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City Council votes to cut down dying oak

September 24, 2009|By Megan O’Neil

After months of debate and multiple arborist assessments, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council voted three to two to authorize the removal a dying oak tree located in the city’s right-of-way at 4341 Encinas Drive.

The decision came at the city council meeting on Monday, with Mayor Laura Olhasso and councilmembers Gregory Brown and David Spence voting in favor of the removal, and Mayor Pro Tem Donald Voss and councilmember Steve Del Guercio voting in opposition.

The tree, a Coast live oak, or Quercus agrifolia, is one of five species of trees protected by the city’s tree ordinance. The tree’s trunk is approximately 42 inches in diameter, and stands about 45-feet tall. Its crown stretches 75-feet wide, and together, with other adjacent oaks, creates a thick canopy that is one of the distinguishing features of the intersection at Encinas Drive and Shepherds Lane.

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A report conducted in June by La Cañada consulting arborist Rebecca Mejia concluded that the tree was in rapid decline and that many major branches were already dead. The canopy was yellowing and thinning, Mejia said, and the trunk was oozing a thick dark fluid at several spots.

“It is obvious to this arborist that the subject oak is beyond recovery at this time and will only continue to decline,” Mejia said. “There is no imminent threat of trunk failure. However, due to the sheer size and weight of the subject oak, it is believed that a potential hazard does indeed exist.”

Seeking a second opinion, the city hired arborist Craig Crotty, whose conclusions largely mirrored those of Mejia.

“At a minimum, dead tree parts in the upper crown should be removed to reduce some weight,” Crotty said. “Dead branches are at a high risk of failure. But ultimately, this tree is dying and will need to be removed.”

Following the arborists’ recommendations, the city scheduled the tree to be cut down on July 20. Not everyone agreed that the tree needed to be removed, however. Frances Arnold, who lives at 4341 Encinas Drive, hired an independent consulting arborist to inspect the tree and review the city’s decision to remove it.

The third arborist, Jan Scow, agreed that the oak did appear to be in decline, but that the trunk itself remained stable and largely healthy.

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