An urgent message from our friend and neighbor Lori Paul:
It has come to my last minute attention that a large Indian Laurel Fig (Ficus) tree and a venerable Podocarpus tree growing by the corner of Green Street and Mentor have been tentatively approved for removal by the City of Pasadena.
These beautiful, mature trees are protected species under Pasadena’s tree ordinance, but because they are located in a privately-owned commercial walkway (near a parking lot), the application for their removal won’t be coming before Urban Forestry Advisory Committee (UFAC). Instead, Pasadena Planning Staff is recommending approval of their removal. Ostensibly, these protected species and size trees are being removed because they are “too close to the building,” and growing at an angle over the parking lot, but the real reason, as told to staff, is that the property owners intend to “renovate” the outdoor shaded walkway in the future and the trees need to go before they can submit new construction plans. See exact quote below.
Trees are not disposable on a whim, nor should protected trees utilized by birds and enjoyed by the public be chopped down simply because they are not perfect. These trees are healthy and an asset to the City. It is a slippery slope to grant the wish of every property owner whose manager doesn’t like sweeping up leaves or who has decided to pour more concrete and close off open spaces where living plants and trees now grow.
Landscaping designs and renovations need to creatively incorporate, not destroy, mature trees that require decades to grow and provide full benefits to the community. Trees are often mutilated by bad pruning or damaged by insufficient tree wells, then later removed. Those with ulterior motives use the excuse trees are surviving by growing in non-optimal locations or shapes to justify their removal. If every tree growing in a constricted concrete hole in walkway or flourishing in a too-small planter next to a building were chopped down, Pasadena would lose over half its mature trees.
The Planning Dept. report on the two trees in question can be read at the following link. Such tree removal applications should also go to the Urban Forestry Advisory Committee, but they do not under current Pasadena policy. This is a major loophole that many developers and property owners exploit to bypass expert botanical review and thereby remove large trees in the City. If a protected tree species must be removed for good reason, then the application should be able to pass UFAC approval, but that is not how the City works. It is time to change that.
“…The applicant explained to staff that the property owners have plans to renovate the bulding, including its facade and the walkway in the rear, however, the improvements cannot be performed until these trees have been removed. Although the applicant has not submitted plans for the renovation for the property, staff does not believe the removal of trees could be made using finding 6 above, in which the project includes a landscape design plan that emphasizes a tree canopy that is sustainable over the long term…”
In other words, if the existing trees are removed, the property owner’s new landscape design plan would not support the required replacement trees in their place, in spite of the property owner claiming otherwise. If the current trees are removed, no trees will be replaced that that site.
Instead, the property owners will be required to replace these mature, environmentally useful and lovely shade trees with (8) 32″ Ficus natida and (8) 20″ Poducarpus gracilior little saplings (or fewer trees in slightly larger containers)… planted somewhere off the property. Sound familiar?
This is how Pasadena will gradually become deprived of its large, mature trees that have grown “unfashionable” for new “streetscape plans,” building expansions, and so forth. Pasadena is an old city with an urban forest to protect and be proud of, not to chop down in bits and fits to suit the property owner du jour. Trees can outlive us all, giving cultural continuity to the City, along with so many other benefits.
Fortunately, Councilmember Terry Tornek has called this tree removal up before Board of Zoning Appeals (BOZA) on Wednesday the 15th, 6:30pm at Pasadena City Hall in the Council Chambers.
Please attend tomorrow’s meeting if you can! Speak for the trees that have no voice of their own. If you cannot, please send an e-mail ASAP.
E-mail protesting removal of the two trees at Green Street and Mentor must be sent before tomorrow (Wednesday 15 June) afternoon to:
Pasadena Zoning Administrator
Be sure to state that you want your e-mail comments entered in the official record for the Board of Zoning Appeals (BOZA) meeting on 15 June 2014.
It is important to CC:
Mayor Bill Bogaard
Pasadena Deputy Director for Planning
Councilmember Terry Tornek
Even a few sentences in your own words in support of saving these two “protected trees” would be helpful. (Please do not forward this e-mail with “I agree” or some other comment; that is NOT helpful. In fact, it is counterproductive. Yes, that has been done in the past, necessitating this caution.)
More about the Pasadena Tree Protection Ordinance & Tree Protection Guidelines: