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Residents upset over tree removal

Anguished Lagunans express concerns about loss of aesthetics and history and note damage to the environment as well.

May 09, 2013|By Barbara Diamond

A group of residents have dubbed the removal of nine ficus trees from downtown streets as "The Chainsaw Massacre."

Seven speakers voiced their anguish and anger about the removal of the trees at Tuesday's City Council meeting. They urged more prudent pruning and aesthetic consideration in the future — rather than destruction or replacement — to preserve the character of downtown Laguna.

"It's true, as Joni Mitchell sang, 'you don't know what you've got till it's gone,'" Barbara MacGillivray said. "I never realized until last week how emotionally attached I am to our colorful light-green canopy. Watching the tree wrecking crew obliterate the three lovely ficus close to the Marine Room on Ocean Avenue was devastating."

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Pam Goldstein said it will take 50 years for Ocean Avenue to recover its aesthetic appeal.

"Laguna is a beautiful place," Goldstein said. "Why are we destroying it and who ordered this massacre?"

The council unanimously approved the removal and replacement of seven trees, six of them ficus, at the April 9 meeting as part of a sidewalk repair project. Those trees were located on Forest and Ocean avenues and on Second and Mermaid streets.

Removal of the three ficus in front of the defunct Big Dog store on Ocean Avenue was approved 4-1 at the April 23 meeting, with Councilwoman Toni Iseman opposed.

The Planning Commission recommended their removal as a condition of its approval to renovate the building for a new restaurant, despite the property owner's preference to preserve the trees.

Greg MacGillivray said trees have commercial value as well as aesthetic appeal. He advised the council that trees help differentiate Laguna from other communities.

"We need to be careful not to lose what we have got," McGillivray said.

Village Laguna President Ginger Osborne also lamented the damage to what she called the downtown "treescape."

"Though I know treescape is not a word, it communicates the idea that trees through their canopies and shade give character to the downtown," Osborne said. "I understand there may have been legitimate reasons of safety for removing some of these trees, but I urge you in the future instead to take measures to save our mature trees through removing of surface roots and redoing the sidewalks."

Money is at the root of the city's decision to remove the trees, according to City Manager John Pietig.

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