After making numerous requests for correction for failure by the County Board of Supervisors to abide by various sections of the Brown Act, the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) was left with no option than to file a formal legal complaint.
“We want to ensure the public is informed of the Board’s actions, so that they can stand up for their community and protect the environment,” said SCOPE in its filings. “The transparency required by the Brown Act is a way to make sure that can happen. ”
Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment was formed in 1987 by a group of local residents. It is focused on protecting the many ecological resources of the Santa Clarita Valley through public participation in the planning process. In this capacity its members participated in shaping the County and city of Santa Clarita Oak Ordinances and have been strong advocates for tree preservation over the past three decades.
The County Oak Ordinance was first approved in 1980’s after public pressure to safeguard California’s iconic oak resource in Los Angeles County. It included noticing, permitting and hearings for any oak removals within the county so that removals could be reduced, tracked and at the very least, mitigated. Numerous individuals participated in this effort and subsequent updates to ensure our oaks would be protected.
On Feb. 23, the County Board of Supervisors sought to weaken the County Oak Ordinance through an Agenda Item advertised as a “Title 22 Tune-Up”. Nowhere in the lengthy description of this agenda item was there any indication that changes would be made to the Oak Tree Ordinance. These same interested groups and individuals would certainly have wanted to be informed and participate in these proposed changes had proper notification of them been given to the public.
The Ralph M. Brown Act requires public agencies to provide a description of the actions
which they propose to take:
Govt. Code Section 54954.2 – Requirements for a description of the Agenda Item 54954.2.
(a) (1) At least 72 hours before a regular meeting, the legislative body of the local agency, or its designee, shall post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting
(3) No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda
By omitting these three words “Oak Ordinance Changes” the County failed to provide sufficient notice of its intention to weaken the Oak Ordinance and thus deprived the public and the many groups that have worked towards oak preservation in Los Angeles County, of the ability to participate in or object to this process. We believe the County may have purposely sought to avoid the many public objections to these proposed changes by obscuring the agenda item description. Had the agenda item been properly described in a manor to inform the public of its content, a public outcry would have ensued. We were left with no choice but to pursue legal action.
“In this time of climate change when planting and protecting trees has been identified as a major means of reducing the green house gas effect on climate change, the County Oak Ordinance becomes even more important,” said SCOPE President Lynne Plambeck. “It is not acceptable to keep the public in the dark about changes that would simplify oak removals throughout the County.”