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LAUSD Officials Stick With Plan to Remove Mature Oak Trees at Carthay Elementary School Over Community Objections

Angry and disappointed were the words every speaker used to describe their reaction to Tuesday evening’s presentation by Los Angeles Unified School District officials about the planned accessibility project at Carthay Center Elementary School home of the Carthay Environmental Studies Magnet.

Roland Mueller, Facilities Asset Development Director at LAUSD told residents they would not be making any changes to the accessibility project proposed at the school.

After listening for more than an hour to a presentation by Roland Mueller, an LAUSD architect and project manager on the $6.1 million project, parents and community members who rose to speak all expressed frustration and disappointment that officials refused to make any changes despite suggesting they were open to ideas and comments from the community.

The meeting flyer said the presentation had “been significantly informed” by community comments.

“As expressed last night, the community is extremely disappointed and feels disrespected by the process, the community meeting, and the presentation,” wrote Monica Carlos, a parent at the school, in an email to Lisette Rosales LAUSD Community Relations and Small Business Department that was shared with the Buzz. “We were invited to hear about a “reconfiguration” that was created after thoughtful analysis and incorporating what you heard extensively from the community after the meeting on March 21st. However, your presentation revealed that nothing was reconfigured and LAUSD still plans to remove the only mature shade trees from our students’ asphalt playground.”

These two oak trees will be removed to make space for the installation of a new elevator. The trees were planted 16 years ago by LAUSD as part of their effort to green school campuses.

The project calls for the installation of an elevator, a wheelchair lift, three concrete ramps, a metal ramp as well as other improvements. Mueller explained that the location of the new elevator was the primary reason for the removal of the trees. He said the options were limited because the building is historic and they are required to follow Secretary of the Interior standards for any changes to the building. When asked if he would add additional trees and more native plants, Meuller said he wasn’t sure there were sufficient funds in the project budget.

“Clearly we did a poor job at communications,” Steve Boehm, Facilities Project Execution Director said at the meeting. But he said they were not able to make any changes to the project though when asked, he did agree to push back the start of the project until after the school’s centennial celebration on May 18, 2024.

Officials from LAUSD said there was only one location for the new elevator and it required removal the trees to make space for the equipment.

“We should be leading the way,” said Teresa Dahl, a former parent and founder of the school’s garden program that catalyzed the school becoming the Carthay School of Environmental Studies Magnet in 2014.

Teresa Dahl, a former parent and founder of the school’s garden program expressed frustration that officials had not consulted the school community about the type of trees they were planning to install to replace the oaks.

To add insult to injury, the same day, LAUSD posted a photo of the school’s yard on Instagram as evidence of their efforts to green schoolyards.

Image from Instagram

“Meaningful greening is only created through partnership with school communities. The Carthay Environmental school projects used as examples here were community-initiated, and are successful for this reason,” wrote Dahl in a comment on Instagram. “The Carthay community is very discouraged by LAUSD’s Facilities plan to cut down two mature oaks on the school’s playground. The community has advocated and worked in good faith with FSD for a revised plan that would spare the trees for more than a year only to be told last night that it was too much trouble. The LAUSD team explained in great detail citing LA County Building Code 53094 that they are immune to City and County jurisdictional codes protecting trees, etc. In fact, they reassured the community that they answered to two different INTERNAL department heads – on the project. They are not answerable to their communities, the City, or the County and they are the second largest managers of public lands in the city.”

Though the community left the meeting frustrated and resigned to the loss of the trees, they are not giving up. Former parent and longtime volunteer, Susan Nickerson told the Buzz they would continue to push the district to fund more trees and the installation of more native plants.

“We are definitely not giving up, we want more trees!” said Nickerson.

The native garden in the front of the school is one of the highlights of the school campus.

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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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  1. Correction to the story. The school’s 100 year celebration is slated for May31, not the 18th. That was the date they wanted to start the construction.

  2. This isn’t over. LAUSD has other options for locating the ADA elevator, and saving the twin oaks, but not the will — not yet. Cutting down mature trees to be replaced with new trees is never the answer, although private developers do this all the time across LA. We expect better from our public school system. This is an environmental school magnet — the kids know better!
    Ann Rubin
    Carthay Circle


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