When I interviewed Tom Gibson from the LA Department of Recreation and Parks about the renovation of the new park, I asked him what was the deal with the numbers spray-painted on the many trees, some of them ficuses, in the south end of City Hall Park.
Gibson told me that I should ask City Councilman Tom LaBonge. If I had a nickel for every time someone I was interviewing told me that Tom LaBonge was the right source about something to do with a city park, or the zoo, or Griffith Park, well, I'd have at least $1.95. (Which, considering I've been here about 4 years, is pretty good.)
Here's LaBonge's explanation for why City Hall park ficus trees are spray painted with numbers. Essentially, it's the Lakers' fault:
Recently, in the eighties, the Los Angeles Lakers...were very dominant in the NBA. And every year there would be a civic ceremony to salute the Lakers for their world championships.
And the City Attorney had to be careful, because often people would climb up in the ficus trees and the other big trees in the City Hall park, and then someone would fall out of the trees, and when they fell out of the tree they probably filed a claim with the City Clerk's office. And city attorneys needed to know what tree they fell out of. So they numbered all the trees. That way it kept some kind of regulation on if there was a challenge or an accident or an injury to someone in a civic celebration.
That's the history of the numbering of the trees in the City Hall Park.
For the record, LaBonge is also a pretty big fan of the Frank Putnam Flint water fountain and the firemen's memorial, not to mention the Raiders. He encourages staycations for all southern Californians in the downtown LA area.
As for Pacific Swell, pictures of the Reagan era are sort of lacking in our morgue, being that we don't have one. First person to send me a picture of yourself in a ficus tree in City Hall park watching the 1985, '87, or '88 Championship parade can expect a very nice piece of public radio swag from my personal collection delivered via U.S. Mail.