Second Street Medians to Get Makeover

Kirt Ramirez
PROPOSED VIEW looking east on Second Street at Corona Avenue.

The Second Street medians in Belmont Shore will get a makeover of exotic, drought-tolerant trees to replace a variety of existing trees, some of which may be diseased and are cracking and uplifting the median and asphalt.

The plans are part of a Belmont Shore median beautification project aimed at revitalizing the middle of Second Street from Livingston Drive to Bay Shore Avenue. The plans call for the removal of 27 trees, including the huge ficus trees that dominate Second Street with their large limbs and dark-green canopies. Smaller, non-invasive and water-saving trees will be planted instead.

“The structure of the medians will stay intact where only the planting material inside the medians would be updated,” Antonella Schaub, communications director for Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, wrote in a newsletter.

Long Beach Public Works Director Craig Beck said through email that there are a number of overgrown ficus trees on Second Street that are damaging the median and adjacent street.

Beck indicated the city’s Tree Committee does not desire ficus trees in city parkways and medians in general even if there is not an obvious issue present to prevent potential issues from arising in the future, since ficus trees have deep, invasive root systems.

“There are many neighborhoods in the city where ficus trees have overgrown their planting area and have cracked the curb, gutter, sidewalk and streets,” Beck wrote. “For this reason the city’s Tree Committee adopted a policy to evaluate, remove and replace ficus trees planted in city parkways and medians.”

The Second Street medians were evaluated by two arborists and Parks staff for maintenance requirements, Beck said.

He added, “Some of the planted ficus trees are currently growing within the space of the median; others have overgrown the space and are starting to crack the curb. There is a concern over making a significant investment in the median that will be impacted by the overgrown trees, even if that impact is two to four years out.”

Beck said a robust discussion took place during five community meetings about whether to preserve the ficus trees or replace them.

“While some in the audience pushed for keeping the trees, the majority of people identified concerns over the size, current damage and potential for future damage, impact to movement of large trucks (many of the tree limbs hit larger vehicles and need regular trimming), debris generated by the trees, the amount of watering and ongoing cost for maintenance. It was from this community feedback that led the architect to make the recommendations that are being proposed,” Beck wrote.  

Saving water remains important.

“While Long Beach has received a lot of rain this winter, SoCal is still in a drought and required to meet certain state watering standards. If you review the planting pallet of the proposed medians, they are all low-water plants,” Beck said.

Beck said the Belmont Shore Business Association and Parking Commission initiated the request to develop a plan for improving the medians.

“The city hired Hirsch & Associates, Inc. (HAI) architects to develop the updated plan. The planting pallet was recommended by HAI and reviewed with Public Works and Parks, Recreation and Marine staff,” Beck wrote.

Regarding the cost, Beck said prices currently are estimates.

“They will be finalized when the project is fully bid,” he said. “To continue progress made to date, staff is working to put an item on the next Parking Commission agenda (Feb. 16) that will request approval of an upper limit to the project of $1.25 million.”

In other words, the project would not exceed the figure.

Chuck Foley, vice president of Hirsch & Associates Inc., said ficus, American sweetgum and Brisbane box are the common names for the three primary trees that are slated for removal.

Foley said the trees selected for replacement are appropriate for the size of the medians, do not have aggressive roots, are drought-tolerant and aesthetically appropriate for Second Street, as they do not grow into large canopies or overgrown hedges that cannot be seen through.

“So we have two types of broadleaf trees that we want to use: strawberry tree and desert museum,” he said.

The strawberry tree is evergreen with medium green leaves and small, pinkish-red, bell-shaped flowers which bloom a couple times per year with a rust-colored bark, he said.

The desert museum tree has smaller, light green leaves with bright, yellowish flowers and is semi-deciduous, meaning it will not lose all its leaves at once.

“They do well in Long Beach, especially in a street median where you have all that reflective heat from the street, from the asphalt,” Foley said.

Dragon trees and blue hesper palms also will be added here and there to accent the existing Mexican fan palms, which will not be removed, he said.

“The existing palms are all going to be protected,” he said. “They don’t damage pavement or block the view from across the street. So those trees seem to be a great asset to keep.”

Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, who hosted the community meetings, said she always admired the medians on Second Street but that they could use some improvements.

“I always thought they were beautiful, but upon close inspection you can see that there are some flag poles that are dilapidated and some plants that need to be refreshed. We don’t have a very consistent pallet out there,” she said.

Price said she is looking forward to the updates, which include lighting improvements and possible pedestrian crossing enhancements at some of the intersections with stamped concrete.

“I’m hoping that we can do that at some of the major intersections as part of the project to kind of tie in the median with the street,” she said.



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