Oak Tree Protection Before Kern BOS on Tuesday, Nov. 30

FRAZIER PARK (Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, 3 p.m.)—Mountain Community concerns about protection of our regions heritage oaks, especially on county-owned lands, will be considered on Tuesday, Nov. 30 by the Kern County Board of Supervisors. A request for direction about expanding protection for heritage oak trees in Kern county is being presented to The Kern County Department of Planning and Community Development.

Here is the request, as presented by Lorelei Oviatt, planning department director.

November 30,2010
Board of Supervisors
Kern County Administrative Office
1 1 15 Truxtun Avenue
Bakersfield, CA 93301
Request for Direction on Potential Expansion of County-wide Policies for
Protection of Oak Trees and Oak Woodlands
(Fiscal Impact: Unknown) All S.D

This matter is a request for direction from your Board on community requests from the
Frazier Park/Lebec area to expand the countywide policies for protection of oak trees and
oak woodlands. The request for expansion of policies is in three areas 1) direct General
Services and Parks and Recreation to develop specific guidelines for protection of oak
trees on county land and county projects, 2) expand protection to an oak tree ordinance
that would include protection of all oaks on private property and 3) conduct public
workshops county-wide to determine what level of regulation the communities want.
 

Different types of oaks occur in various parts of the County including the urban areas of
Bakersfield, Frazier Park/Lebec/Pine Mountain Club area, Kern River Valley and
Tehachapi Mountains. Parks and Recreation estimates over 2000 oaks are currently on
County owned lands at our urban parks (Heritage Park, Metro Park, Kern River County
Park, etc) as well as oaks at our mountain parks; Greenhorn Mtn. Park, Frazier Park and
Tehachapi Mtn. Park. The California Integrated Hardwood Range Management program
estimates there are 731,000 acres of existing oak woodlands, largest number of acres of
such resources of all counties in California. While other areas in the state have lost
significant acreage through development and most recently disease, estimates of the loss
in Kern County range from 15 to 20% total loss of acreage since the 1990′s. This
relatively slow rate of loss can be attributed to the historically slow rate of growth in the
mountain and valley areas of the county, in combination with the presences of historical
farming and ranching operations such as the Broom Ranch, San Emigidio (owned by the
Wildlands Conservancy) and Tejon Ranch, each of which consists of substantial acreage.
 

During the update of the Kern 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 ParkILebec Specific Plan approved by the Board
of Supervisors on May 1 1,2010 and the Greater Tehachapi Area Specific and
Community Plan approved on November 9, 2010 incorporated this policy into these
plans. This policy is in full compliance with Section 21083.4 Conversion of Oak
Woodlands in the amended CEQA guideline and applies to all discretionary actions such
as conditional use permits, precise development plans and residential subdivisions
including tract and parcel maps. In summary, it requires that if a project has oak
woodlands than it is subject to a minimum canopy coverage retention standard of 30% ,
trees are to have protected areas beneath and within the trees unaltered drip line and
recommendations regarding thinning and diseased tree removal shall be included in a
site specific report. If the property does not have oak woodlands but instead has
individual oak trees than the policy requires protection of trees greater than 12 inch
diameter trunk at 4.5 feet breast height, protection of unaltered drip line and evidence
submitted for the record that protection of the tree would be a hardship. 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. Real estate interests and development
applicants have noted to Staff that having oak trees and oak woodlands on property
enhances the property value and it integral to the economic marketing of projects. The
Kern County General Plan policy is attached for your reference.

Recent events in Frazier Park concerning the construction of the Frazier Park Library as
well as a recent determination that three oak trees in the County park require removal
have focused the Mountain Community Municipal Advisory Council, and the Oak Tree
Committee of greater Frazier Mountain community on oak tree protection. The
Mountain Community Municipal Advisory Council has requested policies be developed
for Kern County departments to establish oak tree maintenance policies and staff work
with regional MACs and other public forums to determine the need and viability of
measures to protect oak trees on both public and private land. The Oak Tree Committee
is requesting that public workshops be conducted to assess the county-wide need and
methodology for use of an oak ordinance.

Staff has reviewed the ordinances of surrounding counties and summary is attached. The
protection of oak trees in most counties focuses on agricultural land or development
projects. Research specifically asked the various jurisdictions what protections were
provided if a homeowner wanted to remove a tree to construct a garage addition. Some
areas do require a permit, but many do not. In the case of Los Angeles County such a
permit requires fees of $8,172 and further restrictions on construction around the tree.
San Luis Obispo County does not require a permit for a residential lot and Santa Barbara
County does not require a permit for a residential lot but encourages preservation. The
implementation of an ordinance that would regulate trees on private property for
ministerial tree permits would require new permit fees, planning department staff, and
additional code compliance staffing. In addition an arborist would need to be retained
and those costs included in the permit. Oak trees are an enhancement to property values

for individual owners but older trees can endanger structures and people if not properly
maintained. Implementing restrictions on private property for the management of oak
trees will add a regulatory burden during these already difficult economic times for
homeowners. Costs for the creation and implementation of any such ordinance will
either be defrayed from permit fees or from the General Fund. Staff has no indication
that there would be enough permits to support the program. While soliciting community
input is always a top priority of the department, staff does not recommend a workshop
program to discuss this issue with the affected communities unless your Board is
interested in pursuing an expanded policy or ordinance to address privately owned trees.
Such a program would cost over $7,000 in staff time, and with the current workload of
Board directed projects and applications there is a lack of resources to start a new
program in the 2011 -2012 year timeframe.

As the current General Plan policy continues to be successfully implemented on
development projects, staff recommends no changes in that policy and does not support
the development, at this time, of an oak tree ordinance that would make trees in residents
backyards subject to a review and permit. Staff is encouraged by the voluntary efforts
now being promoted by the community and believes they are the best approach for the
communities interested in protection of privately owned trees.

In consultation with General Services and the Parks and Recreation department, staff has
concluded that creating clear guidance for management of oak trees on County owned
land and County projects would be useful. Such guidance would also apply to projects
implemented by Roads, Community Development and all County departments. The
guidelines would also include compliance with the General Plan policies and address
criteria for decisions on management of aging oaks, removal and potential replacement.

Therefore, IT IS RECOMMENDED that you direct General Services and Parks and
Recreation to develop guidelines for protection of oak trees on county owned lands and
for County projects, receive and file this report.

Sincerely
Lorelai H. Oviatte, AICP, Director
Kern County Planning & Community Development Department
 

LH0:jb
Attachments
i:\adm\jvb\board.ltrRequest on Oak Tree policies 2.1tr
cc County Administrative Office
County Counsel
Development Services Agency
Roads Department
Engineering Surveying and Permit Services
Grand Jury
Mountain Community Municipal Advisory Council
Oak Tree Committee of greater Frazier Mountain community, P.0 Box 1863,
Frazier Park, CA 93225
Friends of the Oaks – Tehachapi
Rosamond Municipal Advisory Committee
Tehachapi Municipal Advisory Committee
Kern County Farm Bureau
Cattlemen’s Association

 

This is part of the November 19, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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