The Board of Public Works agreed Wednesday to allow Metro to remove 82 Wilshire Blvd trees to make way for subway construction. The trees were targeted last May with posted notices on each tree after Metro had proposed removing 101 trees in 2014. That number was reduced to 82 after community activists from the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition pushed Metro to re-examine their plans. The effort seemed to satisfy Kevin James, Chair of the Board of Public Works, and former mayoral candidate, who offered the motion to approve the permit which passed unanimously.
“We are very disappointed, though not surprised,” said Lyn MacEwen Cohen, founder of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition who has championed the beautification effort along Wilshire Blvd’s Miracle Mile for the last 25 years. “We had hoped, at a minimum, for the opportunity to have more time to allow our newly elected city councilman to review the matter,” added Cohen. Personally committed to the protection of the trees, Cohen gave each tree a name in an effort to personalize the doomed trees. “It’s so discouraging, when the public works, the work should last,” said Cohen referring to all the efforts over the last 25 years to create and sustain the Miracle Mile medians and the surrounding street tree plantings.
Metro’s Scott McConnell, Director and Construction Manager for the Purple Line, told the committee Metro would install two trees for every tree removed. McConnell seemed more hopeful that more trees could be saved since the trees will only be removed as needed. Because of the 2 to 1 replacement ratio, McConnell said the contractor has an incentive to preserve the trees. Also, Metro is required to maintain two lanes for on each side of Wilshire for traffic throughout the construction process and the contractor has discretion over traffic mitigation efforts that could also determine which trees need to be removed.
Of the 82 doomed trees, nine were deemed healthy enough to be relocated. Metro has plans for six of those trees but is looking for a new home for two date palms and one crepe myrtle. Kasey Shuda, Community Relations Manger for Metro is coordinating the effort to relocate the trees and welcomed any suggestions. Shuda can be reached at (323) 900-2124 or by email at [email protected].
Mr. James commended Metro and the community for their efforts to collaborate and urged them to continue to work together along with City Councilman David Ryu on mitigation efforts to preserve medians. Removal of the first group of trees is expected to start in October. The replacement trees would be installed once construction is completed in 2023. Metro has hired landscape designer Mia Lehr to work on the medians.