Landscape Committee

Last updated: March, 2022

The Serrano Park Community Association, Landscape Committee is responsible for advising on the management of 32 acres of green space. This includes an estimated 1500 trees, many of which are over 40 years old and range from street trees to towering eucalyptus mini groves. The Committee advises the HOA Board on the landscape and tree maintenance contracts and coordinates closely with the contractors to achieve the goals as set by the HOA board.

In past years, the management philosophy of our HOA and the Landscape Committee was more focused on maintaining our green areas in the short term. This is to be expected since long term management is difficult with changing Board and Committee members with different priorities. This has created a situation where several areas and some of our trees are in slow decline. Our current Landscape Committee and Board of Directors has recognized that management techniques need to be re-imagined and our trees need to be managed as long-term assets. As a dues-driven, volunteer staffed organization, our resources are limited and volunteer turn-over can be an issue. But, we have an excellent team and believe solutions are possible.

Who we are:

  • Dave Hart- Chairman
  • Dave Forest
  • Evelyn Cost
  • Mike Davison

What we do:

  • Oversight – We work with all green area contractors, recommending and advising on contracts, inspecting the work done, reviewing invoices, and budget oversight. This oversight includes about half of the HOA’s annual budget, insuring that the required work is completed properly.
  • Best Practices – We research and establish guidelines and procedures for management practices, contract specifications, and oversight inspections, by creating Best Practices documents. These are updated as we learn so that our knowledge and practices are not lost as Committee Members retire. Our guidelines are based on modern urban forest management practices, advice from arborists, standard industry reference texts, and ANSI standards as well as ISA publications. These are often adjusted to meet our unique requirements and experiences.
  • Adding trees – As the budget permits, we work to fill in tree lines in our various embankments and turf areas. We try to use species already successfully established in these areas whenever possible.
  • Protecting volunteer trees – We are stepping up our efforts to locate and identify new trees propagated by established trees, and protect these. You may see these with stakes and green ribbon flags until they are big enough to be noticed. Without protection, these can be cut down by accident when the landscapers trim the shrubs.
  • Tree growing projects – We have started growing young trees from seeds and from rescued seedlings. We are also working toward having hard-to-get trees custom grown for us. These primarily include pines and eucalyptus trees that will be used to fill in our mini forests. We recognize that our large trees will not survive forever. We need better management of these areas to establish a multi-generational forest so that there will be young trees to fill in when the large trees are lost. This is a new project for us and will take many years to become sustainable.
  • Maintain the young trees – Young trees are rarely managed well. This is because it is not viewed as cost effective to spend a lot of funds maintaining trees that can be cheaply replaced. However, if a tree is well maintained while young and structural issues are corrected early, then that tree will require much less maintenance as it increases in size. We have started training our volunteers to provide the extra care for these young trees.
  • Tree inventory – We can’t know how well we are doing if we can’t measure it. To this end, we are working on creating an inventory of our trees. This inventory is used to inspect trees and create work orders, as well as to track maintenance history. This project is in its infancy and will take years to complete, but the results will be a way to track the value of our green assets, simplify specifying maintenance, and reducing costs. At the same time, the health of our trees will improve. We can already see this in the maintenance of our street trees, where they look healthier and our maintenance costs have been drastically reduced. Our large trees are also benefiting from this new management approach. We no longer issue work orders to trim all of the trees in an area. We only trim the trees that need it and pay more attention on structural pruning to reduce future maintenance.
  • Irrigation – Our water bill now exceeds 10% of the annual HOA budget with the new pricing increases. We are monitoring this better and working on solutions. We also have an increasing irrigation repair cost which we are addressing. We recognize that a 40 year-old water use concept needs to be modernized with today’s water shortages, so we will also be recommending solutions toward lowering our water usage.
  • Turf and shrub oversight – We are investigating ways to reduce the amount water needed to irrigate turf as well as how to improve the quality of our turf and remain within budget.
  • Area themes – We recognize that filling in missing trees and plant material, looks nice but not great. We all want that wow-look. We will be working with landscape designers and gardening experts to adjust the landscaping in certain areas to create a theme. These will be documented and establish the long-term look for that area and will guide us and future Committee Members toward that goal. These are micro plans that pertain to selected areas and will eventually encompass all of our green areas.
  • Erosion control – We recommend repairs to landscape caused by sprinkler runoff, rain damage, and damage from people.
  • Drainage – We inspect drainage channels and drains for excess debris and recommend work orders to correct blockages.
  • Community awareness – This website and associated newsletter were originally built to help share our efforts with the community. This year, we plan to host seminars on various landscape topics and will be inviting guest experts to speak as well as Committee members. Various topics will include urban forest management concepts, sustainability, and reducing water usage. We will continue to strive to improve community awareness of our landscape issues and efforts.
  • Community help – Some of these projects will require more work than the 5 of us can provide. We will be reaching out to the community for volunteer helpers to train and donate time for certain tasks.

These projects are our effort to work toward a better urban forest management approach, improving the beauty and pride of our urban forest assets.