Residents in Del Mar want eucalyptus trees removed

Residents in Del Mar want eucalyptus trees removed
Residents express concern that blue gum eucalyptus trees on property at 110 Stratford Court are creating a fire hazard, wasting water and blocking views. Some have hired an attorney and are urging the city to have them removed. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — An attorney hired by a group of residents is asking the city to take action to remove or cut back and thin out what he describes as a thirsty grove of eucalyptus trees on “the most dangerous piece of property in Del Mar.”

“Although we have urged removal of the trees based on their threat as an imminent fire danger, the recent (State Water Resources Control Board) water restrictions emphasize an additional, perhaps equally significant, reason for immediate removal of this thirsty eucalyptus grove,” Sam Blick wrote in an email to Del Mar City Manager Scott Huth.

“Remember, the eucalyptus grove provides no legitimate benefit to the community or even the property owner,” Blick, a former Del Mar city attorney, wrote. “No one lives on the property and no one benefits from the existence of these trees.”

The trees are located on property at 110 Stratford Court owned by Torrey Pacific Corporation. Blick said he was hired about three months ago by residents from the adjacent Del Mar Woods condominium complex who are concerned about potential fire hazards because the trees are considered highly flammable.

“I was hired by a small group but when I have meetings all kinds of people show up,” Blick said. “They are concerned because there is no defensible space. There are 120 townhomes and condos that were built in 1976 under old codes. And the wood is more than 30 years old.

“So many people support this issue,” he added.

Blick brought the matter to the attention of the City Council members during oral communications at the May 18 meeting, which meant there could be no discussion and no action could be taken.

He noted the fire issue but added that the trees are receiving so much water that they’ve grown a fungus on them.

“My arborist says he’s never seen a blue gum eucalyptus with a fungus from overwatering,” Blick said.

He said the property owners told him they want to keep the trees to maintain privacy but Blick noted no one lives there. He said they agreed to trim the trees “but they just topped them off so it made it into a hedge, which made it worse.”

A representative for the owners, who asked that his name not be used, declined to comment other than to say the issue is likely more about view blockage.

He referenced a flier announcing an April 18 meeting by a “newly formed (Del Mar Woods) Views Preservation Group.”

The flier cited a potential fire hazard, property values and potential development.

Blick said the trees do block views but that is not the primary issue.

“We’ve got the water department and the governor telling us we ought to have a bucket in the shower with us and yet these people use thousands and thousands of gallons of water not for agricultural purposes,” Blick said. “It’s not like they’re growing something or this is their business.

“This is just a blight on the community,” he added. “There’s no need for them.”

Blick said the property is used on weekends for off-road vehicle races, which creates a “nuisance on top of a nuisance,” and he asked council members to put the item on an upcoming agenda so action can be taken.

“Get rid of those trees,” he said. “Stop that waste of water. Stop that fire danger. Stop that illegal use out there.”

Like all complaints, this one was not immediately presented to council, Huth said. It is going through the normal administrative process.

He said the city arborist and fire marshal have visited the site and a report should be issued soon. It will be sent to Blick and the property owners. Either party can appeal the decision to council members if they are dissatisfied with the recommendations, Huth said.

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