Science Center Given Approval to Remove Nearly 400 Trees to Make Way for Shuttle

Flyers mark trees for removal along Crenshaw Blvd. (photo: sahra)

When I first reported on the notices posted on trees along Crenshaw Blvd. back in July, I did not realize that those notices were more or less the extent of the outreach the Science Center had done with the communities that the Space Shuttle Endeavour would be traveling through.

Speaking with KCRW’s Saul Gonzalez last week, Leimert Park neighborhood council member Lark Galloway-Gilliam said that she had only found out about the planned cutting of the trees by accident. The Science Center, where the Shuttle will be housed, never contacted the communities directly to let them know or discuss their plans.

The oversight was disrespectful, many felt, not only given the detrimental impact to the property values that the loss of old trees would have, but also because of the emotional value of the trees for the community. Fourteen of those originally slated for removal had been planted in January of 1990 by community members as part of a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King. Twenty-two years later, they now stand over forty feet high, in large part because of the care that community members dedicated to them every month.

Moreover, there was no study of the environmental impact, noted Galloway-Gilliam, despite the fact that 400 trees were on the chopping block in park-poor communities with high asthma rates. Something cyclists will no doubt find ironic, given that the striping of bike lanes — a benefit to the environment — can be held up because of environmental impact concerns.

The L.A. Times reports that the Science Center was finally given the green light to remove the nearly 400 trees (119 of which are in South Los Angeles) after a three-hour Public Works meeting yesterday at City Hall.

The advocacy efforts of the affected communities pushed the Science Center to promise more benefits to residents.

It has agreed to repair sidewalks and hire local youths for at least half of the tree maintenance jobs. The Times also reports they will offer “10 scholarships to area students and pay $100,000 to an education fund and train local teachers in science.”

With regard to the trees, instead of doing the minimum required replanting of two trees for every one taken out, the Science Center will plant four in South L.A. (although, they will still plant two for every one in Inglewood and other communities). They agreed the new trees would be sturdier than new saplings and plan to cover the costs of maintenance and trimming for five years instead of two. Those concessions will hopefully help to ensure the trees survive and thrive in their new environments. Nationally, Andy Lipkis of Tree People said on Which Way L.A., vandalism, failure to water, and the overall harsh conditions of an urban setting doom most trees to a life span of just 6 years.

Tree removal could begin as early as next week. The 119 trees (and three transplants) on the chopping block (as cited in a list provided to the Leimert Park Beat by Galloway-Gilliam) are the following:

Large Intrusive Tree / Removal    19
Large Tree / Removal    22
Small Tree / Removal    78
Small Tree / Transplant    3
Total Trees:    122

Callistemon citrinus    4
Ceratonia siliqua    3
Cercis occidentalis    1
Cupaniopsis anacardioides    4
Eucalyptus    12
Ficus microcarpa nitida    8
Hibiscus    1
Liquidambar styraciflua    1
Magnolia grandiflora    41
Pinus canariensis    4
Platanus acerifolia    11
Podocarpus gracilior    5
Pyrus kawakamii    4
Washingtonia robusta    23
Total Trees:    122

Trees Over 15′ Height and 10″ Caliper    43
Other Trees    79

  • Could probably do without the Eucalyptuses. They’re a fire hazard in urban areas.

  • Anonymous

    I really hope they wait with the tree removal until this thing is safe on the ground at LAX.  Would suck if the trees were removed and then the Endeavour went to join her sisters Challenger and Columbia in status.

  • Roadblock

    TAP makes a GREAT point… 

  • Norm

    This is a real bummer. Mature trees do so much for a neighborhood, comfort (shade) and beauty. And here they are starting over. That said, Mexican fan palms are like weeds, they can come back pretty fast, and liquidambars are horrible messy destructive trees, that one won’t be missed. I’m not sure of most of the others – are they all exotics? No, not the magnolias and sycamores. Again, bummer. 

  • sahra

     It should be in LA on Friday, weather permitting, so I believe the answer is yes. At least, I hope so!

  • I’ve not yet seen the question addressed as to why it’s not feasible to dismantle the shuttle’s wings and then reattach them once its at the ScienCenter.

  • My understanding is that it would involve cutting the ceramic tiles that make up the shuttle’s heat shield. Each tile is unique and *very* costly to replace, and failing to keep the heat shield intact would mess with the visual integrity of the shuttle as a historical artifact.

  • sahra

     Yes, it has to do with concerns about the heat shield tiles. Community members, however, want to know why the heat shield is of concern if the shuttle isn’t going to fly again. But, to your question, I haven’t really seen a good answer beyond protecting the integrity of the heat shield and the shuttle. I find that odd, because if you donate enough money, you can get your name on a heat shield tile. Go figure:

  • Thanks Niall and Sahra. I can respect wanting to keep the shuttle intact as an historical artifact, but I can’t help but be curious as to the cost involved in removing/replanting the trees, versus the cost of dismantling the wings and replacing any damaged tiles with cosmetic equals. Seems the tree massacre would tally a much bigger total than the latter (fiscally and environmentally). And I’d hazard that beyond a small percentage who would take issue with the shuttle’s visual integrity being breached by a use of faux tiles, the majority of people visiting the craft won’t know (or care about) the difference. In the end the choice made seems like a big price to pay to keep intact a shuttle that in essence becomes nothing more than a really, really big paperweight.

  • PC

    All in all, a shitty and shabby move by both the Science Center and the City. They dissed the neighborhoods because they knew they could.

  • brandie

     Nope. started tree removal already. if you drive up and down king, you will see crews removing trees already … and the shuttle hasn’t even landed yet

  • marta

    are you going to let them get away with this …wimmmmmpppppsss


Shuttlewatch 2012: Preparing the Route for Endeavour

Riding down Crenshaw Blvd. yesterday, I was surprised to see every single tree had a flyer attached to it. At first I thought that perhaps the Birdman of Silverlake was expanding his empire. Flyering trees and telephone poles is his specialty, after all. But, no, it was just the Bureau of Street Services letting residents […]