By Katta Hules
The Arcadia City Council voted this week to beautify the county. The unopposed motion allowed the council to direct the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commission to remove “weeds, brush, rubbish, and refuse from various private properties” within Arcadia according to the city clerk’s Staff Report. The council’s aim was to remove “flammable and otherwise noxious material.”
The process of dealing with ‘hazardous vegetation,’ which the Los Angeles Agricultural Commission defines as “weeds and brush” on their website, is a joint initiative between County Departments of Fire and the Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures (ACWM). Not just for beautification, it covers most of the county and helps provide “defensible space for firefighters, demonstrably saved many homes from fires and almost certainly prevented hundreds of fires from starting,” according to Commissioner’s website.
Those whose properties are to be cleared were notified by mail by the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commission after the council adopted the motion on Feb. 2 and gave time to protest the motion at Tuesday’s meeting. No one spoke up or objected. The list of properties was approved with a unanimous 4-to-0 vote.
Many of the properties on this year’s list are unimproved acreage with out-of-town owners according to City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto. For these owners, he said, it is “much easier for the county to do it then for them to hire a gardener or… specialty company… so they’re happy to allow the county to do this on their behalf.”
Lazzaretto went on to note that one ninety-acre property on the list would cost the owners less than a hundred dollars to let the county clear. Owners are billed an inspection fee in order to keep the Weed Abatement project from burdening taxpayers. If they chose to have the county clear their property, the costs can vary depending on the type of work needed.
Because of this, the 2016 line up of affected properties is similar to last year’s list. Councilmember Tom Beck noted, “I’ve only been on this city council less than two years, but it is the same usual suspects every year.” (Beck was elected in April 2014.) This also in part because the ACWM works from the previous year’s list and changes it according to the results of frequent inspections.
Properties scheduled for weed abatement are chosen for three reasons, according to ACWM’s website. Most have flammable vegetation close to homes or roads that can get in the way of fire fighting efforts. Some are chosen for their large amount of tumbleweeds and proximity to roadways, leading to the “potential to cause traffic accidents on the highway, damage agricultural crops, or build up along fences and homes.” Finally, properties used for illegal dumping, or with large accumulations of trash and combustible refuse are also slated for clearance.
The county is slated to begin clearance operations in April, as weather permits. Inspection of properties and preparation of next year’s list will begin in October.
To see if your property will be affected, you can access the Staff Report and Weed Abatement Property List at: http://www2.ci.arcadia.ca.us/Weblink/DocView.aspx?id=738394&dbid=0.
In addition to approving the weed abatement list, the council amended the Arcadia Municipal Code to allow a drive-through Starbucks to be built at 5 West Oak Ave. They also voted to allow a two-week continuance on the construction of the Arcadia Logistics Center at the site of a former sand and gravel quarry. This was to at the request of citizens and Councilmembers from El Monte who expressed traffic and safety concerns they wished to discuss further with the developer.
The Council recognized Scott Hettrick, the CEO of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce and his wife, Betty, for their contributions to the community. The Hettricks are leaving Arcadia for Omaha to help care for their new grandchild. Additionally, Police Chief Robert T. Guthrie presented the Life Savings Award to Sergeant Jeremy Lachenmyer and Officer Wally Ashby. The officers prevented a 15-year-old girl from jumping to her death on the 210 freeway last year.
Finally, during the public comments section, there was a lively debate on Measure A, an initiative to repeal the Utility Users Tax. The Police and Fire Department opposed the Measure, as it would cut their budget. Brian Ortiz, President of the Arcadia Police Association likened it to the iceberg that sank the Titanic. Co-author of Measure A, Lawrence C. Papp maintained city workers were overpaid at taxpayer expense and budget cuts were the answer.
The next City Council Meeting will be Tuesday, March 1, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.