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Education Matters: Are dollars lovelier than trees?

March 03, 2011

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

Back when the biggest housing development in Glendale’s history, Oakmont V, was proposed, I had a question about oak trees that was never answered.

Like most of people in our community, I was opposed to extending Oakmont IV, arguably the most unsightly development in our city’s history, and I was interested to know how it was that a developer was able to side-step ordinances in place that protect our magnificent oaks. Variances were granted back then, as likely they will be again for yet another developer who proposes to gouge out our local mountains with hundreds of condos and remove our beloved Verdugo Hills Golf Course, adding insult to injury.

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I have two oak trees on my property and am quite aware of laws in place that prevent me from trimming branches of a certain size, as well as laws that penalize tree services from working on oak trees at any time other than the summer months. There is a concerted effort to protect and save these old beauties, and yet, I’ll ask again: Why do I need to get special permission to even trim an oak on my own property while a developer could legally destroy a whole forest of them, some of which are more than 300 years old?

What special dispensation is given to businesses (developers) to do, en masse, what the law clearly prohibits each and every homeowner in the area from doing? What circumvention of the law is granted that allows a single business to supersede the longstanding commitment of a community to preserve a vital portion of its natural environment?

I suspect the answer has something to do with money, as it often does. If it can move mountains to cram more people into an area, it can surely uproot “protected” trees that are in their way. On the other hand, if a variance is granted on the basis of the public good being served, then something is definitely wrong. The opposition to the Verdugo Hills project has been overwhelming, so whose good are we referring to?

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