When branches from the signature coral tree toppled over and , there was a great deal of confusion as to who should pay to have it removed. Ultimately, the Mar Vista Library landed up paying out of its own budget.
The Mar Vista Community Council approved a motion on Aug. 9 to replace the old tree with a new one and sent its recommendation to the Los Angeles City Council.
However, at the Nov. 8 Mar Vista Community Council Board of Directors meeting, Stephanie Wexler and Beth Brust of the Friends of Mar Vista Library stepped forward to say the tree should not be replaced.
Wexler brought that concern back to the MVCC Transportation and Infrastructure meeting on November 22.
Wexler urged the MVCC board to reconsider its decision, stating that due to the library’s truncated budget, it simply did not have the funds to pay for regular tree trimming maintenance.
Wexler said those budget constraints had already made it impossible for the library to pay for maintenance and the tree that ultimately collapsed had not been trimmed in several years.
“That’s how the branches split and fell [onto Venice Boulevard],” Wexler said, adding that the original tree’s roots were very shallow and where it was planted – in a concrete block in front of the library - was a poor choice to start with.
“The bottom line is that it’s unrealistic to expect [the library] to perform regular maintenance on a tree,” Wexler said. Instead, she suggested planting drought-tolerant plants that require less water, less care and won’t grow too large.
Wexler also pointed out that since the tree was removed from the front of the library passersby could now see the library sign on the wall facing Inglewood Boulevard and there has been considerably less vagrancy and graffiti outside the library now that the courtyard is exposed to the public.
Wexler went on to say, “Our last two book sales earned hundreds of dollars more than usual, because the tables with the sale books were visible on the street.”
The library falls into Zone 5 in Mar Vista and MVCC Zone 5 Director Maritza Przekop, said while she understood the library’s concerns about replacing the coral tree, she had taken the time to seek input from Katherine Spitz, a professional landscape designer.
Spitz sent a letter to the MVCC board outlining the history of the tree and how the library was designed to accommodate that specific tree.
Przekop read part of Spitz’s letter, which stated:
The Coral tree was probably between 50-65 years old, most likely planted when the original library was built. It was an important visual icon at the intersection of Venice and Inglewood for decades. The tree served many purposes: it created a landmark for the community, provided comfortable dappled light for families and pedestrians waiting for the bus or for friends in the Library, reduced the heat gain created by an 80 foot wide roadbed, and created a friendly presence for passing drivers. The tree was so beloved that the community requested identical trees to be planted at the Fire station and Taco Bell, sadly, neither of which has been properly pruned.
(Read the full letter in the PDF file to the right).
Wexler said she would be happy to look at practical solutions including the possibility of a new tree but noted that when the original tree fell and left dangerous branches hanging over Venice Boulevard and knocked out a traffic light, “no city service [department] would touch the tree and people had to drive around it in the street. The library had to pay for [the removal] out of its own insufficient budget. That might possibly happen again. I urge you to think ahead to the practical rather than what has been a tradition.”
T&I Committee Vice Chair Ken Alpern said he felt confident that Zone 5 community members would be willing to pay for the twice-yearly maintenance of a new tree. He said while he respected the library’s concerns about maintenance, “that doesn’t mean you should [replace the tree] with a few teeny plants. [Without a tree] you’ve lost that sense of downtown Mar Vista.”
Committee Co-Chair Geoffrey Forgione also said he believed that Zone 5 members may well be willing to help pay for maintenance of a new tree or help with fundraising to pay for maintenance.
The motion put before the City Council stated that the MVCC supports replacing the old coral tree with any suitable large tree.
Forgione said planting a new tree “preserves tradition. I don’t think our motion is an impediment to [the library]” he said.
Wexler said she would go back to the Friends of the Library to discuss the possibility of a new tree that could potentially be maintained with funds from the community.
The issue will be brought before the full MVCC Board of Directors at a future meeting.