The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works will begin cutting down more than 300 diseased carob trees in View Park and Windsor Hills this week, following months of delays caused by residents who argued that the removal of the old trees would harm the character of their communities.
County officials, however, ordered the work to begin after Howard Ohr, a plant pathologist picked by the local homeowners group, surveyed a sample of the trees and agreed that most were beyond saving.
The trees suffer from dry rot, decay, fungus, termites and other maladies.
Al Kelm, a district engineer for the Department of Public Works, said the diseased trees were ordered cut down because the county might be held liable if a tree fell, causing injury or property damage.
"There are still people calling us and saying they want their trees saved, even though the trees have been identified as needing to come down for safety reasons," Kelm said.
The county, which is responsible for maintaining the areas between the curbs and sidewalks, will remove the trees and replace them with a variety of magnolias, Mexican fan palms, ash, crape myrtles and jacarandas.
The cost of removing the old trees, planting new ones and repairing the sidewalks will be about $500,000, county officials estimate. The work should be completed by June, Kelm said.
Victor Parker, president of the United Homeowners Assn., which represents View Park and Windsor Hills homeowners, said many in the community are opposed to the tree removal because the tall trees--some more than 40 years old and 30 feet high--add to the charm of the neighborhood.
"People want to buy homes in an area where the trees are mature," he said.
As a result of the plant pathologist's findings, the county removed 28 trees from its list, Parker said. However, the number of trees being spared was reduced to 18 after several residents said they wanted their trees cut down anyway.
"It looks like we should be having a funeral Mass or something," Parker said. "The people in the county have their minds made up, and it could run into quite a bit of money to fight them."
County officials and Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, whose 2nd District includes View Park and Windsor Hills, were pleased to see the controversy end and the cutting begin.
Ed Cano, a senior deputy for Hahn, said: "At least now they can see that Mr. Hahn does not like to take out healthy trees. These trees are being removed for safety reasons."
Earlier, in another attempt to answer concerns of the residents, the county asked John W. Provine, the superintendent of the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum, to review the findings. He also agreed the trees had to be removed.
Provine said that the carob was not well suited for the area. The carob tree ( Ceratonia siliqua ) is native to the eastern Mediterranean and best known for bearing long, flat leathery pods with a sweet pulp used in making a chocolate substitute.