LOS ANGELES — Four hundred years after it put down roots in what would become Southern California, a giant oak was offered a move Monday to save its life by getting it out of the path of a four-lane road to the latest outpost of suburban sprawl.
The tree, known as “Old Glory,” has been protected all month by tree-sitter John Quigley, 42, and growing protests by residents in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles since the community learned of plans to cut it down to put the road through.
Late Monday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said he had arranged for the tree to be relocated to an undetermined location as a compromise in the standoff that began Nov. 1 when Quigley climbed high into the oak.
“This is an opportunity to help the environment and protect public safety,” Antonovich said. He said he did not know when the tree would be moved, but added that “it would probably be done shortly.”
The supervisor’s proposed solution received a lukewarm reception from Quigley and his supporters in Santa Clarita. Speaking from the branches of the towering tree minutes after Antonovich’s announcement, Quigley termed it a “positive development that he wants to keep the tree alive, but we don’t feel this would accomplish that.”
According to Quigley, the city arborist from Santa Clarita and other experts believe the massive tree would not survive being uprooted.
“It will be a sure death sentence for the oak. It’s too big and it’s too old,” Quigley said, adding that the tree is already “stressed” from drought and an earlier trimming.
But Antonovich dismissed such concerns, saying that the Calabasas-based tree company he has consulted, Valley Crest Cos., has “relocated similar oak trees successfully.” He said the developer of the 279-home subdivision that necessitates the road widening, John Laing Homes of Newport Beach, would foot the bill for relocating the tree, an amount he estimated at $250,000.
Antonovich said that after spending several hours Monday reviewing the issue with his staff and the deputy director of public works, he concluded that realigning the proposed road to avoid the tree was not feasible. Doing so “would impact on the homes in the area and create serious problems,” he said.
Quigley asserted that county planners did not adequately investigate every option, including rerouting the road around the tree. He said that Antonovich had not consulted Santa Clarita activists before arranging for the tree to be moved. “They haven’t been talking to us and they really need to,” he said.
Quigley, a Pacific Palisades resident and veteran of a previous tree-sitting in British Columbia, has spent all but a couple days up in Old Glory this month, drawing sympathy, home-cooked meals and a steady stream of visitors from the community.