Ficus Trees on Jefferson Street to Get Axed

“I don’t know if any of you guys are aware that they are going to be cutting down [ficus trees] on Jefferson Street,” said Carlsbad resident Ila Schmidt during the May 25 city-council meeting.

According to Schmidt, she spotted an 8x10 laminated sign giving notice that on June 4 over a dozen ficus trees will be cut down on Jefferson Street (from the corner of Carlsbad Village Drive to Oak and Pine avenues) because their roots have been known to damage underground pipes.

“The trees are on the public parkway,” said Schmidt who followed with a suggestion that the city delay the decision because the roots may not be as problematic as believed.

Schmidt said she has had personal experience dealing with ficus trees as a property manager, and she oversaw old clay pipes “replaced with another material” that doesn’t emit moisture. As a result, she claimed, the problem with backed-up plumbing was resolved without cutting down trees.

“The bottom line is the trees are on public property,” said Schmidt. She said she plans to file a formal appeal with the council.

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oh i hope that decision can be rescinded :-(

they are known to cause major root damage

Those trees help make the Village what it is. They are beautiful giant trees and frame all the downtown businesses. Hope this gets appealed.

Too bad that Big Bad Bud Lewis no longer rules Carlsbad. If it were the old days you would make your case to him and he would either agree or disagree. If he agreed (city manager government or no) he'd decree, ala Kim Jung Il, that something would or would not happen, and that would be that.

But now that the Mayor-for-Life has stepped down from his high and mighty throne, you're dealing with a city that is trying to become a democracy again, after nearly three decades of bossism. Those folks aren't ready to do things in a normal fashion because the city embraced "Saint Claude" and his benign dictatorship for so long. Good luck to you.

We all love trees, but they don't always love us. That some children were not killed by a falling branch recently was not the "fault" of the tree, but the fault of the one who planted it and those who failed to maintain it properly.

Ficus trees are notorious for breaking (e.g. gas) pipes and sidewalks, foundations, and anything that gets in the way of their expansion. Pipes don't have to leak to be broken by them, so non-leaking pipes is not a solution. No tree of any kind should be planted in a hazardous position or a potentially hazardous position by anyone, and that person and his or her heirs and assigns should be liable for the consequences, including failure to abate the hazard and maintain it in a safe condition.

"Urban foresters" are not always right (some are even ignorant), but some are highly responsible and knowledgeable professionals who have spent many years gaining education and experience that those who automatically attack them every time they try to do their job responsibly may or may not lack. Sometimes members of a community do know something that a given professional does not, and such citizens should be firm but fair in their challenging of professional opinions and conclusions. But just how it is that those lacking any specific knowledge can immediately assert superior knowledge is a curious, albeit prevalent, phenomenon.

When trees do need to be removed because a particular species, location, or condition is likely to be a significant hazard to life and property, they can usually be replaced by trees of lower hazard potential, and planted well-clear of things they can damage.

Common sense, if not common courtesy, should lead those concerned to ask questions and listen to answers before circulating petitions. And, those petitions should become a part of the public record so that when the damages and/or deaths occur, they are held jointly and severally liable, rather than the other innocent taxpayers who must then pay the costs and penalties of lawsuits by the affected parties. And God or Nature should not be blamed by the incompetence or ignorance of humans and human emotions.

There's nothing wrong with loving trees, and there's nothing wrong with holding professionals to a high standard of competence. And there's nothing wrong with asserting one's rights AND RESPONSIBILITIES as a citizen. But there is something wrong with ignoring the merits of the issue in favor of sentiment alone, unfortunate and inconvenient though the situation might be.

Might does not equal right--at any time, by government or by citizens.

Ficus trees are not native to this region; most come from areas of high rainfall, such as the tropics. The real natural environment on "the property" had to be destroyed to plant the exceptionally water-hogging Ficus trees, which, because they are native to much wetter tropical areas, have to be irrigated in order to live here at all, much less be maintained in their present extra-lush condition. This requires water to be artificially (unnaturally) imported to support this and other alien plants, which is where approximately half of "our" imported water (which has, in large part, caused the destruction of large areas of the natural environment in Northern California, all along the Colorado River through several states and Mexico (where the environmental destruction is most severe) goes. The natural environment in the area where the Ficus trees in question are now, before it was killed by the developers which planted these alien trees, was actually quite beautiful, and supported a diverse ecosystem of plants and animals which development has rendered extinct or nearly so.

This is not to imply that the trees should necessarily be removed, only to suggest that the facts in support of their removal should, in a non-dictatorial society, be weighed, along with those for their retention, rather than resorting to petitions in support of one’s preferences before such reasoned consideration of the pros and cons. I hope that those concerned about this issue will post information and references so that this report can be rendered more comprehensive and accurate.

These trees appear to be getting too large for the space they are in. They may have been root-pruned to keep them from breaking the sidewalk, curb, street and adjacent driveway aprons. The roots will either have to be cut or they will damage adjacent structures, and it is not unreasonable to conclude that they may damage underground utilities as well. Cutting roots weakens tree stability, and does not improve their general health. However, Ficus species can usually take it unless they are in shallow soil or one with an impenetrable and general “hardpan” condition.

These types of Ficus can grow very large, and as they continue to grow the problems they are causing and have a clear potential to cause will only get more severe, not less so. Removal costs and the difficulty and danger involved in their removal can be expected to increase, as can maintenance costs if they are retained. While very costly maintenance can perhaps delay the inevitable, someday they will have to come down.

Several limbs appear to be in danger of breaking and falling. Depending upon the soil profile and the architecture and strength of the (remaining?) root systems, the trees may be in danger of toppling/falling. If that happens, the potential for serious damage, injury, and death may be serious.

They are, however, very attractive trees, and it is understandable that people in the area would prefer that they remain. If they are removed, they should be replaced with a species that is demonstrated to be safer, less damaging, and less costly to maintain. Trees like coast live oaks might be a good choice amongst the natives. They can be planted for free as acorns and will grow fairly rapidly to a good size, although they might get very large in several decades. Drilling cores to determine that the soil profile is of a type that will cause deep root penetration and access to deep moisture is advisable, taking care to check for underground utilities. Trees that have shallow root-systems like Ficus are generally not suitable for street trees, as is now being made apparent by the issue at hand.

Depending upon the results of a thorough and objective professional assessment, it might or might not be feasible to compromise by removing every other Ficus and replanting with a satisfactory replacement species, removing the remainder of the Ficus after the replacements species have a chance to grow. These trees are planted too close together anyway. However, the remaining trees will have to be properly maintained, probably at considerable cost.

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