SEVENTH STREET — Nearly a dozen of Santa Monica’s oldest (and largest) residents are about to be firewood.
City Hall has determined that at least 11 eucalyptus trees on Seventh Street need to be removed.
Decay, disease, and age have caused limbs to fall, posing a threat to safety, said Public Works Director Martin Pastucha.
Matthew Wells, a city urban forester, estimates that the trees are “at least 70 or 80 years old and maybe older.”
It’s hard to estimate the age, he said, because eucalyptus trees grow at different rates depending on the conditions over the years.
They are relatively large trees, he said, and the density of the area means they’re a greater threat.
“It’s a busy sidewalk,” Wells said. “If we had eucalyptus trees of that size in a quieter area, the intensity of what we’re doing maybe wouldn’t be as great.”
But a bunch of limbs have already fallen on Seventh Street and both the consulting arborist and public works officials agreed it was time for them to go.
“If a limb does fall off there’s a good chance that there might be someone there,” Wells said. “There might be a car there. There might be a property there. So we have to manage them in a very careful manner.”
Of the 97 eucalyptus trees that were evaluated along Seventh Street, 56 are considered to be healthy. Another 30 are currently being evaluated for potential removal. City officials are looking at the roots and the canopies to determine how many more will need to come down.
City officials gave a thorough presentation to the Urban Forest Task Force, said Chair Grace Phillips.
“While the news made us very sad, we also understood their decision in terms of public safety,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Some of the limbs dropped over the public right-of-way were alarmingly large.”
Another member of the task force, Gloria Garvin, said that City Hall should bring in a eucalyptus specialist that she knows of from Central California.
“Eucalyptus can grow to be well over 100 years old,” she wrote in an e-mail.
City Hall plans to officially list the tree removals this week and take them out within a month, Pastucha said.
Because Seventh Street has a 20-foot offset from the curb there are rows of eucalyptus trees on either side of the sidewalk, said city Landscape Manager Darrell Baker.
“Anything that’s in the parkway we will replant,” Baker said. “Anything that’s on the back side of the parkway, we probably won’t or we’ll have to look at that more carefully.”
Last year, City Hall took out 230 trees, mostly due to a backlog of dead ones, Baker said. This falls within City Hall’s usual range, he said.
Santa Monica has 33,000 trees and many are aging.
While the old eucalyptus trees are significant and stately, Wells said, diversity of age and species is important for the city’s tree population.
“I think the key is to remove the trees that are required to be removed while not spending a lot of money trying to retain trees that can’t be retained easily,” he said. “We’re replacing them with new healthy, young trees that are going to establish into a valuable public asset.”