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Tree-Planting Troubles

December 15, 1991

Warning to Westwood and other Westside homeowners: While Beverly Hills bans removal of trees, Los Angeles will stop you from planting them--at your cost. I recently learned this the expensive way.

My neighbor and I wished to extend a row of magnificent jacarandas in front of our houses on South Bentley Avenue. Two huge jacarandas 20 feet apart grow in our parkway between the sidewalk and the street, but 55 feet of our parkway are barren. To complete the row of trees, we bought two large jacarandas in boxes to plant them the same 20 feet apart in the treeless stretch.

We had dug a deep hole for our first boxed jacaranda when a Los Angeles Street Tree Division car pulled up. Two men jumped out and told us:

* Get a permit to plant trees in the parkway.

* Fill up the hole. No tree can go there.

* All new trees must be 40 feet apart. Our first boxed jacaranda must go 20 more feet down the street. Appeal for a variance is impossible because the 40-foot spacing is a new state law.

* There was no room for our second boxed jacaranda. (We had to return it.)

* The jacaranda we could plant must be guyed with a metal pole. Our redwood pole was verboten.

* The root ball must be surrounded by a two-foot-high fiberglass barrier to block surface roots from the sidewalk.

* They would return and probe the ground to make sure we complied.

My neighbor and I felt adrift in a Kafka dream. Now awake, we make two requests. Environmentalists, kindly alert willing citizens to the problems of doing good. Government, kindly spend more to help willing citizens improve the environment; spend less to police them.

JULIAN (BUD) LESSER, Los Angeles

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