What you need to know about removing trees on private property

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 unanimously passed a tree preservation ordinance, requiring property owners to obtain a permit in order to cut down trees of certain sizes and species.

The ordinance requires a permit to cut down trees that are native to California or oaks and that are a minimum of 15 feet tall or 24 inches in diameter or 36 inches in circumference. For non-native trees, owners need a permit for ones that are at least 20 feet tall or 24 inches in diameter or 75 inches in circumference.

The ordinance also requires that property owners replace protected trees or make a payment for the city to do so. Exceptions include emergency situations determined by the Department of Community Development. The ordinance does not apply to trees in the side and backyards of houses in R1 and R2 residential zones.

Some residents who campaigned for the tree ordinance spoke out against it, saying that there were too many loopholes. “Alhambra already has a shortage of trees,” Cliff Bender said. “We can’t afford to lose any [in] front yard, side yard, rear yard [o] residential, industrial [or] commercial [zones].”

Others praised the ordinance for balancing competing needs. “I’m happy with the proposal, it does meet everything I would’ve wanted in preservation of trees [and] it leaves for some leeway in terms of property owner rights,” said Alhambra resident Brian Chan.

Tamar Igoyan, one of the residents who pushed for a tree ordinance last year, supported this measure with some reservations. “Many of us wanted more coverage and stronger protections, but this is a start considering we don’t yet know what the broader feedback will be from property owners,” she wrote in an email. She did express surprise that the ordinance went to a vote without a community meeting to get more input and buy-in from residents. “Doing so would have provided a platform to promote understanding between concerned residents and the city,” she said.

This ordinance is a result of a fight from one year ago, when it was revealed that a developer planned on removing more than 200 trees from the Sunny View Care Center campus on Marengo Avenue to make way for condominiums, retail and a new medical facility. Negotiations between a group of residents, calling themselves Marengo Avenue Water Briage and the developer, St. Clare Partners, resulted in the saving of 85 trees.

The City of Alhambra will provide information about the ordinance in utility bills. People can also read up on the requirements and find a list of tree species protected under the ordinance below:

Tree Preservation Ordinance by Phoenix Tso on Scribd

Chinese version:

Tree Preservation Ordinance – Chinese by Phoenix Tso on Scribd

Spanish version:

Tree Preservation Ordinance – Spanish by Phoenix Tso on Scribd

Updated at 12:39 p.m. to correct the height of protected trees from inches to feet.

Updated on Monday, July 30, 2018 with comments from Tamar Igoyan.

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