Getting To The Root Of Downtown Trees

LA MESA -- Next to a beloved pet lying lifeless in the road, there may not be anything quite as depressing as a stump where a majestic tree canopy once soared.
Such is the grimacing going on these days as residents walk the beloved La Mesa Boulevard.
For example the massive, living awning that stood outside Cosmos Coffee Cafe is now a flattened remnant, awaiting its root removal.
"It was more than a tree,'' Ari Bejar, Cosmos' proprietor said. "It was really my store's signature.''

This tree, like many along the avenue, had to come down because its roots were damaging the street and because the new streetscape plan required it. 

Bejar has been promised two new trees in the design of the streetscape improvement that is underway, and he is hoping they won't be small, starter trees the city installs.
But the streetscape improvement may test Bejar's tree patience.
Greg Humora, the chief administrator for the city's streetscape project, looks like a coach coaxing a team through a difficult first half these days. While some merchants are kvetching about the disruptions and detours, Humora is reminding all that the project is on time.
Workers are pushing hard to clear the street for Octoberfest before resuming work again soon after that beer and brat event.
"We are on schedule,'' Humora said. "We're having to deal with finding things underground that aren't where we thought they were, but we're dealing with it. We're working hard.''
And the trees? Can we bring in some older, more mature ones for his heavily traveled boulevard?
Humora grimaces a bit on that question. The truth about trees, he said, is that you can pay a lot of money for bigger trees, but they have often sat in the nurseries, their root balls binding, their upper branches being "topped" repeatedly.
"What you end up with is a tree that looks better at the start, but 18 months in you find out you have a bad one and it doesn't work out,'' he said. "It's growth has been stunted.''
Rather, he said, you get the best young tree you can find, put it in the right kind of ground and water it properly and two or three years down the line, you've grown beyond the bigger trees and it is healthier.

Humora can sound a bit like a parent teaching their off-spring the middle class virtue of delayed gratification.

"With trees, you have to be in it for the long run,'' Humora said.

The economist John Maynard Keynes once famously said "In the long run, we're all dead.'' Keynes was speaking in defense of government intervention in the economy, but it is clear that the final estimation of this streetscape project may rise or fall with this government's handling of its trees.

Humora points out that errors of the past -- putting the trees in parking spaces and not having a watering plan -- will be avoided. The space left underground for roots will be better and the type of tree will be appropriate for the location and conditions. The city has hired an arborist to pick the right trees and help them grow.

But on the question of the initial size, Humora said only "We will get the best trees available at the time.''

It is clear, he isn't going out on a limb on this one.

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Tags: Ari Bejar, Cosmos Coffee Cafe, Government, Greg Humora, La Mesa City Council, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, downtown development, trees

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Comment by J.Forga on November 18, 2014 at 8:17pm

I am very disappointed and saddened by the City Councils overall handling of the street scape project. But even more disappointed in myself that I was too busy to know that this project was approved last year. I can't turn back time but I am going to hold the City of La Mesa's feet to the fire that they follow the approved conceptual plans as closely as possible and finish this project in a timely manner.

The city council has managed to turn our unique, picturesque street lined village into any ordinary cement lined part of El Cajon Blvd. I have even heard many compare our current village to Broadway in Lemon Grove. Most of us paid top dollar for our properties to be "in" the village. Now what does that mean? Who wants to stroll around downtown its way too bright in the daytime with no shade and the new florescent lights create a sterile environment.

Does it worry anyone else when they see conceptual plans that were approved by the city were not actually what was put to bid. I can't find anything where the City of La Mesa has definite plans to add the beautiful string lights and "La Mesa" signage like in their conceptual plans. I'd like to know what "Phase" that is or ever will be completed. The conceptual plans called out several acceptable replacement trees but it appears we will have a village lined with Queen Palms.

How can we make the city of La Mesa accountable for restoring the Village to what it was? Until I see any proof that the city is ready to complete this "restoration" project at the same time keeping the integrity of the village I am ready to start becoming a regular at City Hall.

Comment by Susan Brinchman on September 9, 2014 at 10:05am

I think taking out the mature trees is a HUGE mistake. Leave the ones that are there, there. This is what gives the downtown its character. No excuses, leave the old trees alone, for heaven's sake! They are part of our heritage.

The City of La Mesa has no right to destroy what we enjoy.

Comment by Jack Leary on September 9, 2014 at 8:02am

One more thing to think about.......As "ground Zero" in New York was rebuilt THEY planted trees that were, I believe, 15 to 20 feet tall or taller. that was the plan, that's what they did.  When completed people were able to see all those beautiful trees as if they had been there for years. I'm just say'n. Those trees were brought in on flatbed trucks one or two at a time.

Comment by La Mesa Today on September 8, 2014 at 10:30pm

This comment originally posted by La Mesa Today member Joe Braunwarth:

The Two Most Powerful Warriors are Patience and Time

The Buddha says the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago and the second best time is now.

It sounds as though Greg Humora has the best interest of the city and the streetscape at heart.  I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and I'm looking forward to enjoying the newly revitalized village but I also would love to see some native trees planted.  Native trees have evolved to live in this environment, why fight Mother Nature?

Comment by Dennis S. Twiss on September 8, 2014 at 9:52pm

Mature trees or juvenile trees, I can only hope that whomever is responsible for the installation of a device designed to force tree roots downward rather that outward this time installs them correctly.  Additionally, whatever person/persons responsible for the inspection of these devices to ensure they are in fact correctly installed is capable of completing this task.

 

In the past, these devices were installed upside down, causing tree roots (in this particular case to grow upward/outward buckling the sidewalk in the block of La Mesa Boulevard that Por Favor is in) causing a broken arm to an older woman.

 

I can only think of one word to describe why this happened to one of La Mesa's Senior Citizens, INCOMPETENCE

 

In case anyone is wondering how I'm aware of this incident, the injured woman was my mother.

 

 

Comment by Sharon Reeve on September 8, 2014 at 9:14pm

I remember reading an article saying La Mesa was going to keep the Ficus at Cosmos. What happened? I heard they cut it down in the middle of the night when they weren't looking. 

I would love to see NATIVE California trees along the street. How about Ash trees?

Comment by Lisa Moore on September 8, 2014 at 8:39pm

Well I will have to fully agree with both Jack and Scott!  Bring back our mature shade trees and give La Mesa the trees that were in the photos presented to us.

Comment by Judith Piper on September 8, 2014 at 8:23pm

I agree with Jack Leary about shade trees.  Also, we need to be mindful about changing weather patterns and use California natives.  Humora could ease a lot of minds if he at least would say he'd tell the arborist to choose California natives that don't require much water and which could provide the air conditioning benefits that were lost when the former trees were removed.

Comment by Jack Leary on September 8, 2014 at 6:31pm

Typical "government" bravado......... promiss one thing to get things "passed" , then turn around later and say " well we just can't do that!!!!"

Shade trees were cut down......SHADE TREES need to be put back PERIOD.

Hey, idea here, why not have the seller of the trees GUAREENTEE them for five years!!! Surely there is a nursery out there somewhere that wants the city's money and would agree to that. Or maybe it's just good ole boys helping their friends fatten their wallets by not looking at ALL nurserys. I'm just say'n something to think about......

Bring back the MATURE trees La Mesa!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comment by La Mesa Today on September 8, 2014 at 5:33pm

Comment originally posted by La Mesa Today member Scott Shepard:

YES, Mature Trees and Shrubs! The City plan and photos indicate same! Beautification should also include Restoration!

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