I'm sure there were councilmen who would have liked to see me hang from that tree," Suzette Neiman says of her 18-year crusade to save the imposing oak at Louise Avenue and Ventura Boulevard in Encino. The tree's branches spread outward 150 feet; its trunk is eight feet in diameter. "The city wanted to cut it down in 1961," Neiman recalls. "They wanted to make the street straight. (Spanish explorer) Gaspar de Portola is said to have camped there in 1769." It would seem a simple project to save a tree believed to be 1,000 years old, but Neiman remembers her battles as a private citizen with the L.A. City Council over the oak's proposed demolition. Neiman went on to become a member of the L.A. Planning Commission. Today, the Encino Oak, Encino Cultural Heritage Monument No. 24, is considered a tourist attraction by city fathers. And it thrives.