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Ocean Beach Torrey Pine: To cut or not to cut?

The city of San Diego announced Thursday that a 73-foot- tall tree in Ocean Beach, which has become the focal point in a test of wills between municipal government and community activists, is sched...

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/ CNS) - The City of San Diego has temporarily suspended plans to remove a failing tree from Saratoga Avenue in Ocean Beach. The work had been scheduled for Friday morning.

While it continues to monitor the condition of the 73-year-old Torrey pine, the City will work more closely with community members to discuss the tree's condition, safety concerns and replacement tree options. City officials contend the nearly century-old Torrey pine at 4652 Saratoga Ave. is in danger of falling, but opponents contend the city hasn't adequately explained why the tree has to be taken out.

Last week, an Ocean Beach woman climbed the tree and stayed there to prevent a removal attempt, while a handful of people on the ground offered their support.

Ocean Beach activists have put out a call for opponents of the tree removal to gather at the site Friday morning.

Jeremy Barrick, a board-certified master arborist and the city's urban forester program manager, inspected the tree with other experts and decided it needed to be removed.

"Public safety is of the utmost importance, and while our goal is to maximize the environmental benefits of trees, we must balance the risk of trees with the preservation of trees," Barrick said.

"We have monitored and reviewed this tree for several months and consensus among multiple arborists is that this tree must be removed to entirely eliminate the risk of catastrophic failure," Barrick said. "In order to extend the benefits of this tree, we will be working with a local artist to re-purpose the wood and work with the community in planting replacement trees."

City officials said a portion of the trunk will be given to an artist, while some branches will be left behind for use by neighbors, per their request. Also, the city plans to consult with residents to determine appropriate replacement trees for the area.

Two nearby Torrey pines were uprooted by storms over the most recent winter, according to city officials.

As part of its plan to address the impacts of climate change, the city is completing an assessment of its tree inventory, and is set to embark on a tree planting program to increase the canopy in San Diego neighborhoods.

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