Education Matters: Are dollars lovelier than trees?

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

Back when the biggest housing development in Glendale’s history, Oakmont V, was proposed, I had a question about oak trees that was never answered.

Like most of people in our community, I was opposed to extending Oakmont IV, arguably the most unsightly development in our city’s history, and I was interested to know how it was that a developer was able to side-step ordinances in place that protect our magnificent oaks. Variances were granted back then, as likely they will be again for yet another developer who proposes to gouge out our local mountains with hundreds of condos and remove our beloved Verdugo Hills Golf Course, adding insult to injury.

I have two oak trees on my property and am quite aware of laws in place that prevent me from trimming branches of a certain size, as well as laws that penalize tree services from working on oak trees at any time other than the summer months. There is a concerted effort to protect and save these old beauties, and yet, I’ll ask again: Why do I need to get special permission to even trim an oak on my own property while a developer could legally destroy a whole forest of them, some of which are more than 300 years old?

What special dispensation is given to businesses (developers) to do, en masse, what the law clearly prohibits each and every homeowner in the area from doing? What circumvention of the law is granted that allows a single business to supersede the longstanding commitment of a community to preserve a vital portion of its natural environment?

I suspect the answer has something to do with money, as it often does. If it can move mountains to cram more people into an area, it can surely uproot “protected” trees that are in their way. On the other hand, if a variance is granted on the basis of the public good being served, then something is definitely wrong. The opposition to the Verdugo Hills project has been overwhelming, so whose good are we referring to?

Then again, will the hundreds of proposed condos fill some “need,” as the promoters of Oakmont V insisted? I would ask, who needs yet more housing units on our hillsides, more overcrowding in our schools, more congestion on our roads, more consumption of precious resources, more destruction of our natural environment?

And while we’re on the subject of trees, here’s another thought for the greater beautification of our communities up in the foothills. Considering that the main streets in La Cañada Flintridge and Montrose owe much of their beauty and charm to the trees planted within their main thoroughfares, why not round out that lovely picture and bring some of that beauty and charm to La Crescenta?

A median of trees planted between Briggs and Lowell avenues would transform the look and the feel of a town that presently serves its inhabitants well but is, by any definition, drab and uninviting. My understanding is that proposals to plant the trees were shot down by only a few merchants along Foothill who complained that their businesses would be negatively impacted.

That has me scratching my head. I would think that each and every merchant along that stretch of road would benefit from a more welcoming and naturally beautiful environment.

Be that as it may, I find it interesting that a handful of business owners could have their way on this when the suggestion to plant the trees has already met with widespread approval. Once again, it is the almighty buck that reigns supreme.

And so to my fellow tree huggers I offer up this familiar poem by Joyce Kilmer entitled, “Trees.” Perhaps it might remind some of us of the need to be more proactive in our determination to create beauty and more vigilant in our efforts to preserve it.

“I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.”

DAN KIMBER taught in the Glendale Unified School District for more than 30 years. He may be reached at

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