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Extreme Hillcrest tree pruning wasn't approved by the City

Photo credit:
Jim Winsor

Part of what makes Hillcrest such a comforting place is the landscaped trees that line the streets throughout the district.

But one tree along University Avenue may have been trimmed more than it should, and the City isn’t sure who did it.

The excessive pruning took place on the 1000 block of University Avenue, just on the property line between the new restaurant Libertad | Tacos a la Brasa and Flicks Nightclub.

Sometime earlier this month, the trees were trimmed, but one was cut way back and San Diego Gay and Lesbian News wanted to know if such a drastic trimming was permitted. In the first sidebar picture taken by Google maps in January, 2017, you can see what the trees looked like before the cut back. The second and third photos show what the trees look like today. 

The tree in question is the one furthest to the right. 

We reached out to Chris Brennen,  Associate Planner of the City of San Diego's Mitigation Monitoring Coordination (MMC) Private Projects division, which is responsible for monitoring development projects and approval of permits to minimize damage to the environment.

Upon looking at our photograph (headline photo) of the tree Brennen wrote in an email, “I can tell you for sure that was not permitted.”

According to The City, a permit must be filed and approved for any plantings or altercations to trees growing on city property.

This maintenance can be used if storefront signage is blocked or there is danger to power lines or public right-of-way.

SDGLN reached out to the owners of the Cohn Restaurant Group, which owns Libertad, two times last week for a statement to see if they had done the pruning in order for the public to see their new restaurant sign, but they have yet to respond.

However, Benjamin Nicholls, Executive Director of The Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) says Flick's told him they didn't do it and he doesn't believe Libertad's owners are responsible for the heavy alterations either.

"I chatted with them [The owners] about that,” said Nicholls. “They say they didn't trim it. I believe them because it doesn't match the other careful trimming they did on their other trees.  It's my belief that the tree will grow back. I am doing some sleuthing to see who did trim it.  Right now, I'm looking at the landlord or the pipeline construction folks."

Since our conversation, Nicholls says the construction company responsible for the pipeline project has also denied any tree trimming at that location. 

On the City of San Diego website it says anyone can request a no-fee permit for trimming but that is only following inspection by City staff.