Southern California

97-Year-Old Santa Monica Tree on Chopping Block to Remain Firmly Rooted, for Now

A quarrel over a large, century-old sycamore in Santa Monica is settled after homeowners wanted the right to tear it down, and residents protested anyone from laying a hand on its leaves. 

The Santa Monica city council voted just after midnight in a packed meeting 4 to 2 to overturn the landmark status of the 97-year-old tree, effectively removing its historic designation. 

But that doesn't mean the homeowners can tear it down. As part of the agreement, property owner entered into a deed to protect the tree until the city can come up with an ordinance that would protect trees on private property without having to designate them as landmarks, Santa Monica City spokesperson Constance Farrell said.

The homeowner also said he has no plans to uproot it any time soon.

The tree trouble started when new homeowners, backed by their own lawyers, sought to remove the historical designation on the 82-foot western sycamore so they may decide one day if they'd like to tear it down, and remodel their home.

The tree, with its broad trunk, deep roots, and expansive canopy, sits in the front yard of a home in the 1100 block of California Avenue.

The battle came to a head Tuesday evening at the Santa Monica City Council meeting, where residents argued that the stunning tree, a beloved part of the community since 1922, should be left untouched.

"It's a beautiful tree," resident Val Streit said.

In 2017, neighbors got together to make sure the tree would be protected and started a grassroots group called "Save Our Sycamores." They got the city's landmarks commission to designate it as a historic landmark.

Following Wednesday's decision, it appears the tree will stay rooted right where it is for now. 

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