Buckling Sidewalks Weighed vs. Saving Trees – Mid-City Press

We received a great write-up from the Mid-City Press concerning our neighborhood’s participation at the last MINC meeting!

Buckling Sidewalks Weighed vs. Saving Trees

By Caitlin M. Foyt, Press Contributing Writer

Extreme lifting and crumbling of Mid-City Neighborhood sidewalks has made some walkways dangerous for pedestrians, but local residents fear that repairs may endanger or kill the trees responsible.

Fourteen representatives from the area of Wellington Square attended last month’s Mid-City Neighborhood Council (MINC) meeting to speak on behalf of the trees that line sidewalks along Washington Blvd., Virginia Rd., Wellington Rd. and Victoria Ave.

“People have been falling,” said Michael Sonntag, a representative from Region Three. “The sidewalks, something definitely needs to be done about them, and yet, I think that most of the people that I talk to would love to find a way to do that that doesn’t endanger the trees.”

Vince Albrecht, also of Wellington Square, has conducted research on the trees and said they are a specific kind that qualifies for historic status.

“There’s a belief that these are “Heritage Trees” because of their length of time—they’ve been there probably since the turn of the century, 1900. Ten of the 13 trees are at least three feet in diameter, which supposedly is heritage-warranted and if they’re Heritage Trees, they’re protected from being cut down,” he said.

Months ago, Los Angeles city officials looked at some of the problem sidewalks and discovered that there weren’t many repair options available to them other than removing the trees.

The Urban Forestry Division of Street Services for the City of Los Angeles have tested the trees and found that they are stable and not diseased, according to Sylvia Lacy, North Central Senior Deputy for Council District 10.

“When we had looked at it before, there was no way to repair the sidewalk without destroying the trees. So the decision was made, don’t fix the sidewalk,” Lacy said.

The sidewalks’ condition has since worsened and locals have begun to recognize something must be done to improve conditions for pedestrians.

During the meeting, the general consensus was in opposition to cutting any tree’s roots. When larger roots are cut, trees can lose their stability and become more likely to cause harm by falling over, Sonntag explained.

Repair suggestions during the meeting included curving the sidewalk around larger root systems or putting black top or rubber sidewalk, made from recycled tires, in place.

Rubber sidewalks have been installed near historical trees in Santa Monica, Glendale and Pasadena, but Lacy said it was the local communities, not the City of Los Angeles, that installed them.

During the city’s initial assessment of the sidewalk repair problem, they had considered the option to detour the walkway around the roots of the trees, but determined that the areas in question are not wide enough to accommodate the needs of the disabled.

“When you talk about more narrow, we must have four-and-a-half feet to be ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act)-compliant, so they’re not going to make a three-foot sidewalk,” Lacy said.

“One of the thoughts was to remove all of the concrete and put a black top sidewalk over the roots and there’s more give to asphalt. I don’t know if they’ll do that, but that’s been another suggestion. I can pretty well assure you that the city has no intention of taking down those trees.”

Lacy said she is going to meet with Urban Forestry and Street Services in early September to further explore all possible repair options.

MINC President Allan DiCastro suggested creating a ranking system to prioritize problem sidewalks that need to be addressed within the community.  On a list of all problem sidewalks in Mid-City, different point values would be assigned to categories relating to the trees involved and how dangerous the sidewalk has become.

Those categories, such as “high height,” “low height” and “historical,” would help put problem sidewalks on a descending list of condition. The system will be offered to the city as a suggested way to handle the growing issue, in order to help the city prioritize whether a sidewalk needs to be repaired quickly.

This entry was posted

on Thursday, September 2nd, 2010 at 7:00 am

and is filed under Community News.

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