Juniper Removal OK’d Despite Strong Opposition

 (Updated Nov. 21)

           A Firewise Landscape Policy requiring the removal of all Junipers “from the entire property” by Aug. 31, 2021, was adopted by the OVA Board of Directors at its Nov. 17 virtual meeting despite strong opposition from two directors.

            Tom Kendrick, who was elected president at the meeting to succeed Steve Spanier, called the Juniper removal requirement “over broad, too aggressive” and said he is not convinced if challenged that OVA “could make it stick.” “I would be delighted to have all Junipers removed. This isn’t the way to do it.”

            Director Noel Lyons showed photos of Junipers which he said would not endanger the homes involved and suggested that the requirement be delayed for two years. He said voluntary removal “would go a long way,” but added that he’s told that replacing wooden fences which abut homes with metal fences would save more homes than Juniper removal.

            Supporting the policy in the 5-2 vote were Spanier and directors Carolyn Bettencourt, Heidi Klyn, Jess Marzak and Marianne Neufeld.

            Spanier described Junipers as “a bunch of firebombs” which “burn hot.” “We need to take a stance,” Bettencourt said. “we can encourage all we want. It doesn’t get the job done.” Marzak called Junipers “the most dangerous,” adding: “Let’s treat this seriously.”

He added that some homes with junipers may have trouble getting insurance.

            Klyn noted that several cities in the Bay Area are moving aggressively to get rid of Junipers, including San Francisco, Mill Valley and Morgan Hill. She called Junipers “an accident waiting to happen; the whole village could go up in flames.”

            Iris Harrell, chair of the Building Construction Committee, said 90 percent of the homes destroyed in the recent Glass fire were the result of embers, in many cases produced by burning vegetation. “We all benefit from removing excess vegetation,” she added. She said that if the winds that drove the Glass fire had been as strong as those which drove the 2017 fire, “we would have been toast.”

            Resident Phil Herzog raised the possibility of homeowners removing Junipers gradually with gardeners who tend the property regularly removing one or two Junipers at a time. Another resident, Bern Lefson, said that while his neighbors were planning to remove the Junipers, “the only way is to make it mandatory.”

            The policy also requires homeowners to comply with the following guidelines by Aug. 31, 2021:

            -Remove plants on the OVA /Flammable/Do Not Plant list within a 5-foot defensible space zone from the house. Any existing trees and shrubs not on the list may remain in the 5-foot space. Those shrubs should be healthy and maintained free of dead wood.

  • Remove all wood and rubber mulches in the 5-foot zone.
    • Removed dead branches from shrubs and trees, keeping the integrity of the trees, and remove all dead trees and shrubs.
    • Remove all finely shredded redwood and cedar bark such as gorilla hair and rubber mulch from the entire property.
    • Remove all leaves and needles from roof and rain gutters as needed.
    • All wildland grasses must be cut or removed mechanically or by sheep annually to a maximum height of 4 inches.
    • Firewood and any combustible materials must be stored at least 30 feet from the home, garage, attached deck or other structures.

            The policy also provides that rock may be used as mulch between plants and is exempt from the 15% rock limit.