Homeowners sue city, FAA over planned removal of palm trees

Local

SAN DIEGO – Two homeowners have filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego and FAA in an effort to stop the removal of palm trees in an Ocean Beach neighborhood.

The City of San Diego plans to remove 20 palm trees in the Ocean Beach and Bankers Hill areas because, according to the FAA, the trees may interfere with the designated flight path and potentially cause arriving planes to be diverted away from the airport during inclement weather conditions.

“It’s really hard to picture that that’s a problem for airplanes,” an Ocean Beach resident said during a community forum last Thursday. Homeowners held signs reading “stop the chop” and “save the trees.”

“Saying that the trees themselves were a quote, federal aviation disruption to pilots that were apparently flying in from the west. The airport is five miles away,” said Marc Applbaum, an attorney representing Tracy and John Van De Walker.

The Van De Walkers, who are suing over removal of the trees, have two palm trees in front of their Ocean Beach home on Newport Avenue. Applbaum said it is hard for the homeowners to believe the reason provided for why the city wants the trees to come down.

“State FAA rules that anything above sea ground 200 feet is a potential obstruction. These palm trees are 70 feet tall. It would take several, several years to get to 200 feet,” said Applbaum. “Now the FAA and the arborists are claiming this is suddenly an emergency for these trees to come down, we’re just not buying it.”

In a statement sent to FOX 5, the city said it will “prioritize working with the adjacent property owners to plant new leaf trees that will add urban canopy.”

Applbaum said the community offered to set up a cleaning commission themselves if the city no longer wants to maintain the palm trees, but they want the city to be transparent.

“My clients don’t want money, they just want to save the trees,” said Applbaum.

The city declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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