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Santa Monica's Tree Task Force Branches Out
By Jorge Casuso
July 29, 2019 -- Santa Monica's Urban Forest Task Force will be expanded and its role made more significant as the City prepares to craft a citywide tree ordinance.
Last Tuesday the City Council unanimously voted to add two seats to the seven-member panel and authorized it to act as an "advisory body" for an ordinance that will help determine which trees on private property are protected.
The City Council is scheduled to appoint the two new members at its September 10 meeting.
One of the appointees is expected to be the task force's former chair Grace Phillips, who failed to win reappointment last month due to a bureaucratic glitch ("After Successful Fight, Tree Ordinance Champion Fails to Retain Seat on Task Force," July 9, 2019).
Phillips, who began championing a tree ordinance shortly after her appointment to the newly created panel a decade ago, said she is "thrilled" by the expanded role.
"We were told many times by staff that (a tree ordinance) was not part of our purview," she said. "Now it is."
City Manager Rick Cole has said that drafting a tree ordinance will likely take at least a year, given the extensive process that includes ample public input.
"Now we have our marching orders and a deadline," said Phillips. "So I'm thrilled."
She began looking at other cities the had passed such laws and says she found a good model in Pasadena, which has seen its tree canopy grow by 9 percent.
Then, one month after the Council had finally taken the initial step by directing staff to embark on crafting an ordinance, Phillips lost her seat.
Phillips was shocked when she learned the Council had not reappointed her because she had failed to provide proof of taking the ethics training the state requires board and commission members to take every two years.
Phillips provided evidence she had fulfilled the requirement but her documents had been delayed in reaching the City Clerk.
"In all this huge mix up, there's a silver lining," Phillips said. "I think this is a great outcome.
"It all turned out really well at the end."
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