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Tree ordinance would require permits for removing native, mature trees in Alhambra

Trees on the Camellia Court project site in 2017. Photo by Melissa Michelson.


Alhambra , CA United States

A proposed tree ordinance would require obtaining a permit for removing native and mature trees on private property in Alhambra.

Permits would be required for removing California native or oak trees of a certain height and diameter, as well as non-native trees at a higher minimum height and diameter, said Marc Castagnola, Director of Development Services, in a presentation at City Council on Monday night. He also outlined an approval process, exemptions, a tree replacement formula and penalties for violating the ordinance.

Some residents complained that this presentation was held at an inconvenient time for most residents to weigh in, adding that language was vague and that it was hard to believe that the City would enforce this tree ordinance, due to lack of care of trees on city property.

Other residents praised this proposal as a good start, with City Council members promising more public hearings on the ordinance.

Public support for a tree ordinance increased after controversy over the removal of more than 200 trees at the Camellia Court development, which the City Council approved in September. Castagnola based Alhambra’s proposed ordinance on regulations from surrounding cities, including South Pasadena, Pasadena and San Gabriel.

This ordinance would require a permit for removing native trees that were at minimum 15 feet tall or 12 inches in diameter and for non-native trees that were at minimum 20 feet tall and 19 inches in diameter. Castagnola suggested that the tree diameter would be measured at 4 feet off the ground.

Castagnola also suggested that the director of development services would consider most tree removals, which would require an application, in addition to a possible fee that had yet to be determined. If tree removal was part of a larger permit application, the Planning Commission would consider it.

Exempt from permits would be fruit trees, damaged or deceased trees, or trees that interfered with power lines or a public works project.

Castagnola proposed that the total amount of replacement trees would have to equal the diameter of the tree that was removed. Since native trees under 12 inches in diameter and non-native trees 19 inches in diameter would not require a permit, he suggested deducting those measurements when it came to the amount of replacement trees required, or capping the number at three to four trees per one removed.

A minimum of 50 percent of replacement trees would have to be California natives, and 50 percent would have to be planted on site, with the rest going to areas approved by the City. People would also have the option of making payments for half of the trees they were required to replace, with funds going to future tree planting or maintenance.

As for people who violated this law, Castagnola suggested code enforcement investigating based on complaints and charging violators with a misdemeanor. If the illegal removal was tied to a development, he suggested suspending a building permit for a year.

Some residents brought up city trees as being suddenly removed or inadequately maintained, and criticized the City Council for holding the meeting at an inconvenient time. The City Council promised at least one public hearing at a later time when they formally consider the ordinance.

“This is not intended to address every issue related to a tree,” said Councilmember Jeff Maloney, emphasizing that this would make it easier for city officials to evaluate development proposals.

You can check out the full presentation embedded below.

agenda_2017_10_23_154144 by Phoenix Tso on Scribd

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