By Lynne T. Jewell
Never underestimate the power of determined and diligent volunteer citizens, especially when it comes to Crepe Myrtle trees.
The long and twisted saga of the missing trees on Franklin Avenue between Normandie and Western avenues dates back to the early 1950s. That’s when the City of Los Angeles removed the dense trees lining the street to make room for widening the street from two to four lanes.
Palm trees were originally planted in sidewalk cutouts, but over the intervening decades many of those replacement trees died and were carted away.
In 2009, nearly 60 years later, LFIA board member Don Seligman took up the green gauntlet, along with former fellow board member and then LFIA Beautification Chair Tom Ford, and embarked on a campaign to fight City Hall in an effort to bring trees back to Franklin Avenue.
The twosome began dialoguing with then Council District 4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge. “We walked the street with Bureau of Street Services representatives over the next few years and got permission to replace trees in spots that were bare,” recalled Seligman.
But then came the question of funding. Some six years later, when CD 4 Councilmember David Ryu came into office, Seligman on behalf of LFIA applied for and received a grant from the councilmember’s Discretionary Funds Task Force. The Task Force approved funding for 15 trees on the north side of Franklin Avenue (the south side of the street is in CD 13). These were planted by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps in the fall of 2018.
Since the CD 4 grant was only for the north side of the street, LFIA stepped in to have eight Crepe Myrtles planted and maintained along the south side.
During the planting ceremony this past year, Councilmember Ryu credited LFIA for spearheading the effort: “It took years to secure, but LFIA never gave up. Finally, we were able to make it happen and bring trees back to Los Feliz.”
“Trees cool our city, beautify our neighborhoods and bring shade to our sidewalks. Once the trees mature and blossom beautiful pink flowers every year, they will bring shade, beauty and an improved quality of life to Franklin Avenue,” said Ryu, adding that “I was proud to work with this great community organization to get it done.”
Bottom line: LFIA’s tireless board members never abandoned the Crepe Myrtle cause. It may have taken a decade, but come springtime Franklin Avenue will be pretty in pink.
A version of this column appeared in the Los Feliz Ledger, February 2020 issue.