When the Seal Beach City Council voted earlier this month to plant 25 new ficus trees on Main Street at a cost of $85,000, Mayor Mike Levitt predicted the city would regret the decision.
“This is going to be one of the biggest mistakes the council ever made,” he said.
Since then, time has done nothing to diminish his doubts, and the issue has stirred up a furor among Main Street business owners, who believe the trees’ roots tear up the foundations of the sidewalks and Main Street buildings. At Levitt’s request, the council will revisit the issue at tonight’s Seal Beach City Council meeting.
Proponents of the decision such as City Councilwoman Ellery Deaton, noted that mature ficus trees create a welcoming and cooling canopy over Main Street that adds to its charm. Past city leaders chose the ficus trees that already line Main Street, leaving the council with little choice but to continue to plant ficus trees for a uniform look, she said. The trees have a bad rap, but advanced techniques in maintaining the trees and their root systems have shown that their notorious root systems can be controlled, city staffers told the council last month.
However, many on Main Streets continue to have doubts.
Lisa Woodruff, co-owner of W. Woodruff Hair Design on Main Street recently watched neighboring business owners at Angelo's Italian Deli wrangle with ficus roots during a remodeling project.
“They took 13 feet out, but the go further under the property,” Woodruff wrote in an email. “They are wet, live roots. This is where there are pavers around the tree. The city will be liable for this and all the future problems these ficus' will cause.”
The meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers at 211 8th Street.