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Five Eucalypti Declared ‘Historic’

City Hall Infighting Over Library Trees


Thursday, October 25, 2012
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Capping off a rare showdown between City Hall committees, the Santa Barbara City Council voted to declare the downtown library, the Faulkner Gallery ​— ​but not the 1980 addition bridging the two structures ​— ​and five 80-year-old eucalyptus trees hovering nearby as historic landmarks. The trees ​— ​described during a lengthy debate as “lemon-scented gum trees” ​— ​proved most contentious, with landmark status opposed by city librarian Irene Macias, Parks & Rec czar Nancy Rapp, and their two respective citizens’ advisory committees. Likewise, the landmark status was opposed by the head of the downtown Art Museum, as well as the head of the county Arts Commission, all of whom argued the trees were protected already and that additional safeguards could impede efforts to create a new plaza outside the library entrance.

Prevailing over such formidable opposition was landscape architect Bob Cunningham, the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission, and a cadre of historic preservationists who became alarmed by preliminary plans unveiled last year for a new library plaza that called for the elimination of three eucalyptus trees. Initially, they argued in favor of landmarking no less than 13 of the trees, arguing that they’d been drawn into the original plans for the library and gallery in the 1920s, that they’d become integral to the city’s skyline since, and that they’ve softened what might otherwise be a forbidding part of downtown, disproportionately dominated by large institutional buildings.

Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilmember Cathy Murillo objected that the trees had bypassed the normal process by which City Hall declares historic landmarks. Schneider noted that the $1.5 million needed to create the new plaza disappeared when a state court abolished all redevelopment agencies earlier this year and that no remote threat to the trees existed. But when Councilmember Dale Francisco moved that five of the 13 trees be protected with landmark designation, he secured a 5-2 majority.  ​

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Really? Trees can be historic landmarks? What if they die or get toppled in a storm or a limb falls on someone? Will these same concerned citizens demand that they be replaced - and at whose expense? Looking at the list of people who opposed landmarking the trees, I'd have to say they are pretty reputable and knowledgeable and are probably in a position to decide whether the trees (which require a lot of maintenance by groundskeepers) should become sacred cows or not. Good god, why can't we get people to go to city hall or the county board of sups or Sacramento and cry about important things if they can be so passionate about some non-native trees?

LaFleur (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2012 at 2:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Those trees do make a beautiful setting for the downtown Library.

Chester_Arthur_Burnett (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 4:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

80 year old giant invasive weeds. I hope these Australian beetles eat the you know what out of them so we can plant some oaks in their place.

Num1UofAn (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 7:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

At least one day we can get rid of "the structure bridging" the gallery and the library and plant more eucalyptus.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 7:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If anyone in town had those gigantic eucalypti towering over their homes or businesses and planted only ten feet from the wall of the structure they'd be fighting like crazy to have the city remove them. Eventually (could be pretty damn soon) one of those jumbos is going to split apart or drop a branch weighing several hundred pounds through the library roof or smack on some hapless patron walking out with a bunch of borrowed books.

henryjk (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 9:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Damn, maybe they should reroute the patrons as to not damage any rare volumes.
Eucalyptus trees are notoriously brittle, especially in dry weather. We had a huge branch fall on our car once.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 11:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Non-native trees. Period. End of story.

BeachFan (anonymous profile)
October 30, 2012 at 9:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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