Trees, bugs, money: council works through busy agenda

There was no rest for the weary as the Claremont City Council faced a full agenda for their first meeting of 2017.

The council highlights included voting unanimously to take charge on combating the Polyphagous Shot-Hole Borer, denying a request to cut down a Eucalyptus tree, approving a raise for the city manager and greenlighting the creation of a new Committee on Human Relations during the January 10 meeting.

The Polyphagous Shot-Hole Borer is a new bug discovered last year that could have a devastating effect on the city’s heritage trees.

Deputy Director of Community Services Dave Roger presented the report, outlining a number of treatment options with various price tags. The option recommended by the city involved treating the oldest and most vulnerable trees.

This option, which would cost around $287,000, would leave the youngest infected trees alone, but Mr. Roger noted that the borer usually targets older trees and the younger trees have a better chance of fighting off the disease.

Under the plan, 1,962 trees would be treated. In total, the borer has infested just over 5,700 trees, and it would have cost $333,465 to treat all of them.

Most of the money for the treatment—$239,000—will come from the city’s Operating and Environmental Emergency Reserve, Mr. Roger said. An additional $38,000 will come from the community services department’s funds, as well as a $10,000 donation from Friends of the Oak Park Cemetery.

Signs of the borer, which includes little holes in the trunk of the tree that resemble a shotgun blast, have been found in nearly all the city’s parks, including Oak Park Cemetery, Blaisdell Park, Memorial Park and College Park.

The most effective treatment method, Mr. Roger said, is a “trunk injection,” which involves cutting a hole into the living tissue of the tree and directly placing the treatment chemicals inside. This method was approved by the council.


Tree removal request denied

The city also denied a request from a homeowner to cut down a large city-owned Eucalyptus tree on San Fernando Road, right at the edge of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park (CHWP). The denial upholds the Community and Human Services Commission’s ruling handed down in December.

The homeowner, Jan Iocco, claimed the tree was a fire hazard—a “fire bomb” type of tree that could potentially destroy her house in the event of a large fire.

She noted the city received $180,000 in grant money in 2012 to take down 139 Eucalyptus trees for the Sycamore Canyon Park Restoration Project, but only 35 had been removed. Comparatively, Ms. Iocco noted the city of Whittier was given $190,000 to remove 3,000 trees.

“I don’t know, the math seems interesting,” she said.

City Arborist Ian Gray told the council that city employees had already pruned and cut back the tree to reduce the canopy and a potential fire hazard. He said that although the Eucalyptus tree does present an elevated fire risk, it does not merit a removal, as it does not cut back on the overall fire risk in the neighborhood.

The city also noted that the grant money for the Sycamore Canyon project would be used in a “phased approach,” over several years, and the 35 trees removed thus far were either dead or dying.

The council voted unanimously against Ms. Iocco’s appeal, but Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali added a provision that city staff would continue to monitor the tree.


Human Relations Committee created

The council also approved the re-creation of a new Committee on Human Relations, which will tackle education in the realm of human relations and respond to hate incidents in the city.

The previous Committee on Human Relations was dissolved in 2013 after a lack of direction and a quorum, and a smaller hate crime response team was created in its place.

The new committee will be comprised of response team members Lauren Roselle and Paul Buch, as well as Ellen Taylor, Rose Ash and Michael Edwards.

The committee’s creation was spurned by the recent appearance of an anti-Muslim letter to the Islamic Center of Claremont. To avoid the same fate that befell the previous committee, the new committee will create a work plan for the year and adhere to monthly benchmark goals.

The council approved the committee and the members, but the Community and Human Services Commission will approve subsequent new members in the future. The next city council meeting will take place on January 24.

—Matthew Bramlett


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