SOME LOCAL ENVIRONMENTALISTS are wary of a tree removal project on Admiralty Way that they feel will displace egrets. County officials say the trees’ roots will hamper their effort to bring needed infrastructure enhancements to the Marina.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave the environmental review for a project designed to enhance safety and traffic improvements along one of Marina del Rey’s major thoroughfares the green light late last month.
The board unanimously approved a mitigated negative declaration Oct. 30 for the removal of 77 ficus trees along Admiralty Way, many which are located along the street’s median.
Per the 1970 landmark environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, when what is known as a discretionary project that is not exempt from the statute is proposed, the lead agency must conduct an environmental review to determine if there is no substantial effect on the environment.
The improvements along Admiralty will include traffic turn pocket modifications, traffic signal upgrades, new pavement, signing and swiping, median reconfiguration and landscape replacement, as well as street light relocation.
Removal of the ficus trees, which have long, deep roots that often fracture streets and sidewalks, is slated to begin within a few weeks.
“We’re seeing a lot of damage because of the (ficus trees’) root system to our infrastructure,” said Carol Baker, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Beaches and Harbors.
Along Admiralty, portions of the street show sign of wear, and along both the sidewalks and the medians, the county Public Works Department has been forced to patch areas where the roots have split the concrete.
County employees erroneously told The Argonaut that the trees that were named in a previous article, the Bronze Loquat and the marina strawberry tree, were native trees. After questioning by the supervisors at the board meeting, county staff said they still plan to bring native trees to the Marina project but acknowledged that those listed in the environmental documents were non natives.
Four trees will be added to the 77 that will be removed.
The discrepancy was brought to light by Marcia Hanscom, co-director of the Playa del Rey-based Ballona Institute. Hanscom originally went to the meeting seeking more information on the tree removal component of the project and after reading The Argonaut story, she learned about the trees that are slated to be planted in place of the ficus trees.
“Many of us have been very concerned how the county has cut down trees in the past,” Hanscom said. “I noticed that the trees that they are planning to plant are not natives, at least not natives to California.”
Coral aloe, gypsum century plant, purple hearts and canyon Prince Wild Rye will be planted along the median, said Baker.
“In the interest of having planning and coordination, we’re looking at having a palate of trees for the whole Marina to replace the ficus trees,” added Cheryl Burnett, communications director for Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe. “We want visitors and neighbors to expect it.”
The Marina del Rey project is estimated to cost approximately $40 million, according to Bob Spencer of county Public Works.
The tree removal is being planned for December because birds that use them for nesting typically are not present in the Marina during winter months.
Hanscom still worries that some of the birds will return during their nesting season, which begins early next year, and find trees where they have built them gone.
“It’s important to protect where we know they have a history of nesting,” she cautioned. “If there are trees that have problems, that’s one thing. But let’s protect the nesting trees in that region.”
Snowy egrets and other species of egrets have built their nests in Marina trees for several years but according to county officials, none of the trees included in the Admiralty projects have bird nests.
According to some members of the Audubon Society, some species of egrets have nested in trees near the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Admiralty.
In a letter to her organization’s supporters after the meeting, Hanscom urged them to be vigilant in monitoring the county’s activities as the project progresses.
“The county does not have a good track record related to protection of the heron and egret trees, and, in fact, there have been occasions in the past where the huge nests of Great Blue Herons were actually chain-sawed out of the trees where the birds had nested, and the tree branches denuded beyond recognition,” she claimed. “The nesting behavior was seriously disrupted and legal protections have been diminished – unfortunately – through significant lobbying of the (state) Coastal Commission.
“So we are considering additional legal mechanisms for protection of the egrets and herons.”
Public Works will be installing new irrigation lines as part of the enhancement initiative and traffic modification work is slated to begin by early next year. The project, one of several that will be taking place in Marina del Rey beginning next year, is expected to conclude next summer.