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City Council passes first reading of tree ordinance

Coast live oaks are one type of tree protected under Alhambra's tree ordinance. Photo by Flickr user Chris Hunkeler licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

The Alhambra City Council passed the first reading of a tree ordinance Monday night, protecting native and mature trees from being removed from private property without a permit.

In a 4-0 vote, the City Council approved a measure that would require developers and other private property owners to apply for a permit to remove a native Californian tree that’s taller than 15 feet or wider than 12 inches in diameter or 36 inches in circumference. A permit would also be required to remove any non-native tree that’s taller than 19 feet and wider than 24 inches in diameter or 75 inches in circumference.

Those who successfully apply to remove a protected tree would have to plant a minimum of 50 percent of replacement trees on the same site, or donate a maximum of 50 percent of the value of removed trees to an urban forestry fund. This amount would be determined by an arborist and would come at no-cost to the city. Violations of this ordinance could result in code enforcement citations and a stop-work order for the construction site.

Many residents spoke in support of the tree ordinance. “It’s been almost a year since I first talked to you about my wishes for a tree ordinance, so I’m really pleased that this is on the table today,” said Tamar Igoyan. She and others did express reservations though, including the concern that the size requirements were too large and that it was unclear how easy it would be get a permit to remove a healthy tree.

City Council members said that while the tree ordinance wouldn’t please everybody, it represented a huge step towards protecting the environment in Alhambra. “I have to emphasize how huge of a step this is for the city to be considering this, going from zero to something on our books that covers all the industrial zones, all the commercial districts, all the R3 zones and a good chunk of our R1 and R2 zones,” said Mayor Jeff Maloney.

As concerns about climate change and similar concerns grow, cities across California are adopting tree protection ordinances to preserve the local environment as well as the aesthetic quality of their neighborhoods. Calls for a tree ordinance gained traction in Alhambra after the developer of the Camellia Court project sought to cut down more than 200 trees to construct condominiums and a new medical facility on Marengo Avenue. Many of them were native, mature trees.

The City Council heard a presentation for a tree ordinance last fall from Marc Castagnola, Director of Community Development. A draft plan was approved by the Planning Commission on June 4. The ordinance was adapted from similar measures by nearby cities like South Pasadena, San Marino, San Gabriel, Pasadena and Arcadia.

The ordinance lists the trees native to the San Gabriel Valley that are protected under this ordinance, including various species of oak trees. Trees from the list of a certain size would be protected by the ordinance, as well as other mature non-native trees. Exceptions would be made for trees that threaten public safety, that act as visual barriers for traffic safety or need to be removed for public works purposes and removals that are made as part of a development permit.

Property owners are allowed to prune trees without a permit, provided that no damage is caused in doing so. Palm trees and fruit trees are entirely exempt from this ordinance, as are trees in the backyards or on the sides of homes in single-family neighborhoods and R2 zones, which mainly have duplexes.

Permit applications are considered by the director of community development, who must make a decision within a certain amount of days and can defer a final decision to the planning commission.

Read the entire Alhambra tree ordinance below:

City Council agenda – June 25, 2018 by Anonymous 56qRCzJR on Scribd

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