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VALLEY VILLAGE : Resident Wants to Save 2 Walnut Trees

Judd Bernard is angry that the city plans to cut down two old walnut trees on his Valley Village property.

The Los Angeles Department of Public Works says the trees are a safety hazard and should be cut down.

“We received a complaint, we responded to the complaint, we felt it was justified,” said Tom Essington, who runs the department’s street tree division. Both trees, one of them 45 feet tall with limbs that hang over the street, are starting to rot and could topple, he said.

Bernard, who was notified Wednesday of the city’s plans to remove the trees, will have a hearing before the Board of Public Works on the matter before the trees are cut down, Essington said.

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Essington said the city will repeat an offer it made earlier, which Bernard and his wife, Patricia Casey, refused: The two can agree to bear the responsibility should the trees topple over and cause injuries or damage. The city also wants Bernard and Casey to have the trees bonded, at a cost of about $50,000.

Bernard, who lives at the corner of Agnes Avenue and Addison Street, argues that a tree expert he consulted believes the trees can be saved.

The expert, Robert Wallace of Tree Life Concern Inc. in Canoga Park, could not be reached for comment. But in a recent letter to Casey, Wallace wrote that one tree, on the Agnes Avenue side, is in “good health and vigor.”

He found the second tree, on the Addison Street side, to be in “fair condition.”

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The trees could be made safe by trimming deadwood and reinforcing them with cables, according to Wallace, who once worked for the city’s tree division.

There are 24 other large old walnut trees within a block and a half of his house, Bernard said.

He added that he offered to have his trees reinforced to make them safe, but the city refused.

But Essington says he’s not swayed.

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“One of the trees, you can reach your whole arm inside” the trunk, he said.

“I know Robert Wallace, and I have a lot of respect for his knowledge, but no, I’m not convinced,” Essington said. “I’ve been in this business 27 years . . . and I don’t feel safe with it.”


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