Escondido resident fights to save historic trees

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-28 10:38:54-05

ESCONDIDO -- An Escondido woman is fighting to save nearly a dozen trees in her historic Escondido neighborhood.

Lora Hilliard said the trees were planted about 75 years ago, and now their lives could be limited to just days. She's bracing for a change in scenery as a tractor moved the land next to her property, and a developer is putting in two homes.

"I've tried to imagine that," she said. "It's heartbreaking."

She said the construction will kill her pepper tree -- a tree the city owns along Second Avenue, at the edge of Hilliard's driveway.

The city told 10News they tried to save the tree, but its roots are ruining the road and it's so big that it is blocking drivers' views when they leave their homes. City officials believe it's a public safety problem.

A sidewalk is also going in its place, but a city engineer told 10News that plan would have been nixed if it meant saving the tree.

Hilliard had another concern -- the trees will have to be replaced.

Article 62 of the city's Zoning Code -- Section 33-13.39.e.1 -- requires that subdivisions provide one 15-gallon (6 feet tall) tree per residential lot.

In addition, the city's Code requires installation of one tree for every 30-feet of street frontage. Trees should be 15 gallon (6 feet tall) minimum.

Lastly, the city's grading ordinance requires that when removal of a tree is unavoidable -- such as in the case of the pepper tree in the front yard of the property to be developed -- another tree must be planted to replace it. Mature trees are required to be replaced with 24-inch box trees minimum.

Hilliard is upset that the new trees will require a lot of water during the drought. She also said her electric bill will spike without the shade of the trees, and she worries where the wildlife she said she watches from her window will go.

"Let it live its life," she said.

The city told 10News their arborist is meeting with Hilliard Thursday to determine how they can spare her pepper tree.