Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Bureau of Street Services Stands by Tree Removal; Residents Want HPOZ Review Before Any Trees Are Removed

Residents contend Hancock Park's historic streetscape was altered by the loss of 31 street trees in violation of HPOZ process
Residents contend Hancock Park’s historic streetscape was altered by the loss of 31 street trees in violation of HPOZ process

On Tuesday, the Buzz reported that city workers cut down more than thirty trees in Hancock Park over the weekend. Since then, more information has come to light regarding the tree trimming…as well as an official response from the Bureau of Street Services (BSS), whose contractor Mariposa Landscaping cut down the trees.

According to the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, the trees in Hancock Park had not been trimmed in years. CD 4 Council Member David Ryu allocated discretionary funds to pay for overtime so trimming could be done on the weekends.  Neighborhood leaders asked for modest, limited trimming since the trees are an integral part of Hancock Park’s historic fabric. In addition to preserving the historic architecture of the neighborhood, the Hancock Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone’s Preservation Plan also requires the preservation of the “historic streetscape of Hancock Park.”  An objective of the plan is to “Promote the maintenance and enhancement of the traditional streetscape and parkways.” So neighborhood leaders contend that any removal of trees must be approved through the HPOZ process, which allows for neighborhood participation and is managed by the City’s Office of Historic Resources. 

Late in the day on Tuesday, Paul Gomez of the City of Los Angeles Public Works Bureau sent the statement below to the Buzz, explaining the removal of the trees was preceded by a determination that the trees were diseased and had to be removed. According to Gomez, the BSS, one of the five Bureaus that make up the Department of Public Works (DPW), had been working in the area for several weeks and is near completion of the tree trimming project.

According to Gomez, 31 London Plane (Platanus acerifolia) trees (which were uniformly planted years ago on a number of streets) required removal. The London Plane, a hybrid of the native California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa) and the non-native oriental plane tree, looks very similar to and is often mistaken for the native California Sycamore that grows quickly and tolerates the urban environment.  Once the trees were identified for removal,  Gomez said city workers tried to contact residents before they cut down the trees. For anyone they couldn’t contact directly, workers left doorhangers with a number to contact for questions.

But that account of events does not align with the experience of residents and the leaders of the Hancock Park HOA, who said no one was notified and city workers were only in the neighborhood for two weekends, with very little advance notice.

In a statement provided to the Buzz, Hancock Park’s HPOZ representatives have asked the City to immediately stop the trimming. Residents would like the City to provide a trimming and removal plan that includes an evaluation by an independent arborist for any trees that should be removed, with the plan presented to the HPOZ Board for review.  Further, once the plan is approved, they would like to proceed with one side of one block first, then stop and review the results before moving forward.

Not everyone is sorry to see the trees removed. One reader told the Buzz of a broken tree limb that had fallen on a parked car.  Thankfully, no one was injured, but even that reader agreed with other readers who said the street looks bare without the trees. The BSS said it would work with the community to replant a suitable replacement tree for every tree that was removed. According to the National Park Service, properly replanting a tree in an historic landscape can be challenging.  To ensure the growth of the new tree, it will certainly require the collaborative efforts of the neighborhood and the city to properly remove remnants of the old tree and place the new tree for optimum health while preserving the historic landscape.

As reported yesterday, the Board of Public Works is hosting a town hall forum this evening at 5:30 pm at Marlborough School (250 S Rossmore Avenue) and will address this issue as part of the agenda.  Everyone is welcome to attend.



As part of the Bureau of Street Services (BSS) commitment to maintain the City’s vast urban forest, BSS is currently utilizing funding provided by the Mayor and City Council to perform tree care services citywide including Hancock Park area. The Hancock Park area is specifically receiving City forces overtime tree care services included in this fiscal year budget, as well as tree pruning by City contractors.

The City contractor in Hancock Park and adjoining areas is Mariposa Landscaping. Mariposa Landscaping has been providing tree pruning in Hancock Park for several weeks. The contractor is nearing completion of the tree pruning project in the area.

City forces are also performing tree care in Hancock Park area, including tree pruning and declining/dead tree removal and replacement. The Hancock Park area includes several streets with uniformly planted London Plane (Platanus acerifolia) trees. Inspection of the area was performed prior to commencing the project. The inspection revealed many of the London Planes demonstrated signs of distress evidenced by mild to severe crown thinning and/or dieback. The crown decline is a result of several factors, including but not limited to Powdery Mildew and Anthracnose (sometimes referred to as Sycamore Blight), insect pests, and the drought.

Upon inspection review, it was determined that 31 London Plane trees were either dead or in such a severe decline as required removal. City staff attempted to contact the property owners adjacent to the proposed tree removals. If direct contact could not be made, staff left doorhangers notifying the resident of the proposed tree removal and a number to contact for questions.

On the weekend of September 17-18, 2016, City forces removed the 31 London Plane trees. City forces also pruned nearly 300 trees in the Hancock Park area over the last few weekends. Stump removal was additionally performed and will continue the weekend of September 25-26, 2016 until all stumps are removed.

City staff is reaching out to the Hancock Park community this week to determine a street tree replacement that is appropriate for the Hancock Park parkways and the community preference. All tree removal sites will be replanted.

Paul Gomez
Principal Public Relations Representative
Public Affairs Office
City of Los Angeles Public Works

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. Someone should submit a public records request to the Bureau of Street Services asking for all written communications, reports, emails, memoranda regarding the removal of these trees, including all such communications with Councilmember Ryu’s Office and with the subcontractor. Mariposa Landscaping. Also requesting a copy of the contract between the City and the subcontractor would help identify how the subcontractor is compensated and whether notice requirements to the HPOZ were provided for in the contract. In other words, did the City plan for this properly? Was the contract structured in such a way as to give the subcontractor and incentive to remove trees that might have been saved?


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