50-foot tree near Urth Caffe will be removed after Laguna Beach tried for 3 years to save it – OCRegister

This 50-foot red gum eucalyptus tree in front of Urth Caffe was infected with insects and had root problems. Once slated for removal, the city will see if treatments over the summer will save the tree.

An ailing 50-foot red gum eucalyptus tree in front of the popular Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach will be cut down in a few weeks after city officials spent nearly three years and thousands of dollars trying to save it.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the City Council agreed to remove the dying tree and have an appropriate tree for the space planted.

“I think we’ve done as much as we can do,” Mayor Bob Whalen said. “It’s clear it’s moving into poor health.”

The city-maintained tree on Aster Street has been under special city care since 2015 after restaurant personnel alerted officials to its declining health. The restaurant serves hundreds on weekends, often with long lines of people often waiting outside, and asked that the towering tree be removed because of the threat to public safety.

The City Council – just after adopting new guidelines for public trees in 2016 – opted to try and save the eucalyptus after speaking with two arborists. The experts then predicted it would likely need removal within a decade, but community members rallied to have the city find an alternative.

A treatment plan was developed, including injections to combat disease. Trimming was deferred to give the tree a chance to grow back.

On Tuesday, Shohreh Dupuis, the city’s assistant city manager and director of public works, said the treatment appeared to help for a while, but this year more of the tree started dying – at least half of the foliage is now dead.

“Urth Caffe is supportive of the tree removal and will come back with an alternative,” she said.

Several residents again asked for a reprieve.

“We’re all concerned about the safety of residents and cars,” said Ruben Flores, who operates Laguna Nursery and runs a landscape business. “You’re acting like the tree will jump out and attack somebody. … We’re losing these big trees. Rather than being so quick and lose this tree, can’t we just save one more?”

Resident Amy Jackson agreed the tree’s health seemed to have declined over the summer, but said she has been seeing more green in just the last month.

“It’s a wonderful icon,” she said. “People come to Laguna Beach to enjoy trees like this. I’d like us to do everything we can to save it.”