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Neighbors in Ocean Beach file suit over palm tree removal

Posted at 11:51 AM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 14:51:18-04

OCEAN BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) - Last week, neighbors along Newport Avenue and Santa Barbara Street in Ocean Beach worried that they wouldn't be able to save roughly 20 trees in their neighborhood and in Bankers Hill.

The trees were slated for removal by the city, it said, at the request of the FAA and the San Diego International Airport.

RELATED: Ocean Beach residents fight to stop removal of palm trees

One neighbor said she had hired an attorney with intent to file suit.

Last week, a group of neighbors confronted city forester Brian Widener and a community police officer, who came to protest crews in place to begin the removal.

A few even blocked the bucket trucks from cutting down the trees.

At the end of last week, Tracy Van De Walker and her husband hired an attorney, whom she said sent a cease-and-desist letter to the city Thursday night.

Van De Walker said they did not get a response from the city, so she and her husband planned to file a lawsuit on Monday.

"It would be a shame to take down these trees that have lined the streets of OB for decades," Van De Walker says.

Neighbors claim the city has not provided them with sufficient documentation as to why specific trees are of concern.

The city sent a statement to ABC 10News, which said:

"At the request of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and San Diego International Airport, the City of San Diego is planning to remove approximately 20 palm trees from two locations in Ocean Beach and Bankers Hill. The trees are located on city property. According to the FAA, during inclement weather conditions, these trees may interfere with the designated flight path and potentially cause arriving planes to be diverted away from the airport. We understand the community's concern over losing these tall palm trees, which are not native to our region. The city will prioritize working with the adjacent property owners to plant new leaf trees that will add to our urban canopy. In addition to providing shade and lowering temperatures, native trees support the city's climate action goals of removing air pollution, reducing stormwater runoff, and creating a more sustainable and resilient San Diego."

On Monday, a spokesperson for the City of San Diego said if a lawsuit has been filed, the matter will have to play out through legal channels, and the city would not be able to comment further.