It was hard to miss the workers trimming trees on Larchmont in the Village between First Street and Beverly Blvd. on Thursday.
“We trim the trees every year,” said Heather Boylston, a spokesperson for the Larchmont Business Improvement District (BID). According to Boylston, it’s a huge expense that the BID has taken on for many years, always in winter but after holiday decorations come down. This year, the BID asked the trimmers to take a little more time and trim the trees in a “prettier way than the lollipop look,” said Boylston. “It takes more time, but we think it looks better.”
Recently, the trees on Larchmont have been a subject of discussion as the BID announced plans to remove and replace the more-than-sixty-year-old trees. The plan has generated a great deal of discussion among local residents about what might be a suitable replacement for the ficus trees, which have been much maligned for uplifting the sidewalks and strangling the plumbing of businesses on Larchmont.
This month, the Windsor Square Association ran an ad in the Larchmont Chronicle, letting residents know about the BID’s proposal to remove three of the most problematic trees on the street and calling for a discussion “before any irreversible action is taken on Larchmont.”
Helen Hartung, Chair of the Windsor Square Association Tree Canopy committee, told the Buzz that she’d like to more thought given to the maintenance of the trees.
“The Ficus trees on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica are beautifully maintained and the sidewalks are perfect,” said Hartung. “I’m not anti-replacing them, but the issue is maintenance.”
Hartung isn’t especially fond of the Brisbane Box, the proposed replacement for the three trees being removed first, because they can weedy and scruffy. She shared some photos of mature Brisbane Box trees she visited in Brentwood Village. There is a relatively young tree planted in front of Picket Fences that seems to illustrate Hartung’s point about proper maintenance.
But said Hartung, “regardless of which species we plant, we have to make a commitment to good maintenance.” She’s interested in investigating the African Fern Pine, another tree that was proposed by the BID’s arborist.
Hartung said she’d also like to learn more about how the trees will be replaced, saying it should be done in a thoughtful way, with some kind of pattern, so it doesn’t look awkward. Perhaps every fourth tree, or trees across the street from each other would make sense, she suggested.
But not everyone thinks the Ficus trees look bad or should be replaced.
“I think the trees look great,” said Judy Horton, garden designer and long-time resident of the neighborhood, whose office is on Larchmont. “The BID has pruned them up higher so you can see them branching out — it looks great,” said Horton who also finds the “cartoon-like” lollipop shapes consistent with the charm of Larchmont.
She’s also reluctant to remove such large, old trees. “All old trees are irreplaceable in our life time,” explained Horton. She added that any large tree will eventually have some of the same problems as the current Ficus trees. Before leaping into a removal and replace plan, Horton said, she would like to see more case studies of streets where trees have been planted and successfully maintained in other parts of the city.
Like Hartung, Horton thinks maintenance is key and that repairing the sidewalks should be considered a part of that maintenance effort. According to Horton, the sidewalks used to be repaired more regularly.
“There’s no instant solution, but I’m glad to see that people are being so thoughtful about this,” said Horton.
Boylston said the BID is committed to engaging the community in this discussion over the next several months as the BID begins the process of addressing the fate of the trees on Larchmont.