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Costa Mesa plants free trees, but not all residents happy

August 5, 2011 |  8:23 am

Many Costa Mesa residents have been surprised recently when contractors hired by the city began showing up at their homes, digging up the edges of their lawns and planting trees.

The residents said they were not notified ahead of time and woke up to find crews digging up the grass next to their yards, the Daily Pilot reported.

Using $100,000 in federal grants to improve medium- to lower-income neighborhoods, the city hired STL Landscaping to plant 654 trees. Workers showed up unannounced to hundreds of homes and planted the trees on the edge of the lawn, which is technically public property.

"We've never done a project like this, a wholesale planting of neighborhoods," said Bruce Hartley, Costa Mesa's maintenance services manager. "It's 654 people, so it was a little bit more of a challenge and, after the fact, well, we should've figured out a way to notify."

The public easement goes about 10 feet onto the property from the curb, Hartley said. Usually, there's a sidewalk separating the homeowner's land from the city's, but in some cases it looks like one big lawn.

Costa Mesa city officials have made a big push this year to increase transparency to the public, but apparently there was no dialogue on this project leading up to the launch.

The city is working to accommodate residents who want the trees removed.

Patsy Latscha, who has lived on Center Street for more than 35 years, was one who wanted nothing to do with the program.

Standing in front of her house, she pointed out the spot where she dug out the tree herself and then put it in the middle of the street after the crews didn't take it away.

"I love that Costa Mesa prides itself on being a city of trees, but this property is not in need of trees," she said.

Indeed, with seven trees blocking the view of her house from the street, and with another eight behind them, Latscha's land is not lacking in foliage. Down the street, workers planted a tree just feet from two towering pine trees, which she said are sure to starve the city's tree of water.

In years past, the city has planted trees on a smaller scale and told residents what was coming, Hartley said.

"The first time they were so accommodating," Latscha said. "This was such a waste of time. I'm sure there are so many people in Costa Mesa that would've wanted a tree."


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-- Joseph Serna, Times Community News

Photo: Two workers plant a tree along Maple Avenue in Costa Mesa. Credit: Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot