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City to add tree-trimming notification rules to franchise agreement with Edison

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A Southern California Edison crew clears branches Jan. 17 after attempting to improve the appearance of a city-owned deodar cedar on Hillard Avenue officials said was over-trimmed without their knowledge.
(Sara Cardine)

Members of the La Cañada Public Works and Traffic Commission recently considered the wisdom of revising the city’s franchise agreement with utility provider Southern California Edison to include procedures for notifying residents and officials of impending tree-trimming work.

The discussion arose during a Feb. 19 meeting in which commissioners reviewed the original ordinance, signed into law on June 24, 1977. The four-page agreement makes no mention of tree trimming or providing advanced notification of work.

“Is there some way to put a document together that all parties would agree to that would provide some basic conditions … not to limit Edison’s ability to maintain its facilities in a reliable way but to do it in a responsible way, so the city has notification and can work with Edison?” Commissioner Eldon Horst posed.

At a Jan. 15 meeting, a group of residents spoke out against what they called Edison’s overly aggressive trimming practices. Hillard Avenue homeowner Susan Prager described a deodar cedar trimmed within an inch of its life one week earlier.

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“They chopped off most of the low-hanging branches of the deodars which gave the street much of its grace and beauty,” she told commissioners. “There are sickening examples all over the community.”

Following a 2018 mandate from the California Public Utilities Commission, Edison must create a 12-foot vegetation clearance around all facilities in areas of high-fire risk such as La Cañada Flintridge.

Public Works employee Kenny Roberts said the utility typically notifies the city before it trims trees in the public right-of-way and similarly warns residents before trees on their properties are to be cut.

But communications broke down for a brief period in January, after Edison hired a subcontractor that was unaware of the utility’s notification agreement with the city. In the course of two weeks, several trees were over-trimmed.

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On Jan. 17, an SCE crew returned to Hillard to perform some additional trim work to minimize the aesthetic impact of the earlier work.

Public Works Director Pat DeChellis said Edison also plans to replace 15 liquidambar trees on Princess Anne that underwent a “hack job” during the same period.

“They’re willing to come in and replace them with a tree of our picking,” DeChellis said, adding that the city would have to cover the cost of planting.

Commissioners agreed a written agreement would prevent future mishaps.

“When there’s a breakdown, if we don’t have something written down, something documented, that breakdown will happen again,” said Vice Chair Edward Yu.

DeChellis said he believed Edison would be willing to work with the city on developing a process procedure.

In other news, commissioners:

• Heard from Public Works Director Pat DeChellis on an effort to prevent illegal truck parking and loading/unloading in the painted median of Town Center Drive by City Hall and Target. He explained officials would meet with plaza property manager IDS Real Estate Group and Town Center business leaders on March 11 to discuss possibly installing concrete planters in the roadway and dedicating a road cut-out for trucks. Other alternatives may also be discussed, he said.

• Agreed to add up to three additional “No Parking” signs on Palm Drive, north of Fairmount Avenue to further deter vehicles from clogging the small, red-curbed residential street during Palm Crest Elementary School’s pick-up and drop-off times.

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• Approved removing a one-hour parking restriction on the east side of Chevy Chase Drive near Foothill Boulevard. Previously reserved for Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeeshop, relocating to 858 Foothill, the spaces will now be used for clients of mortgage lender House America. The restriction removal was requested by new owner Alan Pezeshkian.

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