Loma Linda Loses a Citrus Grove

The Last Box
The Last Box | Photo: Calsidyrose /Flickr/Creative Commons License
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?


Loma Linda's redevelopment agency owns 60 acres of orange and grapefruit groves, a tiny remnant of a citrus empire - green and golden - that once stretched through the foothills and valleys of Orange and Los Angeles counties. The orderly rows of trees were still there, but threatened on every side, when I was a boy. You could still smell the scent of orange blossoms on certain days in late spring, more powerful than the ever-present smog.

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Loma Linda's groves, except for a row or two of trees along Mission Road and the city's Heritage Park, will be cut down eventually, another unintended consequence of redevelopment's end. The city had relied on its redevelopment agency to pay the $50,000 a year that was needed to irrigate the trees and keep them green.

Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep & know why.

Loma Linda still has another 300 acres of commercial groves, although they, too, are becoming less profitable to harvest and manage. The city had sought to preserve the agency-owned 60 acres of citrus trees as parkland and a symbol of the community's past when those remaining 300 acres were developed.

According to Loma Linda City Manager City Manager T. Jarb Thaipejr, the city's trees will be harvested this year and kept alive by next winter's rains, while the city council looks for options. The city council has been trying to find an alternate funding source or caretaker for the trees since 2010.

Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:

But the likely outcome is the uprooting of more of Loma Linda's past. "Now that the land no longer belongs to the city's RDA, but to the successor agency," Thaipejr told reporters, "we're supposed to wind down, sell the property off and give the money to the state."

Without the redevelopment agency's subsidy - and under a mandate to sell agency assets to backfill the state's deficit - the city's remnant grove will wither for lack of water. In a year or two, the trees will cut down to become firewood, Thaipejr said.

It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S. J.

D. J. Waldie, author, historian, and as the New York Times said in 2007, "a gorgeous distiller of architectural and social history," writes about Los Angeles on KCET's SoCal Focus blog.


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