OB Torrey pines to be removed despite opposition

Posted at 5:41 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 20:41:45-05

Two 75-foot Torrey pine trees in Ocean Beach will be removed as planned.  

That’s the word from the city of San Diego after a group of activists questioned its decision Tuesday. 

A tree crew on its second day of cutting down the tree had to stop working after a group of concerned OB residents sat and stood around the tree for much of the day.

RELATED: 75-foot Torrey pines being cut down in Ocean Beach

At one point, there was a heated debate between Ocean Beach activists, the city and a resident on Saratoga Avenue. 

"Why did you buy a house there?” an activist asked the homeowner. 

The homeowner replied:  "Are you kidding me?  I bought a house there because I love OB.  I don't necessarily want a tree to fall on me."

The city maintains its two certified arborists had come out prior to last week’s storm and during the storm and found the strong winds rocked the trees back and forth on its roots, which they found were no longer attached to the soil. They deemed it an imminent threat. 

"The only reason the tree has any kind of movement is the canopies are so big and the city has abdicated its responsibility to trim the damn thing,” said OB resident Geoff Page.

"They need to show the paperwork. They need to go to the OB planning board and the OB Historical Society and consult with us,” said Kathy Blavitt of the OB Historical Society.  

Police had to call out the city's arborist who showed the group that the city did have a permit to take the trees down.

"The angle that they were probably going to fall if they fell was back onto the houses themselves. That risk is just too high,” said City of San Diego spokesman Bill Harris. 

In Pacific Beach, during last week's windstorm, Nicki Carano died when an 8-foot wide Torrey pine fell and landed on her car. And in Mira Mesa, a Eucalyptus tree landed on our 10News reporter Marie Coronel and photographer Mike Gold. Both are recovering from their injuries.

Back in OB, after five hours, police threatened to start making arrests, prompting the activists to move aside, allowing the crew to begin working again. They maintained the city doesn’t have to cut the trees down and that the city still isn’t doing everything legally. None of the activists live on Saratoga Avenue.

Kerry Lee does live on this street and has for 10 years. Her home is right in front of one of the trees being removed. She says now she'll be able to use her driveway and her son will be able to go outdoors without getting hit by a pine cone. 

"It's a beautiful tree. I'm going to miss it. But they have to understand that we live with this everyday. My windshield went out one time,” said Lee. 

"It's a sad day when we see something that has so defined the community, that has lived its life and is now moving on," said Harris. "But it's also an opportunity to look at the children in our community and realize that we will be able to replant something that we'll let them watch it grow up in their lifetimes as well."  

The tree crew plans to have both trees removed by the end of the week.