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|(May 13, 2020, 5:55 a.m.) --- LBREPORT.com has learned that CA Coastal Commission staff has concluded and alleges that violations of the Coastal Act occurred as a result of a work order issued by the City of Long Beach that led to trimming roughly 86 palm trees along Ocean Blvd. between Glendora Ave. and 72nd Place during bird nesting season that resulted in the removal of several great blue heron nests and the death of at least one heron fledgling during the week of May 4th.
In a letter dated May 11 obtained by LBREPORT.com, Coastal Commission Enforcement Officer Jordan Sanchez informed Long Beach Public Works Director Craig Beck (cc'd to City Manager Tom Modica) in pertinent part:
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LBREPORT.com has separately reported that the May 2020 tree trimming occurred under a City tree trimming contract extended through Sept. 30, 2020 (for $500,000) in a no-discussion City Council "consent calendar" voted action (Feb. 18, 2020, 7-0, Councilmembers Price and Richardson absent.) An examination of the underlying 2016 contract by LBREPORT.com indicates it doesn't prohibit tree trimming during nesting season and instead relies on various procedures to be followed by the tree trimmers regarding wildlife and bird nests .)
As previoously detailed by LBREPORT.com, almost exactly four years ago, the underlying contract came to the May 10, 2016 City Council meeting for approval. In testimony at that Council meeting, veteran LB wildlife protection advocate Ann Cantrell recommended that future contracts specify that tree trimming not take place during nesting season. Her recommendation wasn't followed by city staff or by the City Council as amendments to the contract increasing its total cost to over $7 million came and went.
In seeking the Feb. 2020 contract extension, city staff indicated it's planning a new procurement process for a new tree trimming contact. [LBREPORT.com has opined that the new procurement process offers an opportunity to include contract terms that could prevent or reduce the likelihood of similar incidents in the future by specifying that tree trimming not occur during nesting season except for exigent or other extenuating circumstances.)
Coastal Commission staff's May 11, 2020 letter notes that "within the last three years, several instances of unpermitted tree trimming and tree removal activities have occurred within the City..." and cites with displeasure an issue that arose over actions regarding nesting Great Blue Herons in palm trees adjacent to the Seaport Marina Hotel development [that resulted in stalling work related tot he development.]
[T]he [May 2020] tree trimming and nest removal are inconsistent with a coastal development permit (CDP No. 5-08-187) that the Commission issued to the City to ensure that tree trimming in the State Tidelands area of the City, nearby to where the activities at issue occurred, is carried out by the City in a manner that is most protective of wading birds and their habitat. For instance, CDP 5-08-187 requires that tree trimming or tree removal shall be prohibited during the breeding and nesting season of the bird species referenced above (January through September) unless the City of Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine, in consultation with a qualified arborist, determines that a tree causes danger to public health and safety...But in this situation, to the contrary, the City issued a Work Order to conduct tree trimming during the bird breeding season of what appears to be all trees in the median of Ocean Blvd., regardless of whether or not a public health and safety danger exists.
In the Peninsula street median May 2020 tree trimming, the Coastal Commission letter describes the City's "unpermitted development," recites enforcement remedies and seeks written commitment by the City "to resolve these violations in the manner described herein, by no later than May 15, 2020..."
The Coastal Commission staff letter states in pertinent part:
Our staff has confirmed that development, including the removal of heron nests and major vegetation, consisting of trimming of at least 86 palm trees that support heron nesting, has occurred in the median of Ocean Blvd. between Glendora Avenue and 72nd St., which is located within the Coastal Zone. Commission staff has researched our permit files and concluded that no coastal development permit has been issued for the development described above. Pursuant to Section 30600 (a) of the Coastal Act, any person wishing to perform or undertake development in the Coastal Zone must obtain a coastal development permit, in addition to any other permit required by law.
Public Works Director Craig Beck tells LBREPORT.com (May 11 morning email) that the tree trimming firm is preparing a report on the matter for delivery to city staff and the City is conducting its own review and working with a biologist to ensure proper notification is provided to CA Fish and Wildlife and the Coastal Commission. Mr. Beck indicated a City report on its findings is currently expected to be completed by the end of this week.
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