By a bare two-thirds majority (9-4) vote last Thursday, the Pacific Palisades Community Council board agreed to send a letter that supports the city’s effort to restore parkway trees in front of a house under construction at 15539 Via de las Olas (corner of Mount Holyoke).
The two-page letter was submitted by the PPCC’s newly created Palisades Forestry Committee and was addressed to Tim Tyson, Chief Forester in the L.A. Urban Forestry Division.
Meeting on Zoom, the PPCC spent an hour and a half arguing both sides of the matter after a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation by PFC chairperson Cindy Kirven. Her talk featured photographs of the mature eucalyptus trees along Via that were cut down prior to construction and four of their dead replacements, which basically went unwatered this spring and summer.
When the city’s Urban Forestry Division learned that the homeowner at 15539 Via de las Olas had removed his parkway trees without a permit in mid-2019, it issued a “Stop Construction Notice and Notice of Intent to Revoke Building Permits” letter to the owner, Ira Boren, on June 28.
The two parties then reached a written agreement (on August 12, 2019) that Boren would plant six Brisbane Box trees in the parkway as “remediation for the unauthorized removals,” according to the PPCC letter. The City required him post a bond for $20,810, requiring that the new trees would be planted and watered for a survival period of three years from planting (on February 14, 2020).
After four of those six new trees died, Boren planted another four replacement trees in the same places as the dead ones.
In order to help ensure the survival of these trees, the Palisades Forestry Committee felt it was important to have the PPCC act proactively, in a public forum, to support the City’s agreement with the homeowner.
The letter approved by the PPCC board urges the City to “require the owner to increase the number… of remediation trees…from 6 to as many as 10, in order to maximize the number of parkway trees along Mt. Holyoke and Via de las Olas.”
The letter also asks the City to “require the best practices of maintenance of the parkway trees” and “amend the survival date for release of the Bond… to reflect the planting date of October 2020 (eight months longer than the original date).”
Boren attended the meeting and explained that he had followed the City’s rules by posting the $20,810 bond and that the PPCC’s letter was unnecessary. “This is unfair because I have a legal document,” he said.
Responding to the fact that homeowners must acquire a permit to trim or remove trees in a City parkway, Boren presented an arborist’s report from before construction started on his new home.
The report stated that the existing parkway trees were not in good shape. He also showed a document stating that the Forestry division had agreed he could remove the trees. Boren said he did not realize that in addition to that document, he needed to obtain a permit.
Alan Goldsmith, the PPCC’s Representative-at-large, asked Boren, “What is your major objection to complying [with the PFC letter]”?
Boren said, “I’ve already made my deal/agreement with the City.”
Several board members objected to sending the letter because it was pointed out that the City’s Urban Forestry website does not include best practices as far as planting and maintaining parkway trees.
Treasurer Richard Cohen said, “I’m amongst the most-long serving on the Community Council and I can’t think of a time that the PPCC has weighed against a homeowner.”
PPCC President David Card reminded him that the Council took a position on the proposed Marinette housing development, which would remove 10 protected coastal oaks and 53 significant non-protected trees.
Cohen said, “That was a subdivision. This is a different matter.”
Secretary Chris Spitz, who lives close to the bluffs, expressed dismay that the original trees had been cut down, but said, “I’m disappointed that Boren wasn’t asked to appear before the PFC.”
After the meeting, Circling the News asked Card (who is also a member of the PPPCC forestry committee and who excused himself as Council president during the tree debate), “Did the forestry committee ever meet with Ira Boren and try to work with him first?”
Card responded by email, on behalf of the committee: “I spoke with him once around August to tell him that this matter was on the agenda for an upcoming August PPCC meeting. We had a long discussion. He denied that the replacement trees were dead or dying. That item was taken off the Agenda at the last minute because Mr. Boren could not attend.
“I spoke with him again a week before last Thursday’s PPCC meeting. We discussed what the PFC would present and that he would have an opportunity to make a presentation and participate. I sent to him both the PFC slide report and the draft PPCC letter when both were finalized two days before the meeting, the same day as the Board received them.
“Mr. Boren’s view both times was that he had done nothing wrong, he did what UFD told him to do, and so on. You heard his statements in the PPCC meeting.”