Community Upsurge to ‘Green Our Streets’

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

After revelations that Pacific Palisades has been losing hundreds of historic trees to drought effect, pests and developers, groups around the town are preparing their own “Plant a Tree” movements.

Long-established campaigners such as Palisades Beautiful and PRIDE, the business representative group that spearheads beautification projects in the Village’s commercial zone, are drawing up fresh plans to deal with endangered greenery.

They may end up working in tandem with newly minted green groups expected to emerge from low-key meetings being organized by volunteers scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 7.

For now, they are bypassing the Pacific Palisades Community Council, and perhaps even more relevantly its subsidiary, the recently revived Land Use Committee, which critics argue is still finding a balance between developers and local demands.

Neither of those bodies have yet revisited tree policies set before the drought, although some members such as PPCC Chair Maryam Zar and President Emeritus Chris Spitz have taken individual initiatives such as promoting alternatives to “wood dumping” along Temescal Canyon Road and investigating the fate of aging palm trees along Swarthmore Avenue.

Such issues are rising up the priority list at city level promoted by Mike Bonin, the councilmember who represents the Palisades, and his Palisadian field deputy Lisa Cahill.

Palisades Beautiful is seeking new volunteers to help protect existing trees while PRIDE is drawing up ambitious plans to “refresh” The Village.

Realtor John Padden, who is heading up the PRIDE initiative, is coordinating with landscaping engineers recommended by the Caruso team. PRIDE is considering replacing dead or endangered trees with native or less water-hungry species around The Village.

This will tie into citywide initiatives by the city’s Urban Forestry department to audit the damage caused by the drought, invasive tree-weakening insects and over-enthusiastic developers in recent years.

They may have to update codes that allow developers to remove sidewalk trees in expensive areas and plant cheaper replacements in cheaper areas—which, some believe, strips the Palisades of vital canopy.

“Donating” inconvenient trees to the city is increasingly seen as a legal ploy, as the city does not track whether such trees survive the donation.

Frustrated with such rules, volunteers such as arborealist Michael Terry, who works with volunteers at the Palisades Beautiful N/E/X/T/Garden in Temescal Canyon, and PPCC Representative At-Large Lou Kamer are seeking to seed their own alternative green infrastructure.

They will be involved in the meetings on Dec. 7, although both are wary about revealing the agenda beforehand. But more than one type of hyper-local “tree guardian” group could emerge.

Kamer, who has been polling residents in the Alphabet Streets about tree loss, said that the current “arboreocide” is sad and concerning.

“I am not a tree hugger,” he said. “My wife’s car was smashed by a huge branch, and it was in the shop for a month. I hated that tree.

“But when I hear about global warming, the stripping of the forests and cities that expand without taking the environment into effect, I wonder if there is anything I can do to help.

“My answer is to plant a tree. It is a small, simple step I can take that would offset, perhaps, a minuscule percentage of global warming’s rise. Of course, [global warming] could all be made up, in which case I will have a nice, shady spot for my kids to water that saves me money.

“We need to use the collective power of ‘us’ to return our town to the tree-lined place where nature meets modern city life; not a place where modern life banishes nature.

“We need to think ahead and plant for the future. I will go first.”