Caltrans removed diseased trees and shrubs lining southbound Highway 1 between Yerba Buena and San Jacinto streets in Morro Bay, a move that has angered some who live along that mile-long stretch of road.
Caltrans officials say the old shrubs were heavily infested with insects and have been replaced with new, fast-growing plants. “It was a blight,” said Susana Z. Cruz, Caltrans spokeswoman.
The shrubs were myoporum, a flowering plant commonly seen along road margins in Southern California. An insect, called a thrip, had caused considerable leaf damage to the plants.
Dunbar Garman, whose house on Tahiti Street abuts the freeway, says the removal came without warning and has caused several concerns amongst her and her neighbors. Noise and headlights from passing cars have increased dramatically, causing the value of homes there to drop.
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“It’s like living in a fishbowl,” she said. “But above all, it’s a safety issue.”
Now, the only thing standing between the highway and her house is a fence. She wants Caltrans to erect a wall along the highway.
The removal of the plants does not pose a safety threat, Cruz said. She said the shrubs would have done little to stop an errant car.
Morro Bay city officials and several City Council members have received complaints about the removals, said Rob Livick, public services director. But because Caltrans is a superior governmental agency, there is little the city can do.
“It probably could have been handled a little better on their part from a public relations point of view,” he said. “We try never to remove trees without letting everyone know.”
Caltrans and the California Conservation Corps will plant 325 screening-type shrubs along the highway in coming weeks. The shrubs will be Catalina cherry and ceanothus plants.
Caltrans officials say the new shrubs grow fast, but residents worry that it could take the plants 10 years to reach an adequate size.
The contractor for this $60,000 project is Madrone Landscapes of Atascadero. Planting of the new shrubs is expected to begin this month and last into summer.