Opinion » Letters

Save our beautiful downtown trees

San Luis Obispo



Save Our Downtown is a group of concerned citizens heavily invested in maintaining the viability and esthetic appeal of downtown San Luis Obispo. It has come to our attention that Chamber of Commerce President Dave Garth represented to the Architectural Review Commission last October his and supposedly the SLO Chamber’s desire to remove our downtown street trees as they have become too large, cause sidewalk maintenance problems, and disrupt business operations (obstruct sign visibility, for example).

A similar argument has been made about the Mill Street camphor trees with regard to sidewalk disturbance. However, at the same meeting last October, Pierre Rademaker suggested that camphor trees be allowed as street trees in the Mill Street Historical District area to tie in with the established pattern of tree planting. We believe the burden of proof should lie with Mr. Garth regarding whether these trees interrupt regular business operations.

The American West Travelogue describes Downtown San Luis Obispo in the following terms: “The county’s principal city, San Luis Obispo (population 42,000), offers visitors a taste of the ‘old’ California: less crowded, slower paced and easygoing. The city’s acronym, SLO, says it all. The downtown San Luis Obispo area features many antique buildings, small shops and restaurants, and a lovely, tree-covered main street, Higuera Street.”

Moreover, mature street trees have “traffic calming” characteristics when they are located within urban settings. Mature trees are widely acknowledged as esthetically appealing. We invite anyone to conduct a walking survey of our downtown mature trees to determine the degree to which they have disturbed the sidewalks. We found very little evidence for this.

A little-known advantage of the ficus microcarpa is the trees never bloom and are therefore hypoallergenic. We suspect that
Garth’s argument is a “non-starter,” as no council member has gone on record supporting the total removal of these trees. Nevertheless, it concerns us that the city arborist has an ongoing policy of removing one or two healthy ficus trees each year. We will recommend placing a moratorium on this policy, especially during these times of extreme budget shortfalls.

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