Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tie a Red Ribbon ‘Round that Old Coto Oak Tree

 If you do not see anything wrong, you just qualified for a seat on the CZ Master Association board of directors.

Posted by CotoBlogzz

Coto de Caza, CA – On Sunday July 1, 2012 we are notified that the old Oak Trees by Summerhill have received the death sentence and that Keystone is prepared to send the death squad sometime Monday to cut down the trees with what appears to be a Pelosi-esque rationale:  Gotta cut down the oak trees to find out who owns them.”


Oak trees are not only protected by the federal government, but also by the state of California.  

 According to the Orange County, it abides by California law as it pertains to protecting oak tress.  According to Michelle LeBeau -  a double major in Anthropology and Native American Studies at the University of California, Davis, in 1993 “ Ecologists are now beginning to recognize the great impact that Native Peoples had upon the California landscape. Through techniques such as controlled burning, pruning, digging, irrigating and annual harvesting, California Indians shaped the natural world around them. The result was vast oak groves with bountiful acorns; wide, grassy plains where native seed plants provided a great food source; and gathering areas where roots for basket making were easily accessible  Acorns, for example, are an important food source for many tribes, yet oak trees are often treated with herbicides because they "compete" with
Summerhill Oak Tree on Death Row - Right?

 commercially harvested conifers for sunlight and nutrients. In the past four
years, plans for the use of herbicides, such as hexazinone, triclopyr and glyphosate,
have been proposed and implemented in the Stanislaus, Lassen, Eldorado, and
Sierra National Forests.…..Herbicide spraying of forests affects many of the plants used by California Indians in foods and teas, for healing and ceremonial purposes…..”

 Given the sense of urgency associated with the cutting down of the trees by Keystone personnel, and that apparently the trees had been targeted years before, and given  that the community went through an oak tree debacle a while back  when Lennar was cutting down  oak trees  to make room for the South Ranch, we expected the sentenced oak trees by Summerhill to be a couple of piles of dead branches at worse, and at best:
Is this healthy-looking Summerhill Oak Tree Trunk diseased?

  To our surprise, the sentenced trees seems vibrant and appeared to be thriving.   Now, since we have little trust in the CZ Master Association’s judgment, we wanted to document as much as possible the state of the sentenced trees which appeared to be otherwise healthy, including the trunk and soil samples, in case herbicides had been introduced “in error”.  We even had an arborist give us his opinion of the health of the trees.  His diagnosis after a cursory review?  “Those trees have quite a few more years ahead of them

That same day we fired an inspection of records request to the CZ Master Association board of directors, specifically asking for the number of oak trees removed, the reasons the trees were removed and whether the decision to remove were as a result of a licensed arborist over a period of the last five years.

 On July 2, 2012 at 11:47 am, Tracy Williams, the CZ Master Associaiotn’s Landscape Coordinator informs the interested parties via email that “Due to the concerns of several homeowners regarding the removal of the Oak Tree behind Summerhill, I have contacted our Oak Tree Specialist to review the tree in questions as well as the entire Natural Oak grove behind Summerhill and write a report as to his findings.  CZ Master Association will adhere to the recommendation of the specialist.” – In other words, Keystone decided to call the tree specialist only after we started to ask the relevant questions.
A view of the sentenced Summerhill Oark Tree Days Earlier - what changed and why?

Shortly thereafter, a resident who because of his objections to the tree being cut down, was not only wondering why the association sent a neighbor over to his house to threaten and harass him about the tree, but feels that he was publicly attacked, libeled and slandered by one CZ master association board members.

As they say in the QVC commercial, but wait, there is more.

 While in the very recent past the  CZ Master Association Board of Directors would not even respond to my requests and if it did, it would first dispatch Cain, Walker & Harkins LLP  with a request for me to sign a Shut Up letter, as a pre-condition for the association releasing the requested documentation, this time we get a response from Vinnie Davis stating: The  “association utilizes/consults with a certified arborists as needed.  Native Oak trees are not removed in the community unless the tree is diseased, dying, or dead and a certified arborists makes that determination on a case by case basis,” directly contradicting the aforementioned  the CZ Master Association’s Landscape Coordinator, Tracy William’s statement

The letter also stated that the association does not “specifically track the type and number of certain tree species removed but does track the cost in the general ledger.”  An applicable truism in business is:  “if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.”  It also implies that either Keystone, the association and or both may  not be compliant with the Business Judgment Rule -  The Business Judgment Rule requires that decisions by directors be in good faith, including reasonable inquiry, as an ordinarily prudent person, a person exhibiting common sense,  in a like position would use under similar circumstances according to Corp. Code §723 1(c).

After all, if the Oak tree behind Summerhill had been taken down without a recommendation of a tree specialist, and if the CotoBuzz Journal had not gotten involved, who would have known that regulations had been broken?

End of story, right?  You guessed it!  You are catching on fast!

On July 30, 2012, Vinnie Davis writes in an email: “We are in the process of reviewing the tree locations as several trees appear to be on the golf course property therefore the matter is on hold until we are able to discern which tree(s) may be the responsibility of the HOA.”

Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture?  On July a protected Oak tree is supposed to be cut down.  On July 30, the association does not even know who owns the tree!  Forget about the business rule and forget about county state and federal laws protecting oak trees.  How about a bit of common sense?  If you agree, simply tie a re ribbon around the nearest oak tree in your neighboorhodd as a sign of solidarity with the Summerhill Oak Tree now on Death Row.  Now, consider that that CZ residents are paying over $1.7 million/year in landscaping and overhead charges - yet there does not seem to me a semblance of protected species management!

Now, if you do not see anything wrong, you just qualified for a seat on the CZ Master Association board of directors.

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