La Cañada City Council could reprieve deodar cedar tree

The deodar cedar is not native to La Cañada Flintridge, but the tree's deep roots in the city might save it.

City Council members on Monday decided to hold off on approving a simplified tree ordinance, which would have removed deodar cedars, California peppers and Chinese elms from the city's protection.

But after one resident argued that the deodar was historically significant to the city, especially in the Alta Canyada neighborhood, officials reconsidered their decision.

Bob Craven said he wasn't aware that officials had voted to remove the deodar from the protected tree list until he read an article in the Valley Sun.

“By removing that deodar from protection, the council will be taking an action that goes against the history and the visual beauty of our particular residential area,” he told council members. “Deodars are not native to California, this is true, he said. “But, in a sense, they are actually native to La Cañada Flintridge, certainly more native than I am and than most of you are. They go back about 100 years to when our area was developed.”

He asked the council to postpone approving the changes to the tree ordinance, adding that there are many opportunities for the trees to be damaged severely if residents are not required to care for them.

Newly appointed Mayor Laura Olhasso agreed with Craven.

“It just seems to me that we have not given the opportunity for the neighborhood to voice concerns,” she said. “I would like to see us continue this to our next meeting.”

Under current law, a property owner cannot remove a tree that the city deems should be protected for “historic or aesthetic importance” unless he or she obtains a permit. Damaging or causing a protected tree to die can result in fines. Removing one without a permit or excessively trimming one can also result in a fine.

Councilman Donald Voss said a tree's origin was a significant factor in considering which species were included in the ordinance, adding that the deodar trees would still have some protections if removed from the list.

“There are a combination of factors that will protect the deodars,” he said. “The right of way is an important one. There are nearly 600 deodars in the right of way of La Cañada Flintridge, so we are not in danger of losing deodars.”

Still, he moved to add the deodar cedar back onto the protected tree list and approve the new ordinance, but City Attorney Mark Steres said that council members would need to discuss and read over the ordinance at a future meeting before they could include the tree back on the list.

They also had the option to approve the ordinance and consider adding the deodar cedars at another time.

Council members decided to hold off on approving the measure, despite their eagerness to introduce a new, simplified tree ordinance. They are expected to discuss the addition of the deodar cedars to the protected tree list at their next meeting on Monday, April 1.


Follow Tiffany Kelly on Google+ and on Twitter: @LATiffanyKelly.

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