Roberta Dominguez’s months-long quest for removal of a Chinese elm tree from the back yard of her La Cañada home will last at least a month longer after she was unable to obtain a city-approved arborist’s report in time for this week’s Planning Commission meeting. The commission voted to continue her appeal to the next meeting, which will not take place until September due to the commission’s August recess.
Planning Commissioner Herand Sarkissian said that the appeal was continued because of the difficulty of providing Dominguez with the city ordinance-mandated options for the arborist’s report.
“The process of the city calls for an arborist to render an opinion what the tree is, or is not, doing,” said Sarkissian. “I think [city staff] was late in getting three estimates, because they have to get three competitive estimates, and then present it to [the appellant].”
Sarkissian said that without the data of an arborist’s report, the commission couldn’t make a decision one way or the other on the appeal.
“We’re dark in August, but we’ll revisit it when we come back, when they would have the report done and there would be some data to base an opinion on,” said Sarkissian.
Dominguez, who contends that the tree’s roots are damaging brickwork in her patio, said that she hadn’t been given any reason for the delay in the arborist’s report by the city planning staff.
“No reason, none at all, just that they’re working on it,” she said. “So meanwhile, I have the chance of my house getting worse because of this. So it’s very disappointing.”
Dominguez said that she had been rebuffed in her request to hire an arborist recommended by a friend to perform the inspection and compile the report.
“I knew someone who was an arborist who’s approved with La Cañada, [but] they didn’t want me to use [that expert]; they want to be able to select it,” said Dominguez. “So I’m having to wait longer now.”
Sarkissian emphasized the importance of following the city code.
“Whatever we wish, or we feel, or we sympathize with somebody, that’s not something that’s in our purview,” said Sarkissian. “We have an ordinance, and the ordinance is there in order to be equitable for everybody, for you, for me and for her.”
Sarkissian said that the ordinance provides a way for the tree to be removed, as long as the rules are followed.
“There is a process, and the process calls for an arborist’s report, and if the arborist’s report says that it’s damaging the house, then I think we would take action and allow [the removal],” Sarkissian said.