LA City Beat article 3/22/07

[Open Space] Tree Trouble on the Hill
El Sereno residents say there’s something fishy about the way a number of trees mysteriously died on Elephant Hill a few weeks ago. One of Northeast L.A.’s few remaining open spaces, this parcel also happens to be the proposed site of a 24-home development which community members have been fending off for more than a decade.
“I took my map up there, and the clearing clearly took place within the disputed area,” says Elva Yanez, a local resident as well as executive director for the nearby Audubon Center in Debs Park. “I called the councilmember’s office, and I said, ‘This is urgent.’”
As of late, neighborhood activists have charged that the project has a curiously expanding footprint, which should void a decade-old environmental report used to approve it. Councilmember José Huizar, who represents the area, ordered the city to investigate that issue, and in the meantime brokered a handshake agreement to postpone any further work until said officials could report back, likely in mid-March. Residents now worry the developer has been trying to surreptitiously move forward with his plans.
Joe Avila, Huizar’s chief of staff, says he ordered a staff member to drop everything and investigate, but the preliminary findings there suggest nothing is actually amiss. “It appears the developer is keeping his word,” Avila says. “The city inspector is double-checking, but he says he has not seen any removal of trees, except for diseased ones.”
But rumors are spreading that some trees have been poisoned and uprooted as recently as a couple months ago, and eyewitnesses say a grove of trees on the property has definitely sustained relatively recent damage. “When I went up there [last spring], there was no access road that had been cut through the tree grove. Now there is,” says Clare Marter Kenyon. Environmentalists like Marter Kenyon say that the plants destroyed were actually protected by a municipal native tree ordinance
As chair of the Community Forest Advisory Committee, last year Marter Kenyon helped update the decades-old tree ordinance. Under the law’s new rules, the city can hold up building permits for such unauthorized razings. Avila says the city is verifying that the developer’s paperwork is in order. “If they were taken down, and it wasn’t done so legally, I want someone held accountable,” he says.
–Mindy Farabee

No comments: