Piece of Mind: A hardship, not a bonus

No sooner do we get lulled into thinking our city should be at the top of those lists of best places to call home than we are faced with a reason why maybe the arbiters of such things might actually know what they’re doing when they omit our little Tree City U.S.A. from their glowing reports.

What, you might wonder, has brought on such a thought? Just one little thing, honestly. I’m seeing a nit and I’m in the mood to do a little picking.

Until yesterday, my La Cañada-honed boosterism felt at nearly an all-time peak. How cool, after all, was last weekend? Congratulations to Todd Andrews and his organizing committee behind the 9.10.11 celebration. It was fantastic to see so many people turn out for the first event of the weekend, the party/picnic/concert in Memorial Park on Friday night, and to learn from the various organizations who held open houses and offered volunteer opportunities all day Saturday that our residents were engaged in a host of activities.

I can’t speak for how well all the merchants fared as they promoted 9.10.11 by enticing customers indoors, but Foothill appeared to be bustling midday Saturday when I had an appointment with my personal goddess of hair, who toils in the 1100 block. I can guarantee that particular shop was counting some serious coin by the end of the day, as it was crawling with women in need of care.

Salutations to the Young Republican Club, which presented the local observance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This event, held Sunday afternoon at La Cañada Presbyterian, had a respectable turnout of about 100 people, including some area dignitaries. The club is led this year by high school senior Alex Keledjian, whom I met this summer and found to be earnest. I’m very pleased his group’s tribute went well.

Also on the plus side of our city’s register this week is the grand opening this Saturday of the Sturt Haaga Gallery at Descanso Gardens. This is a welcome addition to the community, as it affords another opportunity for cultural and educational enrichment for us all. Cheers to all involved.

OK. You’ve been waiting for the “but…” too long. Here’s what’s bugging me today: The story we’re publishing about Roberta Dominguez, who just wants to take out a Chinese elm that is causing damage to her La Cañada property. She is getting nowhere fast with City Hall.

I felt sorry for her when earlier this year she was denied a permit to pull it out. Now I’m just plain irritated on her behalf. Read for yourself the article on the Planning Commission’s ruling on her appeal and see if you agree with me that she has some cause to be frustrated with her recently-adopted hometown.

I get it that the commissioners are following the letter of the law. We expect them to do that. So let’s take the heat off them and place it, instead, on ourselves.

By not demanding changes to our tree ordinance —and they needn’t be drastic, just practical— we have hamstrung people like Dominguez. If a tree is damaging any hardscape, I don’t care if it’s a patio, driveway or the wall of the house, it needs to go. And we as homeowners should not be told we could spend up to $10,000 in remedies that would keep a tree valued at $900 alive, as Dominguez heard from the commission chairman this week. And get this (spoiler alert, if you haven’t gotten to that article yet): The city is already considering removing the Chinese elm from its protected status. This means Dominguez has had a months-long headache and seen plenty of cash evaporate from her bank account over a tree she might not even need to seek approval to remove some day in the future.

I’m a softy on trees, honestly. I’ve registered complaints when protected specimens have been hacked to death. I would not give an inch to someone who wants to remove a protected tree to enlarge a house, or to widen a driveway. But surely we can put our heads together and suggest wording for the tree ordinance that involves some common sense. Being a resident of a Tree City U.S.A. should be a bonus, not a hardship

CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the La Cañada Valley Sun. She can be reached at ccormaci@valleysun.net or carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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