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Westwood trees to be replaced

Community members are concerned that trees are lifting up sidewalks in Westwood. As early as January 2013, 18 trees along Westwood Boulevard, Kinross Avenue and other areas around the city will be removed and replaced.

By Antonio Gonzalez

Nov. 21, 2012 1:05 a.m.

Students walking down Westwood Boulevard may notice a change in the scenery in the coming months as Westwood officials move forward with plans to remove several trees in the area, despite opposition from community members.

As early as January, crews can start removing 16 Indian laurel fig trees, one red flowering gum tree and one magnolia tree. The decades-old trees ““ located on Westwood Boulevard, Glendon Avenue, Kinross Avenue, Gayley Avenue, Lindbrook Drive, Le Conte Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard ““ will be replaced by smaller Chinese flame trees with less invasive roots, similar to the ones on Broxton Avenue. On Friday, the City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works approved the Westwood Village Improvement Association’s request to remove the trees.

Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, said the removals are part of an effort to repair and improve sidewalks in the area, which are damaged by the trees’ roots.

“If you walk through those areas, you can see where the trees have lifted the sidewalk,” Thomas said.

Several members of the community, however, have spoken against the removal of the trees.

The Westwood Neighborhood Council, which represents Westwood in the city of Los Angeles, voted unanimously last week to oppose the removal of the trees. Council members suggested using alternative methods to fix the sidewalk such as pruning the roots or expanding the tree wells, which are the areas of soil surrounding trees that let roots expand and grow.

Steve Sann, chair of the Westwood Community Council, said the council is not opposed to the restoration of the sidewalks but does not want to remove trees in the process. The Westwood Community Council works alongside the neighborhood council to oversee improvement projects in Westwood.

Sann said he feels removing the trees will have a negative impact on local businesses.

“(The trees) add significantly to the character of the village,” Sann said, “(The removal) is going to make the street a very unpleasant place to make business.”

Emily Huffman, the store manager of Peet’s Coffee & Tea on Wilshire Boulevard, said she understands the need to repair the sidewalks but is unhappy with the plans to remove the trees on Westwood Boulevard.

“(Customers) are going to miss the shade ““ going to miss the beauty,” she said. “It’s going to change the nature of the street.”

The Westwood Village Improvement Association will still move forward with its plans.

The sidewalk does not allow for some of the species of the tree to be trimmed again, said Ron Lorenzen, the City of Los Angeles assistant chief forester.

“For these 18 trees there are no alternatives,” he said.

Thomas said not all sidewalks are large enough to extend the tree wells and pruning the roots is only a temporary solution.

“We want to make sure the repairs are done in ways that are lasting for the community,” he added.

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