As I walked along 1st St. last week, I came across a gentleman standing outside a storefront, staring at the square of dirt where a huge ficus tree had once stood.
The sudden launch of tree-cutting operations along the corridor a few weekends ago took many by surprise (and some dismay).
While the ficus trees were not necessarily beautiful, they had sported sizable canopies that offered shoppers shelter from the sun and made the sidewalk feel a little more intimate. Now, it felt like they had never been there, their previous square homes carefully filled in with dirt, no trace of tree debris left behind. Yet that section of street felt oddly naked and exposed.
Like a number of folks from the area, the gentleman was unhappy that he hadn’t had any advance warning about the operations (notices had been taped to trees for some time, but they did not contain information about dates of removal). He was also suspicious of how funds were being used.
They did it on a Saturday, he said in Spanish. So, it costs more — that’s more of our tax money.
He knew that it was part of some sort of improvements going on in the area and had heard the 91 trees would be replaced. But he didn’t like that it would take years for the trees to reach maturity and offer the community shelter and cleaner air. Or that it might be some time before the new trees were even planted.
He shook his head.
It’s a shame.
As I walked up and down 1st looking at the trees slated to meet their doom, I pondered the challenge of bringing investment to an area.
There’s a lot of excitement around what’s in store for the 1st Street Corridor and the Boyle Heights Arts District as part of the Eastside Access project.
The $12 million project, funded by Measure R, promises new, decorative sidewalks, 180 new trees, more street lighting, and street furniture that reflects the character of the community. At a groundbreaking yesterday, they even announced the intention to bring on 9 local muralists to paint utility boxes (located between Boyle and Soto) with original works.
But there’s also a lot of concern. Read more…