Trees in Arcadia will no longer have the protection they once enjoyed. With the exception of oaks, which remain protected citywide, homeowners can now cut down trees on their property without HOA approval.
The change comes as part of a resolution the approved last week that consolidates the separate resolutions governing the design review process for the city's five homeowners' associations.
Santa Anita Oaks Homeowners' Association President Mary Dougherty said she feels relieved to finally have a resolution in place; the Council, HOAs and developers began drafting the resolution more than two years ago.
"We are glad that the issue has been put to rest," Dougherty said. "We are looking forward to continuing to address the residents' prime concerns regarding mansionization and maintaining the feeling of a community of homes as stated in the city's General Plan, in accordance with Arcadia's Single Family Residential Design Guidelines and the Joint Resolution."
By combining the homeowners' associations' development standards, design guidelines and design review process, the resolution eliminates much of the confusion for residents and developers planning home modifications.
The trees remained a point of contention throughout the resolution drafting process.
The hundreds of oaks, liquidambar, magnolia and sycamore trees that line Arcadia's streets lend the city an element of charm. However, property rights hung in a delicate balance.
Deputy Mayor Bob Harbicht, who, along with Councilmember Roger Chandler, voted against the resolution, said homeowners' right to choose what, if any, trees they have in their frontyard comes trumps all.
"I don't think that you should be controlling free will...Where's the justification in that?" Harbicht said. "I'm not willing to go up to my neighbor and say, 'I like your tree and you will not cut it down.'"
Chandler said he feared the homeowners' associations would abuse their power and usurp residents' control over home renovations or additions. He cited a clause allowing HOAs review authority over landscape and hardscape projects as his primary concern about the resolution.
Dougherty assured the Council that the HOA architectural review boards only wish to maintain the general look and homogeneity of the neighborhoods, and will not quibble over minor changes.
Also, residents have the option to appeal decisions made by their ARB to the Planning Commission, albeit for a $350 fee.