HUNTINGTON PARK — The City Council has decided to reconsider its plan to uproot and sell nearly 200 palm trees scattered along residential streets after residents argued that the trees make the city more attractive.
A dozen residents appeared before the City Council last Monday to urge that the trees be kept. Council members decided to hold a special meeting at 3 p.m. Monday to discuss the issue again.
The council had voted in April to remove the stately old Canary Island Palms, which had reached heights of up to 60 feet. A staff report had warned that the trees will pose a greater liability threat, require increased maintenance, and may eventually be infested by rats.
A couple of car owners filed claims after their vehicles were hit by falling branches, City Clerk Marilyn Boyette said. Officials also expressed concern that tree roots would crack sidewalks.
City officials planned to have the trees removed last week. A contractor agreed to pay the city $206 per tree to transplant the palms.
Worst Fears Confirmed
But resident Jerald Russell noticed a bright orange florescent ring around a palm tree in front of his home, and a sign making the area off limits to parking for three days. He went to City Hall, where officials confirmed "the worst of my fears," he said.
Six hours before the council met, Russell began his campaign to save the palms. He prepared folders containing photographs of city streets lined by palm trees for the council. He went door to door, passing out flyers and urging neighbors to attend the council meeting. A dozen residents showed up.
"I don't think that the City Council knew what an asset it has with these fine trees," he said.
"Huntington Park is doing a lot of redevelopment. Generally speaking, huge palm trees is what buyers expect to see. It would be in everybody's best interest to leave these trees in place," he said.
Councilman Jim Roberts predicted that the council will back away from its plan to replace the palms with a variety of trees.
"It was an opportunity, we felt, for the council to remove the problem, but if the people want to live with the problem, well, then we will do what the people want," he said.