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Urban Forest Task Force Approves Plan  


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By Jason Islas
Lookout Staff

October 10, 2011 -- Santa Monica's Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force signed off on its draft plan Wednesday after months of sometimes heated debate.

“I think the members of the task have worked very hard to come up with a plan that works for most of the community,” Task Force Chair and former Mayor Judy Abdo told the Lookout Thursday.

Wednesday's meeting, though small, ran for almost four hours as the task force fine-tuned the plan.

Although approved, the final draft contained a couple caveats which grew out of discussions at an earlier meeting.

Initial plans by the city to replace palm trees with leafier trees were met with fierce resistance by residents who turned out in force in September to advocate for keeping the city's many palm allees.

Using Jubaea chilensis, or as it is more commonly known, the Chilean wine palm, to replace Canary Island date palms might not work out, Task Force Member Tom Cleys said Wednesday.

Cleys was worried that these palms wouldn't grow fast enough to maintain the look of the palm-lined streets that residents had called “iconic.”

Using a faster-growing hybrid Jubaea will maintain both the look of the palm and its resistance to disease, said Community Forester Walt Warriner.

The other point of concern was the future of a section along 19th Street, where, again, the use of palm trees was in question.

The draft plan is more than just a street-by-street list of current trees and their future replacements. It is also a history of tree planting in Santa Monica going back in time to the area's earliest settlement by Europeans and a guide on how to care for trees.

It contains tips on how to identify damaged, sick or dangerous trees and outlines the city's policy on tree removal.

According to Abdo, as the plan circulates through other city commissions, staff will continue community outreach on the two points singled out by the task force – the Jubaeas and 19th Street.

Eventually, the plan will come back to the task force before it goes before the city council on December 13th.

For now, the draft plan will move on to the Landmarks Commission on October 10th.

As it goes before the other commissions, it plan will still be open to public input. A tentative schedule of when the other commissions will review it – as well as the plan itself – is available on the city's website at www.santamonicatrees.com .


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