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These Silver Lake Trees Died So You Could See A Dumb Billboard

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Residents in Silver Lake are mad after trees in a public parklet were hacked to death by a crew hired by a billboard company.Sometime between Christmas and New Year's Day, nine trees in Sunset Triangle Plaza were trimmed by a crew who did so much damage that three trees will be need to be replaced. The trees were planted there about ten years ago in the parklet where Sunset and Griffith Park Boulevards meet, and had grown to block the view of the billboard on the top of the El Condor Restaurant. Outfront Media, who owns the billboard in question, told the L.A. Times they have fired the crew that did the handiwork for not acquiring the necessary permit to do the work, but an executive told the Times he was unclear on the extent of the damage. "I'm not an arborist, I wouldn't know," said Ryan Brooks, Outfront Media's senior vice president for government affairs.

Aside from the three trees that have been "topped"—an often-fatal method of trimming where the top is lopped off—six other trees will need years to grow back healthy. "They did a horrible job," Pasqual Lombardo, a local resident, told L.A. Weekly. "They butchered those trees."

"This large corporation can come into a public space without permits and basically destroy trees that were just becoming beautiful," said Silver Lake resident Bobby Peppey. "It's a travesty."

"These trees were trimmed to make the billboard visible, and that was the only consideration that was made," said Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, whose district includes the parklet. Outfront told his office they would replace the three trees that need to be removed, and would also install umbrellas to provide shade. Despite their attempts to make amends, the Bureau of Street Services is looking into whether the crew violated city ordinances by not obtaining a permit and not following the proper guidelines for tree trimming. Outfront and/or the crew they hired could face a misdemeanor charge that could result in a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.

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A petition has already received over 350 signatures calling for Outfront to "be prosecuted the full extent of the law for its flagrant vandalism and be required to restore the park to its previous state."

"There's a pattern—this isn't just an isolated incident," Dennis Hathaway, who leads the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, said to L.A. Weekly. "They could have just walked right in there and gotten a permit without anything, without any city oversight, any regulations."

In a post from August, titled "Who'll Speak For The Trees? Improving Billboard Visibility," Hathaway writes:

Can we stipulate that trees are more important than billboards? Trees add natural character to urban areas, billboards create visual clutter. Trees help clean the air, billboards—especially of the digital variety—use energy that contributes to global warming. Trees provide places of rest and relaxation, billboards hawking goods and services are a kind of visual noise adding to the cacophony of the urban environment.
If the tree is on private property, we can only rue the damage done to one of the most important living things in our urban setting. If the tree is on public property, it is an illegal act and should be reported by calling the city hotline at 3-1-1.

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