Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Carthay Elementary Community Still Trying to Save Two Oak Trees

Carthay Elementary alumni celebrated the school’s centennial earlier this month. (photo from Carthay

Just hours before a celebration of the school’s centennial, LAUSD officials notified the school community they were going ahead with plans to remove two mature oak trees from the school to make way for an elevator installation as part of a plan to make the campus more accessible.

“While many, including the District, wish we did not need to remove the trees, the District has exhausted all possibilities to keep them and is moving forward with the design that best preserves the campus’ historical significance, provides access and enhances greening elements,” wrote Lisette Rosales, Community Relations Dept./Small Business Enterprise,
LAUSD Facilities Services Division.

The accessibility plan calls for the demolition of two mature oak trees so an elevator can be installed.

The bad news was made worse by the timing of the message neighbors.

“The missive was sent right before the school had their 100th anniversary celebration at 5 pm. I can’t believe their timing. That was callous. Must have felt worse for the parents with kids enrolled in the environmental magnet curriculum,” said Carthay Circle Neighborhood Association board member Ann Rubin.

A tike wall featuring student art depicting the twin oak trees. “This really shows the kids’ long-term connection to the oak twins and their prominence in the school’s physical landscape and literally embedded values,” neighbor Ann Rubin told the Buzz. .

The irony of LAUSD taking out mature trees from this school has not been lost on the community. Their removal even runs counter to LAUSD’s new greening policy that states that whenever a facilities project disrupts paving they must use this opportunity to add green – something all school communities should know about, former school parent and school garden founder Teresa Dahl told the Buzz.

Here’s an excerpt from the policy Dahl shared with the Buzz:
“Resolved further, That any facilities projects that necessitate the disruption of existing concrete, asphalt paving or other hardscape, including asphalt replacement/repaving, portable building removal projects, and future Major Modernizations, also include the addition of green space or a natural space with the requisite shading to ensure measurable progress towards the District’s adopted aforementioned minimum green space standard;”

The school community has won widespread support from the neighbors in their battle to save the trees. The Miracle Mile Residents Association, Carthay Circle Neighborhood Association, Carthay Square, South Carthay, Little Ethiopia, Angelenos for Trees, Angelenos for Green Schools, Mid City West Neighborhood Council, and Pico Neighborhood Council have all written formal letters to LAUSD leadership who has not responded, according to Dahl.

And, even though the Carthay HPOZ board has little say in the matter, neighbor and retired architect Peter Merlin plans to raise the issue at the next HPOZ meeting.

Merlin told the Buzz he had explored other possible locations for the exterior elevator shaft and machine room, that would not have disturned the oaks. Other architects also weighed in with suggestions but to no avail.

“However, after a year of planning, and without input from the community, the LAUSD seems committed to their original plan along with their engineering and other soft costs,” said Merlin.

“The community’s take-away is that LAUSD Facilities ignored community input in 2022 during the planning phase and spent nearly $5m of the $11m project budget on the design/engineering/permitting, etc, and has now exhausted resources to revisit the design,” said Dahl. “The elevator is the final phase of the 14-month project but they are threatening to cut down the trees in a week,” said Dahl.

But parents are not giving up. They have gathered over 1,000 signatures for a petition urging LAUSD to reconsider their plans and explore alternative construction methods that preserve these irreplaceable natural resources.

“There are many LAUSD schools with no trees at all on their paved playgrounds. Let’s be the change, support the protection of healthy mature trees wherever they exist on LAUSD schoolyards. More than this, tell the LAUSD that, as the largest land owner in the city, kids need healthy environments in which to play and learn – not parking lots as is the current construct,” reads the petition.

“We have consulted with our own independent arborist and recommended a tree moving company who confirms trees can be safely and successfully transplanted, contrary to the report from LAUSD’s third-party arborist who was hired by the contractor installing the elevator,” said Dahl.

“The battle isn’t over, although the trees could be chopped down at any time,” Rubin told the Buzz.

“At this point, we are focused on finding a way to save the trees even if it means someone outside the school adopting them,” said Dahl. “We need the LAUSD to give us more time.”

The school community told the Buzz the only silver lining in all this has been the consciousness-raising around the preservation of trees -and the broad support in the community and really from around the city,” said Dahl. “We have heard so many stories of trees being removed for the arbitrary desire to develop without community input.”

Click here to sign the petition.

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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