Reasons for concerns about proposed trees on Ocean Ave

Stu News reported on the discussion that took place at the Council meeting of May 8 regarding the choice of trees to be planted at four vacant tree wells on Ocean Avenue. The article reflected the comments from Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis that we (Ruben Flores, horticulturist, Bob Borthwick and Ann Christoph, landscape architects), had had four weeks to make our recommendations known to staff in advance of the public meeting. This left the impression that either we were negligent in not responding sooner, that we were trying to delay the process or that our comments were ill-considered and should be discounted. None of these impressions is correct.

In reality we had no knowledge of the types of trees being proposed until the agenda bill was out at the end of the previous week. Because of this short time frame the public forum was the only venue available to bring our recommendations forward regarding the most appropriate trees to be planted.  

We are concerned that the Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ trees being proposed will be too small and shrubby to provide canopies under which the public can walk.  We are recommending a larger growing Magnolia with a canopy, ‘Samuel Sommer’.

We are also concerned about the proposed Chinese Pistache tree, which is a deciduous tree that grows “30-60’ tall with nearly equal spread” according to Sunset. Adding a large deciduous tree to the evergreen tree palette of the downtown will be a change to the area’s visual character, and so we recommend continuing with the present mix of trees which includes the Magnolia and the staff-proposed Metrosideros, New Zealand Christmas tree.

We are grateful to Barbara and Greg MacGillivray for donating the additional amounts needed to augment the City’s tree budget, and to councilmember Bob Whalen who has been facilitating a tree decision-making process for the downtown trees. 

As professionals who have been contributing to landscape decisions for our town for many years, we are happy to continue working with these and other dedicated citizens to beautify our environment.

Ann Christoph

Bob Borthwick

Ruben Flores

Laguna Beach