"Some of those trees were probably 50 years old," says Robert Tripp Jackson, chairman of the Point Loma Association.
Robert Tripp Jackson, chairman of the Point Loma Association, received a mysterious message on March 8 asking if he wanted his memorial plaques and notifying him that "there's a whole bunch of trees that we had to take out for the new construction."
Jackson said on March 15, "They gave no location on Rosecrans. I made some calls to see if anybody knew what was going on. I then drove down Rosecrans looking for a construction site."
Jackson found it on the corner of Rosecrans and Byron streets. What he didn't find were the eight jacaranda trees that had been there for years.
Here come the condos...
"I called everybody I could think of," said Jackson. "I talked to Lorie Zapf's office. I called the numbers posted at the construction site. Harper Construction called me back the next day and said they had no choice because of the reconfiguration of the sidewalk for the new development."
"The association should have been notified before these trees were taken out. Not only did we plant them, we care for them at our expense. Some of those trees were probably 50 years old. They were prospering adult trees. Before they pulled them out, we should have been given the option to transplant them. We've planted more than 1000 trees in Point Loma over the decades."
Regarding one of the memorial plaques the association is being asked to remove, Jackson said, "I talked to the Cheyney family. The son was upset about the tree being gone due to his mother Tillie's plaque being at the site. I told him that we would work it out. His father Chuck Cheyney is almost 100 years old and was very shaken by this turn of events."
Harper Construction indicated being open to reinstalling the plaques after replanting trees.
Jackson said that Harper Construction indicated being open to reinstalling the plaques after replanting trees.
On March 16, Conrad Wear from Zapf's office said he found out about the trees when the community did. Wear said, "The [1987 Peninsula] community plan calls for the planting of Jacaranda trees along this corridor. The developer is required to replace these trees. This went through the Peninsula Planning Group on May 15th, 2014."
Although it was on the May 2014 agenda, the Point Loma Village development was not discussed because the architect was a no-show. The project was approved at the July 2014 meeting with no mention of the jacaranda trees.
On March 11, 2015, there was a public hearing at which four votes got the city to sign off on the luxury condo project. The four "yes" votes: Rudy Medina (property owner), Anthony Cutri (project architect), Richard Simis (project developer), and Michael Kinnear (design engineer). No dissenting voices were present.
The March 2015 sign-off document does point to eight new jacaranda trees that will have to be planted in order to be in compliance with the community plan that states all existing jacaranda trees on Rosecrans must be preserved. In other words, permission was given by the city to the developer, one year ago, to take out the existing trees as long as they planted new ones.
Did the Peninsula planning board know about the tree removal? I asked member Don Sevrens, who said on March 16, "I'm not aware that the planning board was ever notified."
When asked why the trees were cut down, city spokesman Arian Collins said on March 17, "This was [the] city's landscape condition for the development project. In addition, the trees were in very poor condition, and likely would have a low survival rate with the new construction."
As far as the association that planted the jacaranda trees being notified, Collins said, "The neighbors and community planning group were notified." He pointed to the public hearing notices posted online.
I located two public notices. One was dated January 6, 2015, giving the public the opportunity to appeal the environmental exemptions. The other was dated February 25, 2015, regarding the March 11, 2015, hearing. No trees were mentioned in either notice.
While the city did do everything it was obligated to do as far as alerting the public, it doesn't appear to have been sufficient enough to ensure that the community was aware of the fate of the trees. To check for future public hearing notices, check out the city's bulletin board online.
A Point Loma business owner, Jenny Seligmann (Diamonds Forever), said on March 15, "The trees were so close to that time of year when they look like purple snow. I saw those trees as having roots in our community. I am deeply saddened by our loss."