Tree-cutting plan to be extended one year

Oak trees on a currently undeveloped piece of land off of the Old Road and Sagecrest Circle will be removed to make way for a development. Katharine Lotze/The Signal


Developers planning to cut down 162 oak trees for a senior condo complex near Towsley Canyon on The Old Road are expected to see their plan extended for at least one more year by regional planners Tuesday.

At a hearing open to the public, The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning is scheduled to consider a request by developers with DR Horton’s Western Pacific Housing Inc., to extend a senior housing project known as the Lyons Canyon Ranch project for one more year.

The plan to cut down 162 oak trees – including more than a dozen old heritage oaks – and to encroach on another 52 oak trees including half a dozen more heritage oaks – has been in the works for more than a decade.

Although it’s not a done deal, many county staff members recommended time extensions get approved.

“The time extension request will be considered at a Hearing Officer meeting tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the Hall of Records, 320 W. Temple Street,” Mitch Glaser, spokesman for the regional planning department, told The Signal Monday, noting the hearing is open to the public.

“Regional Planning staff has recommended approval of the time extension request,” he said. “Typically, the Hearing Officer will accept staff’s recommendation but the Hearing Officer could deny the time extension request.

In 2006, DR Horton’s Western Pacific Housing Inc., submitted a proposal to the county’s Regional Planning Commission calling for 93 single-family lots and 93 condos, all intended for seniors, on 234 acres, next door to the Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon, on The Old Road.

The proposal seeks permission to rip out 162 smaller oak trees, transplant 13 big oaks already on the land and get permission from the county to encroach on another 52 oaks, six of which are also classified as heritage oaks.

“If the Hearing Officer denies the time extension request, the applicant may appeal the decision to the Regional Planning Commission,” Glaser said.

In addition to obtaining an extension on its Oak Tree Permit to remove the trees, the developer also gets an extension on a conditional use permit allowing for the grading of a hilly terrain.

And while the project is a decade-old, opposition to those tree-cutting plans remain just as old.

It was July 16, 2008, when a handful of oak tree advocates made the trip to downtown Los Angeles to voice their opposition to the planning tree-cutting before the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission.

Heritage oaks are scenic or older oaks under the county definition.

According to the Sacramento Tree Foundation, large, old oaks that still stand in small groves or alone in our neighborhoods are often called “heritage oaks’ or “landmark oaks.”

A “heritage oak” is often defined as a living native oak tree, several hundred years old that is in good health.

Some heritage oaks have trunks with a circumference of more than 100 inches, but some have smaller trunks. Some very old oaks are tall, and some are quite short. The correlation between size and age is not straight forward when it comes to trees.

The health condition of trees is usually the deciding factor in the need for trees to be cut down.

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