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Council to review view ordinance

Existing tree law was not strongly supported when it was passed, but times have changed, councilman says.

January 17, 2013|By Barbara Diamond

City officials will take another look at Laguna's View Preservation Ordinance.

The City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Mayor Kelly Boyd's proposal to form an ad hoc committee to review the ordinance. The committee will include six at-large members and a representative from the Design Review Board and Planning Commission, which will be appointed by Boyd, who will serve as chair.

"I want to put teeth in an ordinance that would work and would stand up in court," Boyd said.

The ordinance was first approved in 1996. An amendment to it that has been in effect since 2004 has been described as toothless, at best, and costly to boot — it costs $630 just to file a claim.

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Only one of the 32 speakers from the audience in the packed council chambers spoke up for trees.

"I love trees," said David Magden, who deplored people moving into a neighborhood and immediately demanding that trees be cut.

Supporters of stronger view protection voiced concerns about recalcitrant neighbors who refused to trim view-blocking vegetation, lack of enforcement, and loss in property value due to the loss of a view.

Laguna Nursery owner and Beautification Council President Ruben Flores cautioned against a one-size-fits-all approach.

"There has to be a better way than saying all trees must be topped at 30 feet," Flores said. "Not every tree can be trimmed the same way."

He offered to work with the city group on solutions.

"I am grateful the mayor recognized the ordinance doesn't work," said South Laguna resident Chris Toy. "The city needs to fix this problem. This doesn't mean taking a chain saw to all trees."

Councilwoman Toni Iseman said people who cite the Palos Verdes view ordinance as an example to Laguna have to consider the differences between the two communities; Rancho Palos Verdes is a planned community that paid $300,000 to implement its ordinance.

Iseman said the best solution would be a Good Neighbor Policy, but it doesn't always work, so enforcement needs to be more effective.

"The city addresses views in every other way, except trees," Cathy Sassin said.

However, Arch Beach Heights resident Steve Caparaso said more than views are involved. The fire hazard from palm and eucalyptus trees growing along narrow streets is a real threat, he said

"If a fire occurred, it might be impossible to stop it," Caparaso said.

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