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Santa Barbara Homeowner Loses Appeal to City to Remove ‘Destructive’ Pepper Tree

Homeowner Carey Ludford impressed the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday with his good-natured approach, but it didn't work out for him in the end.

The Santa Barbara City Council makes a site visit Monday to Carey Ludford's house to see the tree he says is destroying his property. The council voted Tuesday against letting him cut it down. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

He lost his appeal, and the "destructive" Brazilian pepper tree in front of his house will have to stay.

The council voted 6-1 against his attempt to remove the invasive city tree, native to South America, which he says has damaged his sewer pipes, wrecked the sidewalk and dropped sap and leaves all over parked cars and the street. Councilman Dale Francisco voted to have the tree removed. 

Despite the one-sided vote, council members were sympathetic to Ludford's situation.

"That is one of the better appeal presentations that we have had," Councilman Harwood "Bendy" White said. "Your points are good ones. You didn't blow any smoke in your presentation here."

Ludford, a mostly retired electrical contractor, didn't go the route of hiring an attorney or public relations consulting firm to represent him before the council. He showed up by himself, wearing a visor and with a DVD from the plumber who videotaped his pipes and found the root intrusion.

The city planted the tree in the 1960s. The 40-foot behemoth is more than 50 years old and could live another 30 years, but Ludford is tired of having his pipes snaked every few months as the tree roots are gravitating toward the pipes in search of water.

The city's Parks & Recreation Commission, which is charged with protecting the city's "urban forest," rejected his request to take down the tree so he appealed to the City Council, which rejected it. 

"The tree is a public asset and part of our urban forest," Councilwoman Cathy Murillo said.

Francisco supported Ludford. 

"This tree was planted 55 years ago," Francisco said. "Today you walk out there in that neighborhood and it is a colossus towering over that house. It seems completely out of scale to me."

There is only one other Brazilian pepper tree on the street, the 3700 block of Pescadero Drive, since the city has replaced all the others. The city has designated the evergreen pear as the official tree for that street.

Ludford will just have to live with the tree with the rejected appeal. If the root intrusion continues, he may have to replace the sewer line, which he said would cost $7,000 to $14,000, he said. 

"It's a pesky tree," Ludford said. "I don't like it. I admit it. You can't kill that thing. It truly is a drought-resistant tree."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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