So Pas Seeks to Mark Library Tree as Landmark

The historic Moreton Bay Fig Tree is expected to receive protection as a City Landmark. Photo by Nancy Lem

The South Pasadena Cultural Heritage Commission has recommended to the City Council – with all expectations that the recommendation will be accepted – to designate a fig tree as an official City Landmark.

This is not just any fig tree, though, as city officials were quick to point out. It is a Moreton Bay Fig Tree that sits prominently on the west side of the South Pasadena Public Library. The tree is known as the Library Tree and sits in the Library Park at 1115 El Centro St.

“The tree is already protected,” David Bergman, So Pas interim director of the Planning and Building Department, said during a recent telephone interview with The Review. “We don’t want people to think it was not protected, but this adds another layer of protection for a historical and cultural landmark. People here take pride in this and it’s what makes this community special.”

This will be the second tree that will be designated as a City Landmark, Bergman said, with the first being a Clokey Oak Tree in the 1635 block of Laurel Street. There are 55 City Landmarks, Bergman added.

City Councilman Michael Cacciotti, who generally favors such designations, is the city liaison to the commission. He said he wants to hear the public’s input during the hearing scheduled Dec. 5 in council chambers at City Hall, 1424 Mission St.

“The issue of possible consideration of Landmark status for the Library Park’s Moreton Bay Fig tree is tied to the heritage of our small town,” Cacciotti said in an email to The Review. “The tree was planted in 1930 by a resident and city streets department worker William Kloezeman. What makes it even more interesting is the conditions under which it was planted. This beautiful tree was planted while the Carnegie Library was being moved to the center of Library Park from its previous location near Diamond Street. I actually had the opportunity to walk under this enormous tree this morning, as thousands do each year, and enjoyed the protection it provides from the sun.  I also measured the width of the shade which was in excess of 100 feet.”

Cacciotti also reiterated that as a sitting councilman, he was just re-elected to the newly created District 4, so he cannot take an official stand at this time.

The Library Tree is being considered for special protection as a City Landmark. Photo by Nancy Lem

“Because this issue of consideration of landmark status for this tree may come before the city council, I need to wait until I read the staff report and listen to any public comment from our residents and other interested parties, until I can express my opinion on this specific issue. However, on issues that involve preservation and the protection of our city’s natural and historic resources I tend to look favorably on such recommendations.”

The City Landmark designation will make it significantly more difficult to alter the tree in any way, according to Bergman. The tree is already protected under state and federal guidelines and this adds another layer of protection to the enormous tree with above-ground roots extended outward like huge Octopus arms reaching back into the ground.

Cacciotti and Bergman said South Pasadena residents take pride in their history and this designation exemplifies that pride.

“What is a also interesting is that I believe the Kloezeman family may still live in the city and, several years ago, I believe I coached one of William Kloezeman’s descendants on my AYSO girls soccer team,” Cacciotti said.

Bergman agreed with Cacciotti about the importance of the city’s history.

“This is another point of community commitment to its history,” Bergman said. “This community takes pride in its past and it’s another opportunity to know the history of this beautiful tree.”