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400 trees in South LA to make way for the stars as Endeavour arrives

Endeavor in flight above Earth.
Endeavor in flight above Earth.

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The space shuttle Endeavour has had a long journey, circling Earth over 4,600 times. It soon begins its last: landing at its permanent home at the California Science Center. Getting the shuttle from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to L.A. is no easy logistical matter, and to help the Endeavour on its final trip, officials plan to remove 400 trees from South L.A. neighborhoods, including the Crenshaw District and the City of Inglewood.

The enormous shuttle cannot be dismantled and packed up without sustaining permanent damage, so trees, power lines and streetlights will have to give way as it dodges freeway overpasses on city streets. While residents are excited about the scientific learning opportunities of the nearby shuttle, the loss of hundreds of mature trees isn’t going over well with Endeavour’s new neighbors.

Lark Galloway-Gilliam, executive director at Community Health Councils and longtime Leimert Park resident, said her neighborhood won't be the same without the trees.

"We're talking about trees ... anywhere from 30 to 80 feet in height, trees that have sort of grown up with all of us and provided not only an environmental and economic benefit, but really protected the health of the children and our seniors in the community by helping to insure that the amount of toxins coming from the cars are filtered," she said.

Gilliam added that the science center should have conducted an environmental report about available alternatives, and seeing the facts might better sway those feeling a little anti-Endeavour.

"So far we're just hearing it from their mouths, and we're not seeing any documentation showing us why this can't be done in different ways. Had they done the [California Environment Quality Act], ... I think we'd all feel a lot better about what they're reported," she continued.

No one from the City of Los Angeles, Inglewood or the California Science Center could join Larry on AirTalk, but the science center sent a statement:

"The space shuttle Endeavour will arrive on September 20th, will be transported by city streets to the science center. It'll be one of the largest things to move over city streets in Los Angeles history. We're working with the cities of Los Angeles and Inglewood, moving power lines, street lights and trees. In evaluating the route, priority was always given to preserving trees. For every tree that will be removed, two will be planted with higher quality trees, and we will make additional improvements to beautify these cities. Two years of pre-maintenance – the loss will be provided by the California science center foundation."

The science center has funneled in $.5 million to fund tree removals and planting, but the replacements will be younger saplings, and though they'll be as mature as possible, they have years of growth before matching the current shady, mature magnolias.

The city has already begun maintenance in the Crenshaw district. "You can see dozens of orange traffic cones over the stumps, all those trees wiped out along the median, along the sides of Manchester and Crenshaw," KPCC's Corey Moore described.

He said sentiments about the tree removal are mixed. Inglewood, for example, has long been fighting with Ficus trees that rip up sidewalks with their roots.

Gilliam said she's encouraging people to go to the L.A. department of Public Works for a coming hearing on the issue.

"We're trying to organize an effort with the city to look at the trees that need to be replaced. Two-to-one sounds great, but that's like the minimum requirement now in the City of Los Angeles, so we're not really getting much. We're trying to increase the number of trees and we're trying to increase the size of the trees, and that's where the battle will lie," she said.


Is it a fair tradeoff for a space wonder? Or should Endeavour plot a new course to its museum home?


Lark Galloway-Gilliam, Executive Director, Community Health Councils; longtime resident of Leimert Park and member of the neighborhood council

Corey Moore, KPCC reporter