P90717Many municipalities enforce tree preservation ordinances. Whether we agree with them or not, these ordinances are designed to preserve significant trees that are assets to the community. For the greater good, local governments have made it their business to limit what we can do with our own trees on our own properties. There are many advantages. There are many disadvantages. We arborists see it all.
Street trees, by general definition, are those that are close enough to a curb to shade a roadway and parked cars. In suburban and urban neighborhoods, many street trees are within parkstrips, which are the narrow spaces between curbs and sidewalks.
Neighborhoods of tract homes are typically outfitted with uniform trees of only one or two cultivars, that were all installed at the same time, as the homes were completed. Some neighborhoods of homes that were built individually are also outfitted with conforming street trees that were installed as parcels were subdivided. Most of such trees were installed as contingencies to development of the sites.
Since such trees were required by the associated municipality, they used to be maintained as such, just like any other trees in parks, medians or other public spaces. Municipalities that lacked tree preservation ordinances protected street trees as the public property that they were considered to be. Those who owned homes that were outfitted with such trees were not allowed to cut them down or even prune them without permission.
In some ways that sounds like a pretty good deal. The problem was that for many municipalities, it did not last. As the maintenance of maturing trees continually became more expensive, resources that used to be allocated for the maintenance of street trees were diverted to other projects. Although they do not like to talk about it, many municipalities no longer maintain their street trees, or do so selectively.
The aging trees remain. Many get cut down secretly by property owners who get frustrated by the lack of maintenance. Most are well maintained, but at the expense of those who own the properties where such trees live.
Most of us probably do not mind paying to have our street trees pruned when necessary. However, it is frustrating for those of us who must contend with some of the more problematic trees, and trees that are unusually expensive to maintain. Furthermore, property owners must assume the expense of repairing sidewalks, curbs and driveways that are damaged by roots, as well as damage to anything that limbs fall onto.
Municipalities that once required the installation of street trees, and that should still be encouraging residents to protect and appreciate their urban forests, are no longer able to assume the liability associated with street trees.
These pictures show two large limbs that fell from a big Canary Island pine onto two parked cars in Leimert Park of Los Angeles. A concerned citizen had contacted the Los Angeles Department of Public Works a few times about the tree, because one of the two fallen limbs had broken off quite some time ago, and was entangled with the other limb that broke and fell shortly before these pictures were taken on Sunday morning.P90717+

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6 thoughts on “Horridculture – Street Tree Neglect

  1. There’s a major controversy in Santa Barbara right now over a star pine which is leaning over a yard used by an autistic child. The parents want to deal with the tree while they can, and not leave that to the child to take care of. The City is refusing to let them remove the tree! Eventually it will fall, hopefully not hitting people or property!

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    1. You would not believe some of the very dangerous trees that some of my clients can not procure removal permits for. One of the worst was for a very dead and deteriorating ponderosa pine that was leaning towards a home. The tree was HUGE, and could have easily sliced right through the home. Once dead, pines deteriorate and destabilize fast! I had to write a long and drawn out report to explain that the tree was in fact . . . dead. (Like the Coroner of Munchkin Land proclaiming the witch under Dorothy’s house to be dead.) However, the client could not get a permit to remove it because someone noticed a hole bored in near the top of the tree, and thought that it might possibly and potentially and perhaps and maybe be inhabited by a common, as in not even endangered or rare, woodpecker. No one actually ‘saw’ a woodpecker up there, but that woodpecker, whether he or she lived there or in Algeria, had more rights to the property than the family that payed probably two million dollars or so to live there. Well, that is a rant for another time.

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