Although Encinitas homeowner Donna Miano has never claimed to have a record-setting Christmas tree, no one else in San Diego claims a taller living Christmas tree. Perched on the ocean-view bluff overlooking Moonlight Beach, the 100-foot-tall star pine has been lit up for the past 17 Christmases. According to Miano, the tree was planted when the house was built in 1942.
When Miano first rented the house at 404 Fourth Street 17 years ago, one of the town’s characters, affectionately known by locals as Crazy Louie, approached her with the idea of lighting the tree for Christmas. He said he had been just sitting at the beach, where he hung out most days, staring up at the huge tree. She thought it was a good idea and gave him the okay. One day Louie showed up with all the lights, a cherry-picker lift, and extension cords.
“When he first plugged it in, it blew out the rest of my house,” she said. Each year since, Louie would show up to string the lights, and Miano would foot the $300 electric bill. The tree has grown ten feet since she began lighting it.
Since Miano purchased the house 12 years ago, the display became more of a big deal. So much so that the City of Encinitas took over the operation for a few years. About six years ago, the City passed it off to the Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association, which paid to install separate power lines, a new power pole, an SDG&E meter, switched to energy-saving LED lights, and now foots the $250 seasonal electric bill.
“This year it took a day and half and eight guys to string them up,” says Miano, who has made legal provisions to ensure that the tree is lit up at Christmastime even if she no longer owns the house in the future.