The Santa Barbara City Council unanimously denied an appeal by landlord Beverly Iles to have the city remove two ficus trees adjacent to her 21 North Milpas Street property. Parks & Recreation had already denied her initial request. She complained that the roots raised a private walkway on the commercial property, cracked her parking lot, and redirected water drainage back toward the building, all while foliage from the trees clogged her gutters and caused a leak in H&R Block, one of her tenants. Aside from the thousands of dollars that the trees had cost her in repairs, she feared that their reign of terror would drive out her renters.
While Councilmember Dale Francisco stressed that the city should bear the cost of remediating damage caused by the trees’ roots, the entire council agreed that Iles was responsible for cleaning and maintaining her roof and gutters, even if they were littered with ficus leaves. Ideological adversaries Frank Hotchkiss and Grant House came to a meeting of the minds on the importance of street trees to Santa Barbara’s aesthetics. The former took umbrage at the latter’s verbiage, but, in the end, he couldn’t disagree that, without trees, Milpas would be “butt ugly.” Hotchkiss also took the initiative of personally visiting Iles’s property and placing a level on several spots on the sidewalk circumscribing it. The results of his examination, he said, made it hard for him to believe that water would flow toward the building. Members of the council expressed varying amounts of sympathy for Iles, but Michael Self summed up their shared belief that, although trees can be a nuisance, “It’s the price we pay for having this beautiful city.”