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Councilmember Seeks Public's Help in Saving Sycamore
By Jorge Casuso
November 21, 2019 -- A century old sycamore tree remains in jeopardy after its owners declined to sign a deed restriction protecting it while the City Council drafts a citywide tree ordinance.
Councilmember Kevin McKewon delivered the "disappointing news" in an email Wednesday to supporters of the 82-foot-tall tree at 1122 California Avenue asking for their help.
"I have this morning received very disappointing news from the City Attorney," McKeown wrote.
"Apparently, the City has offered as many as four drafts of such a tree- protective agreement, and the Shahriary family is declining to respond."
The news comes six months after the property's owners, Iradj and Lesley Shahriary, agreed to sign a deed restriction to safeguard the formerly landmarked sycamore for two years while the Council approves an ordinance to help determine which trees on private property are protected.
After the owners' assurance, the Council voted 4-2 to uphold the appeal of the landmark status, with Councilmembers Sue Himmelrich and Greg Morena dissenting ("Old Sycamore Triggers Citywide Tree Ordinance," May 15, 2019).
"We could not mandate this, but it was an agreement made very openly in apparent good faith, as the family claimed to wish the tree no harm," McKeown said in the email.
The email comes four months after the tree's supporters urged the Council to revisit the hotly contested issue when it reaffirmed the appeal without a signed deed restriction ("Deed Restriction to Protect Century Old Sycamore Has Not Been Signed," July 23, 2019).
Himmelrich, the lone dissenting vote, along with a handful of the tree's supporters, noted that the owners had failed to follow through on their promise.
City Attorney Lane Dilg told the Council that the property owners had met with the City two or three times but that a deed restriction had not been signed.
The family, she said, has reassured the City that "the tree is safe and is being maintained."
Dilg said the property owners' legal counsel no longer represented the family.
The Lookout was unable to reach the Shahriary by deadline.
In his email Wednesday, McKeown asked for the community's help in urging the family to keep their end of the bargain.
"The agreement to save the tree voluntarily was made by the Shahriary family at a public meeting, not only with our Council but with our community," McKeown wrote.
"The Council, through our City Attorney’s office, has made every effort to communicate the importance of this to the Shahriary family.
"Now, in pursuit of the good faith agreement, I hope you will yourself communicate with your neighbors, the Shahriary family," McKeown said.
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