A case of mistaken identity and the near loss of a heritage oak tree prompted the city of San Marino to revise its policy for the trimming and removal of city-owned trees.
Previously, the Planning and Building Department had that responsibility. Following action by the City Council last week, it will now be taken on by the Park and Public Works Department, which will also abide by a new set of policies and procedures governing the trees.
The actions were facilitated by a recent mishap on Brentford Road. A contractor was hired to remove a dying oak in the public right of way — the strip of land between the street and private property lines. But because an incorrect address had been entered on the work order, the crew began attacking a healthy, 80-year-old oak, according to Environmental Services Manager Ron Serven.
Neighbors came out to complain about the work and a call was placed to the city. Soon, it was determined that the crew was cutting down the wrong tree, and the work was abruptly stopped.
Serven said that several large scaffold limbs were removed, but that the cutting was halted well before the life of the tree was jeopardized. He added that some follow-up pruning was conducted at the end of last week to improve the tree’s balance. “There was some structural damage, but I think it will grow back,” said Serven, who estimated that that would occur in 7-10 years.
Interim City Manager Cindy Collins apologized to Brentford residents at last week’s City Council meeting and cited new measures the city will take to reduce the chances of a recurrence elsewhere in the city.
Requirements of the newly adopted Street Tree Policy and Procedures include:
• Neighbors will receive public notices before a tree is to be removed or pruned. This will also apply to new plantings.
• Workers will not be able to begin work removing, pruning or planting trees without a staff member of the Park and Public Works Department present. The city has two certified arborists in its employ: Serven and Sam Estrada. Neither was available when the Brentford tree started coming down (Serven, in fact, was on vacation). One of the arborists or another staffer will be able to confirm the tree location and the work that is to be done. Serven also said a tree that is to be worked on will be physically marked.
• The Park and Public Works Department will have to apply for a permit from the Planning and Building Department if it wishes to remove a street tree with a trunk diameter greater than 6 inches. This is similar to a requirement that homeowners face if they want to take down a tree in their front yards that has a trunk diameter of 11½ inches or more.
On Brentford, meanwhile, additional trees will be planted at vacant sites where trees had previously been removed, Serven said.
Sloppy accounting over the past year continues to haunt San Marino, as Misty Cheng and Kenneth H. Pun, the city’s contract finance director and deputy finance director, respectively, work to clean up the city’s books. They’ve been on the job since former Finance Director Lisa Bailey abruptly left the city’s employ July 1.
The City Council had to appropriate $153,711 to cover five items that were approved during the fiscal year budget process but were not transcribed correctly. The most boneheaded such item was for a boom truck. It cost $183,000, but a digit was dropped when the item was entered in the budget. It was the most costly of the six digits: The truck was listed as costing $83,000.