By Julie Thunder
On June 5th, when construction crews cut down the 12 palm trees lined up along San Elijo Ave, local residents collectively mourned. The trees were affectionately called “Hammock Hipsters Hangout” or “Pink House” (for the bold pink house across the street from them) and were enjoyed throughout the years as a place to tie up a hammock and enjoy the view or simply park (for free!) and pull out a beach chair.
Denise Foyle has lived in the pink house for over 30 years and told us that the trees came with the house (see her sunset photo with the palms at the end of this article). The previous owners of the house got permission from the railroad agency to plant them. In turn, they were maintained by the railroad. Denise said, “the construction workers came by a few weeks ago to tell us that they would be boxing the palms up to transplant later in a new location and they would let us know the day before what to expect.” But she never heard from them again and the trees weren’t boxed up, they were chopped down.
The day they were cut down, San Elijo Ave. resident Chris Swanner posted on Nextdoor: “For all the people that pushed so hard for the ‘Concrete Rail Trail’ You OWN this…”
This started a firestorm that lasted for days, ultimately receiving 170 comments from locals who were angry or sad about the tree removal as well as the rail trail construction (read some of the Nextdoor comments below).
Later that day, a video of the palms was posted on Facebook, which has now been viewed over 28,989 times.
We looked into what the plan is for trees along the rail trail and if SANDAG will replace the removed palms. We found a document from the California Department of Transportation titled, “Visual Impact Assessment Encinitas Coastal Rail Trail, August 2017” which says on page 37:
“The loss of fan palms along Vulcan Drive and San Elijo Avenue, will not require a 50% biomass replacement and do not have to be replaced with palms. However, the palms that are more than 20’ in height, will need to be transplanted into new areas where parking spaces are rebuilt or be replaced with other palms or relatively transparent trees that can be seen through. These trees would be required to be 24” box size.”
We called SANDAG to inquire about the palms and to ask about the ones that were over 20 feet tall, but they would not address the height of the removed trees. Jessica Gonzales, SANDAG Associate Public Information Officer said
“In terms of tree plantings, we are planning to add 12 Palo Verdes trees on or nearby Harbough Seaside Parkway [near Chesterfield Dr.], to replace the 12 palm trees removed. Also, the construction team will spread hydro-seed to restore the slope after construction is complete. Our intention is to preserve the existing corridor as much as possible.”