Thursday, February 5, 2009

HPC Meeting Update

Last night, Wednesday, Feb. 4. was the first Pomona Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) meeting since November 2008 and the November elections. We lost three commissioners in the electoral process. Former commissioners Jim Kercheval, Tad Decker, and Scott Hillsman received Goddess Awards at Monday's council meeting and they will be missed. I, personally, wish to thank them for their years of service, at no compensation, in what was often a difficult job.

In addition, Ramon Zavala, is moving away from the area to accept a new job position. While I wish him well, he also will be missed very much. He was a gentleman and always was deliberative in making the tough decisions.

This leaves two seats left to be filled. Councilwoman Christina Carrizosa needs to replace Ramon Zavala, and the Mayor still needs to make his appointment. If you're interested, be sure to fill out an application with the city clerk.

So, out with the old, in with the new.

The new commission retains commissioners Mitch Elias (district 4), Dawn Van Allen (district 5), and Udit de Lange (district 2). New commissioners who were attending their first meeting last night were: Dee Dee Brookshire (district 1) and Ethel Gardener (district 6). Both new commissioners were attentive and worked around a short agenda "learning the ropes" of the electronic voting system and the procedures of the commission.

The first order of business for the new commission was to choose an interim chair for the evening as both the chair and vice chair of the previous commission were no longer there. Dawn Van Allen was chosen to chair for the evening and did a commendable job. At the end of the meeting, the commission chose new leadership and chose Mitch Elias as chair and Dawn as vice chair. Congratulations to them both.

There were two items of interest at the meeting.

TREE REMOVAL: A resident of Lincoln Park, after cutting down a birch tree without a permit, asked to be able to remove 4 trees (including the birch) from their back yard. The residents (bought about 1-1/2 years ago) want to get rid of the trees to "make their yard more usable." Since the trees are living and show no signs of disease or that they are doing damage to the property, the tree ordinance is very clear that cutting down trees should only be a "last resort" measure. Since the birch was deemed to have been dead prior to being cut down, the commission approved that removal and asked that another tree be planted, at a location of the homeowner's choosing, but didn't allow for the removal of the other living trees. A 50+ year old gum tree was of particular concern as it was very mature and a part of the historic landscape. The commission did allow that the resident could move two Queen Palm trees to another location on the property to make their yard more usable. The resident didn't appear happy with the commission's decisions so I'm pretty sure we'll hear more of this in the future.

HISTORIC SIGN ORDINANCE FOR DOWNTOWN SPECIFIC PLAN: Staff gave a report to the HPC on progress toward a sign ordinance to be included as part of the Downtown Specific Plan. This would affect the area of the downtown that includes the Arts Colony and Antique Row, as well as some of the adjacent areas. Staff was just asking for input as the downtown specific plan moves through the process.

An additional public meeting on this subject is in the plans to be hosted by Pomona Heritage and the Historical Society of the Pomona Valley. I'll be sure to let everyone know when this gets scheduled.

All-in-all a good meeting. It looks like the new commission is poised to do a lot of good work. Good luck.


Ms. Lois said...

I'm very sad to learn that Ramon Zavala is leaving the area. I helped "raise" his two children when they were young and Ramon was chairperson of our library board for several years. They are a wonderful family and I wish them well.

Ed said...

A couple of quick HPC questions:
Did the resident have to pay $500 for the priviledge of being denied, since if the birch was dead, it should have qualified for removal without a Major COA?
Are we applying the same trunk standard to a queen palm that we apply to other mature trees (I think it's ten inch diameter at about 5 feet high)?
And don't throw stones at my house for this one, but should we be including a queen palm that can be moved or introduced into a landscape as adding to historic fabric? I could understand if the tree had some historic significance, but if I plop down 5 queen palms in my front yard and move away in 5 years, should the next owner be restricted from taking them out?

I really think the current application of the historic tree ordinance runs the risk of not passing the smell test and could end up hurting our efforts to preserve the historic elements of the community.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Somehow the sign issue slipped past me. Please keep me in the loop for any future meetings.

Larry (Metro Pomona)

Ed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed said...

Me again. Since I've consumed too much coffee today, I just can't contain myself. Are we really talking about the house at 512 E. McKinley?

Where is the homeowner supposed to plant another tree, let alone move the two queen palms? The front yard is monopolized by a massive Camphor and electrical lines run over the rear perimeter. Forcing them to keep the gum tree was punishment enough.

Can they pay to have a camphor planted on a neighbor's parking strip? At least that option could eventually make a significant contribution to the historic fabric?
Now I'm up to 4 cents.

Anonymous said...


I happen to disagree. I feel that an assortment of trees, including mature Queen Palms, have a significant impact on the aesthetics of a neighborhood. Plus how would Lincoln Park look without its Palms? I also feel that the property loses some of it's historical value when mature trees are removed or relocated.

Just my opinion.

John Clifford said...


All the trees were in the back yard and there is a large area to the very back of the property with no trees at all. There was no discussion of the trees in the front of the property.

I'm not sure about the $500, but their request was NOT denied. They were approved with conditions, those conditions being that they plant a tree to replace the approved removed Birch and that they maintain the gum tree and can move the palms. I know it doesn't sound like an approval, but that's the way that it came out.

As for your "volunteer" palms, it's best to dig the darned things up before they get too big and become an issue. I know we take out a couple of dozen such volunteers each year.

With that I'll leave the discussion of trees as it's not my favorite and I just can't get as excited about it as the I can the buildings.

Ed said...

I'll try to clarify my tree points. I wasn't talking about volunteer palms, my point was emphasizing that a mature palm can be added to a landscape and may have nothing to do with the historic character. I can find new homes in northern Claremont with queen palms just as mature as those at 512 McKinley, but we wouldn't argue that the home or neighborhood is historic.

If the birch was already dead, why did they have to replace it? Are those of us with trees facing the same fate: it dies, the city tells us to replace it.

So am I anti-tree? My real concern is the message this decision sends. If you want to remove a tree in your yard,you have 3 options. First, pay $500 and ask the HPC for approval. Second, remove the tree and hope you don't get caught. If you get caught it might cost you no more than $500. Third, kill the tree and then ask to remove it. If I place myself in the homeowner's position and really wanted to remove a tree, I wouldn't use option 1. I'm guessing the residents at this house now realize the more fruitful path required being just a little more devious.

My fear is we will lose trees without even knowing it. When glancing at your neighbor's LARGE mature trees, would you really notice if a smaller one suddenly wasn't there. We risk losing the very oversight that the tree ordinance was intended to insure. If I'm throwing $500 at my yard, I'd expect to have something to show for it other than a denial.....oops, I mean an approval with conditions. ;-)

John Clifford said...


I think that you have a valid point regarding the dead birch. The problem came in that the determination that it was dead was made AFTER the tree had been cut down, WITHOUT A PERMIT. The commission was very generous in the type of tree that could replace the birch, which would include a fruit tree, which the applicant was amenable to.

I think the issue with the palm trees and historic is not that the tree is historic, but that a treescape is part of the fabric of the historic neighborhood. Many of us buy into our neighborhoods because we are attracted to the beautiful tree-line streets and neighborhood. Like I said, I hate having to defend the trees because, while I love them and the fact that we have them, I'm really not the tree guy.

There were also arguments concerning quality-of-life issues for the neighborhood including shielding freeway noise and runoff issues at that particular area as well.

Ed said...

Sorry, John, but these comments highlight why the decision doesn't pass the smell test. The birch tree was dead, the homeowners shouldn't be REQUIRED to replace it. None of these trees added to the "beautiful tree-line streets" John mentioned and only the gum tree REALLY contributed to the urban canopy. In fact, this house is one of the few on the south side of this McKinley block to have a street tree. Back to my original suggestion of planting a tree in their neighbor's parking strip.

Noise abatement and runoff: for those who don't know what a queen palm is, please google it, and then tell me whether you honestly buy this argument. And as for the height of these queen palms, they are barely above the home's roof line. Adding gutters and rain barrels would do more for runoff than these queen palms were doing for rain interception and water absorption.

I'll finish (now that I'm at 8 cents) with the suggestion that although we are only talking trees in this case, do we honestly think these residents aren't soured to the whole thought of historic preservation, and all for a couple of trees that I could buy right now at a nursery.

I'm done ranting.

Anonymous said...

I was there at the meeting to observe. Just 2 quick points. 1). The homeowner did pay $500, that he is not getting back...2). The homeowner stated that the tree was dead, thats why they removed it.

Is historic approval needed to relocate a tree on the same property? And, it was funny that the home owner was asking why he had to replace the dead tree when staff had told the commission that it was dead and technically not reuired to get approval from the commission?///...?

John Clifford said...


While the homeowner said that the tree was dead, their word is not adequate. When they removed the tree without a permit, it went to an issue of "would permission have been given."

If a tree had come in for removal because it was dead or damaging property, the commission would probably have given permission with a condition that the tree be replaced.