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

Carthay School Oak Trees Saved For Now

The Carthay School playground oak trees have been saved for now. (photo from Ann Rubin)

The proposal to remove two 30-year-old Oak trees at Carthay School of Environmental Studies Magnet has been placed on hold.

Christos Chrysiliou, Chief Eco-Sustainability Officer for LAUSD, told the Buzz last week that his office is looking into the matter and was very committed to making sure this was handled “correctly.”

Chrysiliou told members of the community who opposed the removal of the trees that his office was reviewing the proposed plan internally to re-evaluate any proposed alternatives to removing the trees for accessibility improvements to the campus.

Chrysiliou shared the following email with the Buzz sent by his colleague Jose’ De Paz, Senior Organizer in the Community Relations Department of LAUSD’s Facilities Division to the school community:

“Dear Carthay School of Environmental Studies and STEM Magnet Community Member,

Thank you for reaching out to us regarding the ADA Barrier Removal Project at Carthay Elementary. Your perspectives are important to us. Our project teams are currently reviewing critical aspects of the project, with the questions and comments raised by the community top of mind.

We will hold a second community meeting to share and discuss in more detail the scope, the status, and any potential modifications to the project. We anticipate that community meeting to occur around mid-April. We will notify you well in advance of the date. In the meantime, please know that the removal of the trees mentioned at the 3/21/24 community meeting has been put on hold.”

Parents, teachers, and residents who have a long-standing commitment to school and the garden contacted the Buzz when plans to cut down the trees were announced at a community on March 21st. (Carthay Center Elementary School is celebrating its centennial this year serving the Carthay Center neighborhood near the intersection of Olympic and Crescent Heights Blvd. In 2006, Carthay’s parents started a garden that was integrated into the school’s culture and programs, becoming the Carthay School of Environmental Studies Magnet in 2014. In 2016, we reported the school opened as Carthay Community School Park.)

The ADA Barrier Removal Project called for the installation of an elevator and a new entry ramp area to improve accessibility at the school. As part of the project, two mature oaks would be removed and replaced with two new Arbutus Marina (Marina Strawberry Trees) located in a new planter, and two new California Sycamore trees installed in the field along Foster Drive. The oak trees were installed by the district 30 years ago when they installed a grass field at the school, according to residents.

Parents told the Buzz that they completely support the accessibility goals but they don’t want to see the oak trees removed because they provide the only shade to the play yard where children can gather. And the new trees proposed along Foster Drive aren’t close to the areas where children play.

“These trees are the only shade on the playground where children can play,” Monica Carlos, a parent at the school and a resident of Carthay Circle, told the Buzz. “We support the improvements, but can we find a way to go around the trees? Why can’t they design around the trees which also protect our children.”

Dahl and Carlos told us they were happy to hear the district is reviewing the plans but they worry the next community might be like the last one.

“It felt like they were checking a box,” said Dahl. “They weren’t listening; there was no opportunity for feedback. The construction equipment was being staged on the campus while the meeting was going on.”

The school is part of the Carthay Circle HPOZ and the Carthay Neighborhoods Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, explained Ann Rubin, a resident and member of the Carthay Circle Neighborhood Association Beautification Committee.

“It’s not clear that all the proposed renovations have been correctly handled in terms of historic resources, and the advocates are looking into this,” Rubin told the Buzz.

“This matter is upsetting, considering the school has a focus on teaching about the environment and being stewards of nature,” said Rubin. “The kids know better. This is a chance to do the right thing as a leading example.”

LAUSD officials will be presenting at the next Carthay Circle HPOZ meeting later this week on April 4. Click here to view the agenda and join the virtual meeting.

The oaks also serve as a gathering place for the students and the community. (photo from Ann Rubin)

“What I hope comes of this is an awareness of the critical value of trees,” said Teresa Dahl, founder of the Carthay School of Environmental Studies Magnet’s Garden Committee.

“I hope that this fight to save the trees at Carthay Environmental will help elevate the opportunities for collaboration – amongst agencies – but also perhaps even more importantly between the LAUSD and their families and teachers, to begin to move things in the right direction,” Dahl told the Buzz. “There are so many efforts and resources directed to planting trees, but what is also needed is protection and on-going maintenance, otherwise it’s all for naught.”

“There is a lot of talk about greening schools and commitments made – but the reality on the ground is that it’s still a battle – even just to hang on to the little bit of green that a school may have. We should all care about this issue because ultimately it impacts the health and livability of our city and beyond,” said Dahl.

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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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