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Preparing for El Niño’s storms in Los Angeles

Andy Uhler Dec 28, 2015

Preparing for El Niño’s storms in Los Angeles

Andy Uhler Dec 28, 2015

Giant palm fronds litter the streets and sidewalks of the Hollywood Hills every winter in Los Angeles. Winds pick up steam and travel down the mountains at gusts of more than 50 miles an hour. Dead trees shedding branches near a home could cause serious destruction. That risk is making Nick Araya, owner of TreeCareLA, a busy man.  

“Our schedule is booked out like crazy from people that have trees big or small that they’re worried about,” he said.

Trees like the 80-year-old avocado tree in the backyard of Helena Lipstadt’s place. She and Araya walked around the tree, and she asked him what he thought.

“The farthest reach of the branches, those feel to me to be very vulnerable,” Lipstadt said. “[If] this and the one above it came crashing down, that could break a window.” 

But Araya is less concerned.

A lot of Araya’s job is risk management: reading people and understanding how much of it they’re willing to tolerate. He said some tree lovers won’t get rid of a tree even if it poses a significant threat to their property. He’s consulted with a number of homeowners in the neighborhood and pointed out some of his clients.“If things up here fall, they’re falling straight down,” he said. “Most likely in a big storm, not when you guys are standing here. It would be extremely unlikely for them to fall and then bounce into the house, though it could happen. Trees do goofy things sometimes.”

“We’re driving to a torrey pine tree that is almost 100 feet tall,” he said. “This is a tree that, obviously, the homeowners were concerned about for storms, because it’s just gigantic and there isn’t a good way for this tree to fall.”

A little further down the street, he pointed out another set of trees he’s worked with.

“These are two sycamore trees,” he explained. “The bigger one is almost 4 feet in diameter. They lean away from each other, and the big one leans over the top of a very old house,” he said.

The owner didn’t want to get rid of the trees. Araya said he doesn’t blame him — the trees are healthy and add a lot of character. And he guessed taking them out would cost between $20,000 and $30,000. 

The last stop is Ruth Sugerman’s house. She was worried about two sweetgum trees between her house and the sidewalk, but they’re actually the city’s trees.

“They don’t really do much of anything for them,” she said.

Sugerman and her husband have lived here for 40 years, and she said she considers the trees theirs.

“I mean, they’re on our property and trees are important, so we figured we were responsible for making them safe,” she said.

Sugerman said she’s happy to pay a little extra to have TreeCareLA come out to make her situation a little safer. And, apparently, others in Los Angeles are, too. Araya’s next available appointment is in late January.

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