Urgent Alert: Ex-Councilman Gil Cedillo is killing the old trees in MacArthur Park... and YOU can help stop him!
This is an urgent alert for everyone within reach of this newsletter who cares about the historic parks and trees of Los Angeles.
It seems that ousted racist gerrymandering councilman Gil Cedillo has one last twist of the knife for our beautiful city: the contractors hired by Rec and Parks to install new irrigation lines to finish his long delayed MacArthur Park Rehabilitation Project are ignoring RAP’s instructions and all best practices for protecting mature tree roots, and have carved through the soil like zombie gophers!
This is what the fenced Northwest quadrant corner of the park, near the Levitt Pavilion, looked like yesterday afternoon.
And like this.
You don’t have to be a tree expert to recognize that this is not okay. But as it happens, our partner in advocacy for protecting historic trees is the eminent environmental horticulturist Dr. Don Hodel.
After Don saw these photos and confirmed our fear that the work had the potential to kill the mature trees around it, we wrote to Steve Dunlap, Principal Grounds Maintenance Supervisor in the Forestry Division of Rec and Parks, to alert him to the apparent damage caused by trenching, ask what measures are in place to prevent or mitigate tree root zone damage, and to request a walk-through with the contractor soon to address and correct the gross lapses in these protocols.
This morning, Steve replied: “Yes it is very frustrating to see this kind of work being done in our established parks. It is very difficult to redo any irrigation without doing some kind of root damage, there is very little that the contractors are willing to do to accommodate the root zones. We have our tree protection guidelines printed in every set of blueprints for these projects and it is a fight to get them to follow them. With our current staffing we cannot babysit every construction and landscape project, they slip by us and we are called out after the damage is done. A lot of the time with the political pressure to get these projects completed we have no alternative than to justify the damage and say the trees will be able to weather the root loss. I know this is just making excuses for bad contractors and lack of oversight on our part. It is just the cost of doing business we have to accept. In a perfect world this would not be happening but we have to bite the bullet and keep going. Does this make it right and acceptable absolutely not but it is the world we have to deal with.”
And we replied, “This is heartbreaking to read. It doesn't have to be this way. Citizens can turn out and watch work if it cannot be done properly without RAP supervision. That shouldn't be necessary, but clearly it is. We need public notification of work scheduled to these venerable trees that belong to all of us, so observers can protect them. Political rush jobs do not have precedence over the health of the park. Thanks for keeping this channel open and thanks for caring and keep up the good work.”
It is clear to us that Rec and Parks will not hold its contractors to the city’s own tree protection guidelines, even if it means roots are cut and hundred year old trees begin to die. And why should the contractors do a good or careful job? The estimated budget for landscape and irrigation of the trees in the park rehabilitation project is just $25,000, compared with $1.7 Million for new playground equipment and $62,000 for astroturf.
The trees are an afterthought.
Would this happen at a park in a wealthier, whiter neighborhood? We don’t think so.
After getting Steve’s email, we reached out to the office of new CD1 city council rep Eunisses Hernandez, with whom we’ve already had a productive conversation about threats to historic properties in her district and the need to better care for the trees in MacArthur Park, and asked that CD1 issue a stop work order to get some answers before the contractors continue carving their dangerous path.
We alerted the person who answered the phone about the need to act urgently, and followed up with an email to the deputy overseeing the park, Louie Leiva. After getting no response, we called again near the end of the work day, but nobody was answering at the CD1 office.
Tomorrow, work may well continue, causing even more damage than is shown in our photographs.
As we wrote to Louie Leiva, “This careless and harmful trenching might have been acceptable to Gil Cedillo’s office, but it is not okay, and is just one of many reasons that the voters in CD1 rejected him in the primary. We are urgently looking to your office to take control and stabilize this situation, because it is not too late to save these trees.”
[see the update below before calling or emailing] If you share our concerns and want the contractor to stop violating the tree protection guidelines, please send an email to Louie Leiva (firstname.lastname@example.org), asking that his office issue a stop work order for the trenching in MacArthur Park and work with the tree advocates who reached out to alert him of the problem. You can also call the main CD 1 office and convey this message to (213) 473-7001.
Please help make a fuss, so these lovely trees can be protected and continue to shelter Angelenos and birds and squirrels and bugs and lizards and even Gil Cedillo for many more years to come.
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard
update 2/24/23: We received a very good email response just after 9am this morning from Field & Mobility Deputy Louie Leiva in the office of councilmember Eunisses Hernendez that gives us hope that the zombie gophers can be thwarted and the great MacArthur Park trees protected! Thank you to all who called and emailed.
Louie Leiva writes: "I am reaching out to acknowledge receipt of your message about the ongoing work at MacArthur Park as well as the pressing concerns you and your peers have shared with respect to the health of the trees. Our office is initiating a conversation with the Superintendent of Rec and Parks. Considering timing and the simultaneous weather advisory, work at this site has already been halted since yesterday and will continue to be on hold into early next week. This allows our office more time to gauge the situation and brainstorm tangible solutions as the park restoration efforts move forward. I will share more information as I receive it which will not be until Monday at the earliest."
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UPCOMING WALKING TOURS
Saturday, February 25 - Westlake Park Time Travel Trip (postponed due to rain)• Saturday, March 11 - Downtown Los Angeles is For Book Lovers • Saturday, March 18 - Franklin Village Old Hollywood • Saturday, March 25 - Angelino Heights & Carroll Avenue • Saturday, April 8 - John Fante’s Downtown • Saturday, April 15 - Raymond Chandler’s Downtown