IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. -- Imperial Beach residents are starting to notice a void in their city.
A developer had a crew chop down a 66-year-old iconic pine tree on 7th and Palm Avenue.
Some residents say the crew cut it down in the middle of the night early Friday morning. They noticed it was gone the next day.
"I have to admit, I cried most of the day when I found out,” said resident Ann Price.
"This is a piece of IB that's gone forever."
David Smith was 6 years old when the tree played an important backdrop for the city's inauguration in the mid-1950s.
"I knew it was an important day even at 6. And I've come by and seen this tree grow my entire lifetime,” said Smith. “I actually cried about it myself."
For some 50 years after that day, the city residents lit the tree every year during Christmas. A Girl Scouts troupe planted the tree on what used to be the property of Coronado Federal. Now, the land belongs to Sudberry Properties. It's turning the plot into a new gathering place called the Breakwater Town Center.
Late last year, resident Paul Spear reached out to the developer to encourage them to bring back the Christmas Tree Lighting tradition.
"They thanked me for the idea and that's about as far as it went,” said Spear.
Now, Spear is meeting with other residents to form an Imperial Beach historical society.
“If there was a historical society, we could’ve reached out and it could’ve been done better,” added Spear.
IB's City Manager Andy Hall says right now, the city doesn't require permits to cut down trees on private land. These residents acknowledge the developer had the right to cut it down.
"The way in which they did is what upset people,” said Smith.
They're hoping the developer would be open to the idea of giving them the stump so they can replant it.
"We could get the suckers going again and we could literally have a new tree from this new tree,” said resident Linda Heath.
The City Manager admits the city could've done a better job getting input from residents. He added the developer is required to put in dozens of trees as part of the new town center.
As for saving the stump, the city would be interested if it can be done. 10News has not heard back from the developer.