The Laguna Woods United Landscape Committee on May 12 canceled the controversial $600,000 Canary Island Pine Tree Reduction Project.
Trees will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to a Village News release. An ad hoc resident advisory committee to oversee the project will continue as planned, and a proposed environmental report will proceed, the release said.
The United Laguna Woods Mutual Board, in a meeting May 10, approved a motion that would create the ad hoc committee.
Originally, the project proposed the removal of 393 Canary Island pines. That number makes up 40% of the 992 Canary Island species in Laguna Woods Village and 2% of all trees in total, according to a Village Management Services report.
At the United meeting, resident Mary Sinclair reminded the board that the “fatal flaw” of the project was its criteria for tree removal. These included infrastructure damage, dense canopies causing poor turf growth and a large number of needle pickup tickets, including from roofs and gutters, in addition to health decline.
Resident Carl Randazzo, who formerly served on the Maintenance and Construction Committee while seated on the board, said tree removal should be addressed from an engineering perspective.
“These trees can cause impediments to our infrastructure,” he said. “We need to ask how they are damaging our buildings, pipes, gutters and sidewalks.”
It also was noted that the project went against United’s Tree Removal Guidelines in the Landscape Manual.
“I think (the project was) a plan that was initiated incorrectly against the procedure that’s in place,” director Diane Casey said to crowd applause. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to spend money on these projects.”
Resident Cheryl Nielsen agreed with the creation of the ad hoc committee.
“We have involvement, transparency and voice to hold everybody responsible for the original guidelines,” she said. “Without that, this will continue to be a sore topic.”
The board passed the resolution to create the ad hoc committee 8-0-1.
Residents who are having issues with individual trees are advised to contact Resident Services at 949-597-4600 or firstname.lastname@example.org to initiate a Landscape Request Form. Or they can download the form from lagunawoodsvillage.com (Residents > Services > Maintenance & Landscaping > scroll down to Landscape Forms) and email it to email@example.com.
United board members discussed the proposed creation of an inter-board committee to address allegations of harassment, abuse and intimidation across all relations – residents, VMS staff and board directors.
According to the proposed policy, the six-member committee – made up of two directors from each mutual and GRF – would evaluate the nature of the unwelcome conduct; the context in which the incidents occur; the severity, scope, frequency, duration and location of the conduct; and the relationships of the people involved.
“There is a real need to have this [policy],” Casey said.
Board presidents and the VMS board chair collaborated with legal representative, attorney Jeff Beaumont, to develop policy for the ruling body, according to a VMS report.
The committee would be modeled after the Village Traffic Hearing Committee.
In opposition, Director Andre Torng said there needs to be a bill of rights for the person being accused before moving forward with the resolution.
Resident Maxine McIntosh, a former board member, summarized how proceedings have been put on, in closed session after board meetings, “which doesn’t work very well.” As a member, McIntosh said, she has witnessed unresolved issues escalate to police reports and legal involvement.
“Maybe calm discussion from a group that represents the whole Village will stop some of that,” she added.
United passed a resolution that ratified the temporary borrowing of $2 million from the Reserve Fund to satisfy cash flow needs for property tax purposes, issued in April.
“This is a short-term problem,” United President Anthony Liberatore said.
Payback of the borrowed amount is planned for June 30, a staff report said.
The board approved the resolution 9-1-0 on second reading. It takes immediate effect.
Forty additional COVID-19 cases were reported over the past week in the city of Laguna Woods, according to the OC Health Care Agency, as of May 17.
As of Tuesday, a total of 1,126 COVID-19 cases and 77 deaths had been reported in the city since the pandemic began.
Countywide, public officials were reporting as of Tuesday an adjusted daily case rate of 10 new cases per 100,000 residents across Orange County.
Testing positivity rates – the number of swabs and spit tests that return positive for the coronavirus – was reported at 4.4%.
The health equity rate – the test positivity of disproportionately impacted neighborhoods – was at 2%.
The average resale price for a co-op in United Mutual in April was $359,153, up from $266,819 in April 2021, according to a VMS staff report. Resales year-to-date numbered 169, up from 124 the same time last year. Sales volume in April was $16.9 million compared with $9.6 million in April 2021.