When Cambrians opened their most recent bills from the Cambria Community Services District, they also found a Sept. 10 letter from James Bergman, director of planning and building for San Luis Obispo County.
Bergman’s letter (on green paper) explains steps the county has taken to simplify how Cambria property owners can remove trees Cal Fire has identified and tagged as dead or hazardous.
That’s been the topic of discussion at many meetings during the four-year drought, especially during the past half year or so. Many people are trying to help Cambrians reduce hazards for wildfire or storm damage from an expected El Niño weather condition this winter.
That assistance ranges from issuing emergency authorizations to remove dead trees and seeking grants to help pay for tree removal on public and even some privately owned land to trying to find the best use for the downed wood that cannot safely be transported out of the pitch canker-infested native stand of Monterey pines, which also includes oaks and other trees.
The hazardous-tree removals are mandated by state codes requiring that all combustible vegetation within 30 feet from a structure be cleared, and vegetation up to 100 feet be reduced.
The county letters serve as “the Planning Director’s authorization to remove hazardous trees” through Dec. 31, 2015, Bergman wrote, as long as certain steps are followed:
- Property owners must call Cal Fire at 927-6240 or 927-4262 and request a visit from a representative who can identify and tag the trees to be removed. The letter only authorizes removal of those Cal Fire-tagged trees.
- Property owners then can hire their own tree-removal service, paying for that service, and arranging proper disposal of the wood and brush.
- They must also replace each tree removed, planting those trees after the first rains in the fall of 2015 but before April 1, 2016. In addition, they are required to provide evidence of removal and replacement within 45 days of having the tree taken out.
- No county fees will be charged under those circumstances. Assessment fees charged in other circumstances are $126 for the first three trees and $23 for each additional tree.
For now, Bergman’s authorization letters are in lieu of a blanket emergency permit to remove the hazardous trees, a concept the county and Cambria Community Services District have been batting back and forth for months. So far, the holdup to that plan has been assignment of liability, with neither agency wanting to take that responsibility for removals being done on private property.