Long Beach locals aim to save 44 palm trees near retail development on Marina Drive

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- It's nearly impossible to drive down Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach without spotting 2nd & PCH, a massive new retail development which shares its name with its location. The outdoor mall, with future tenants such as Whole Foods and Free People, is set to open sometime this fall, but not without opposition from a local group of activists.

For over six months, Anna Christensen, of Protect the Long Beach/Los Cerritos Wetlands, has been leading the charge against the city. She claims that the City of Long Beach is unlawfully planning to remove a number of palm trees on Marina Drive, the street adjacent to the construction site.

"Why? Why are you digging up 100-year-old, 60-year-old palm trees?" said Christensen. "These are individual beings, these trees. They have a value of their own. More than a mall. More than a parking spot. "

Earlier this month, the 44 trees that are marked for removal were netted in order to prevent Great Blue Herons from nesting in them. Christensen and a group of supporters successfully got the netting removed after an appeal to the California Coastal Commission.

The City of Long Beach said they are not completely removing the palm trees, but rather repositioning them.

The Director of Public Works, Craig Beck, says that there is simply not enough in place on Marina Drive to sustain the amount of people who visit the nearby restaurants and businesses. The city's 'Complete Streets' projects includes narrowing the median in order to make room for bike lanes, sidewalks, and 94 diagonal parking spots to support businesses on Marina Drive.

"We're looking at an area of town that gets a lot of visitors. Right now, there are no sidewalks on either side of the street," said Beck.

The City of Long Beach hopes to finish the pedestrian safety corridor in time for the grand opening of 2nd & PCH, but appeals continue to stall construction.

Before the city's 'Complete Streets' project can begin construction, a hearing must take place with the California Coastal Commission to decide whether or not moving the 44 palm trees is consistent with the city's Local Coastal Program. Until then, the trees will remain unmoved.
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