CITY HALL — The large tree limb came crashing down in August, about 10 minutes after Marina Manukian pulled her Infiniti G35 into a curbside parking space across the street from her Andover Drive home.
Manukian, who last year spent months trying to recoup more than $3,500 in damage, claimed that the tree was unhealthy, but municipal laws barred her from taking a saw or trimmer to the city-owned tree.
That's expected to change next month, after the City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance permitting residents, in consultation with forestry services and a trained arborist, to remove portions of trees in public areas and right-of-ways.
"It's absolutely an important step because this way you don't have to wait for all of the permission to be granted for the city to come out and trim, or remove, the tree," said Manukian, who waited more than a month after the incident before the Forestry Services Division pruned the tree. "Otherwise you sit and wait for weeks and months, and nothing happens."
Falling tree limbs, fruit and pine cones have became a recurring side effect of an urban canopy in a semi-arid environment that's home to 29,000 parkway trees of varying species. The new program requires residents to obtain a bid from a licensed arborist to prune any city-owned street trees around their property.
The contractor, after showing proof of insurance, would be issued a no-fee permit stipulating that they comply with industry standards and any recommendations relating to the species of the tree, said Jan Bartolo, deputy director of Park, Recreation and Community Services.
Residents would pay contractors directly for their services, but not before city officials perform a final inspection to verify that the tree has been properly pruned.
Among the only exceptions would be if a tree is near a major roadway, in which case the contractor would be required to submit a traffic control plan at about $100 per page. The program also does not allow for tree removals, root pruning or topping of any city-owned street tree. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor.
"Obviously, a resident can't call someone and ask to take a tree out," Councilman Gary Bric said.
City-owned parkway trees are pruned on a five-year cycle, with roughly 7,000 trees trimmed in 2008. There are about 400 service requests in the queue, resulting in about a yearlong wait for routine work, according to a city report.
In 2008, the city fielded 32 claims for damages, and had received another 20 through July 2009, according to city records.