Residents in the 200 and 300 blocks of West Valerio Street were surprised Thursday morning to find crews cutting down apparently healthy palm trees.

“What gives?” asked artist Patricia Chidlaw and Robert Sponsel. “We always thought the city loved trees.” They also said they received no notice.

The Santa Barbara Independent asked Mayor Helene Schneider, who posed the question to staff and got this answer from Tim Downey, urban forest superintendent:

The trees are being removed by a contractor for Southern California Edison, which has a state mandate to maintain safety of high voltage lines. As these palm trees grow closer to the lines, Edison must prune them. Palm trees have only one growing bud.

“Once the palms grow to the point where the bud is cut, it kills the tree,” Downey said. “Rather than allow Edison to leave a dead telephone pole, we ask them to remove the whole tree, and then we work with Santa Barbara Beautiful and Looking Good Santa Barbara to replant.”


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