L.A. city councilman wants to cap charges by private tree trimmers

L.A. councilman wants to explore capping what private tree trimmers can charge amid soaring costs

Worried about surging prices charged by private companies to trim Los Angeles'  trees, City Councilman Paul Krekorian wants to see if the city can cap the amount it pays per tree.

"The fact that tree-trimming contracting costs have jumped so much is unacceptable,” Krekorian said Wednesday. “We've got to find out why this is happening and take steps to change course.”

The Times reported last week that prices charged by private companies has soared in recent years, after the city laid off dozens of its own tree trimmers.

Between 2009 and 2013, the average low bid to trim a single tree leapt from nearly $56 to more than $120, according to The Times' analysis of data provided by the Bureau of Street Services.

After seeing the numbers, Krekorian proposed that Street Services come up with recommendations on how to reduce those costs.

He also proposed that the department team up with City Atty. Mike Feuer to “explore per-tree cost caps or other safeguards that can be introduced into the contracts" -- both existing and future ones --  "to prevent abusive market practices.”

City officials believe one of the reasons that prices charged by private contractors jumped is that Street Services had no crews of its own to do routine trimming jobs.

SEIU Local 721, the union that represents city tree trimmers, has argued that the rising costs show that Los Angeles should restore the ranks of its own employees who trim trees in order to keep costs competitive.

In reaction, several companies that trim trees for the city argue the surging prices have nothing to do with city crews, pointing instead to increased costs for wages, equipment and insurance, as well as the fact that neglected L.A. trees had also become more overgrown and therefore required more effort to trim.

The proposal is slated to be discussed at a council committee meeting on public works.

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