Pasadena InSight

Tree Replacement on Colorado

A tree vigil is being held Thursday, Feb 26, 7 PM – midnight in front of Cliff’s Books and Vroman’s Bookstore on Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.

A number of mature ficus trees were taken out in the pre-dawn hours of Friday and Saturday.

If you feel strongly about this issue, show up at 6:30 sharp at Monday (Feb 23) night’s Council meeting to voice your concerns. Fill out a speaker card. Show up to be counted. And call or email your Council member; it’s not enough to comment here or in emails to each other. You can email various council members by clicking on the District number on the left side of the screen here  and then clicking on the contact tab on the top right of the member’s page.

The City Council approved the removal of the mature ficus trees on Colorado between Lake and Los Robles.  They will be replaced with palms and ginkgos (as in Old Pasadena) as these two trees don’t have the sidewalk-heaving, berry-dropping problems of the ficus.  The ginkgos are deciduous and the palms and ginkgos allow much more visibility of storefronts and business signage.  They also cast next to no shade as Councilmember Sid Tyler strongly pointed out, with or without leaves; the replacement of shade trees with non-shade, non-canopy trees is the wrong direction to go in light of The United Nations Green Cities Declaration and Urban Environmental Accord which the city signed in 2006, nor the city’s own Green City Action Plan, Urban Nature, Action 11.

The public weighed in on the issue in the comments to Dan Abendshein’s article in the Pasadena Star-News, Down by a shade; City tree replacement will cut canopy cover.

How much tree root trimming and sidewalk repair and cleaning could be had for $130,000? How much will the stores’ and businesses’ air conditioning costs go up when the trees are gone…  not to mention the discomfort of pedestrians in summer and winter in these global weirding times?

And here’s a follow-up by Dan to his own article with a link to a study reported in the Journal of Forestry showing that large canopy trees have a positive effect on shoppers’ patronage, i.e. they spend more.  Would that Alice Frost Kennedy were alive to fight for our trees once more.



  1. I posted a comment to the Star News as soon as I heard of this disastrous plan asking for it to be stopped. I can’t believe that our City Council would vote to cut down these beautiful, shade giving, CO2 eating trees. How can we stop this from going through?

    For less than $130,000 I am sure that some roots could be cut, pipes cleaned of roots, and sidewalks repaired to satisfy business along the streets.

    Count me in for anything I can do.

    Comment by Jane Levy — January 26, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  2. I post my objection to cutting down these lovely shade trees. I wonder where the city’s priorities are. They just spent $8000-$12000 on humps on South Madison Ave (between California and Filmore) on an already quiet street. Now they want to cut down shade trees? Couldn’t this money be spent on library services?

    Comment by Ronni Bergman — January 26, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

  3. Trees…. hmnnnn… old trees. Shade Trees. Cut them down? I don’t call that progress. I call that short sighted. Old trees should be treasured. Pasadena Council should know better. We live, work, and die in this area because of it’s culture, history, and beauty. Let’s see….. cut down the old growth trees… start with that….. ever read the Tipping Point? Is this another point tipped in the wrong direction. First the trees. That follows financial problems with the Pasadena Orchestras. Culture and Beauty are things that we can save if we make the effort, and they are worth saving, don’t you think?

    Comment by William Bing — January 26, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

  4. The virtues, aesthetic and ecological, of the present trees are several and not matched by the proposed replacement trees. The previous writer refers to the usefulness of these trees as shade and oxygen-producing assets. I concur. They are mature trees, and the cost of replacing them (with immature trees, I warrant) ridiculous. These are beautiful trees, besides. Better, far better I say, to address the maintenance issues (roots and sidewalks and sewers oh my!)–for less dough, I’d suppose–and leave the trees in situ (you must agree that my casual use of a Latin phrase gives even greater sway to my argument).

    Further, I can hardly believe that anyone who lives in Southern California can fail to be unaware of the sheer nuisance, filthiness (think: rats, starlings, house sparrows; did I mention rats?), high maintenance index, and danger presented by palm trees. They may be iconic, but they are (and this is a technical term beloved of arborists) a pain in the arse. (And I further question if the icon is one Pasadena wishes to be identified with).

    Yours faithfully,

    Roger Lebow

    Comment by Roger Lebow — January 26, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  5. I am aganist cutting down shade trees. Our city leaders had the wisdom to plant those trees to help with summer heat. Now with the global warming we should think of providing more natural cooling than doing the opposite.

    Comment by Susanna Berzsenyi — January 27, 2009 @ 7:01 am

  6. Yet another intelligent decision by the council with great wisdom and vision (much like permitting all the high rises with low percentage of occupation that enhance the historic Pasadena architectural beauty). I say the only change needed here is the Council personnel. Doesn’t maintenance of drains and sidewalks create jobs for people in these difficult times? Not to mention the good the trees do for cooling and cleaning the heat and pollution caused by all the cars driving around looking for parking spaces in charming Old Town. Pasadena used to be such a lovely town. It’s starting to look alot like Glendale.

    Comment by Dmitri Bovaird — January 27, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  7. GREEN! Hasn’t the City Council noticed the election of Obama. We the People want change. We need to transform the way we have been doing things.

    Hasn’t the City Council heard about global warming??
    Are cities cutting down trees all over America??
    This is like cutting down the tropical rain forests.
    And after you cut down these trees, the businesses will need to put in more air conditioners.

    I live on Prospect Blvd with its beautiful old camphor trees, messy and not good for sidewalks. On a hot day, when you drive into Prospect Blvd, you can feel the temperature go down five degrees. And when will you cut down the camphors on Prospect. You’ll save lots of $$$ on sidewalk repairs.

    YES WE CAN do things differently. Think GREEN

    Grace Tiessen
    714 Prospect Blvd, Pasadena, 91103

    Comment by Grace Tiessen — January 28, 2009 @ 11:25 am

  8. AND please stop planting those dreadful crepe myrtles. I have a 50 year old crepe myrtle in my yard. It’s less than 20 feet tall and provides little or no shade. It’s a pretty overgrown shrub. It is NOT a suitable large shady street tree.

    Invite Treepeople Andy Lipkis to tell us what kind of large, shade, street trees we can plant.

    Let’s make Pasadena the Tree Capitol of Los Angeles.


    Comment by Grace Tiessen — January 28, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

  9. I am horrified and heartbroken to think of these beautiful trees being cut down. Can’t there be a better solution than this?

    Comment by C. McBride — January 29, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

  10. Palm trees are for industrial zones. That’s what they have on that little fake island off of Carpinteria. That’s how we know it’s fake. Real trees in real cities do require maintenance. So please maintain them.

    Comment by Nancy Sulahian — February 2, 2009 @ 10:42 am

  11. It is heartbreaking that trees that provide shade, beauty, and oxygen are slated for the axe. At one point, Pasadena was unique with its urban forest and notable architecture. Now we are well on our way to destroying what made us unique. We began with ugly new buildings, now we’re chopping down our mature trees. Shame on all of us for letting this happen. In another twenty to thirty years (or sadly maybe even sooner!!) the Pasadena we love and call home just may become eroded beyond reclaim…

    Comment by James — February 17, 2009 @ 1:29 am

  12. The big ficus in front of Vroman’s got axed last night. There will be a rally tomorrow morning in front of Vroman’s – a requiem for that beautiful tree and a rally for those that remain:

    Help, Help Help
    Save the TREES!!!!!!!!!!! on Colorado Blvd.
    The city has all ready chopped down a few trees
    in the middle of the night!!!

    Lets SAVE the REST of the TREES

    A Demonstration Saturday 11:00 am
    in front of Vromans Book Store 695 E. Colorado Blvd.

    Plenty of parking behind Vroman’s book store

    Pass the message on

    Comment by Pasadena tree lover — February 20, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  13. Here’s something the reporters need to find out. did the order to cut down the trees come AFTER the reports started circulating on the Internet about Saturday morning’s gathering in support of the trees? Did Public Works just decide to use muscle and chain saw rather than give the citizens of Pasadena another chance to get business owners and the City Council to come to their senses about this BAD, BAD idea. Sadly,some bad decisions can be rectified but not this one.

    Comment by Pasadena tree lover — February 22, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  14. An Open Letter to the Pasadena City Council re the late, great Colorado St. trees

    Dear Mayor Bogaard and City Councilmembers:
    Since the Pasadena Star News reported that the City Council and staff had received almost no comments about the cutting of the beautiful Colorado shade trees, I am submitting my comments to you in writing as well as attending tonight’s meeting. You might also want to check the Internet where there are extensive comments on the subject, most of them either sad and/or angry about the tree destruction and the “deep dark of the night” manner in which it was handled.
    Whatever the ficus’ problems were, it was devastating to contrast the photos of those stately trees with the barren stumps and bleak streetscape which greet the visitor now. I am saddened that the City, business owners, and the tree people weren’t all able to work together to come up with a solution which could have saved those trees. Had the chainsaws not been deployed so quickly, perhaps that would have been possible.
    I would agree with those who urge an immediate moratorium on the cutting of healthy street trees throughout the city, including those not yet cut down on Colorado Blvd. Please also reevaluate the outdated Pasadena Playhouse District Streetscape Plan which would replace the huge shade trees with small gingkos and non-shade Mexican fan palms. As a number of other commentators have noted, it makes no sense to support an outdated street tree plan which is going in the wrong direction from the United Nations Green Cities Declaration and Urban Environmental Accord which the city signed in 2006 as well as the city’s own Green City Action Plan, Urban Nature, Action 11. What about global warming, the heat island effect, and all the other environmental problems we’ve become aware of since 1996 when this tree plan was adopted?
    Some good can come out of this sad situation if the business owners, the City Council, the Urban Forest Advisory Committee, and the community can work together to come up with a tree plan which includes drought-tolerant native tree species that provide a shade canopy. These trees should also complement the existing old trees on Colorado. None of this will bring back the stately ficus which are probably mulch already, but this sad event has heightened the community’s awareness of the value and fragility of our urban forest. Perhaps this greater awareness and community engagement will save other trees in the future.
    We look to your leadership on this issue.
    Thank you for the chance to comment.
    Mary E. Barrie
    La Canada Flintridge

    Comment by Mary B. — February 23, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  15. I Hate Ficus Trees.
    First, I use a wheelchair at all times, and getting around on Pasadena’s sidewalks is a challenge because there are so many locations where sidewalk is cracked and uplifted. While people who walk can step over the uplifts, I have to roll over them, jarring my head, neck, shoulders, and gut at every instance.

    Second, while people who walk have only a few square inches of shoe sole with which to pick up the gooey, sticky stuff that ficus trees drop on sidewalks, I have about two yards worth of tire tread. As a result, I deposit a considerable amount of black spots on carpets in residences, businesses, churches, and government offices. The effort wasted on continually cleaning my home carpeting was a major factor in deciding to replace it with a hard floor surface.

    Third, we have entered an era – and perhaps a long epoch – where water will be significantly less available. There will not be enough water to maintain Pasadena’s current tree canopy, described by one botanist as “semi-tropical.” Not only do ficus trees soak up lots of water, but cleaning the gooey stuff from sidewalks takes more water. To ficus tree lovers, I say adopt a couple of trees and be responsible for watering them. And to clean the goo from the sidewalk, get down on your knees and scrape the sidewalk clean without using any water.

    Comment by Robert Gorski — March 11, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

  16. It is bad policy to cut down healthy trees. The moratorium on tree destruction should be extended until the city can ascertain how many city trees we have and which ones are causing defined problems. Cutting down healthy, mature trees is yet another act destroying the character and charm of the city to say nothing of removing the gift of shade and other health benefits. A moratorium is a must in order for the city to make a cogent decision for the good of all Pasadena citizens.

    Comment by Nick — March 15, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  17. What a sad sight it is to walk or drive down Colorado in the Playhouse District, without shade, green canopies, and the beauty that once was… How many years must we now endure baked sidewalks and burning sun? Was the “gain” worth it?

    Comment by James — April 5, 2009 @ 11:48 pm

  18. A few years ago Philadelphia plumbers’ unions were angered at the city’s move to install waterless toilets because it threatened jobs. Here, it seems as though the merchants along Colorado Blvd fear much the same without any consideration for how they should change and “keep up” with technology and competition. They are expecting those around them to change so that they may survive without understanding that it is they who should change.

    Comment by Robert Mills — April 9, 2009 @ 9:21 am

  19. An unforgiveable act and unexcuseable. I for one will never patronize any of the shops or stores on Colorado Blvd in the so-called “Playhouse District” – especially Vroman’s and will tell evrybody I can about this disgusting act and encourage them to boycott Vroman’s and every other shop on Colorado that hand a hand in this. Shame on the lot of you. Truly disgusting and Pasadena just got a little uglier.

    Comment by McMurphy — April 9, 2009 @ 9:32 am

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