The Los Angeles City Council recently approved recommendations to sharpen the city’s tree trimming regulations. The recommendations will be drafted as an ordinance and will be returned to the city council for further review.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, called for tougher rules after tree trimmers hired by a billboard company allegedly damaged nine city trees last December at the Sunset Triangle in Silver Lake. A field deputy for O’Farrell reported the damaged trees in January. Six of the nine trees were pruned excessively and three needed to be replaced. City ordinances currently give the Bureau of Street Services authority to investigate and enforce the illegal trimming of native trees on public property. Illegal trimming is currently addressed as a code violation and can result in fines up to $1,000, and permit revocation for up to 10 years in the most egregious cases. The Bureau of Street Services can also refer cases to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office for the filing of misdemeanor charges.
The illegal tree trimming last December was done by a crew hired by Outfront Media because the trees blocked views of a nearby billboard. A case against Outfront Media is making its way through the legal process.
The recommendations approved by the city council call for the City Attorney’s Office to identify all code violations that could be included in a new ordinance regulating illegal tree trimming. They also call for the city attorney to create a new fine structure that would allow the city to issue the maximum fines allowed under state law. Additionally, the recommendation calls for the Bureau of Street Services and the City Attorney’s Office to work together to investigate and criminally prosecute every instance of illegal tree trimming that results in a city tree being “non-salvageable.”
“My goal at the outset of this process was to strengthen Los Angeles’ laws to protect our urban forest by clamping down on illegal tree pruning and removals through the establishment of a robust administrative penalty structure,” O’Farrell said. “After consulting with the city attorney and the Bureau of Street Services, the recommendations that were approved in council are the best options to move forward on my initiative.”
The council decided against recommending new fees for tree trimming permits because members believed the fees would create a hurdle for private companies and individuals wishing to trim trees properly. O’Farrell and Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, said new fees were not appropriate.
“We are trying to do everything we can to preserve our urban canopy,” Ryu said. “But if an individual wants to prune a tree here, we are thankful for it. We want to encourage folks, not discourage them.”
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