* TREE REMOVAL PROPOSAL - WILLOW AVENUE AND BEECHWOOD AVENUE
For the benefit of the audience, Director Hunt outlined the procedure for a public hearing. The Commissioners decided on a three minute limit for each speaker due to the large number of speakers, but agreed that more time would be allowed if needed.
Landscape Superintendent Dan Sereno provided a power point presentation and brief history of Willow and Beechwood Avenues where ficus trees need to be removed due to environmental hazards as well as the sewer and sidewalk damage they have caused: On September 2003, the Engineering Department requested that Maintenance Services inspect the trees at Willow and Beechwood Avenues. Engineering is planning a complete street reconstruction for several streets in Summer 2004, but will only do so if all ficus trees recommended for removal are removed. Residents there received notices of intent to remove the trees in September 2003. In October 2003, the City received letters and phone calls from eight residents wishing to appeal removal of the trees.
Problems from root damage were listed as well as the treatments needed to mitigate the problems. Problems included parkway trees encroaching on city and residential sewer mains, causing lateral line blockages, sewer line damage and excessive maintenance costs, and the potential for future problems. Currently, treatments include root cutting, chemical root treatment, routine cleaning schedule, lateral maintenance in blockages. Besides the city's services, several residents have indicated paying for roto-rooter services themselves.
A second problem stemming from the ficus trees was noted, namely the public hazard and resulting liability from sidewalk, curb, gutter and street damage. Superintendent Sereno provided photos, noting "ponding" of water due to the uplift of streets, and the pavement rising from 4 inches to 1 foot. He also outlined the City's responsibilities and the homeowners' responsibilities.
Superintendent Sereno outlined that the City's proposed plan for tree removal and replacement and reconstruction on the two identified streets. He opened the item up for discussion, introducing his Director, Bob Savage and a representative from Engineering, Ron Bowers, Senior Civil Engineer.
COMMISSIONER QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS:
Commissioners asked why the street reconstruction was being done, and if the maintenance service needs were the same as other areas. They also wanted to know what would happen if the trees were not removed, how many residents with ficus trees want them removed and how many want them saved, if the damage from the trees is similar to that seen at the September 2003 Commission meeting, and what records we have regarding risk management, i.e. slips and falls from uneven surfaces. Commissioners also wanted to know what the reasons were for homeowner opposition to tree removal, the background on and location of the trees and lateral sewer lines, the City's responsibility for maintenance, and cost recovery.
Director Hunt asked Superintendent Sereno to clarify how many homeowners were for tree removal and replacement, and how many were against. He responded that there were 19 homeowners for the construction to proceed and 9 opposed to the project out of 87 affected residences or 77 affected residences, if those residences fronting Rolling Hills are not counted. He also explained the need for reconstruction, stating that the streets are "alligatoring", the underlying surface is eroded, pavement is coming up, and the ficus trees have exacerbated the disrepair of the streets. Superintendent Sereno estimated there were two three times more service needs due to the problems from ficus trees.
Reasons for homeowner opposition to tree removal include the length of their residency and the beauty of the trees which also provide shade, reduced energy cost, and are habitats for nature. Asked about the ficus trees already removed in the neighborhood, Superintendent Sereno answered that records since the early 1990's indicate that some were removed due to sewer intrusion by the City per homeowner request and others were removed by the homeowner without City notification. He confirmed that ficus were the most damaging of trees, that cities no longer plant them as street trees, and that the City was taking the same kind of action it did a few months ago.
Glenn Deveney, 1356 Beechwood Avenue, 61 year Fullerton resident, spoke in favor of tree removal, noting that he was a police officer for 32 years, knows all the streets, complaints, and of at least one sidewalk that has a 22 inch displacement. He also noted that one paraplegic resident can't go down the sidewalks due to the tree damage.
Helen Mutch, 2811 Spruce Place, also spoke in favor of tree removal, stating that she has to walk on the street because sidewalks are not negotiable. She read her letter that described how street damage downgrades neighborhood values, causes standing water, even in summer, which is a breeding grounds for bacteria and insects, and over-patching of streets causes cars to "bottom out".
Selden Schultz, 2831 Spruce Place, spoke in favor of removal, stating that the sidewalks have lifted so badly, if he slipped, he would "probably own the city". He also mentioned the paraplegic resident, and that school children walk in the streets because of sidewalk damage.
Vee Doverspike, 2800 Willow Avenue, spoke against removal, saying that if the trees on the side of her house are removed, there will be soil erosion onto the sidewalk, and it would take a long time for the ivy to grow back. Another problem is that large plants in her backyard won't survive without the shade from the tree. She said she understood the liability involved, but thought the sidewalk could be taken out at the side of the house and left out.
Jack Duffin, 1408 Beechwood Avenue, spoke in favor of removal, and that due to a tree across from his house, the sidewalk there was severely damaged. He noted sidewalk, curb, street, and sprinkler damage.
Frances Finch, 2816 Spruce Place, a 25 year resident, spoke in favor of tree removal. She stated that she has to walk for health reasons to recover from a brain injury; however, she has also been told that if she falls and hits her head, she could possibly kill herself. She acknowledged the trees' beauty, but didn't want to drive to another neighborhood to walk or jeopardize her health because of the trees.
Nancy Coronado, 2830 Willow, while not arguing the points brought up, expressed concerns regarding tree removal. A new resident, she recently put in $3,000 in landscaping and was wondering about possible damage to the sprinklers during tree removal and reconstruction as well as the time lag between tree removal and reconstruction. She also suggested a 36" camphor instead of the proposed 24" camphor and provided information on bids she received for the 36" tree.
Pete Freeman, 2831 Birch Place, 26 year resident, spoke in favor of tree removal. One reason he moved here was the nice streets, but they're not nice anymore. He believed that the majority of the 77 homeowners are in favor of tree removal, that they love the trees and shades, but more trees can be planted.
Leon Penrod, 2809 Willow Avenue, a 43 year resident, spoke against tree removal. He said he would like the Commission to see his tree; there is almost no damage to the street, and while there was some sidewalk damage, he had it replaced six years ago, and it's still in beautiful shape. He noted that, unlike him, most speakers didn't have trees on their property, and he believed that it was not the trees causing the damage but rather poor maintenance.
Sam Nichols, 2800 Woodbine, 32 year resident, spoke in favor of removal. He said he took his trees out because they were causing similar damage; now they have camphors. He said Mr. Penrod's tree is a real exception, and that everywhere else, their children and grandchildren cannot walk up and down the street.
Jack Duffin, 1408 Beechwood, spoke again, responding to Mr. Penrod's comments. Yes, Mr. Penrod's tree is fine, but his street is "like a roller coaster", going up and down where the trees are, with water collecting in the low spots, and damage to both streets and sidewalks.
Larry Finch, 2816 Spruce Place, spoke on how streets affect property values. He thought the reconstruction might improve pride of ownership.
COMMISSIONER COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS:
Commissioners wanted staff to answer questions regarding the reconstruction schedule, tree pricing, whether trees will be planted during the summer, and how long it would take for a camphor tree to grow from a 24" to 36" box. It was also noted that, unlike most meetings dealing with trees, this was one of the more pleasant ones with most speakers in favor of the City's project although there was a question as to where the opposition was. Commissioners also asked what would happen to the landscaping of the resident concerned about soil erosion and ivy burning, whether the homeowner who apparently did everything right and paid for his own sidewalk repairs would still have to have his tree removed, and if reconstruction would not occur if one tree were not removed.
Empathy for homeowners was expressed, especially since one commissioner had to have a tree removed with resultant landscaping changes, but with pluses and minuses weighed, including the fact that trees will grow, especially with lots of water and fertilizer, it was felt that tree removal was needed to counter destruction to streets and private property. It was noted that when trees that should be removed are not removed, the issue has to be faced again later.
Superintendent Sereno responded that Engineering is planning on reconstruction of the streets in Summer of 2004, and that he would remove the trees prior to that. With the recommendation of Commission, his staff would remove the trees in the next month or two, Engineering will complete the design work, go out to bid, and reconstruct streets in Summer 2004. Regarding costs of trees, Superintendent Sereno stated that a 24" box tree costs $174, is six to eight feet tall and has a one to three foot spread. The next size up, a 36" box, will cost $727 and takes a tractor to unload. He said that residents could purchase and plant a larger tree with a no-fee permit if they can get a better price although Maintenance would have to inspect the tree to ensure the tree is not substandard. After street reconstruction, the new trees would be planted within one month. He estimated that the trees would be planted in September or October, not the best time to plant trees, but he felt that the residents would cooperate in keeping the trees watered. He also estimated that it would take three to five years for camphors to grow from the 24" to 36" box size.
Commissioner Swanson MOTIONED to accept the staff recommendation and Commissioner Russell SECONDED.
AYES: Dalton, Han, Miller, Quirk, Russell, Spencer, Swanson
The MOTION carried unanimously.