On June 13 a carob tree failed at the root ball and collapsed on a Chevy Yukon on Ocampo totaling the vehicle. On June 15 a large eucalyptus branch fell on Alma Real a block from where the carob tree had failed the previous day. “The tree gave no warning,” said Yukon owner Michael McRoskey. “It just fell over.” The housekeeper was in the residence and heard a crash. She thought that perhaps it was a garbage truck, but after looking outside, she called McRoskey with the news. “The tree fell over, everyone is okay, but your car is under the tree,” she said. Ocampo was blocked off while an emergency city crew cleared the street. When McRoskey arrived at home, he saw his vehicle had been totaled. “I can’t even get an odometer reading, because the dash was crushed,” McRoskey said. “The scary part is if someone had been driving down that street around noon, they’d be dead.” “We are investigating the tree that failed,” said Nazario Sauceda Bureau of Street Services in the Department of Public Works. “They don’t fall like that typically.” According to Carl Mellinger, a certified arborist, tree failure can be the result of several factors, and each tree needs to be evaluated individually. Some of the causes could include an over-weighted canopy, sidewalk, lawn or irrigation system construction resulting in destroyed roots, or too much or too little water. Eucalyptus trees are prone to a situation called “summer limb drop,” which means they self-prune or shed limbs to protect the tree, Mellinger said. “There’s not a lot of science to explain why it happens, but it’s accepted knowledge.” In the past 10 months in the Huntington Palisades, two carob trees have failed at the roots and three eucalyptus have shed large branches covering the street below. Residents of the Palisades have expressed the need for more pruning on several occasions, including at a December Community Council meeting. At that meeting, Ron Lorenzen, street tree superintendent for the West Valley Region, explained that there are 700,000 street trees under the city’s responsibility, but funding for his department allows for only 70,000 trees per year to be trimmed. Currently, the city’s trees are on a nine- to-10-year pruning cycle. “Certainly, a nine- to- 10-year trimming cycle is not the most desirable,” said Sauceda. But, he added that “the Bureau has worked very closely with the offices of the elected officials to emphasize the need of more resources, considering that in addition to tree trimming, the Urban Forestry Division also performs root pruning, tree removals, stump removals and median island landscaping.” Mellinger said that “In Santa Monica they have fewer trees and more money, so some trees they prune every year. Depending on the tree, pruning is on a three- to- five- to- seven-year cycle, which is ideal.” In February, community activist Dick Littlestone e-mailed Lorenzen with another request for pruning the Huntington’s trees and was told that the contract would be awarded by spring. “We were delayed, but today the city contract was awarded (June 16),” said Sauceda. “We cannot tell the contractor where to go first, but my pledge is to have my staff make a request to do the Huntington as a first part of the contract. “The contractors the city hire also work for other cities and private entities as well, so we have no control over their schedule,” Sauceda added. “In the meantime, we have a certified arborist to inspect and monitor the subject trees until the time they can be trimmed. If there is an emergency, the city will take care of it.” In an e-mail to Robert Weber, Community Council secretary, this past Friday, Lorenzen outlined the bureau’s work load. “Since 7 a.m. this morning, there have been 51 requests for emergency service due to limb and tree failure from the West Valley north of Mullholland and west of the 405 freeway” “It’s unfair for the city to have to take care of the trees with the money they have,” said Mellinger. “The mayor wants to plant a million new trees. I’m curious to know how the City of Los Angeles is going to maintain 1.7 million trees, when they don’t have the budget to maintain the 700,000 we already have. In the long run, it would be cheaper to take care of the trees by putting money up front, rather than handling it with legal expenses caused by damage.”
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