A Sunland developer has been charged by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office with illegally cutting down 12 oak trees on his property.
The developer, Kris Rigdon, and his development company were charged with two misdemeanor counts of removing the trees in the 8300 block of McGroarty Street without a permit last January, said Vince B. Sato, a deputy city attorney. Rigdon has proposed building 15 houses on 42 acres along McGroarty.
If convicted, Rigdon could be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to 6 months in jail, Sato said. In addition, he could be ordered to replace the trees.
Reacting to the charges, Rigdon said: “This whole episode is about building homes. It’s not about cutting down trees.”
Several neighbors have opposed the project, saying it will ruin the character of the rural community.
The removal, Sato said, was a violation of the city’s oak ordinance, which makes it illegal to mutilate or cut down oak trees without authorization.
Several neighbors in the community around McGroarty Street complained to authorities after the trees were removed. Investigators found the stumps of the 12 California live oaks, plus a limb that had been severed from another oak, they said.
Rigdon told investigators from the city’s Public Works Department that the felled trees were either dead or leaning against trees that he wanted to save.
Rigdon said he relied on the expertise of a tree surgeon, but the street tree division of the Public Works Department does not consider the tree surgeon an expert, Sato said.