San Marino to remove 35 ficus trees along Huntington Drive
San Marino's Huntington Drive is in for a dramatic facelift next year under a city plan to cut down 35 decades-old ficus trees that business owners blame for damaging sidewalks and buildings, leaving messy droppings and obscuring signs.
Not everyone is happy to see the trees go, with some residents arguing that the large-canopy ficus provide valuable shade along the busy thoroughfare and contribute to San Marino's character.
Trees along the south side of Huntington between Kenilworth and Del Mar avenues, and on the north side of Huntington from Kenilworth to Ridgeway Road, are targeted for removal. Five or six trees on the two blocks between Bedford and Monterey roads also would go. Medians would not be affected, the Pasadena Sun reported.
Officials aim to replace the ficus trees with a variety of Chinese pistache that will eventually grow to a similar three-story height but with a lacier canopy, less invasive roots and no troublesome berries dropping off, said city arborist Ron Serven.
The pistache, a deciduous species with leaves that change color in the fall, would be 10 to 12 feet tall when planted, similar to pistache already used to replace three problematic ficus trees on Mission Street, Serven said.
Serven estimated the targeted ficus trees are 50 to 60 years old.
Resident Miriam Nakamura-Quan objected, describing the ficus trees as fresh-air generators that shield traffic emissions and noise while also concealing dilapidated building facades.
"When the trees are cut down, they will reveal old, outdated and ugly storefronts," said Nakamura-Quan, who was involved in 2009 protests over the removal of 11 ficus and 20 carrotwood trees along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena's Playhouse District.
"Taking out those trees would change the city's historic character," said Nabil Sejaan, also of San Marino.
But the council's decision was a relief for Kraemer Jewelers owner Steve Gilmore, who said the ficus trees have presented problems throughout the business' 50-year history at various locations along Huntington.
"Anybody who does business on that sidewalk doesn't like these trees," Gilmore said. "Leaves I can deal with, but the lady who took a header in front of my store? That stuff is going to go on forever" until the ficus trees are removed.
-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News
Photo: San Marino has approved a plan to remove 35 ficus trees along Huntington Drive and replace them with Chinese pistache. Credit: Cheryl A. Guerrero / Times Community News