261 complaints from a single person trigger crackdown on ‘unauthorized trees’

Updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 1:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Pacific Palisades residents say the city is forcing them to cut down trees on city sidewalks fronting their homes.

They say it’s ironic given that the city has set a goal of planting 100,000 new trees by the year 2025.

The city recently sent out notices to dozens of residents in the community, saying the trees on the sidewalks were unauthorized. The city said they must cut down the trees ― paying hundreds of dollars of their own money ― or they can seek a variance, which can also be costly and time consuming.

“People are really upset,” said Pearl City Neighborhood Board member Charmaine Doran.

“A lot of residents have been forced to pay to have the trees removed and many of these trees have been here for decades.”

Doran said her next door neighbor recently cut down four palm trees at a cost of about $500. She said that was unfair because the trees were planted more than two decades ago by previous owners.

Doran also believes the city is singling out her community, saying it issued similar notices of violations to at least 40 other Palisades residents.

But the city denied the allegation.

“To be clear, we are not targeting the Pearl City or Palisades communities. We are responding to a citizen’s complaints, which is part of our duties,” the city Department of Planning and Permitting said, in an email.

But the complaints, according to the DPP, came from a single person who filed a total of 261 complaints during a two-day period back in October.

The complaints alleged unauthorized trees or planting on sidewalks ― not just in Pacific Palisades but throughout Pearl City, Halawa, Aiea, and Waipahu, the department said.

The DPP declined to identify the person who filed the complaints.

“There are so many complaints that our inspectors have not yet gone through the entire list. We are performing about 10 inspections every two weeks. Our inspectors have other responsibilities, such as investigating illegal vacation rentals,” the DPP said.

The crackdown on unauthorized trees comes as the city wants to create a canopy of trees covering 35% of Oahu by the year 2035, which the previously mentioned goal is a part of.

Doran said the city should have talked to community leaders before citing the residents.

“My reaction is, the city should really coordinate and really find something better to do with its time,” she said.

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