Hon. Todd Spitzer
Third District Supervisor
Orange County, CA
Director, Public Works
Orange County, CA
Dear Supervisor Spitzer and Director Silsby:
Attached please see photos of large oak trees along Santiago Canyon Road on the Saddlecrest project site that were razed in recent weeks. Mature cacti that are prime habitat for the threatened cactus wren are also being bisected by roads and destroyed. This is of course the worst possible time to be doing earth-moving, during the best nesting and flowering season in years.
The trees were healthy, spring-blooming coast live oaks, exactly the kind needed to sustain heritage populations at a time when drought followed by heavy rains, borers and other stressors are wiping out trees across California en masse.
Yet the oak razing and other destruction appear to be perfectly legal in Orange County, thanks to inexplicable foot-dragging by county officials. Staff say it would take $100,000 in consulting fees and a year to 18 months to do anything on a tree ordinance or other protection. This is inexcusable. We urgently request that you expedite work on the proposed tree ordinance, which has languished for a year. A team of land use law and biology experts developed draft language for Orange County last spring. Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks submitted it to county planning staff last June. It was supposed to come before the Board of Supervisors last December. That was scrapped. Supposedly some funding may be allocated in July but there is zero sense of urgency.
It should not take another year or more to finalize an ordinance and/or implement other protective measures. Orange County is not breaking new ground here - we are woefully behind. Most other communities, the University of California and others promptly adopted or expanded tree protection programs to combat pests and to preserve trees that remain. At a minimum, developer-friendly jurisdictions require special, publicly noticed permits for the possible removal and transplantation of large native trees.
Here? Current law allows the SaddleCrest developers and others to replace mature trees with acorns. To phrase it politely, this policy is cause for astonished disbelief among prominent tree experts. We are sure you will agree that preserving the trees that remain in Orange County should be a top priority.
In addition, the time is long past to rectify the terrible evisceration of the Foothill Trabuco Specific Plan by a former supervisor who has been out of office for several years and his colleagues. Please act promptly and responsibly to overturn their actions and once again allow reasonable development consistent with the county's rural edge. These areas provide valuable breathing space and recreation for all county residents and the region. Bulldozing hillsides, bombing creeks and axing live oaks is surely not the legacy you want to leave behind.
As always, please let us know how we can help.
The Inter-Canyon League Board of Directors
Linda May, Janet Wilson, Geoffrey Sarkissian, Dion Sorrell, Scott Breeden