By Christina Penza
Sherman Oaks, CA (July 29, 2011)- You may have driven down Ventura Boulevard thousands of times, but you may not have noticed its leafy splendor until you’ve looked through the eyes of Jules Feir. “There’s no other place in L.A. like this with continuous trees,” he said.
Feir points proudly to row after row of palm and shade trees. They are some of the roughly three miles of trees that line the boulevard today, due in part to Feir’s efforts. In the mid-1990s, he said, he and Matt Epstein, both board members of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association (SOHA), looked at the area’s concrete commercial district and saw a different kind of green. “We wanted to make this an area and a street where people would enjoy walking,” he said.
Over the next few years, the former electronics salesman and Brooklyn boy helped sell the tree-planting idea at fundraisers, including a celebrity fashion show and silent auction. In 1996, SOHA hired contractors, gathered volunteers and began planting block after block of palm and Chinese tallow trees along Ventura Boulevard between Fulton and Noble avenues. The project was ambitious. So were the trees. “They grew like crazy,” Feir said with a smile.
In the last few years, the dismal economy has forced Feir and SOHA to take over the job of maintaining the trees, he said. The city of L.A. used to do it. SOHA tries to raise several thousand dollars each year for tree trimming, Feir said. Not everyone is thrilled with the trees’ determined growth, Feir admitted. “Some businesses say people can’t see their stores,” he said. At times, said Feir, a vigorous 77-year-old, he patrols Ventura Boulevard, trimming low tree branches. He also pulls down illegal signs, he said. “It takes a real commitment. So I do that,” Feir said. “I try to get rid of blight.”
Feir’s efforts don’t end at the boulevard. His work as a SOHA vice president includes manning the annual Toy Drive and booking the “restaurant of the month” to serve meals, for a small donation, at SOHA meetings. Aside from SOHA, he volunteers with the Getty Museum. Feir’s community work has earned him the title of honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks. “Folks just started calling me that at meetings,” he said.
To support their tree-planting effort, the group sold plaques that sit at the bases of the trees. The plaque that Feir and his wife, Francine, bought says: “To plant a tree is to believe in tomorrow.”
Sherman Oaks Patch- The Man Who Planted Trees