Cutting down tree is serious business for city council

The Claremont City Council voted to keep a tree in place, approved community-based funding for the next year and honored a multitude of Claremonters during Tuesday’s meeting.

The city-owned European Hackberry tree, located in front of the home of Chip and Linda Chavez on Georgia Court, has been there since 1992. Ms. Chavez blamed the tree for regular aphid infestations, the loss of her acacia tree and damage to the sewer line. She also shared concerns about a split limb on the tree that may pose a threat for neighboring children.

Interim Community Services Director Dave Roger refuted the claim of danger, saying the tree was essentially repairing itself from the split.

“The limb is stable. It’s actually putting on what we call reactive growth, which means it’s putting on new wood to support itself,” Mr. Roger said, noting that the sidewalk brought up from the root of the tree will eventually be replaced.

Damage to hardscape, Mr. Roger noted, is not covered under the Tree Policies and Guidelines Manual as a reason to cut down a tree. The manual notes that trees are only to be removed if they are dead, dying, diseased with no expectation of recovery or pose a hazard to the public.

Ms. Chavez asserted that the split limb does constitute a hazard to the public, as it might fall on nearby schoolchildren. The Chavezes hired an arborist, who claimed that the limb could fail as the tree puts on mass.

“If that limb falls on a child or a tree or a car—I don’t care what it falls on—we’re going to make sure that the city had known about this tree and did absolutely nothing about it,” Ms. Chavez said.

Chip Chavez told the council that removing a single tree wouldn’t do any harm to the city.

“We’re talking about a tree,” Mr. Chavez said. “This is a tree in a cul-de-sac that I guarantee you, with all due respect to folks sitting in front of me and people sitting behind me, have no clue where that tree really is and what it’s all about.”

The Chavezes claimed that the city has failed to adequately care for the tree in the 24 years since it was planted, and water restrictions prevented them from washing down the sap from the driveway. Mr. Roger pledged the community services department will inspect the tree annually for any additional problems.

The tree removal request was denied first by the city’s Tree Committee and the Community and Human Services Commission before heading to the council via appeal.

Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali brought forth the option of leaving the tree while removing the limb in question, but Mr. Roger noted that cutting off the limb would leave the tree looking “lopsided,” a concern seconded by Councilmember Larry Schroeder.

Councilmember Corey Calaycay said chopping down the tree would open a “Pandora’s Box” for other residents to request removal of city-owned trees.

“I want to be very careful about setting precedents, because if we make an exception here then there are opportunities to make exceptions in other places,” Mr. Calaycay said.

Mr. Nasiali’s motion to save the tree but remove the problematic limb passed 4-1, with Mr. Schroeder casting the only negative vote.

The council also welcomed Roger Bradley to his post as the new Community Services Director. He comes to Claremont from Dublin in Northern California and will take over a program that has gone almost a year without a permanent director.

“Throughout his career, he has successfully implemented programs to provide quality service to the community, while improving environmental sustainability that is financially prudent,” City Manager Tony Ramos said. “And I like that part.”

Mr. Bradley told the council he was excited about the job and to be a part of Claremont.

“Claremont is a wonderful place and my family is getting settled in,” Mr. Bradley said. “We love it very much.”

The council welcomed the new director, with Mr. Pedroza offering a bit of tongue-in-cheek advice.

“Stay away from the supermarkets. You’ll get bombarded,” he joked. “Check into ordering your food online.”

Tuesday also marked the Mayor’s National Day of Service, and the council spent the early portion of the meeting recognizing myriad volunteers and employees who make a difference in the community, including police explorers, park rangers and AmeriCorp and SeniorCorp volunteers.

Among the honorees were Eagle Scouts Ben Bidwell and Jack Campbell from Troop 402, who worked to improve the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. Ben worked on a number system to help determine locations in the park for maintenance and emergencies, while Jack worked on replacing mile markers with QR codes that would help hikers learn more about the area.

“It really is a great pleasure to recognize all the volunteers, and that is just a fraction of all we have in the community,” Mr. Pedroza said.

Early in the meeting, the council heard a positive update from the Claremont Girl Scouts on La Casita, an old adobe house used by the scouts that was recently put on the chopping block by the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles (GSGLA), according to a January 2015 article in the COURIER.

“We want to thank you again, because a resolution that the city council passed helped gather the support we needed to convince [GSGLA] to remove La Casita from their hit-list of properties to sell or, as they say, retire.” Georgeann Spivack, a troop leader who spearheaded the efforts to save the house, told the council.

Ms. Spivack noted that the property is still “under review” and not completely saved yet, but the scouts are sprucing it up, including building an archery range on the property, which should be ready to use by May.

“We couldn’t have done this without the support of you,” Ms. Spivack said. “Next year, we hope to come back with even better news to share.”

The council also received a report on funding the community based organization (CBO) general services and homeless services programs for the coming year. The report by Human Services Supervisor Ali Martinez was the culmination of three public meetings to consider funding requests for the 2016-17 year.

Funding amounts for general services was $86,650 and funding for homeless services was at $60,000, according to Ms. Martinez.

Approximately $11,975, or 8.1 percent of the total available funding, will be allocated toward new and emerging needs, such as Project Art Start, Women’s Program, Claremont Matters Initiative and the College Writing Workshop, according to the report.

The council unanimously approved the report, which had to be split to two different votes due to Mr. Calaycay’s part-time employment at Fairplex, which sponsors one of the CBO initiatives, the Big Yellow Bus program. Mr. Nasiali also abstained due to his involvement with Meals on Wheels, another CBO initiative.

During public comment, Claremont Heritage Director David Shearer announced that the Renwick House had been nomination into the National Register of Historic Places had been approved, following a unanimous recommendation from the State Office of Historic Preservation.

The next council meeting will take place on May 10.

—Matthew Bramlett


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