A group of Elysian Heights residents and Public Works Commissioner Andrea Alarcon on Sunday afternoon toured a hillside lot where a developer has asked to cut down more than 40 native trees protected by city ordinance. The developer, Planet Home Living, has proposed planting more than 160 replacement trees and to build a trail on a portion of the three-acre property, part of which will be left open to the public. However, many residents remain worried that the protected trees, primarily black walnut, will be cut down and no building will take place. Silver Lake blogger Diane Edwardson, who has opposed the project, explains why developers should not be allowed to cut down trees until they are ready to build:
The overwhelming message from the neighbors was, don’t grant the tree removal permits until the building permits have been paid for. As we’ve said many times, removing trees, prior to the true commitment to build (obtaining grading and building permits = a serious financial commitment), would be premature and leave the neighborhood at risk for further uncommitted speculation, increased risk of slope failure, mudslides and another ugly, eyesore problem lot, like the Menlo Property (which was barren for decades after the developer pulled out).
Alarcon and CD13 appear to be looking for a way to condition the tree removal permit to be tied to the building permits. No one seemed confident in their ability to do so.
Officials with Planet Home Living have said they have every intention of building the 15 homes on the site but recently put the property up for sale. The Board of Public Works is scheduled to once again take up the the developer’s request to cut down the trees, which are located on a slope that needs to be graded and stabilized, during a public hearing on Oct. 5.