Yolanda Lemp got what she wanted when a tree across from her home on Islay Street finally was cut up and hauled away on Friday.
If only it hadn’t fallen on her SUV first.
The early morning incident on the Westside was the latest involving trees and cars connected to the heavy rains and high winds that hit Santa Barbara this week.
Ms. Lemp had already said goodbye to husband Craig and was getting ready for work around 6:30 when there came a knock at the door.
“A firefighter neighbor was there and he’s all, ‘Yoli! There’s a tree on your car,'” she told the News-Press while waiting for police to arrive to document the scene.
Not only was the 20-foot tree “on” her Chevrolet Tahoe — having smashed the hood and broken the windshield — it was blocking the street.
That the Victorian box, which city Urban Forest Superintendent Tim Downey estimated in the 35- to 40-foot range, fell came as no surprise to Ms. Lemp and her neighbors.
After all, a similar tree in front of the same house was removed by the city more than a year ago.
“The neighbor across the street — the tree’s in front of her house — she called the city … and told them that she wanted (both) trees to be removed,” Ms. Lemp said.
“They said this one was still OK,” she continued. “But the whole neighborhood knew it still should have been removed. And so, this is what’s happened.”
As for the tree in question, Mr. Downey told the News-Press, “We did not receive any complaints at our office.”
“We did remove one adjacent to it about a year and a half ago,” Mr. Downey said. “At that time, if the tree had been a concern for safety, it would have been removed with the other.”
The Victorian box, Pittosporum undulatum, is an evergreen native to Australia that can grow to about 50 feet high and wide, according to University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. It was a popular ornamental in the first half of the 20th century in coastal California, especially from Santa Barbara to San Diego, prized for its “dense canopy, attractive and glossy green foliage, fragrant white flowers, showy orange fruits, and ease of cultivation.”
But in the last quarter-century, according to a 2015 U.C. paper, there’s been “widespread decline of older, established Victorian box trees in Southern California.” The exact cause is unknown. But UC researchers said the decline is commonly associated “with a combination of improper cultivation, old age, and possibly one or more opportunistic pathogens.”
“We have quite a few of them” around town, said Mr. Downey.
Since storms started rolling through town about a week ago, city crews have responded to 10 calls over fallen trees, two of which were on private property and fell onto city property.
On Jan. 14, a 50-foot pine tree fell across De la Vina Street, blocking both lanes, hitting a couple parked cars and sparking a brief fire after hitting power lines.
Ms. Lemp said Friday’s incident was the second for her street.
Ordinarily she parks a few doors away at her mother-in-law’s. But the spot across the street from her home happened to be open when Ms. Lemp pulled up Thursday night.
“You don’t have to park in the driveway,” she recalled Craig saying.
So, she took it.
Now her car’s going to be in the shop for a while.
The tree must have come down sometime after her husband left for the day, Ms. Lemp said, because it would have probably gotten in his way when he drove off.
“He has to be at work by 6 and he said he didn’t see it.”
While the incident means no one has to worry about that tree anymore, Ms. Lemp laughed that it fell the one time she parked in its path.
“Why couldn’t it have hit my husband’s ’86 beat-up Toyota?”