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City wants to uproot exotics

Four 'invasive' plants that drive out native vegetation are targeted for elimination. Property owners must comply.

August 26, 2010|By Barbara Diamond, barbara.diamond@latimes.com

Exotic might not be the word most people would use to describe artichoke thistle, but that's what plants that threaten native vegetation are called and the city wants to get rid of it.

The Fire Department Weed Abatement Coordinator is preparing to work with private property owners to eradicate the thistle, pampas grass, fountain grass and arundo on their land. The four plants are listed among the most invasive wild land vegetation by the California Exotic Pest Plant Council.

"Exotics are plants that multiple on their own indiscriminately, without care and naturalize where they are not native," said landscape architect Bob Borthwick

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Borthwick has donated time to the city to identify the key areas that need to be cleared in Laguna and Bluebird canyons.

The City Council approved in 2009 an amendment to the city code that added the four plants to the annual weed abatement program, finding them to be a danger to public health and safety by creating a fire or flood hazard.

Laguna's ordinance is based on one in Oceanside, believed at the time by the California Native Plant Society to be the only entity to adopt regulation of the exotics. Oceanside listed arundo, pampas grass and tamarisk, but not fountain grass or artichoke thistle.

Enforcement in Oceanside is triggered by complaints from the community, followed by an attempt to get voluntary compliance. However, Oceanside staff said the city had had to taken enforcement action.

Laguna's ordinance envisioned a program in which the first step toward eradication would be to notify the owners of property on which the exotics are growing of the problems created by the plants.

If notification does not move the property owner to action, the property is to be added to the next fiscal year's weed abatement program.

Under that program, private property owners receive a formal notice to abate the vegetation or the city will do it for them and place the cost on property tax bill, as is the bill for clearing weeds from private property .

If the costs of clearing the exotics are too great, Frank said the city will allow eradication to take place over time.

The city appropriates money annually to eradicate invasive plants from public property.

Environmental Committee member Greg O'Loughlin describes the city's eradication program as a group effort.

"Bob Borthwick went to the city, city staff talked to him and to us and we talked to Bob and to the city staff to identify the plants," O'Loughlin said. "There are far more plants we could add, but the city wanted to keep it clean."

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