April 2008 – Whole Foods Chops Down Whole Trees

By Michael Zeno

Fourteen trees have been cut down at the soon-to-be Whole Foods Market parking lot in Venice to make way for ‘new’ trees.

It’s disconcerting to return to a place you know well and sense that eerie feeling that something is not right, like coming home to find your door slightly ajar when you know you locked it tight. That’s exactly what happened on Feb. 27 when I pulled into the strip mall parking lot off Lincoln Boulevard at Rose Avenue; something was missing, I thought. Then it hit me…the trees! 

The trees were gone! Fourteen trees that encircled the lot had been unceremoniously cut down by the contractor hired to begin remodeling the former Big Lots site for the new Whole Foods Market. Only the mutilated stumps remained, festooned with yellow caution tape, appropriately reminiscent of a crime scene. 

Four of those felled were large trees, with leafy green canopies that softened that asphalt nightmare like only trees can. I’m not a tree-hugger, but I’m a tree-lover, and it’s painful to witness the indifference with which we destroy these living, breathing organisms that oftentimes have been around for generations and add untold value to a space. We already live in such a diminished natural environment, here in Venice, and particularly at that intersection, – which makes incidents like this all the more egregious. 

Granted, sometimes you have compelling reasons for tree removal, but it appears that Whole Foods plans only to ‘re-landscape’ the parking lot, which seems a little less than compelling. Equally disturbing is the fact that this type of behavior stands in direct opposition to the Whole Foods Market philosophy as environmental stewards: “We see the necessity of active environmental stewardship so that the earth continues to flourish for generations to come,” they boldly assert in their Declaration of Interdependence on their website. 

It’s also a very curious way to say hello to a neighborhood where you expect to do business for the next 50 years; or perhaps that particular part of Venice is not in their target demographic of upscale shoppers paying upscale prices for upscale produce, so local residents with an opinion were not consulted. Some of us will be senior citizens before we see trees there the same size as some of the ones that were cut down.

I attempted to contact Whole Foods Market for an explanation, but couldn’t get past a public relations consultant who basically told me that the trees were removed to make room for the new trees: “The tree removal was actually a step in the process of re-landscaping the site,” said Shawn Glasser of Mirror Mirror Public Relations in an e-mail response to my questions; “At the completion of this project, the site will have an abundance of trees, shrubs, and vines.” 

As a regular visitor to that strip mall I can tell you first hand that I consider this an aggressive act of ignorance and hypocrisy of the highest order from a company that boasts of itself as environmental stewards. Despite their best ‘re-landscaping’ intentions, they deserve to be taken to task for their anti-environmental actions.