ENCINITAS — Four large ficus trees in downtown Encinitas were slated to be cut down earlier this month, but the city has put the plans on hold.
The large trees known for their winding branches and broad canopies had become an issue for several property owners, who said the roots of the trees were causing damage to sidewalks and underground utilities adjacent to their properties.
All four trees are located on city property between the sidewalk and curbs. Two are on Third Street near E Street, and two are along Second Street between I and J streets.
City crews were slated to cut down the trees last week, but city officials said they paused the plan to allow for the city’s urban forest subcommittee to discuss the issue as well as the city’s risk management and legal teams to evaluate the property damage, said John Ugrob, a public works operations supervisor.
“The trees are on hold,” Ugrob said. “We might have some additional information or direction in a month or two, but for now, there really isn’t much to add.”
Ficus trees represent a fraction of the more than 10,000 trees on city right of way, of which more than 80 percent are varieties of palm.
Several residents contacted The Coast News and other media outlets to protest the trees’ removal, citing their beauty as well as to protect birds that are nesting in the trees.
Ugrob said the city understood the residents’ concerns about the trees, but also has to weigh it with the property damage and risk to the public.
“These are beautiful trees and this is something we don’t want to do,” Ugrob said. “But when public safety and private property are being damaged it puts us in this position. It’s really a matter of them being the wrong trees in the wrong spot.”
Ugrob said the city is looking into longer-term solution for not only the ficus, but many of the venerable trees in the city’s canopy, which are getting older and will raise many of the same issues as the ficus trees.
“We don’t really have a long-term plan in place, but I know it’s been in the works for some time, it just takes time to make it happen,” Ugrob said. “The older trees are kind of a gift and a curse at the same time. The infrastructure grew up and around the trees for 50 or 60 years, which creates issues that we have to address.”