Street trees

A right-of-way along San Gorgonio Avenue.

BY MARC HARGETT

Record Gazette

The city of Banning is trying to get the word out regarding a long-forgotten ordinance that puts the responsibility of maintaining trees and sidewalks along the street in the hands of the homeowner.

In a recent city council meeting, Public Works Director Art Vela asked the Council if they would like the Public Works Depart to revise the ordinance, or come up with a way to effectively educate homeowners about the ordinance as it stands.

It appears the council will uphold the current ordinance as is, but discussed moving forward on public education of the policy.

The main item of discussion was the maintenance of the ancient Italian cypress trees along San Gorgonio Avenue and the large pines along Wilson Street.

The Public Works Department receives many requests from homeowners in the community to maintain the trees lining their streets.

“Each year we get a new property owner that calls and says you need to maintain these public trees,” Vela said during the last council meeting. “Then we go through that education process.”

During the discussion regarding the trees, Ordinance 1977-15 was cited declaring the homeowner responsible for maintenance of trees and other vegetation that line the streets.

In short, the ordinance states that the public right-of-way, the area between the property line and the curbing of the street, is the responsibility of the homeowner.

That includes watering of the trees and landscaping, as well as maintaining trees and any vegetative overgrowth of the sidewalks that would interfere with public convenience and safety.

The city will remove trees if they die or become diseased, and become a health and safety issue for the public.

The city is also responsible for the maintenance of the actual concrete walkway, gutters and curbs, and driveway approaches.

It appears, however, that most homeowners have never actually been informed of the 42 year-old ordinance.

As a 25-year homeowner along San Gorgonio Avenue, Jean Rutzinger had never heard of the ordinance declaring the homeowner responsible for maintenance of the public right-of-way.

“I kind of assumed it. Who else is going to maintain it?” Rutzinger said, referring to her well-kept right-of-way.

However, education of the ordinance is not solely for the homeowner: local Realtors also need to be made aware.

Longtime Pass area Realtor Linda Pippenger of Coldwell Banker Kivett-Teeters Association in Beaumont was unaware of the ordinance.

“I have been an agent for 31 years and I have never heard of it,” she said. “It has never come up with any of my clients.”

Revising the ordinance — the question brought before the council that prompted the discussion — does not appear to have garnered any favor.

To take on the full responsibility of the right-of-ways would burden the city with a great financial undertaking, city officials claim, and the city would need to hire more public works employees.

Banning’s Public Works Department dedicates four employees to cover the entirety of the city when it comes to maintaining right-of-ways.

The city removed several dead trees along San Gorgonio Avenue right-of-ways last week for the city’s electrical utility needs.

Staff Writer Marc Hargett may be reached at mhargett@recordgazette.net , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x117.

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