By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
"Moving the Endeavour will be a marvel of wonder and ingenuity," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at an August press conference, where it was announced that some 212 traffic signals and streetlights would be dismantled to accommodate the shuttle's slow crawl through South L.A. to its new home at the California Science Center.
What Villaraigosa pointedly did not say that day — and what no one from the Science Center said either — was that they also were quietly planning to chop down hundreds of mature, often beautiful shade trees in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
Until the moment Inglewood residents awoke to buzzsaws outside their homes on Sept. 3, few people knew of California Science Center president Jeffrey N. Rudolph's controversial plan to hack down more than 370 magnolia, coral, bottlebrush, eucalyptus, sycamore and pine trees that line the 12-mile shuttle route from LAX.
"This is unbelievable!" well-known wetlands activist Marcia Hanscom says with disgust.
She views the destruction of nearly 400 trees — after zero public notice or involvement — as "symptomatic of deeper problems: Here in L.A., it's OK to bulldoze a wetland away because 'it will come back.' The same disconnected thinking leads to approval of something like this tree massacre: 'We'll just plant more!' "
Ever since the truth belatedly emerged that city leaders and Rudolph planned to destroy 119 trees in South L.A., 124 in the Westchester area, 128 in the city of Inglewood and a handful near LAX to make way for L.A.'s latest tourist attraction, Angelenos and even many living outside the city have been up in arms.
"I could care less about the stupid space shuttle OK? We need the trees over here. Let me tell you why: Because we are burning right here in this city," said a woman named Anna, who huddled under an umbrella for shade on a blistering hot Tuesday, waiting for a bus across from a now-treeless median on Manchester Avenue.
Few people realize that the city and the museum got away with, well, tree murder, by abusing an obscure section of L.A.'s municipal code that was actually meant to protect, not destroy, trees. Those rules normally apply to "house moving."
On Sept. 17, under intense pressure from reporters to explain themselves, Rudolph and the California Science Center Foundation went into full damage-control mode, deploying former deputy mayor, ex-city commissioner and foundation adviser Steve Soboroff to smooth things over.
Soboroff declared to the L.A. Daily News: "We engaged TreePeople to be involved, and the vast majority [of trees] to be removed are sick, dying or creating havoc on the sidewalks — and a number are scheduled to be replaced."
The media appeared to accept these claims as facts delivered by a well-known civic figure. The same day, the Board of Public Works let furious members of the public air their anger during a strictly for show, informational meeting. And as excitement built about seeing the space shuttle swoop over Los Angeles landmarks, the media started covering the chopping-down of the dying, diseased and troublesome trees as a foregone conclusion.
But there were two enormous problems: Steve Soboroff was not telling the truth. And the California Science Center — a partnership of the state of California and the museum's foundation — was flouting state law with help from Villaraigosa's political appointees on the Board of Public Works.
The 265-plus trees in Los Angeles, some of which have yet to be hacked down, and the 128 trees already destroyed in Inglewood are not, in fact, dying or diseased.
Moreover, TreePeople — whose reputation gave weight to Soboroff's outlandish claim last week — had nothing to do with the museum's clearly mishandled "survey" of the doomed trees.
The "survey," if there is one, ostensibly was created by the very same company being paid by the museum to chop down the trees — ValleyCrest Landscape Companies. But their tree survey was not given to the Board of Public Works or the museum leaders — or to Soboroff.
And Caryn Bosson, TreePeople's spokeswoman, says her group wasn't involved in the survey. It was involved only in a community lobbying effort to change the route via which the museum planned to haul Endeavour. The goal was to save 500 Canary Island pine trees, which were planted during a huge event in 1990 organized by well-known environmentalists and black civic figures as a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. on the boulevard bearing his name.
Incredibly, Rudolph and the California Science Center Foundation had planned to chop down the blocks-long memorial to King without first consulting with o the groups who 22 years ago gave life to the majestic stand of pine trees.
"Each tree was adopted by a community member, and watered and cared for — for 10 years," Bosson says. "These [are] important, important community trees." A coalition, including TreePeople, convinced Rudolph and the California Science Center to spare, at the very least, those trees.
What about Soboroff's public insistence that the majority of trees being chopped down are sick, dying or wreaking havoc on sidewalks?
The Weekly asked a respected, registered consulting arborist — an expert in tree health and disease — to tour the route along which the shuttle will be moved from LAX to near USC on Oct. 12-13, and to provide an independent assessment.
How many trees grow in Los Angeles? LA's Urban Forest Division estimates it at around 10 million.
Why get your panties in a bunch over a few hundred?
Take a look around you as you travel around Los Angeles. You will notice millions of trees growing all over the city. The needless loss of one tree is sad, but why get your panties in a bunch over a few hundred trees out of several million?
Apparently you must be a follower of Ronald "Seen One Tree- Seen 'em All" Reagan. Would also suggest you do some reading up on AGW, especially the parts re deforestation being a big part of the deterioration of the globe's ecological backbone. Then again, maybe ignorance is bliss.
@gonge I've worked in forest restoration for 25 years. I often volunteer with Tree People and several other local non-profits enhancing Los Angeles' Urban Forest. What have you done for trees lately?
couldn't they have just taken the wings off the plane and shuttle and wheel it all behind each other and reassemble back?!? what am i missing?
@zz_zzz1441 You are missing nothing. The people who run this city are, simply put, arrogant fools!
A tree takes decades to grow and it cannot be dismantled and re-assembled.
A space shuttle, which will never-ever be operational again, can be completely dismantled into small pieces that would fit in the back of a Toyota pick-up truck and then re-assembled a the science center.
In fact, photographing the dis-assembly and the re-assembly would be extremely educational.
Angelenos, however, get the corrupt incompetent government which they deserve. People like Garcetti, LaBonge, Perry, Villababosa serve until they are termed out, while the corrupt billionaires who run this place groom fools to replace them.
This tree thing is a disgrace, but look at the fools we Angelenos have become. Up in Los Feliz, they have a love fest with Fat Tommy who cut one whole fire company from Los Feliz' Fire Station 35 and downsized the backup fire station #82 by 75%, and the Los Feliz Improvement Association [LFIA] just LOVES Fat Tommy. Every LFIA annual meeting has turned into a disgusting Fat Tommy Love Fest. Yep, he slashes the emergency responders to the Los Feliz Hills causing more DEATH and they give this jerk 3 full terms! Trees are one thing, but we are talking about people's lives.
When Angelenos let the City Council slash the fire department and paramedic budget by $200 Million, they obviously won't do anything to protect trees.
@jillstewart Hey Jill trees are renewable and they are plating 4 times as many as they are cutting down and fixing the sidewalks, it's good.
The Space Shuttle will crawl
to her final resting place in Exposition Park.
There will be dancing and bands,
streamers and champagne,
a raucous soiree.
But despite reassurance from Tree People or Soboroff,
the illegal cutting of the trees will not go away.
Only Street Services has the jurisdiction to fell a tree in the parkway without seeking permit,
it appears they had the good sense to steer clear of involvement with the CSS charade.
A house moving permit or CEQA report is not a tree removal permit,
and each tree removed without permit is an offense carrying fine and jail time.
We will have a new District Attorney at the end of this year, and probably a new City Attorney next year.
Some one must be prosecuted for every single unpermitted tree removal crime.
There is something missing from this report. Somebody is hiding, thats pretty clear.
Valley Crest did not walk the route, measure the street and decide which trees to cut all alone.
No Way in Hades. Someone intricately involved with the engineering and logistics of transporting the shuttle must have been there to make the final call.
We will get the name.
If Jeffery Rudoph or Steve Soboroff wants to take his place in the docket, that's fine.
None of you guys saw Lord of the Rings?
Get ready to serve the maximum jail time.
Now that the trees have been chopped down along the path for the Space Shuttle, we can expect this is also the same route for the tanks to roll. They may come not too far behind.
@lollipoptheif They're coming to take me away hehe, they're coming to take away haha, to the funny farm ....
This would have been handled differently in a more affluent community such as Santa Monica or Brentwood (Los Angeles)
@James_McCuen I grew up in Brentwood. Nether Santa Monica or Brentwood is anywhere near between LAX and the Science Museum.
Your claim that "This would have been handled differently in a more affluent community such as Santa Monica or Brentwood" is completely irrelevant.
West Los Angeles just came through Carmageddon II with no problems because we are much more intelligent than you can imagine.
@getplanted.native @James_McCuen I was involved with the Beverly Hills Freeway and that freeway was a bad idea as was the Laurel Canyon Freeway. I also agree that the subway to the sea is a bad idea and I hope Beverly Hills succeeds again. The Hollywood subway has substantially contributed to Hollywood's deterioration.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am for myself alone, what am I?
If not now, when?
Over the decades, Beverly Hills has been quite consistent in answering these three questions in a balanced manner.
Among other accomplishments, Endeavor helped create global remote sensing systems that monitor and protect millions of acres of forests all over the planet. Please show her some gratitude and some respect.
@getplanted.native Really, show this airplane respect by cutting down 400 trees?!? Geez, The endeavor is not alive -- trees are.
Hey LA- You get the type of government you deserve. show me ONE city councilperson who isn't in the bag for special interests. You knew what kind of a snake Carmen LIE-Tanich was when you elected him and Villaragosa? Come on people. Ray Charles could see what a crook he was. I don't feel sorry for the people of LA, YOU elected them, YOU are stuck with them.
The vast majority of the trees removed were non-native. This is an opportunity to replace them with native trees that will be of much more benefit to the native ecology.
Let the city put or the museum put the money to replant and maintain the trees in an escrow account. Otherwise it's all just talk.
Trees create shade, oxygen, bird and animal habitat, serve as markers for the passage of time, stop light rain, their basins catch rainwater and return it to the water table and they are beautiful. To hell with the space shuttle, to hell with Tony Villar the Mayor, how many times did he fail the bar? And to hell with this museum. If I lived in L.A. I would defend the trees in front of my house with a ring of neibghbors. Let the LAPD drag people away.
Hundreds of trees die every day in Los Angeles. To get upset about this little thing is silly nonsense.
@getplanted.native Getplanted -- you really have shown an amazing degree of hubris and ignorance. It's as if you don't even know what a tree is.
If hundreds of trees die each day in LA, that would be a minimum of 73,000 dead trees each year. If that were occurring, the last thing LA should do is cut down a single additional tree.
Your facts are B.S. and your conclusions non sequiturs
@abramsrl "...ignorance and hubris?", "... don't even know what a tree is?" Think again. My first job out of college in 1979 was planting trees on private forestlands in Northern California. In that job I planted around 800 trees per day for two months, with a total of around 64,000 trees. Since then I have worked in dozens of other reforestation projects in Redwood National Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Six Rivers National Forest, King Range National Recreation Area, Malibu Creek State Park, Santa Monica Mountains Nation Recreation Area, Angeles National Forest, and have volunteered many times with Tree People's Urban Forestry Project in Los Angeles.
I've planted close to 100,000 trees in my life. How many trees have you planted?
@abramsrl Way more than 73,000 trees are planted in Los Angeles every year.
@getplanted.native Thanks for your input Mr. Soboroff. How does Villagagosa's cock taste?
The sentence in question was written to reflect the number (provided by TreePeople) of memorial trees that were planted during the community event, not the number of trees threatened. That number was never, in any of the three conversations I had with TreePeople's spokesperson, disclosed to me. The article reflects my understanding from multiple conversations that the original route would have required the destruction of large swathes of community trees dedicated to Martin Luther King, which TreePeople's spokesperson proudly declared were the largest living memorial to Dr. King anywhere in the world.
I'm glad to hear that TreePeople has faith that the CSC will carry out its "robust plan" for both replacing and maintaining the replacement trees, and I can assure you that LA Weekly intends to continue covering the story and informing our readers of CSC's progress toward the full implementation of those promises.
@TessaStuart The city will plant trees the same way it provides paramedics -- it defunds them
@TessaStuartOne can't help thinking that this mass murder of healthy trees would not have happened in the TMZ. But, now that the dirty dieed's been done, there will be public monitoring of the tree replanting. Besides L.A. Weekly, folks will periodically (say every 3-6 months) travel the same route, taking photos of the progress or lack of same and posting to Youtube, Facebook, etc.
Sorry, my choice of TMZ was a mistake. I should have questioned whether this would have happened in the neighborhoods of those who ordered the murder of those trees.
@TessaStuart Tony Vilar will plant trees the same way he fixed all the pot holes he promised to. Also I seem to remember Vilar promise (between affairs with women not his wife) to plant ONE MILLION trees in LA. How did that go?
Yes there were early community meetings held to discuss the routing of the Endeavour. TreePeople was brought into this process in late June by involved community members concerned about protecting the historic Martin Luther King Blvd. memorial trees, which our organization planted with the community in 1990. The article misleadingly implies that 500 of these trees were threatened. We were told that only 14 could be impacted, and after our input have been assured that all of these trees are protected.
As a result of these meetings and the level of concern expressed about potential tree removals, the California Science Center has been very responsive and has been working closely with community representatives and city officials. We understand that the CSC has agreed to a much more robust plan to mitigate the impacts of the tree removal providing for many more, and larger, trees to be replaced and a much longer guaranteed maintenance period, among many other positive actions.
Unfortunately the LA Weekly decided to create even more rancor and negativity around this event. Going forward, TreePeople looks forward to working with the affected communities and partners in a positive process to make our neighborhoods even greener and healthier and our communities stronger.
Responding again to dlaine23 who was kind enough to send me a back channel email asking why the Weekly reported that there was "no public notice" yet the Los Angeles Times reported ""Residents disapproved of a route that would have taken the shuttle through Leimert Boulevard and forced the removal of dozens of pine and fir trees planted years ago to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Engineers found an alternative ..." That is not quite what happened, so shame on the LA Times. A few residents saw a flyer showing beautiful trees. The flyer announced that a decision had been made to replace the old trees. No hearings, no debate. When residents found out it was really a massive tree-chopping due to the shuttle, the residents and TreePeople put a stop to it. --Jill Stewart, LA Weekly Managing Editor
@jstewart2 Hi Jill. To clarify "Public Notice" is published legal notice of the intent to hold a Public Hearing on an issue. This was clearly avoided despite ample time when CSC was being considered as a possible housing venue for the Endeavor. Notes tacked to trees do not qualify under this procedure neither do administrative decisions contorting the definition and spirit of house moving permits, especially when issued following "presentations" by CSC at LA Public Works and the Inglewood City Council. Public Hearings are designed give an opportunity for all interested parties to weigh in on a potential landmark event that can inspire pride without the blemish of expeditious political moves. A key question remains which is why Atty Gideon Kracov, functioning as an advocate for the neighborhood was satisfied with sweetening the pot rather than drawing upon an injunction to stop the process and at least have the benefit of a CEQA review.
I am canceling my membership in the science center and suggest that everyone that fills they are corrupt do the same.
@getplanted.native @dlaine23 Your approach to other commenters seems a bit harsh. However, to answer you......involved in saving numerous mature, landmark trees in a historic park slated for destruction and developing a concept involved with avoiding sending trees to the wood chipper. Is that ok with you?
@dlaine23 @lenabydesign What streets exactly? If you are in WH there are specific ordinances in the municipal code that speak to neighborhood continuity. Under these, developments can be challenged. Folks need to be aware of what is going on in their neighborhoods. Be informed. It is worth the effort to speak up as you may win and have a hand in shaping favorable circumstances. If you are in LA there may be a comparable code. Let me know and I will be happy to direct you to it.
The most noticeable educational aspect of this misguided effort is sure to be the lack of due process. A timely thoughtful analysis of the logistics involved in this landmark event could have been a win on both hands. Unfortunately it will be a slow process of "the worm turning", exposing levels of mishandling, improper procedure and expeditious political gestures. The Endeavor Shuttle will surely be upstaged while the trees and opinions of the residents have been summarily decapitated.
Some nutjob in Alabama poisons a 130 year old oak tree at a university and gets charged with criminal mischief, the city whacks 370 trees, and it's OK.
"Zero public notice"? I've heard this in the news consistently for a month, and I don't even live in the area. Does the writer of this story not have a radio or TV or read the real paper?
It is a shame that they cut down mature trees. But do decry that it was a secret plan is just not true. This also fails to mention that they are replanting more trees than they are chopping. Most of us will be dead before they are mature but they will be there nonetheless. Be accurate.
It's all a bit silly. From the amount spent on the shuttle to the whole process of moving it. But just be accurate in your reporting.
@dlaine23 Thanks for weighing in about "zero public notice" Diane. I'm the managing editor of LA Weekly and can assure you that this is correct. The cutting was planned, approved and initiated without public notice. No public hearing. No community debates. No city officials arguing their side. You are perhaps confusing the after-the-fact rant session the Board of Public Works held, in response to community outrage, merely to let the wronged communities let off steam. There is a good chance the City Attorney gave the museum an illegal way to do this -- the "house-moving" loophole we explain in the story -- by opining that it was "legal". We shall see if the communities sue the city for this creative use of the house moving code. -- Jill Stewart, managing editor
@jstewart2 @dlaine23 Carmen Trutanich is a fair and honorabe man. I really doubt he would do something so backhanded like stab people in the back and publically LIE. Don't believe me? Just ask his good friends Bob Hertzberg and John Shallman. Let's not forget his promise in 2008 not to seek higher office for 8 years. He kept that promise like all the others he made. Trutanich do something for his own benefit at the expense of the citizens? Could never happen.
@jstewart2 Thanks, Jill. My response was in light of this article from the LA Times on Sep 3.
"Residents disapproved of a route that would have taken the shuttle through Leimert Boulevard and forced the removal of dozens of pine and fir trees planted years ago to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Engineers found an alternative — albeit longer — route."
Today's story seems to be contradicting this story. They said that residents were heard from and listened to - at least partly. If you are correct, then I am upset to be misinformed by the LA Times.
FYI, just this week on my street near the beverly center a city crew came and removed a tree directly in front of my apt that has been there since long before i lived there or in LA. the only notice was a sign saying "no parking on wed 9/26 9am-12pm" in front of where the tree was. no reason why. i asked the crew if it was going to be replaced and they said yes. fair enough. they have been removing and replacing many trees in the past year. the new ones are actually nicer - or will be when they grow.
@dlaine23 @jstewart2 I live on the planned route on Manchester near La Tijera, and there have been posters taped to every single tree along the route (at least all the trees that are visible from my house). Those posters first appeared on August 6th. The poster indicated that it was scheduled for removal and that there would be a public hearing held by the Department of Public Works.
So, I wouldn't say there was "zero public notice". I'm part of the public and I knew about it WELL in advance.
However, I am deeply dismayed to learn that the hearing was 'just for show' AND that it was held AFTER many of the most mature trees were already cut down (the Science Center FAQ indicates there are 54 mature trees, 5 of which will be relocated the other 49 of which weren't suited to the urban environment). I wanted to go to the hearing, but it was downtown and in the middle of a workday. For me, I've been excited about the prospect that the Science Center is going to get rid of the nasty, scraggly trees on my street and actually pour some money into greenworks along my street, whose weedy, trash-ridden sidewalks and dividers have escaped the attention of our public funds for far too long.
Nonetheless, it certainly appears that this could have been handled with much greater transparency and community involvement. their FAQ makes it seem like they've been working with community leaders on the impacts of Endeavour's Mission 26 since they were awarded the shuttle 15 months ago. I'm sad to learn this has not been the case. In any event, if ValleyCrest doesn't take care of the trees they replant on my street, I can guarantee that I will.
Well dust yourself off. You're not in Kansas anymore. This is Los Angeles, second most corrupt area in the nation. Actually, it is the most corrupt urban area but we don't prosecute any of the white collar crooks and corrupt politicos like Villabosa or Garcetti so we really don't have the data. At least Chicago has the decency to put their crooks in prison every so often.
@dlaine23 It was a shock to most Angelenos that some local newpapers showed street workers cutting down very mature trees along the route. I see it as being bad policy in which you have to consider it changes the landscape and there is no guarantee that the Science Center nor city government will maintain them until they are self-sustaining.They will make excuses without jurisprudence.
@PeterB agreed. but we also live in a city where the average lifespan of any structure is about 25yrs. houses, office buildings, landmarks are all routinely demolished and rebuilt to suit changing trends. trees are certainly not immune.
in my neighborhood 7 houses within 2 blocks have been demolished - along with their mature trees - in the past year to erect hideous box-like McMansions that will again be torn town in 15yrs because they are already out of style.
this city has no codes for the preservation of community integrity. the trees will be replanted - and then chopped down 10yrs from now to build a new CVS. unfortunately, that is how this city operates. and we choose to live here.
@dlaine23 @PeterB I'm actually for the most part a supporter of this whole operation. I'll explain why in another post. But I think it's really important to point out that the folks who live in the impacted communities don't really have much choice where they live. I'm all about individual opportunity and bootstrapping, etc., but these are severely underserved neighborhoods where the kids who grow up on these streets may never leave those streets (I've met some inner city youth who've never been more than 5 blocks from the house they were born in). It's unfair to talk about our CHOICE to live here when the residents of the communities who will be most affected by this have few choices indeed.
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