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NEWPORT BEACH : Council to Consider Weed Abatement

The City Council will tackle the issue of mandatory weed abatement in two Corona del Mar canyons at a public hearing today.

For the past few months, residents with homes on Buck Gully Drive and Morning Canyon Road have been warned that, under current drought conditions, dead vegetation in the canyon could create a fire hazard for the entire Corona del Mar community. In July, city Fire Chief James Reed sent property owners a letter asking them to clear out the vegetation, to prune trees and to remove heavy underbrush to reduce the fire risk.

Since that notification, only 33 of the 167 lots bordering the ravines have been cleared out to meet Fire Department standards. Tonight, the council is scheduled to decide if dried vegetation poses a significant public danger and whether it should be removed despite opposition from some property owners.

“I hope that we will get a good turnout of people in support of the program (at the meeting),” Reed said. “The council has to make the hard decision--they need to listen to my recommendations and then they have to listen to the homeowners who think this is a bad idea.”

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Weed abatement is a common technique used by cities to control areas considered hazardous to public safety. If the council votes to consider the area a fire danger, it will send in city crews or hire private firms to clear the area. Owners will be billed for the work on their property tax statements.

Some residents have said they will show up at the 7 p.m. meeting to protest the abatement. They argue that wind and water erosion that might result from clearing the brush poses a greater danger than the fire threat.

Other residents have complained about the high cost of the gardening work. With steep slopes and overgrown vegetation that, in many cases, hasn’t been cleared out for nearly a decade, the projects can cost up to $8,000, according to Fire Department and homeowner estimates.

In a protest letter to the council, resident James Schindler argued that clearing the canyon could pose a fire hazard because it would also rid the canyons of the drought-resistant growth.

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“Even after several dry years the natural bush vegetation covering much of Buck Gully is still green and beautiful,” Schindler wrote in a letter to the council. “The native shrubs, because they are so green, would act as an inhibitor to the spread of any fire which might get started in the canyon.”

But Reed said he is convinced that the danger of erosion can be contained if the work is carefully done.

“We are concerned about erosion, and that’s one of the reasons that the canyon has not been cleaned up in the past,” Reed said. “But one of the things we’ve told people is not to remove any of the root structure . . . that should help to continue to stabilize the soil.”


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