LAGUNA BEACH A 50-foot sugar gum eucalyptus tree that has been a fixture in a South Laguna neighborhood for decades is coming down after it was deliberately poisoned, city officials said.
The tree, a block from the beach at Virginia Way and 8th Avenue, has been under the care of a city-contracted arborist since a vandalism report was made to the Laguna Beach Police Department in September.
The report stated that someone had been pouring gasoline on the tree, said Shohreh Dupuis, the city’s director of Public Works, whose department oversaw efforts to save the tree.
Police determined that a substance that smelled like fuel had been poured around the base of the tree, but they were unable to locate the culprit, she said.
“Unfortunately the tree has continued to decline and never recovered and is now completely dead,” Dupuis said.
The trees is considered a fire hazard and will be removed, she said.
In the last few days, the tree has become a source of concern among neighbors, drawing debate on social media.
Pat Menne, who frequently walks her dog by the tree, said her husband had noticed the tree’s decline in the past few weeks.
When he took a closer look, he found 33 copper nails embedded at the base, she said. He also smelled a chemical smell on the ground around the tree
“What’s sad is that someone has deliberately killed the tree,” Pat Menne said. “It’s utterly insane someone would do that — at what cost?”
Dupuis said she did not have a date for the tree to be cut down.
Neighbors have said they hope something is done soon because the tree is so close to power lines.
“I’m also concerned because this is a busy intersection near Thousand Steps Beach during a season where there is a lot of garbage, including cigarette butts, thrown on the ground,” resident Chris Tebbutt said.
Tree vandalism is not uncommon in Laguna. The vandalism is often associated with issues over views, officials said.
In December 2016, Laguna Beach police were called when five eucalyptus trees near the sidewalk at the Montage Resort were attacked by vandals who cut two-inch-deep gashes at the base of their trunks.
Once it was determined the South Laguna tree was maintained by the city, an arborist was brought in, Dupuis said. The arborist thought the tree could be saved and…