Palisades Forestry Committee Presents Tree Findings

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

After being appointed by Pacific Palisades Community Council Chair George Wolfberg in April, the Palisades Forestry Committee made its first presentation at the September 12 PPCC meeting.

The one-hour presentation was led by PFC Chair David Card, with help from others on the committee.

After sharing slides that showed how the tree canopy has grown and changed within the Palisades since the town was founded, Card explained that the committee looked at the five blocks of Hartzell Street in the Alphabet Streets as a pilot project, creating a map that designated vacancies as well as different species of trees that are currently there.

The committee’s initial focus will be on street trees in public parkways, medians and right of ways—taking a look at both existing trees and the vacant spaces where trees do not currently exist. They are using the Santa Monica Urban Forest Master Plan as a template.

When making suggestions of what trees to plant where, the committee is taking into consideration everything from what will thrive in what particular space to disease resistance, availability and flammability, with a designation list that includes existing trees, primary species and secondary species.

“We’re looking at this as kind of proof of concept, because the whole idea was to come in and partner with the city,” PFC Member Kelly Comras shared. “So we have good sources of people who are really energized, we could help put together a process working with the city and then write up a handbook and that could be used with the city and other communities.”

The committee shares a map of Hartzell Street trees and vacancies.

Comras added that the Palisades is starting with a canopy of trees that other communities would consider their end goal.

The Palisades Forestry Committee shared that they are aiming to maximize the number of urban forest trees by planting more and minimizing the number that are removed.

Card touched on a contentious situation when a developer removed trees that were reported to be nearly 70 years old near Via De Las Olas and Mount Holyoke with no permit.

“This is a spectacular failure,” Card said, adding that it drew “quite a fuss on Nextdoor and everywhere else.” The city temporarily suspended the developer’s permit, and though they are back at work, the developer will have to replace the trees that were removed.

“We do not advocate removing any tree unless it’s dying or near death,” Card later explained. “Our bias is to not remove trees.”

The committee’s mission statement is to “enhance and sustain the health and beauty of the Pacific Palisades urban forest for future generations by facilitating the planting of appropriate trees and the caring for our existing trees; educate our community about the economic, environmental, health, social, emotional and aesthetic benefits of the trees that comprise our urban forest; protect the urban forest from unnecessary removals for better management, planning and enforcement, and honor the history of trees in the community; and establish a replicable model of a community urban forest task force for Pacific Palisades in partnership with the city of Los Angeles.”

PPCC Treasurer Richard Cohen clarified at the end of the meeting that the community council has not adopted a policy, but that the information presented by PFC is a work-in-progress proposal.

“It’s a gigantic step forward and they’ve done wonderful work,” Cohen explained, “but nothing has been established as policy yet.”