Supes rescind ‘tune-up’ of county code that would impact oak trees

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors rescinded its intent to approve a “tune-up” of county’s planning code Title 22 in late December, after it was discovered that the incorrect agenda entry had been published in the board’s agenda, according to county officials.  

The item had drawn the ire of local environmentalists who contended the “tune-up” would make it easier for developers to remove oak trees without notifying the public in advance. 

“The board’s recission of the actions taken on Oct. 18, 2022, will allow the county to re-notice and re-hear the project with the updated agenda language, and provide the public with sufficient time to review and provide comments,” read a letter from the Department of Regional Planning. 

In October, the Board of Supervisors approved a “tune-up ordinance” which amended Title 22 in the county’s planning and zoning code. The “tune-up” enabled county planning officials to make modifications where they deem necessary and to correct what they consider to be discrepancies in the existing code.  

Also, it allowed them to correct typographical errors and clarify provisions spelled out in the code. They can clean it up and make it easier to read, erasing repetitive wording and removing provisions considered outdates.  

However, the changes would make it easier for developers to remove oak trees, as well as remove the need to notify the public when oak trees are about to be cut down. It also changed what’s required when it comes to actually replacing the oak trees. These changes provoked the ire of Santa Clarita Valley environmentalists. 

Lynne Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, or SCOPE, Cynthia Harris, past president of the Santa Clarita Oak Conservancy, and other SCV residents advocating on behalf of the trees wrote letters to the board asking them deny the “tune-up” ordinance. 

“I’m grateful that they are finally going to make it right,” Plambeck said. “I’m wondering why we had to go through all of this, you know. We were asking that they include oak in the agenda, so that people would know it was about oaks because everybody cares about them.” 

For example, an oak tree in Val Verde was cut down, Plambeck said. On the NextDoor app, residents of Val Verde had a thread going wondering why the oak had been removed from their community.  

Sometimes oak trees are cut down or removed if they are dead or sick, but the ordinance would make it easier to remove these trees without prior notification, she added.  

In November, SCOPE issued a letter to the county Board of Supervisors stating the county had violated the Brown Act, California’s open-meeting law. SCOPE argued that the county failed to be transparent when it posted the item on the agenda — as the county left out crucial verbiage that indicated the “tune-up” ordinance would also impact oak trees.  

“In this time of climate change when planting and protecting trees has been identified as a major means of reducing greenhouse gas effect on climate change, the county oak ordinance becomes even more important,” reads the letter SCOPE sent to the county Board of Supervisors.  

“This is the fifth time, (at least), that the county has failed to adequately provide an agenda description for an item for which our community would be gravely concerned,” the letter continued to read.  

The county responded to SCOPE and indicated that the “tune-up” ordinance would be rescinded during the Board of Supervisors’ final meeting of 2022. The project will be re-noticed and re-heard at a later date, according to a letter from the county’s Office of the County Counsel. 

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