A developer who claimed he pruned a tree limb to make way for a driveway in fact felled a 25-foot oak tree, according to an arborist who inspected the site Wednesday after angry Woodland Hills residents complained to city officials.
The conclusion by arborist Paul Rogers means that Andrew Railla could have the permits for the four-bedroom house he wants to build on Marcos Road revoked and he could be forced to leave the hillside property undeveloped for 10 years, said Cindy Miscikowski, chief deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude.
"The tree was cut down without authorization," Miscikowski said.
Railla had claimed that the oak he cut down Monday was not protected by the city's oak tree ordinance because it was a limb from a larger tree about three feet away. City permits allowed him to prune the tree to accommodate his plans, he said.
But neighbor Charles Kray disagreed with Railla's characterization of the tree as a limb and called on city officials to inspect the site. A building inspector ordered Railla to stop work on the project until an arborist could settle the dispute.
Rogers, a private arborist who surveyed the site a year ago, determined that since the tree in question had its own root system, it was not a limb of the larger tree. It should have been preserved, he told city officials who gathered at the site Wednesday morning.
Building and zoning officials will meet with city attorneys today to determine what action to take against Railla. The decision is complicated because Railla's plans were altered several times during the approval process and contain conflicting information on how the site's four oaks should be preserved.
On one parcel map, for instance, Zoning Administrator Darryl Fisher gave his approval for the removal of the oak. Fisher said Wednesday, however, that the map is an early rendering of the project and has since been replaced by a newer one.
But project manager Scott Penta said Fisher never told Railla that he could not remove the tree. "Now he's changing his tune," Penta said. "He's probably trying to cover his behind."