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City official responds to tree fines

May 03, 2012

The city of La Cañada Flintridge has been a participant of the “Tree City USA” program for approximately 25 years.

The city takes pride in preserving and protecting trees because trees provide significant benefits to the community. Consequently, the city has laws protecting certain trees.

The tree ordinance is something that the community wanted in order to protect trees, and today, continues to be supported by a majority of citizens. It is the responsibility of property owners to do their due diligence to obtain information on city regulations and to hire qualified licensed contractors or arborists when performing work on protected trees. Information on protected trees could be obtained on the city's website, or by visiting or calling City Hall. If the tree ordinance is violated, both property owners and contractors receive citations.

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In addition, the property owner would be responsible for complying with the required mitigation measures to help alleviate the impacts that result from the unpermitted action (construction, tree removal or tree trimming). Typically, the required mitigation consists of the following: an arborist deposit for assessment and monitoring, replacement planting(s) and/or a donation to the tree replacement fund equaling the assessed value of the tree or its damages.

The city hired certified arborists to assess the value of the three Chinese elm trees that were illegally removed at 991 St. Katherine Drive ($45,327) and to determine the impact and cost of the damages inflicted on the six oak trees that were excessively trimmed at 530 Berkshire Ave. ($3,650). The Planning Commission significantly reduced both amounts to $25,000 and $2,000, respectively. The Planning Commission, however, has not made a final decision on the 991 St. Katherine Drive tree removal. The Planning Commission continued the case to June 12 to allow the applicant to prepare a landscape plan indicating the location, species, and size of the replacement trees.

The Planning Commission gave the applicant the option of applying the $25,000 to the cost of the replacement trees and/or paying the difference to the city's tree replacement fund.

Over the last year, the city has been revising the tree ordinance. Chinese elm trees and California pepper trees have been removed from the protected tree list in the draft ordinance. The removal of these species was a result from input provided by the community and certified arborists. The tree ordinance revision will be reviewed by the City Council at a future meeting.

Robert Stanley

Director of Community Development

City of La Cañada Flintridge

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