    I guess I’m just not sure why the city feels this to be so important. I live on the corner of Sunset and Echo Park and as dumb as this may sound to some, the trees are what makes my apartment building tolerable. I’m on the second floor and all that I hear is the bus stop and crowds of drunken bar goers by night. Don’t get me wrong, I love my neighborhood for many reasons. But what what made me fall in love with my building is the fact that I’m in the middle of urban Los Angeles and look out my window and all i see are the tops of trees. Take that away and I have a view of the Walgreens parking lot. I figure i’d honestly move.

    Anyways, just putting a perspective out there of someone whom would be directly effected.

  7. Also the links concerning the public hearing don’t seem to work? Would love to get more info?

  8. Angeleno Heightster

    58 TREES! I just signed up for the public hearing notification. It’s “Posting ID #508” and lists the removal of 58 “Various” trees for “Streetscape improvement.” Clear to all was the despicable chopping down of the two big ficus at Sunset and Echo Park, replaced with blazing hot sun and three twigs, one already dead. I’ll be at the hearing to raise hell over this criminal plan.

    • The figure on that site is incorrect, according to the Bureau of Street Services. The correct number of trees to be removed is 37.

    • You should do some research before raising hell. Our city should be planting trees in the hundreds of thousands, but Ficus trees are pure idiocy. Ficus trees are a tremendous liability to the city, tearing up sidewalks, destroying underground pipes and providing zero habitat for birds, bees and other local wildlife. When they raise the sidewalk, people can trip and fall. Scoff all you like at the misfortune of others including seniors, those in wheelchairs and those who trip and fall, but a savvy citizen can recover around $35,000 in a settlement with the city for any injury that shows up on an x-ray from a raised sidewalk accident. The liabilities are tremendous, but appropriate trees like Gingko, Sycamore, Jacaranda and Senna provide shade within 5 years and will become far far more beautiful, improving property values and the quality of life.

      • Thank-you VG.. finally, someone who knows wtf they’re talking about.

        Pasadena tore out a huge number of ficus in old town Pas, and replaced them with Ginkos. It’s only been a few years, but the Ginkos are already filling out

  9. I would HOPE this is a phased project over a number of years, so that the new trees begin to mature before all of the old ones are removed. This will help both the feel of the neighborhood (the greenery in the neighborhood is important to a lot of us!) and be less disruptive to the birds.

    But, I EXPECT that all the old trees will be removed in a short time, and the replacements will be like those on E P Ave next to the Walgreen’s lot (new trees need extra attention to take hold – does anyone water them? are they even alive?).

    • That sounds like a great way to do it, if it’s just the trees. But it sounds from this post (I haven’t read the official documents) that there’s also a lot of work being proposed on sidewalks, benches, and other things. It might turn out that replacing trees is easier to do while the sidewalk is already torn up for everything else, in which case the nice phased plan might not work.

  10. Los Angeles doesn’t need trees for shade. We hardly ever have sunshine.

  11. Nooooooo. No more ripping out mature trees that shade and planting new trees that never get watered or maintained! They plant em’ and leave ’em!

  12. um…solar powered trashcans?

    • I assume these are the BigBelly compactors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BigBelly

      Cities all over are putting these in in public spaces, because they can compact trash, so they don’t need to be emptied very often, and their power also lets them alert the trash collectors when it does need to be emptied. Thus, these allow people to throw out trash instead of littering, without requiring extra dump truck runs on busy streets.

  13. What about rubber sidewalks — designed to resist buckling, and to slow root growth by allowing moisture through? They were invented by a former sidewalk inspector for the City of Santa Monica:


    The loss of the trees by the bus stop on Echo Park Ave really took away a lot of that corner’s character — and almost all of the shade for waiting passengers. Hopefully we can save the rest of the trees — and the charm of the sidewalks that they grace — from similar devastation, and still address the root problem.

    • I agree with this idea completely. Rubber sidewalks are a great solution that I always thought would work well without removing nature. I have an enormous Ficus in front of my house, probably planted before the house was built in 1927. The sidewalk is a mess but the tree gets far more positive comments and enjoyment being there than it would by being removed. People always tell me, “Don’t let the city cut this tree down, it’s amazing”. To cut these trees does take away charm and beauty drastically from the neighborhood. I see a lot of wildlife in this Ficus tree despite what some of you say: an owl, hawks, numerous other small birds. The tree is a barrier of protection for my house from heat & wind that could not be replaced. People stop on their long walk up the hill to cool down and relax. People park their car underneath it every day to eat their lunch. I think the city should invest in creating more jobs as arborist and smart sidewalk repair people. We all know we need more job creation.

  14. If you can distinguish between a Prius and a Hummer, then you ought to be able to distinguish between any of the approved trees on LADWP’s list and a Ficus tree. Likewise, if you sign up for the hearing and bleat about shade without any understanding of the financial and ecological costs, you’ll have wasted your time and discredited your cause. With due respect to the opinions of those who disagree with me, you’d be better off fighting for more mature trees than showing up and arguing for overgrown rainforest trees that cause injury and waste money… Simply because they’re already in the ground.

  15. Beautification? What beats a great big cumulus like Ficus?!

  16. Westside LA towards beverly hills gets a tree maintence program that trims overgrown trees. They also fight to get dwp to underground their electrical lines. I would rather have trees along the parkways than poles and wires. It makes a huge difference!

  17. I don’t know how they can claim that they are beautifying the neighborhood by cutting down mature shade trees and replacing them with spindly sapling that die of neglect (check out the corner of Echo Park Ave and Sunset.) Someone politician must own a nursery, at least that’s what I suspect. Fix the fucking sidewalks and save the trees! This is bullshit, you’re going to make Echo Park look like an industrial park, not a neighborhood.

  18. If you oun a property and aren’t just renting adjacent to where these ficus trees are in Echo Park and have to fork out thousands of $ to replace damage foundations and drainage systems. You would understand why some folks would like to see the these particular kind of tree (ficus) replaced with a more maintenance friendly kind of tree. I love green, but I don’t like to see my property been destroyed by these trees.

    • I’m fed up with this beautification business. I’ve seen what they did to the trees they “replaced” on Echo Park north of Sunset and it is unacceptable. Email me at saveechoparktrees@gmail.com if you’d like to join a concerted effort to prevent this form happening.

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