Policy News from CD5's Jeff Ebenstein, Director of Policy & Legislation

ACE - Administrative Citation Enforcement (aka Administrative Code Enforcement) helps deal with quality-of-life violations and helps enforce protection for our urban trees

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Policy Perspective:

An urban forest is one of our City’s most crucial assets, and it is vital that L.A.’s trees are protected from vandalism and malicious destruction. That’s why Councilmember Koretz has launched a key effort to improve how we keep our trees safe from harm.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, “Urban forests are more important than ever. They are dynamic ecosystems that provide critical benefits to people and wildlife. Urban forests help to filter air and water, control storm water, conserve energy, and provide animal habitat and shade. They add beauty, form, and structure to urban design. By reducing noise and providing places to recreate, urban forests strengthen social cohesion, spur community revitalization, and add economic value to our communities.” 

In other words, urban forests don’t just beautify landscapes — they also directly contribute to the public’s health and well-being.

The City of Los Angeles has more than 700,000 trees. They are located in open spaces, on private property, and in the public right-of-way. Recent media accounts and governmental agency reports have stressed the great value of maintaining L.A.’s urban forest, but they have also pinpointed important priorities that we need to address for the sake of that forest. 

One of the foremost concerns is the damage done by unpermitted trimming and illegal removal of trees, both of which happen way too often. Raising public awareness through education and outreach helps discourage some of that destructive activity, but so can more effective enforcement of our laws when violations occur. Currently, even when culprits are caught in the act, justice doesn’t always readily occur, because our legal system is overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of cases involving crimes of violence and other matters that understandably demand the courts’ full and immediate attention.  That’s why Councilmember Koretz, in conjunction with concerned community groups, has called for exploring the use of an alternative enforcement solution — Administrative Citation Enforcement aka Administrative Code Enforcement, or ACE. 

Several years ago, the Councilmember and a coalition of community groups led the effort to create the ACE program, so that the City might more efficiently and effectively deal with many “low level” quality-of-life violations — for example, excessive noise complaints, unleashed dogs, and illegally posted signs, etc. — which too often get lost in the judicial system, allowing transgressors to game the system. Under the guidance of the City Attorney’s Office, ACE allows the City the alternative of issuing administrative citations while imposing fines or fees which increase incrementally with each subsequent offense. The timely processing of such tickets along with the possible prosecution for non-compliance helps achieve the desired enforcement and deters further violations.

What’s worked with many other types of violations may now work to protect our urban forest.   Councilmember Koretz, in collaboration with community leadership, has introduced a motion instructing the Bureau of Street Services and the City Attorney to consider how the use of ACE might help keep our urban forest safe. Input from the Urban Forestry Department will be involved. The neighborhoods and people of Los Angeles benefit when the City establishes more robust reporting and response mechanisms, strengthens its enforcement capabilities, and improves its deterrence of illegal pruning and removing of street trees. ACE might just be the “ticket” to protecting our urban forest.