April 20, 2024 3:01 pm

Glendale City Council Enhances Urban Canopy Protections

Glendale’s Municipal Code is set to undergo significant revisions aimed at enhancing tree canopy protection, with an anticipated 40% expansion. Loren Klick, the city’s urban forester, anticipates that this adjustment will position Glendale as a leader in canopy protection within the state. The City Council, during its Feb. 13 meeting, voted to amend several ordinances pertaining to tree protection, extending existing safeguards for street trees to encompass city-owned trees in parks and open spaces.

Among the notable changes is the refinement of the fee citation process and fee amounts. Previously, the city’s ordinance lacked differentiation between minor and major violations for first-time offenses, resulting in uniform fines regardless of the offense severity. For instance, both minor violations like improper pruning and major offenses such as illegal street tree removal incurred a $400 penalty. Recognizing the ineffectiveness of these penalties in deterring tree destruction, city staff highlighted the need for stricter enforcement measures to maintain the tree canopy adequately.

Previously, the indigenous tree ordinance imposed a maximum penalty of $10,000 for unauthorized tree removal, but lacked clarity on appropriate fine amounts, necessitating case-by-case discussions with the city attorney’s office. The updated fines, now based on the city’s tree planting costs and tree appraised value, range from $1,090 to $26,210, contingent on tree size. Klick underscored the rarity of $10,000 fines, emphasizing the importance of robust penalties.

Councilwoman Elen Asatryan expressed reservations about removing the $10,000 maximum fee, citing concerns about the effectiveness of the city’s public outreach efforts in educating residents. Her apprehensions stem from a lack of confidence in the outreach and education initiatives, fearing inadvertent violations resulting in hefty fines.

To enhance public awareness, the Council passed a resolution during its Feb. 6 meeting, allocating $134,000 to fund a consultant-led multimedia campaign to educate the community on proper tree care, preservation, and permitting. Additionally, specifications for replacement tree sizes and planting methods have been added to ensure proper replanting.

The revised ordinance also empowers the city to mandate replanting of replacement trees if they die before reaching protected size, and to require an arborist report if construction may impact a tree. Councilmembers also discussed implementing a systematic tracking system to assess the impact of development on Glendale’s canopy.

While the Council maintained protections for six indigenous trees, including the bay tree, California sycamore, and native oaks, they refrained from extending safeguards to additional private trees and species due to potential costs and staffing implications. Public commenter Rondi Werner expressed disappointment, highlighting the need to protect heritage trees and restore the urban tree canopy.