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Imperiled Century-Old Sycamores in Santa Monica Win Landmark Protection


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

May 17, 2018 -- Imperiled by development, two billowing old Sycamore trees in Santa Monica’s Wilmont neighborhood won the protection of landmark status on Monday, the sixth and seventh trees to win the rare designation.

Intertwined after a century of sharing roots, the two Western (California) Sycamore trees in the front yard of 1122 California were landmarked after a 4-2 vote by the City’s Landmarks Commission.

It was a victory for the neighbors and supporters who waged an arduous campaign to save the trees.

Landmarked Sycamore (Courtesy Save Our Sycamore)Landmarked Sycamore (Courtesy Save
Our Sycamore)

The two trees, which look like one, now have the “opportunity to thrive for the next 200-300 years,” a statement from the Save Our Sycamore said.

“Because of you, our community came together peacefully to save a tree for future generations to enjoy,” the statement said. “This is your legacy.

“We also acknowledge this was a hard decision for the Landmark Commission-but in the end they looked at the criteria and came to the right decision,” it said.

Work on demolition had already started at the vacant old single-family home when a request for landmark status was filed by the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition in October.

The trees won a temporary reprieve from removal in December after the City’s Landmarks Commission delayed a recommendation not to grant protection from development ("Nearly Century-Old Sycamore Trees in Santa Monica Win Potential Reprieve from Demolition," December 14, 2017).

The Sycamores are believed to date back to 1922, when a farm house was built on the lot.

As the two Sycamores grew over time, the larger tree began to envelope the smaller one and now “embraces” it with encircling roots.

The two trees reach as high as 82 feet, with a combined canopy that spreads about 72 feet. The home behind them was being demolished by the new owners.

City staff did not recommend landmarking the trees.

Until Monday’s victory, only five trees were landmarked in Santa Monica, the most famous of which is the Moreton Bay Fig at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.

Once a landmark application is filed, “no alteration, restoration, construction, removal, relocation, or demolition of the proposed landmark may occur and no permits may be issued for the property,” according to the City’s website.

The Landmarks Commission decision may be appealed to City Council if filed within 10 days.

To be designated as a city landmark, one or more of several criteria must be met.

The requirements include whether the subject “has a unique location, a singular physical characteristic, or is an established and familiar visual feature of a neighborhood, community or the City," the website says.


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