On May 12, the Laguna Woods United Landscape Committee canceled the controversial $600,000 Canary Islands pine reduction project.
Trees will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to a statement from Village News. An ad hoc resident advisory committee to oversee the project will continue as planned and a proposed environmental report will be presented, according to the statement.
The United Laguna Woods Mutual Board of Directors, at a May 10 meeting, approved a motion that would create the ad hoc committee.
Originally, the project proposed the removal of 393 Canary pines. This number represents 40% of the 992 species from the Canary Islands in the village of Laguna Woods and 2% of all trees in total, according to a report by the management services of the village.
At the United meeting, resident Mary Sinclair reminded the council that the project’s “fatal flaw” was its tree-cutting criteria. These included damage to infrastructure, dense canopies causing poor turf growth, and large numbers of needle pick-up tickets, including on roofs and gutters, in addition to declining health.
Resident Carl Randazzo, who once sat on the maintenance and construction committee while on council, said tree removal should be approached from a technical perspective.
“These trees can cause obstructions to our infrastructure,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves how they damage our buildings, our pipes, our gutters and our sidewalks.”
It was also noted that the project went against United’s tree removal guidelines in the landscape manual.
“I think (the project was) a plan that was launched incorrectly against due process,” director Diane Casey said to cheers from the crowd. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to spend money on these projects.”
Resident Cheryl Nielsen agreed with the creation of the ad hoc committee.
“We have the involvement, transparency and voice to hold everyone accountable to the original guidelines,” she said. “Without that, it will continue to be a sensitive subject.”
The council adopted the resolution to create the ad hoc committee 8-0-1.
Residents having issues with individual trees are encouraged to contact Resident Services at 949-597-4600 or [email protected] to initiate a landscape request form. Or they can download the form from lagunawoodsvillage.com (Residents > Services > Maintenance and Landscaping > scroll down to Landscaping Forms) and email it to [email protected] .
Members of the United Board discussed the proposal to establish an inter-council committee to address allegations of harassment, abuse and bullying across all relationships – residents, VMS staff and trustees of the advice.
Under the proposed policy, the six-member panel – made up of two directors from each mutual and GRF – would assess the nature of the unwelcome conduct; the context in which the incidents occur; the severity, extent, frequency, duration and location of the conduct; and the relationships of the people involved.
“There is a real need to have this [policy]”Casey said.
The chairs of the board of directors and the chairman of the board of directors of VMS have worked with the legal representative, attorney Jeff Beaumont, to develop a policy for the governing body, according to a report by VMS.
The committee would be modeled after the village traffic hearing committee.
In opposition, director Andre Torng said a bill of rights was needed from the accused person before moving forward with the resolution.
Resident Maxine McIntosh, a former council member, summed up the way the proceedings were organised, behind closed doors after council meetings, ‘which doesn’t work very well’. As a member, McIntosh said, she witnessed unresolved issues escalate into police reports and legal involvement.
“Maybe a calm discussion from a group that represents the whole village will stop some of that,” she added.
United passed a resolution ratifying the temporary loan of $2 million from the reserve fund to meet cash requirements for property tax purposes, issued in April.
“It’s a short-term problem,” United President Anthony Liberatore said.
Repayment of the amount borrowed is scheduled for June 30, according to a staff report.
The board approved resolution 9-1-0 at second reading. It takes effect immediately.
Forty additional cases of COVID-19 have been reported over the past week in the city of Laguna Woods, according to the OC Health Care Agency, as of May 17.
As of Tuesday, a total of 1,126 COVID-19 cases and 77 deaths had been reported in the city since the pandemic began.
Countywide, state officials were reporting an adjusted daily case rate of 10 new cases per 100,000 people in Orange County on Tuesday.
Test positivity rates – the number of swabs and sputum tests that come back positive for coronavirus – were reported at 4.4%.
The health equity rate — the test positivity of disproportionately affected neighborhoods — was 2%.
The average resale price of a co-op to United Mutual in April was $359,153, down from $266,819 in April 2021, according to a VMS staff report. Since the beginning of the year, resales are 169, against 124 at the same time last year. Sales volume in April was $16.9 million, compared to $9.6 million in April 2021.