I received an e-mail last weekend from North of Montana neighborhood activist Doris Sosin who was out of town on vacation. She was asking for support for a request from Susan Hartley.

Hartley had e-mailed City Manager Lamont Ewell and members of the City Council that, “The Public Landscape Division intends to kill the bunya-bunya tree in Douglas Park … Public Landscape claims they are concerned about public safety because of the size of the cones dropped from the tree, usually during September or October … The tree could be killed early this week, even this Monday.”

Hartley asked for “the tree to be saved, or at the least its destruction be delayed while other alternatives are explored.” Apparently, initial requests to delay chopping down the tree were refuted by Walter Warriner, the city forester.

I understand Warriner’s concern about public safety — if a “small coconut with spikes” hit somebody. But, Hartley pointed out, “the tree with its falling cones had been a fixture in Douglas Park for a number of years, so why the rush to eliminate it now? Next, they’ll be wanting to eliminate the ducks because they might bite.” She asked that Santa Monica Treesavers salvage the tree or assist in other tree saving alternatives.

My e-mail box filled up as many citizens weighed in. I heard from numerous folks like Pico neighborhood activist Peter Tigler who wrote, “The extended logic would dictate the city remove all the palm trees in the city. When the fronds fall, and they do fall, the spikes on them are like flying knives that could skewer a fire plug.”

Kevin McKeown, who’d been out of town, e-mailed that Ewell had promised, “He will check into this Monday and get back to us.” McKeown added that there was a bunya-bunya or Australian False Monkey Puzzle tree in front of City Hall. He wrote he “didn’t see the reason for the proposed Douglas Park removal … It may be a question of risk management rather than risk removal.”

On Monday, McKeown sent out another e-mail. “The tree in Douglas Park will NOT be cut down…. Lamont has just advised Council that he has directed staff to not remove the tree and seek alternatives for mitigating the risk.” Another e-mail from planning commissioner Ted Winterer, advised "that any future discussions about removing this tree would be in a public meeting.”

Finally, the official word from Warriner himself: “In response to the public’s interest in retaining the bunya bunya (Araucaria bidwillii) located in Douglas Park, the City is exploring options to retain the tree. The Public Landscape Division will be maintaining the tree on a bi-monthly schedule that will involve monitoring cone development and de-coning the tree as the cones develop as well as the removal of dead and/or dying foliage.

“The City’s policy of posting tree removal notices is designed to obtain public comment on recommended tree removals. We thank everyone for their comments and good ideas and we will continue to take them under advisement as we explore all the options.”

Thanks to everyone for their efforts. Well done! This proves concerned citizens can work together for positive results without chaining themselves to trees.

The loss of a great lady<p>

Last Tuesday, Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away. She was the sister to the late U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and mother to City Councilman Bobby Shriver.

There are a very few times in one’s life when meeting a person is an electrifying experience because you know you’re in the company of someone extraordinary. The first time it happened to me was well over 30 years ago when I met Cesar Chavez while on stage crew at the Ackerman Union Ballroom where he was addressing UCLA students. Backstage, we exchanged pleasantries — nothing profound — but nevertheless, still an amazing moment for me.

Such were the occasions of meeting Eunice Kennedy Shriver at a couple of campaign events in 2004 when Bobby Shriver and I were both running for City Council. His mother came to most of the candidate forums and always greeted me warmly. She made me feel like a member of the family and I was thrilled beyond words.

She was intelligent, gracious and inspiring. She exuded class and humility. I’ll never forget her sitting in the front row of the audience, smiling and nodding as I presented my platform.

More than once when talking with her I felt shivers down my spine and had goose bumps because of how special she was. I was in awe. We had fabulous conversations about local politics and I marveled at her amazing insight. Although I’ve met and spent time with many celebrities and notables, being in the company of such an astonishing and inspiring individual was a momentous occasion.

Her loss is a great one for all of us and we will miss her. My condolences to her family and friends.

Bill Bauer may be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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