By Mary O’KEEFE
It appears that efforts to save the Moreton Bay Fig tree have failed.
The Foothill Boulevard icon, which has been at the center of a community effort to thwart plans for its destruction, was being cut down on Friday despite reported assurances from the property owner to town officials that it would not be destroyed.
“We got a letter from the city or county that it was okay to remove the tree,” said Jenny Nam, owner of New Star Realty, the property owner.
On Monday officials with the Los Angeles County Planning Department consulted with the L.A. County counsel about the tree, according to Crescenta Valley Town Council President Cheryl Davis.
“[The Planning Department] sent an email allowing [the property owner] to cut down the mature tree,” said Davis.
Davis received notice from the County of their decision.
“I warned the County, ‘You have just told them it is okay to cut down the tree,’” she said. “They came back to me on Wednesday and said legally they cannot tell the [property owner] not to cut the tree.”
It is not the legality of the matter as much as the community spirit that is at the base of the grassroots effort to save the tree.
The realty company recently purchased the property in the 2600 block of Foothill Boulevard. Until the purchase, the obstacle between life and death of the Moreton Bay Fig tree was the developer next door. That building – on the former site of Plumb Crazy – is currently under construction and has had its own controversial issues. During construction some of the roots of the Moreton Bay Fig, which sits on the property next door, had been cut. Crescenta Valley Town Council and the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley voiced their concern with the developer about the tree, informing the developer of its symbolism as a community icon. After several meetings and a protest by local residents, the developer and the town council began to discuss ways to save the tree.
Arborists were hired to help find the best way to keep the tree alive. The issue was discussed several times in the past at CVTC meetings and Davis was grateful that the developer was now working with the community and understood how important the tree was.
CVTC members had tried to reach the realty owners to share their concerns. According to Davis, newly elected councilmember Dr. Young Seok Suh had been in touch with the realty company as late as Wednesday.
“We were assured they were not going to cut [the tree] down. They were going to cut another tree down on Saturday and we were all going to meet with them to discuss the [fate of the Moreton Bay],” Davis said.
But Nam stood her ground. “We were told we could cut it down,” she insisted.
When asked why Nam felt the tree needed to be taken down, she replied, “It is messy, too much trash [leaves] from the tree. Actually we were told (by Above and Beyond Tree Service) that the tree couldn’t live longer than five years.”
“Mike Lawler (of the Historical Society) hired an arborist and that is contrary to what [the arborist] had said,” Davis said. “And it is contrary to what another [tree service] had said.”
An attempt was made to contact Above and Beyond but they were unavailable as of press time.
Lawler confirmed that his arborist had said the tree needed water and some normal maintenance.
“I think it is a travesty,” Lawler said. “This is not a good way for [New Star Realty] to enter the neighborhood. As far as I am concerned they are not welcome.”