Tree City and Ruined Streets
From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 5
By Steve Propes
After about 70 years of development and all things urban, it has become increasingly clear all East Long Beach streets are not created equal. The original idea on the part of developers was to embellish each block with trees for the purposes of shade, looks and other benefits. These days, Long Beach deservedly basks in the glow of being named Tree City U.S.A., certainly a non-exclusive club.
However, as with most good intentions, there are unexpected consequences. “Each developer chose their own trees,” said Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske. And over these years, some of these trees had what it took to tear up streets and sidewalks.
Lees Avenue just north of Los Santos Drive near Studebaker Road and Atherton Street is a beautiful block lined with about 15 to 20 majestic Stone Pines, which have damaged sidewalks and streets, aprons and driveways and in one case, may have sent damaging roots into one resident’s garage.
Curb displacement means pooling water, which in turn, degrades and eats the asphalt. Schipske’s plan is to fix the damage for the long term and to remove offending trees, if necessary.
“These trees are very heavy and strong,” said Schipske. “It will take three to four months to get them all done. Once we get these trees cleared out, we can start street construction.”
Just east of Woodruff near Los Coyotes Diagonal, Fanwood Avenue near Faust is lined with a restful canopy of Ficus, which tends to “lift sidewalks, as the roots have more surface than the Stone Pines,” said Schipske. All the while, Schipske insisted, “I want to save trees.”
Arboreal experts have been marking trees to tell contracted-out crews what to do. “They will prune roots,” then crews will fix aprons, curbs and streets. As to sidewalk repairs, “saw cutting allows for less than an inch raise” but costs $25 versus $184 for replacing each panel. So the cost of replacing a sidewalk can be significant.
As with all council offices, official response is complaint-driven. Schipske stated, “for years, you would have to call my office about broken sidewalks or streets about getting them fixed.” Which meant, no call, no fix.
Strangely, though the damage is pretty significant, Schipske noted that residents of the affected streets don’t tend to complain about this damage. In particular, the problems with Fanwood Avenue have yet to generate complaints.
But now for certain impacted streets, avenues and drives, the fix is in, one neighborhood at a time. According to Schipske, grouping these projects together leads to more efficiency and better service.
Schipske said she walked the Fifth District three times. “We got 30 percent more sidewalks fixed” according to management.
Instead of the old five to seven year wait for tree trimming, the most impacted blocks will benefit sooner.
A prime example of these upgrades was the heavily potholed and rough surfaced Harco Street, which recently was repaved between Woodruff Avenue and Bellflower Boulevard. Another sidewalk that benefited was Charlemagne Avenue between Conant Street and Parkcrest Street, which now has sidewalk cut-outs, dubbed “meandering sidewalks” to accommodate the roots and trunks of parkway trees.
The 2000 block of Lees Avenue, which has perhaps the most severe damage of all these streets is well into its fix, with the trees having already been trimmed. Repairs have also been slated for the 5800 block of Barbanell Street between Radnor Avenue and San Vincente Avenue, which has “lifted gutters that cause standing water.” The problems will be addressed by “root shaving,” and replacement of driveways, as well as ADA ramps. The 3200 and 3300 blocks of Fanwood Avenue will also be upgraded in a similar fashion as Barbanell.
Lake Lanai, namely Lanai Street at Rutgers Avenue, which has been subject to standing water issues that have caused broken pavement, crumbling curbs and cracking sidewalks will be addressed.
For all these repairs, Schipske’s office “pulled together oil revenues of about $700,000.” All of these projects will pretty much exhaust the current budget.
However, according to Schipske, “as additional funds become available, we will continue working our way down the remaining list of streets and curbs that need fixing.”
For those in search of the right kind of parkway tree to replace a dying or non-existent one, the city publishes a list of around 100 trees that are alright with the city, fourteen of which are native to the area including the large California Sycamore, Engelmann Oak and White Alder. Among smaller approved native species are the Bower Wattle, Netleaf Hackberry, Western Redbud and the Desert Willow.
Deciduous trees like the Big Leaf Maple and the Box Elder and evergreens like the Monterey Cypress, Catalina Ironwood and Monterey Pine are also aces with the city.
To get on the fix list or for more information, call (562) 570-6932.