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Kensington residents continue fight to save pepper trees

Posted at 11:22 AM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 14:22:28-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A handful of Kensington residents celebrated a small victory on Tuesday when they found out the City of San Diego had spared their beloved pepper trees, at least for a day.

The city has designated four trees along Marlborough Drive as safety hazards and plans to demolish all of them. Crews put out no parking signs Monday afternoon in preparation for the demo work.

Early Tuesday morning, people who live nearby stood vigil near the trees to protect them. The plan worked, at least for now.

"They seem to have a vendetta against these pepper trees," says resident Harmon Huff. "It's like they're going to take them down come hell or high water."

This isn't the first time a small protest saved the trees. On Friday, ABC 10News reported that several residents moved their cars in front of the trees to protect them.

In 2020, resident Maggie McCann won a temporary restraining order to protect the trees. She hasn't been able to get it renewed since it expired. Concerned neighbors also tried appealing to the city's Heritage Tree Program since most of the pepper trees are more than 100 years old. Nothing has provided a long-term solution.

"They won't talk to us," McCann says. "They haven't provided any data, any measurements, anything to say these trees are deteriorated to the point of being a liability."

City policy says that "Only dead trees or trees deemed an immediate safety issue by city staff are removed from the right of way as soon as possible."

ABC 10News reached out to the city to get a copy of their tree assessment for the Marlborough Drive Pepper Trees, but we haven't heard back.

Tuesday morning, City Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera, who represents the district, walked by to talk with the residents. He told them he couldn't provide many answers, but wanted them to know he's listening.

"As their councilmember, I want to make sure they know I'm at least showing up, even if they don't like what's happening. I feel like I should show up and be a sounding board," he says. "I'm not an arborist. I can't tell you the actual risk of the trees coming down. But I understand it's frustrating."

In the meantime, the people who live on the street say they'll keep fighting, and they'll stand guard as long as it takes.

"We hoping they do the right thing," says McCann. "We hope they have a little shame and do the right thing."