Tree pruning policy gets overhaul

La Cañada Flintridge's 12,849 city-owned trees will get a systematic pruning starting next year.

The City Council decided last month to move to grid pruning — the method of tree trimming employed in Redondo Beach, Riverside and Costa Mesa — which, like La Cañada, contract with Anaheim-based West Coast Arborists for tree maintenance.

Instead of paying for West Coast Arborists crews five days a week at an hourly rate of $79.20, the city will pay per tree — $118.80 each for about 2,660 trees this year. West Coast also will receive $167,000 for providing supplemental crews to deal with trees that are outside the grid being completed at any given time.

The total budget for the service in 2012-13 is $483,700.

In the 2011-12 budget, the city set aside $350,000 for tree maintenance.

Councilman Donald Voss said that staff in the city's Public Works department determined grid pruning would be more effective in the long run.

“Rather than being sometimes in a reaction mode, this is more proactive in its approach, and ensures that we have the kind of trimming coverage we want,” Voss said.

While the first year of the program has a hefty price tag, Voss said regular pruning will reduce the number of supplemental crews needed as time passes.

“It's not in the long run a more expensive way to go, just a different way to go,” he said.

Representatives of West Coast Arborists did not return calls seeking comment. But the firm states in a report that grid trimming is better for addressing weakened limbs or pest infestations in the early stages.

The first district to be served includes the area north of Foothill Boulevard from Palm Drive to the western edge of the city and the area below Foothill and west of its intersection with Verdugo Boulevard.

District Two runs north of Foothill Boulevard from Palm Drive to Angeles Crest Highway. District Three contains the area from Angeles Crest Highway to Crown Avenue, north of Foothill Boulevard. District Four contains the easternmost section of the city, and District Five covers the remaining homes south of Foothill Boulevard.

Each of the five districts has between 2,400 and 2,690 city-owned trees.

Gonzalo Venegas, the city's facilities and maintenance superintendent, said the supplemental crews will be able to handle trees that are the subject of specific resident complaints.

A city staff report also highlighted the benefit of being able to tell residents exactly when trees in their neighborhood would be pruned. West Coast Arborists will place door hangers at residents' homes when their area is scheduled.

La Cañada resident Guenter Luettgens said that after seeing city trees suffer subpar pruning jobs in the past, he thinks the new system is a step in the right direction.

“I think in a way it'll be good, since the city will have a little bit more control over it, and there will be [resident] input into it,” he said. “You have to try something to see how it works.”

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