HomeCity NewsLCUSD Working With Residents on Tree Removal

LCUSD Working With Residents on Tree Removal

First published in the April 14 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

After hearing from stakeholders concerned about the demolition of trees during the final phase of the Palm Crest Elementary modernization, the La Cañada Unified School District had assured that it would work with the community to be better neighbors and it looks to be keeping its word.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette provided an update to the $33.5 million project funded through Measure LCF bond revenue during a Governing Board meeting on Tuesday and said that the district will work with community members on the landscape design.
The proposed parking lot on Palm Drive will include 21 parking spots, a fire lane and another lane dedicated to pickup and drop-off. A 10-foot grassy median near the sidewalk may allow the planting of at least six box trees as large as 48 inches in diameter.
“Our goal is to make sure the landscape design involves the neighbors, that we’re very mindful of the park-like setting, of the beautiful trees,” Sinnette said. “We want to make sure the retaining walls are co-opted into the environment in a way that emphasizes nature and beauty.”
The district is looking to add greenery along the perimeter of the proposed retaining wall below the upper parking lot.
“The retaining wall, which is going to be right at the southernmost part of the old district office, is a place where we would add trees, we would look at shrubbery, we would also look at potential vines that could be placed in that area and be very active in promoting that the neighbors help select the trees and the landscape materials and the landscape design,” said Sinnette, who added that Harold Pierre, the district’s program manager, will save any trees removed if possible.
However, Sinnette reiterated that the safety of the children is the district’s top priority when it comes to the design of the mixed-use area on Palm Drive, as well as improving the traffic flow near the school.
“I think that’s our obligation,” Sinnette said. “It’s really of the utmost importance and then I think that there’s importance to — when we heard from the community throughout the facility master plan — pay attention to traffic flow and adequate parking because of the significant impacts that those have on the neighbors.”
Lawrence Moss, a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and landscape architect who was one of the community members asking LCUSD to save some of the trees on the site, reached out to the district and is willing to walk the site and submit a list of recommended trees.
“I think he could help us a lot with the type of tree selection,” said Board President Dan Jeffries. “I think he had some great comments about that at our last meeting. … When we did the walkthrough a couple of years ago, he knew a lot about the trees and what grows and what doesn’t grow, so I think he would be a good resource.
“I think we can accomplish both student safety and improved landscaping by adding some trees and doing some more work with landscaping and working with the neighbors,” he added.
Josh Epstein, board clerk, recommended that the district present renderings to the board and community before finalizing the design.
A call to preserve trees isn’t exclusive to district meetings. Some residents went to the City Council meeting last week asking that they reconsider a recommendation from the Planning Commission that granted the owner of a home on 5211 Harter Lane a tree removal permit to build an accessory dwelling unit on the property.
The homeowner had originally requested the removal of two trees, but the commission decided that modifications could be made to the ADU to preserve one of the other oak trees.
The council denied the appeal and unanimously voted in favor of upholding the commission’s recommendation. Their reasoning was that the homeowner took reasonable measures to accommodate the Planning Commission’s request to preserve a tree and reduce the size of the ADU.
“Of course, I want to preserve [oak trees] as much as possible, but at the same time I do believe in a property owner’s right to develop their property,” Councilman Jonathan Curtis said at the City Council meeting on April 5. “… I think the Planning Commission got it right. I think they hit the balance right as far as ‘OK, this tree needs to come out and the other one needs to be preserved.’”
According to Tala Madani, one of the five residents who co-signed the appeal, the city granted 65 tree removal permits the last two years and more than 100 trees were removed. Though the city requires developers to plant a tree if one is removed, Madani said it can affect property value.
“Yes, of course, fantastic that they’re putting new trees in, but not in our lifetime,” she told the council. “We won’t see them. The city’s character does get changed. The reason Alta Canyada is what it is, the [home] prices are what they are is because of those incredible pine trees. You take them away, you take away the whole neighborhood and its value and we want to argue the oaks are the same for us in our neighborhood.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]