Wednesday, December 11

Kelton Avenue’s fallen trees raise student concerns about street safety

A tree fell through an apartment unit on Kelton Avenue on Feb. 17, forcing student residents to find other housing. (Jintak Han/Assistant photo editor)

A tree fell through an apartment unit on Kelton Avenue on Feb. 17, forcing student residents to find other housing. (Jintak Han/Assistant photo editor)

Students living on Kelton Avenue said they have concerns about the street’s safety, following a number of fallen trees this winter.

At least three trees have fallen on Kelton Avenue since the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year. Jerry Markham, a UCLA facilities management director, said trees may fall because of weather conditions. Periods of drought followed by heavy rain can saturate the soil with water, impacting tree root structures and making trees less likely to withstand wind gusts, he said.

Heather Johnson, a public relations specialist for the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, said the Bureau of Street Services maintains and monitors the condition of the city’s street trees. She did not specifically comment on the state of Kelton Avenue trees.

Most recently, a tree fell onto the roof of 617 and 617 1/2 Kelton Avenue, causing damages to the building and evacuations.

Angelina Nguyen, a fourth-year political science and geography student who lives on Kelton Avenue, said she has not heard about any measures being taken to prevent more trees from falling.

“I think this is the third or fourth tree to have fallen this winter,” she said. “It’s definitely a fear we have, especially since we have a large tree in front of our house and there are more rain and wind expected in the next few weeks.”

Becky Niemira, a fourth-year physics student who lived on the ground floor of 617 Kelton Avenue, said people who lived in units not directly affected by the tree were temporarily evacuated, but their units have now been deemed safe.

The residents who lived on both the top and ground floors of 617 and 617 ½ were told to find new permanent residences and had their security deposits and February rent returned, she said.

Niemira said residents had to vacate the complex immediately after the tree fell Friday and were not allowed to return until Monday afternoon, except to briefly collect personal items. She said she thinks the manager has been in contact with the City of Los Angeles regarding the fallen tree.

Niemira looked for a new place to live last week and has relocated to a university apartment for the remainder of the school year. She said UCLA Housing was helpful in finding her a new place to live after a stressful week of searching.

“My roommate and I moved into a university apartment the same day we first approached them about it,” she said.

Madeleine Whittle, a fourth-year anthropology student whose 617 ½ apartment was directly damaged by the tree that fell earlier this month, also found a new permanent residence. She signed a lease and has been in the process of moving this past week, she said.

Jennifer Lai, a 2013 alumna, said she was concerned about the conditions on Kelton Avenue while living there.

“I lived on Kelton from 2011 to 2013, near where another tree had toppled over last year,” Lai said.

She said she remembers walking to and from class on Kelton Avenue and noticing the sidewalk looked crooked, with tree roots sticking out.

“I guess it was a matter of time,” Lai said.

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