Residents at the far north edge Elysian Heights were greeted Wednesday morning by the sound of buzz saws and cracking tree branches and trunks. Crews had begun to chop down a forest of pine, eucalyptus and other trees on an approximately three-acre parcel near Allesandro and El Moran Street where a developer plans to build 15 homes. Last year, the developer, Developer Planet Home Living, was granted permission to chop down more than 40 native trees on the site. But the Board of Public Works required that Planet Home could only start chopping down trees after it had purchased grading and building permits, a condition neighbors had insisted on after watching other developers mow down trees for homes, condos and apartments that were never built. Police officers called to the scene allowed the workers to continue after they showed a tree cutting permit issued by the city’s Department of Urban Forestry, according to one resident. But apparently the necessary building and grading permits had not been granted.
Today, the grassy hillside, crisscrossed with orange plastic netting around native trees protected by city ordinance, was silent and littered with sawed off branches and tree stumps Meanwhile, city officials are trying to determine what went wrong.
Julie Wong, a spokeswoman for Councilman Eric Garcetti, said in an email on Wednesday:
We are currently working with the Department of Public Works and the Department of Building and Safety to investigate the situation to see whether the developer is in violation of the terms of their agreement. Tomorrow morning, representatives of our office and Building and Safety will meet with the developer’s wildlife consultant and a few of the community members who have been involved.
Developer Planet Home Living said it needed to cut down the trees to stabilize and grade a slope on the property. Planet Home said it will plant more than 160 replacement trees and also create a trail that will remain open to the public.
* Update: After this morning’s meeting ,the Department of Public Works, under Commissioner Andrea Alarcon’s direction, is ordering a cease and desist on additional tree removal until the department can review the terms of the developer’s requirements to receive tree removal permits, said Wong in an email today. In addition, “the developer has voluntarily ceased further tree removal and brush clearance on the site” pending a consultant’s report on wildlife in the immediate area. “The City of LA is also moving to retain a consultant to provide us with another analysis (one not paid for by the developer) of the wildlife situation.”