Saying it was the worst case of its kind in the city's history, the mayor of Thousand Oaks vowed Monday to prosecute whoever is responsible for chopping down 27 oak trees on a vacant lot.
The trees were felled without a permit last week on a commercially zoned, two-acre lot in the city's Westlake Village section, city officials said.
The destruction of the trees has outraged leaders in the Ventura County city, which takes pride in having pioneered the adoption and vigorous enforcement of laws to protect the stately trees from which the city draws its name.
Since the destruction was discovered, city officials have hired and stationed a security guard at the lot to prevent removal of evidence or cutting of three surviving oaks.
Mayor to Seek Punitive Action
"I can't remember a more blatant case in which whoever cut down the trees showed such contempt for the city," Thousand Oaks Mayor Lawrence Horner said. "I intend to push for punitive action against the responsible parties."
Under a Thousand Oaks law enacted nearly 20 years ago, cutting or radically pruning an oak without a permit is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and six months in jail.
The City Council traditionally has been stingy in granting requests to cut down or radically prune trees, even when the refusal has forced developers to alter building plans.
As a condition for getting building permits, those who cut trees without a permit often are forced to pay fines and to plant new oaks in the same location as felled trees.
Massive Oak Spared
The 27 trees destroyed last week ranged in trunk diameter from 4 to 24 inches, a city staff member said. The three surviving trees include a massive oak with a trunk five feet in diameter and a branch spread of 65 feet.
The lot, bordered by an office building and an automobile repair shop, lies between Duesenberg Drive and Los Robles Road, about 500 feet south of Thousand Oaks Boulevard. Renee Brum, who was guarding the lot Monday, said no one had returned to work on the felled trees, most of which appeared to have been left behind on the ground.
City officials declined to speculate on the motive for felling the trees.
Horner said city staff members had determined that the lot was owned by Houshang Beroukhim of Beverly Hills and that the cutting was done by a Van Nuys-based tree service.
A woman who answered Beroukhim's telephone said he was unavailable for comment.
A city staff member said efforts to reach the tree service had so far been unsuccessful.