The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has charged an LA man with multiple criminal counts after an issue arose while he was building a dream house on his Mulholland Drive property. He is accused of having dirt and trees removed from nearby parkland and brought onto his property in order to grade the land for the foundation of the house. In California, grading land near wild lands could negatively impact or destroy protected trees, which include California Live Oaks and Valley Oaks, California Black Walnut trees, Western Sycamores and California Bay trees. In this case, the threat to nearby live oaks and black walnuts led to criminal charges: two counts of destruction of property, two counts of illegal grading and one count of removing protected trees. No one is claiming that the man didn’t have a permit to build the house. The permit he apparently did not obtain relates to grading. Under the City of Los Angeles Municipal Code, the Board of Public Works must carefully consider any grading project within municipal boundaries to determine whether it might impact protected trees. The man may not have realized he needed to obtain a grading permit, or that it would not be acceptable for him to remove dirt, scrub brush, and trees (including at least one California Live Oak and one California Walnut) from the adjacent property — parkland owned by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. “His workers went to the adjacent park property and started removing the dirt there to put on his property and in doing so, destroyed the park property,” the deputy city attorney prosecuting the case told reporters. “There are some protected species of trees that are up there that are destroyed….It’s chaparral, there’s trees and shrubbery, and they’re not there, because his bulldozers have scraped it all away.” The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority ordered the Mulholland Drive man to stop work on the grading project on Sept. 6, but park rangers reported that grading was still being done on Sept. 8, according to the prosecutor. The damage to the parkland alleged by the prosecutor is substantial. According to the evidence they plan to present, more than 20,000 square feet of parkland was damaged by the unpermitted grading project, and officials estimate that restoring it will cost over $200,000. A hundred years ago, people routinely used trees and other materials from nearby lands in order to build or improve their homes. Today, landowners need to be aware that the very same activity pioneers took part in is now highly regulated — and could result in being held responsible for what may seem like astonishingly high damage estimates. If you’re not careful, it could also end in criminal destruction of property charges. Source: The Daily News, “Man charged with illegal grading near home site,” C.J. Lin, April 27, 2012