Residents fight to keep trees on Hollywood street as city plans to remove them

HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A beautiful canopy of 18 ficus trees on the 1200 block of Cherokee Avenue in Hollywood will soon be removed by the city.

"They're beautiful trees. I just hate that we're cutting them down," resident Paula Placido said. "They just give a really nice aesthetic to the neighborhood and all the shading."

The roots are very clearly overgrown and make the sidewalks inaccessible to people in wheelchairs and those with other mobility challenges. City officials said the cracked and upended sidewalks also pose a danger to regular pedestrians.

In fact, the city recently settled a lawsuit with a pedestrian who tripped and fell on Cherokee Avenue. But still local environmentalist groups said the trees should be saved.

"The sidewalks are a concern for everyone, but there are methods where we can save the trees - or at least some of them - and still repair the sidewalks," Jackie Suber said. "At this point, the city is really trying to do the quickest, most efficient - really to be honest, cheapest option - which is to cut down the trees and repair the sidewalks as if these trees were insignificant."

Surber, with Angelenos for Trees, said she's not only worried about the trees on Cherokee Avenue. She's concerned about the city's effort to remove hundreds of trees throughout the city whose roots are overgrown.

"Without trees, we are going to lose a first line of defense in fighting climate change," said Ileana Wachtel, with the Coalition to Preserve L.A.

The Los Angeles Department of Public Works released a statement regarding the trees.

"As part of our comprehensive sidewalk repair program, some street trees must be removed. These trees will be replaced at a 2x1 ratio with trees that will both provide a shade canopy and not cause root damage to our sidewalks," it said, in part.

City officials also said that engineers determined sidewalks couldn't be made safe or compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act without cutting the roots. But, they added, cutting the roots would leave the trees vulnerable to falling in a wind storm.

A protest started around 8 p.m., with people holding signs and posting signs on the trees reminding people that wildlife lives in them.

"We're here to say, City Hall, get out of the 1980s. Get with it. Stop chopping down the trees," one protester said.

Some people also volunteered to climb into the trees to keep them from getting cut down.

Councilman David Ryu joined the effort and asked the Department of Urban Forestry if any of the trees can be spared.

"We need our most effective climate tools - our trees - more than ever," he said.

On Friday, environmental lawyers plan to apply for a temporary injunction to halt the removal of the trees.
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