Published : Thursday, March 29, 2018 | 6:59 PM
On Monday, the Pasadena City Council stopped short of amending an existing ordinance to increase fees, fines and penalities associated with injuring or damaging protected trees without notice or permits. Instead, it was pulled and sent back for revision, according to a city spokesperson.
The deliberations over ratcheting up penalties have come in the wake of incidents in which developers have destroyed or injured protected trees, the most ironic of which, perhaps, was the destruction of two 35-feet-tall Canary Palm trees that once towered side-by-side over Twin Palms restaurant at the corner of South DeLacey Avenue and West Green Street in 2016.
The amendment now includes increased civil penalties and allows the city to recover financial losses that result from violations.
It would authorizes the city manager to “prepare and update tree protection guidelines and the tree replacement matrix.”
The existing ordinance provides for such offenses to be misdemeanors or infractions with fines set by the state—$1,000 or six months in jail or $250, respectively. Pasadena has fines and other costs it can—and does—impose on violators, but the report does not specify how much those fines currently are or if they will be raised.
“Part of what sets us apart in this community are the trees,” said Mayor Terry Tornek before the decision by the Council to call for revisions. Pasadena’s tree canopy “has a tremendous impact on people’s perception of the city, why people live here and people visit here.”
According to Tornek, there were “shortcomings” to the existing tree ordinance, hence the stronger penalties.
Destruction of and damage to protected trees are “huge,” although not necessarily frequent, problems, Tornek said.
“When it happens,” Tornek continued, “It’s very upsetting and the penalties, weren’t stiff enough to deter people. It’s about beefing up the penalty so that people who might otherwise ignore it and say ‘Look, I’ll just take the fine and do what I want,’ would be deterred.”
Now, said Tornek, “It’s an important enough penalty where people are going to take the ordinance seriously.”
The City’s delaying, suspending or revoking of any application for, or grant of, any discretionary permit that may be associated with the construction’s address carries serious implications for developers.
No schedule has yet been announced as to when the amendments will come back before the Council.