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Dr. Don Hodel's prescription for Saving El Pino


Gentle reader,

On a hill on the East Los Angeles / Boyle Heights border, a magnificent Australian tree, planted by a Japanese family, became a Mexican-American movie star in the cult classic Blood In, Blood Out (1993).

So of course a developer wants to kill it! Oh, that’s not what property owner Art Gastelum tells reporters when they ask about his proposed duplex project on this former garden plot. But big tree expert Dr. Don Hodel knows better: El Pino has shallow, delicate roots that would be fatally damaged should anything be built close to its trunk.

As Blood In, Blood Out marks its 30th anniversary with a limited edition commemorative book from our pals at Hat & Beard and an all day celebration at Cal State LA, we remembered that there had been technical difficulties during our September 2022 webinar about saving El Pino that kept it from being viewed later. Since people are visiting the El Pino advocacy page on our website all the time wanting to know if the tree is going to be okay, we figured they ought to hear it directly from Don.

Because who are you going to trust to tell you what’s best for El Pino—the author of Exceptional Trees of Los Angeles, an educator and scientist who has decades of experience as an environmental horticulturist, or the notorious character who bought the land where El Pino grows and wants to make a buck off it?

Esotouric’s Substack is a reader supported publication. If you’d like to support our preservation work as a paying subscriber, you can do that below. You can also tip us on Venmo (Esotouric) or here. Your support helps us look out for Los Angeles and we thank you!

Below you’ll find Part 2 of our visit to El Pino, which includes an appreciation of another rare tree that Don spotted growing just below the famous one, and the suggestion that as a community so welcoming to immigrants, many of them cooks, herbalists and gardeners who planted familiar and useful things, East Los Angeles is long overdue for a Flora study.

If you’ve never visited El Pino, we hope you will—maybe after our next walking tour, Evergreen Cemetery on January 20, since it’s less than a mile away and clearly visible from the grounds. (That’s also the date of the Blood In, Blood Out festivities nearby at Cal State Los Angeles, so you can make an eastside day of it. If you do, ask us for lunch suggestions.)

We’ve been to the tree many times, but never alone. You can’t be there for more than a few minutes before others arrive to snap a selfie, meet a friend, or just bask in the comfort that El Pino is now and has always been there for them. It is a powerful place. We’d hate to see it lost.

Yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard


Psst… If you’d like to support our efforts to be the voice of places worth preserving, we have a tip jar and a subscriber edition of this newsletter, vintage Los Angeles webinars available to stream, in-person tours and a souvenir shop you can browse in. We’ve also got recommended reading bookshelves on Amazon and the Bookshop indie bookstore site. And did you know we offer private versions of our walking and bus tours for groups big or small? Or just share this link with other people who care.

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Evergreen Cemetery, 1877 Walking Tour (Sat. 1/20) • Broadway: Downtown Los Angeles’ Beautiful, Magical Mess Walking Tour (Sat. 1/27) • Bunker Hill, Dead and Alive Walking Tour (Sat. 2/3) • Westlake Park Time Travel Trip Walking Tour (Sat. 2/10) • Angelino Heights & Carroll Avenue Time Travel Trip Walking Tour (Sat. 2/17) • The Real Black Dahlia Crime Bus Tour (Sat. 2/24) • Echo Park Book of the Dead Crime Bus Tour (Sat. 3/9) • SOLD OUT Know Your Downtown L.A.: Tunnels To Towers To The Dutch Chocolate Shop Walking Tour (Sat. 3/16) • The Run: Gay Downtown History Walking Tour (Sat. 3/23) • John Fante’s Downtown Los Angeles Birthday Walking Tour (Sat. 4/6)


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Just added to our single-serve webinar channel: A Love Letter to the Cafeterias of Old Los Angeles. Joined by fourth generation operator Robert Clinton of Clifton's, it's a deep dive into culinary and cultural history, with neon, jello and a little vice.