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Deed Restriction to Protect Century Old Sycamore Has Not Been Signed
By Jorge Casuso
July 23, 2019 -- A deed restriction to safeguard a formerly landmarked sycamore tree has yet to be signed by the property owners, prompting a call by the tree's supporters to revisit the hotly contested issue.
On Tuesday, the City Council voted 5 to 1 to approve the Statement of Official Action re-affirming its position that the 82-foot tree that has stood in the yard at 1122 California Avenue for nearly 100 years should not be designated a City landmark.
But Councilmember Sue Himmelrich, the lone dissenting vote, along with a handful of the tree's supporters noted that the property's owners, Iradj and Lesley Shahriary, have failed to follow through on a promise to sign a deed restriction.
The document -- which was a factor in the Council's decision May 14 to reverse the Landmark Commission's decision to designate the tree -- was meant to protect the sycamore while the City crafts a citywide tree ordinance ("Old Sycamore Triggers Citywide Tree Ordinance," May 15, 2019).
City Attorney Lane Dilg told the Council that the property owners had met with the City two or three times but that a deed restriction had not been signed.
The family, she said, has reassured the City that "the tree is safe and is being maintained."
Dilg said the property owners' legal counsel "no longer represents the family" and that her office has "presented a deed restriction to the family" that has not been signed.
"We will continue to meet," Dilg said.
To revisit the issue, a Council member who voted on the prevailing side when the landmark designation was denied would need to place the item on the agenda, Dilg told the Council.
None of the Council members who qualified indicated they would consider taking that step, and Himmelrich, who cast the dissenting vote on May 14, cannot ask that the issue be revisited.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who expressed interest in protecting the tree in May, was absent from Tuesday's meeting.
The City Attorney urged the Council on Tuesday to approve the Statement of Official Action (STOA) that outlines the reasons for denying landmark status to the tree.
The Council found that the tree was not "rare or extraordinary" and met none of the six criteria used for landmark designation.
"Our strong recommendation would be not to disapprove the STOA at this time," Dilg said.
The extensive process needed to draft an ordinance to help determine which trees on private property are protected will likely take at least a year, City Manager Rick Cole has said.
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