Thanks to the quick action and vigilance of a neighbor, seven large Indian Laurel Fig (Ficus microcarpa nitida) trees at 4664 West Third Street were saved yesterday from illegal removal and destruction.
“I woke up to the sound of equipment being unloaded,” said Carrie Hayward who lives adjacent to the Hancock Villas at the corner of Norton Avenue and West Third Street in Windsor Square. “They had a chipper and a shredder and were getting set up to cut down the trees.”
Hayward confronted the private contractor saying that no permit had been approved to cut down the trees. The contractor said he had a permit for the work, but not on him. Hayward was skeptical and asked to see the permit. She knew the owner of the property wanted to remove the trees because notices had been placed on the trees months ago. She had been told the City would have a hearing on the request to remove the trees and she signed up to get hearing notices but had not received any notices.
While Hayward waited for another worker to bring the permit, she spoke to Tom Valenzuela at the Department of Urban Forestry, who told her the department had not issued a permit for removal of the trees. He also told Hayward that she could call LAPD to come out and take action against anyone illegally removing a tree.
“I was reluctant to call LAPD because I think that taxes their already limited resources,” said Hayward. “I’d rather have someone to call at the (city) council office who can sit down with us and help us work this out.”
In the end, Hayward, didn’t have to call LAPD. Once the other worker arrived with the permit, it was clear the permit was for sidewalk repair and not for tree removal. The contractor decided he needed to speak with owner of the apartment building before doing any work on the trees, and he left the job site.
Hayward was thrilled to have saved the trees from destruction, because they provide shade and hide the white stucco apartment building, she told the Buzz. She also said the trees help keep her house cool rather than reflect light and heat into her small building as well as others on the street. She’s worried that any replacement trees would take decades to reach a meaningful size.
Windsor Village resident Julie Stromberg alerted the Buzz when she saw Hayward’s post on Nextdoor.com. By coincidence, Stromberg, a member of the Committee on Urban Forestry, had been following up on the application to remove the trees that had been filed last March. According to Stromberg, whenever three or more trees are being removed, the Board of Public Works will have hold a public hearing. Once she realized the hearing had not taken place, and the removal was not approved, Stromberg also told Hayward to contact LAPD. Stromberg told the Buzz the city has shifted the enforcement for illegal tree removals from the Department of Urban Forestry to LAPD.
“If residents see a tree being removed illegally they should call 1-877-Ask-LAPD or 1-877-275-5273,” said Stromberg.
“I don’t know what happened,” Leeor Maciborski, the Hancock Villa apartment owner told the Buzz. “We are going back to the department of Urban Forestry to straighten all this out. We intend to remove the trees because they are cracking the foundation and deforming the first floor of the building, as well as uplifting the sidewalk, making it unsafe. We plan to replace the trees with something appropriate for the neighborhood.”
Maciborski told the Buzz he was surprised that this was considered news. He said he posted signs on the trees months ago and no one contacted him expressing concern. He also said he was frustrated with the City, which was on one hand happy to let him do the work to remove the trees, but has also taken months to issue the permit. He said he tried to prune the trees, but the City wouldn’t let him.
Maciborski said he was happy to work with the neighbors to find a suitable replacement trees.