Oak Protection in Kern County Subject of Planning Department Letter

FRAZIER PARK, CA (Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010, 9:16 a.m.)—Linda Robredo, who says she has an appointment to speak about proposals to protect heritage oaks with Kern County Supervisor Ray Watson in Bakersfield on Wednesday, Oct. 13, writes that she has been receiving calls early this morning regarding the report below about a letter from Kern County’s planning department regarding oak tree protection.

Robredo asked us to post this comment: "I want to thank everyone who took the time to communicate to Ray Watson’s office by e-mail, by phone call, by FAX and by letter that they do what scenic heritage oak tree ordinance in Kern County. It looks like Ray has heard from the community now. This is a large beginning step achieved by our active community members. I am humbled and grateful for your response to this call to action."

FRAZIER PARK, CALIF. (Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, 9 p.m.)–When Kern County contractors and county personnel killed a 400-year-old heritage oak tree (and another 200-300 year old oak) at the new library construction site in Frazier Park on the morning of Saturday, June 12, widespread expressions of community trauma led to the call for a Kern County oak tree ordinance to protect heritage trees.

"This is what makes our area unique," businesswoman Linda Robredo said in an appearance before the Kern County Board of Supervisors last month. She spoke about the priceless scenic value of the heritage oaks to the Frazier Mountain Communities.

"We live here because we like the nature that surrounds us; we don’t want this place to look like downtown Bakersfield," Frazier Park architect Max Williams said as he looked at the paved parking lot where the oaks once stood. In a public records request by The Mountain Enterprise, Williams helped determine that the supervising Kern County Construction Services Department did nothing for eight months while the contractor ignored detailed instructions in their $4.6 million contract to protect the heritage oaks before beginning construction. No action has been announced to hold the contractor, Tilton Pacific Construction, Inc., financially accountable for the errors and omissions that led to the death of Frazier Park’s legacy trees.

Kern County Planning and Community Development Director Lorelei Oviatt sent a letter on Friday, Oct. 8 to members of Supervisor Ray Watson’s appointed Mountain Communities Municipal Advisory Council (MCMAC). Although oak ordinance requests came from members of the community, not the MAC, the letter asks the appointed MAC members to comment regarding an oak tree ordinance for Kern County. This item will be on the November 30 agenda for the board of supervisors, she writes. Oviatt’s letter follows:

Lorelei H. Oviatt, AICP, Director
2700 "M" STREET, SUITE 100
BAKERSFIELD, CA 93301.2323
FAX: (661) 862-8601 TTY Relay 1-800-735-2929
E-Mail: plannlng@co.kern.ca.us
Web Address: www.co.kern.ca.Lis/planning
October 8, 2010
Planning and Community Development
Engineering, Surveying and Permit Services
Roads Department
File: Mountain Communities
Municipal Advisory Council
TO: Members of the Mountain Communities Municipal Advisory Council
RE: Presentation to the Board of Supervisors November 30, 2010
Requesting direction on interest in the formulation of county-wide additional Oak
Tree Policies

Dear Council Members,
The Planning and Community Development Department has received correspondence from
interested parties asking for the adoption of an oak tree ordinance by the County. A board item
will be placed on the November 30, 2010 afternoon agenda (2:00) for the Board of Supervisors
to discuss and provide direction to the department on this matter. Different types of oaks occur
in various parts of the county including the Frazier Park/Lebec/ Pine Mountain Club area, Kern
River Valley and Tehachapi Mountains.

During the update of the Kem County General Plan in 2004, extensive public meetings
were held specifically on the subject of protection of oak trees and oak woodlands. These
meetings were held in Frazier Park and Tehachapi and resulted in the attached policy. The staff
initiated changes to the Frazier Park/Lebec Specific Plan approved by the Board of Supervisors
on May 11, 2010 incorporated this policy into the plan. This policy applies to all discretionary
actions such as conditional use permits, precise development plans and residential subdivisions
including parcel maps. The policy has been successfully applied and implemented county wide
on a number of projects and is fully enforceable and binding on projects by law.

The policy does not address privately owned trees in homeowner’s backyards or county
construction projects and it appears the request for an oak ordinance is to address the protection
of these trees. The report that the department will be presenting to the Board of Supervisors will
include the following discussions:

• Cost of workshops and staffing for community outreach county-wide to determine the
need and type of additional land use restrictions for oak protection.

• Potential cost of implementation of a program for required permits for any removal or
trimming of oak trees, including additional code compliance staff, cost of permit to
property owner, technical consultant retained by county for evaluation of the requested
actions by the permit including a site visit and cost to homeowner of arborist to prepare
the permit request.

• Assessment of incorporating this matter into future workshops needed for update of the
Kem County General Plan, scheduled to begin in 2012.

As a representative Advisory Council for the area your comments will be important for the
department and Board of Supervisors to consider. Please submit your comments directly to this
department with a copy to Supervisor Watson by November 19, 2010 so. that they can be
incorporated into the Board letter prepared for this matter. Of course comments can also be sent
directly to the Board at any time and testimony will be accepted on the item on November 30,

Thank you for your consideration of this matter and any comments you can provide.

Lorelei H.Oviatt, AICP
cc: Supervisor Watson


Frazier Park/Lebec Specific Plan ( 2010)

1.10.10 Oak Tree Conservation Policies

65. Oak woodlands and large oak trees shall be protected where possible and
incorporated into project developments.

66. Promote the conservation of oak tree woodlands for their environmental value and
scenic beauty.

Implementation Measures

K.K. The following applies to discretionary development projects (General Plan
Amendment, zone change, conditional use permit, tract maps, parcel maps, precise
development plan) that contains oak woodlands, which are defined as development
parcels having canopy cover by oak trees of at least ten percent (10%), as
determined from base line aerial photography or by site survey performed by a
licensed or certified arborist or botanist. If this study is used in an Environmental
Impact Report, then a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) shall perform the
necessary analysis.

a. Development parcels containing oak woodlands are subject to a minimum
canopy coverage retention standard of thirty percent (30%). The consultant
shall include recommendations regarding thinning and diseased tree removal in
conjunction with the discretionary project.

b. Use of aerial photography and a dot grid system shall be considered adequate in determining
the required canopy coverage standard.

c. Adjustments below thirty percent (30%) minimum canopy standard may be
made based on a report to assess the management of oak woodlands.

d. Discretionary development, within areas designated as meeting the minimum
canopy standard, shall avoid the area beneath and within the trees unaltered
drip line unless approved by a licensed or certified arborist or botanist.

LL. The following applies to development of parcels having oak tree canopy cover of
less than ten percent (10%), but containing individual oak trees equal to or greater
than a 12-inch diameter trunk at 4.5 feet breast height.

a. Such trees shall be identified on plot plans.

b. Discretionary development shall avoid the area beneath and within the trees
unaltered drip line unless approved by a licensed or certified arborist or botanist.

c. Specified tree removal related to the discretionary action may be granted by the
decision making body upon showing that a hardship exists based on substantial
evidence in the record.

This is part of the October 08, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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