L.A. Without Palm Trees?

Los Angeles’ iconic palm trees are the signature look of the city. There are 75,000 of them in Los Angeles, 3,000 in Beverly Hills, and 6,000 in Santa Monica. Most of them are Mexican fan palms, which in the wild grow from 40 to 60 feet, but in the city have reached 100 to 150 feet.

I’ve always loved the view of the lined palm trees adorning the city’s streets and swaying gently in the sky. They warm my heart. So I was devastated to learn that many of these iconic trees, which were planted in the 1930s, are nearing the end of their natural life spans. They are dying of old age and a fungal disease that has attacked similar plants around the world. As they die, city planners are replacing them with oaks, sycamores and other species native to Los Angeles, which are more adapted to the region’s semi-arid climate and require less water. They also provide more shade and cost less to care for.

Surprisingly, a lot of Angelenos are OK with the idea of replacing the palm trees with other trees! Reading about the issue I realized that not everyone here is a fan of the giant palms. They consider them hazardous and a nuisance because their big, spiky fronds fall off the trees in the Santa Ana winds that sweep the region through in winter, hitting cars and sometimes pedestrians.

I’m still new to LA (two years this month) and haven’t had any bad experiences with palm tress, so I can’t stand the thought of the city without them. I’m glad there are others who feels this way, like the Palm Society of Southern California, a research group that supports keeping the city lined with palms.

While it may take a while for that to happen (hopefully not in my life time), if you come to LA, enjoy these beautiful palms and the view they provide because they may not all be here the next time you visit.

Palisades Park: A Santa Monica Landmark

Palisades Park, in Santa Monica, has been one my favorite places in Los Angeles since I first arrived here. Why do I like it so much?

First, because of its privileged location. High on a cliff, one can look down on the Pacific, enjoy the sea breeze and magnificent views of the ocean and the mountains while also getting some exercise. Busy but never overcrowded, the park is a place where people go for a walk, to jog, bike, do yoga, meditate, read, write, play with their children, walk their dogs, watch the sunset, or just hang out. I go there to walk, take pictures and, being a beach person, to be close to the ocean.

Palisades is a Santa Monica landmark. Its original landscape design was done in 1913 by architect I.G. Le Grande, who installed a long, winding footpath and added rows of Canary Island date palms and Mexican fan palms to the existing eucalyptus trees along Ocean Avenue.

I love the wide variety of trees, plants and flowers beautifully displayed throughout the park’s 26 acres. My favorites are the exotic succulent garden, the iconic palm trees, and the community rose garden, dedicated to one of the park’s founders. The picnic areas, under the shade of gigantic fig trees, are nice and inviting. And many benches and sitting areas along the entire stretch make it possible for people to rest and appreciate the views. The park’s Redwood Pergola, built in 1912, is considered an outstanding example of a Craftsman-style Pergola and is often seen in movies shot in Santa Monica. Park visitors, especially musicians, like to hang out at the pergola.

Among the many other features, the park has a Veterans Memorial; several sculptures, including the “Genesis Sculpture,” a wooden sphere by sculptor Baile Oakes; and the Overlook Beacon, which gives the viewer the feeling of being aboard ship in the ocean, with unrestricted views of the Pacific.

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Palisades park was a gift to Santa Monica from U.S. Senator John P. Jones, a mining baron who co-founded the city in 1875. In 1892, he and his business partner, Arcadia Bandini Baker, moved to preserve the bluffs’ charms for the public enjoyment. Ignoring the enormous real estate potential of the land, they deeded it to the city on the condition that it forever remain public parkland.

It’s nice to see that through the years, Palisades park has been preserved and continues to be used, not only by the people of Santa Monica, but also by people from Los Angeles Westside, and by visitors from all parts of the country and the world. It’s a remarkably democratic space, where the rich, the poor and the homeless, the old and the young, locals and visitors, and dogs galore, equally share the beautiful grounds as they go about their activities.

I’ve been going there since I first arrived in LA to walk, watch and photograph the beautiful sunsets and appreciate the flowers and plants along the park’s 26 acres. Anyone visiting LA must come to Santa Monica and take a stroll at Palisades park.