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Something wrong with enforcement

May 03, 2012

It was reported last week (“Tree removal proves costly,” April 26) that the Planning Department recommended a local property owner be penalized $45,000 for allegedly removing three Chinese elm trees, which are on the city's list of protected trees.

It was also recently reported that another property owner was penalized for excessively trimming the live canopies of six native oak trees.

For the past 20 years the resident had his oaks trimmed every three years by a professional tree trimmer without incident. However, this time the Planning Department determined that the oaks had been excessively trimmed and recommended a penalty of $3,650 and an additional arborist fee of $2,500.

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Presently, the protected trees in La Cañada are native oaks, sycamores, Chinese elms, California peppers and deodar cedars. After the City Council adopts a new tree ordinance, only native oaks, California sycamores and deodar cedars will be protected trees.

Did you know that a property owner in La Cañada cannot remove a protected tree, or trim more than 25% of the live canopy of a protected tree within a one-year period, without a permit from our Planning Department?

There is something seriously wrong with the council's adoption and the Planning Department's enforcement of an ordinance that imposes serious monetary fines, penalties and fees on a property owner who hires a professional tree trimmer to prune his trees for the purpose of maintaining the continued healthy state of those trees.

If the council and the Planning Department thought about the situation, they would conclude that those fines, penalties and fees should not be levied on the property owner, but on the tree trimmer.

Did you know any trees were protected in La Cañada, and if so, the list of those protected trees before you read this letter? We need more information from the Planning Department on what are protected trees and what we can or cannot do with protected trees.

The Planning Department's reliance on the information on the city's Internet site, or in an early newsletter which mentions protected trees only three times in 14 years, is not enough to put a property owner on notice.

Richard S. Cohen

La Cañada Flintridge

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