Overall, the green areas have improved since last year. The tree canopy continues to increase in size, some areas have been or are in the process of being replanted, the gardens at the entrances and clubhouse have improved, the turf areas have improved, and we are forecasted to stay within budget for 2022. We continue to improve our management techniques, documentation, and communication with the community. However, costs are increasing, our vendors are struggling with manpower, we are ordered to comply with drought irrigation mandates, the fall tree trimming is being delayed until Spring for budgetary reasons, and certain areas continue to slowly decline.
Projects and accomplishments during this office term: (2021-2022)
- Continued to reduce tree maintenance costs using urban forest management practices.
- Continue to document Best Practices.
- Planted trees in multiple locations.
- Started a project to save and protect dozens of volunteer trees.
- Removed dead, diseased, and high risk trees at multiple locations.
- Continue to improve mulching practices.
- Improved landscape budget management.
- Improved vendor and spending oversight.
- Volunteer team successfully worked on simple tree maintenance issues to reduce costs.
- Volunteer team successfully addressed gopher control without poison.
- Improved communications with City, County, and IRWD agencies.
- Improved storm drainage issues.
- Improved Amapola slope silt management.
- Improved v-ditch management.
- Repaired embankment erosion due to bicycles at multiple locations.
- Replanted embankments at multiple locations, some are still in-process.
- Repaired main greenbelt path.
- Improved communication and transparency through website and newsletter articles.
- Costs are increasing
- Sprinkler repair
- Parts costs
- Water costs
- Tree maintenance costs increase as our canopy size increases.
- Street trees are declining and need a solution. These same parkway areas have high runoff due to impacted roots.
- Water shortage has become an issue and we need to reduce our amount of ornamental turf.
- Trabuco property is declining and needs a solution.
- We need a viable drought plan. Too many of our trees are irrigated with our turf.
- All embankments should to be converted to drip irrigation to reduce erosion, runoff, water usage, sprinkler repair, and to improve deep watering of trees.
- Our irrigation systems should be upgraded to monitor flow and efficiently detect and handle leaks.
- Cipres Channel needs an erosion solution for the concrete drainage ditch.
- Continue to build and maintain a forest database
- Drip conversion projects (small embankment volunteer projects) fully funded by rebates.
- Turf conversion projects funded by rebates. (prioritize tree-less parkways)
- Add flow sensors and main valves to all 15 meters, a few each year, partially funded by rebates.
- Test new turf replacements for erosion control. (low cost project)
- Community discussions of the issues we face.
Current State – Trees
Overall, we have a healthy and growing urban forest canopy. Unfortunately, we loose some trees every year for various reasons, but we also gain new trees from plantings and from volunteer tree trees (trees that spread from existing trees). The actual size of our canopy is difficult to measure but by all indications, it is increasing. Scheduled trimming on a 3-year plan has greatly improved the general health of all our trees while nearly eliminating serious tree failures. Most of our urban forest areas are sustainable in their current management state with some area exceptions.
Flood Control Embankments
The trees on all of our flood control embankments are doing very well. This includes Amapola Slopes, the Cipres Channels, the Main Green Belt, and Sendero Channel. In these areas, young trees are replenishing the tree canopy at a faster rate than we loose trees and our large trees continue to grow larger. Since these trees are irrigated separate from turf, they are exempt from restricted irrigation mandates. These areas can be managed in this way indefinitely. However, we can improve water efficiency, reduce erosion, improve deep watering, and reduce maintenance costs by converting these areas from sprinklers to drip irrigation in these areas.
The trees growing in turf areas are doing well, however because they are being irrigated with the turf, the root structure is shallow and less stable than they should be. Drought restrictions can increase the hazards of infestations and disease. We are working with arborists, Harvest, and IRWD, on adjusting the irrigation to deal with this issue. We are likely to lose the turf but we should be able to save the trees.
The trees along Trabuco have been severely pruned this last year in accordance with a new State Mandate addressing fires caused by power lines hitting trees. This doubled the required clearance to trees. Because of the severe topping of these trees, their life expectancy has been seriously reduced. This has exaggerated an issue with this area that has been ongoing for many years, in that this area has received very little rejuvenation attention. This area is consistently treated as a low priority area when it comes to budget allocations. The net result, is that this area continues to steadily decline with no restoration solutions proposed.
The trees on the embankments along Paseo Somber and Paseo Tranquilo that are not in the parkways are doing fine, but the number of large trees is slowing decreasing. This is due to risk issues near property lines as well as the high cost of managing trees in these areas as they get large. These trees are usually checked every season and frequently pruned each year. As such, when a large tree must be removed, it may not be possible to replace it at all, or it requires smaller tree species. In this area, the tree canopy is remaining stable in size but is shrinking in height. The irrigation here is primarily drip and very efficient.
The Brazilian Peppertrees in the parkways along Paseo Sombra and Paseo Tranquilo are in decline with no economical solution for replacing missing trees. You can read a full description of the issue and the arborist’s report and advice here.
Current State – Plants and Shrubs
In general, our plants and shrubs are doing well in most areas. These are all low maintenance and low water plants and are exempt from irrigation mandates. Certain aging areas need to be replanted but our budget limits our rate of renewing all the areas that need it. Again, the primary area with declining shrubs that is not getting attention, is along Trabuco because it has been considered low priority for many years.
Current State – Turf
In general, the condition of our turf has improved over the last year, mainly due to the efforts of the Landscape Committee working with Harvest to address homeowner observations. Recently, we have experienced irrigation issues in Sendero Channel due to IRWD supply pipe repair problems, but we have worked out a temporary fix while IRWD sorts their problems.
In July, we received notice that we must comply with the State irrigation restriction mandate. HOAs must stop irrigating turf with potable water that is considered ornamental per the State’s definition. The result is that we will soon have a lot of dead grass and it is unlikely we will ever be allowed to have as much turf as we had in the past. Fortunately, we have large rebates available for turf and drip conversion projects that should cover nearly all the costs of upgrading some of the areas. The Landscape Committee is working with Harvest and IRWD to put together several such turf replacement projects.
You can read more about the State mandate and its impact on Serrano Park this means here.
Between owned property and easement property, the Serrano Park Community Association manages approximately 32 acres of property, containing about 1500 trees. The property includes park-like areas, water shed drainage, erosion control embankments, paths, street parkways, and flowerbeds. The HOA Board has a legal obligation to manage these areas on behalf of the homeowner members and in accordance with state law and the property agreements with the homeowners. Funding for this is roughly half of the homeowners assessments.
The HOA Board is responsible for all landscape management on behalf of the homeowners. To accomplish this, the Board has given limited authority to the management company (Keystone Pacific) to handle the day-to-day repairs and maintenance approvals. The Board also relies heavily upon the Landscape Committee for recommending actions on all issues related to landscape management.
- Issues small work orders for ordinary repair issues on a near daily basis
- Suggests and tracks budgets
- Gathers bills for payment approval
- Suggests and qualifies vendors
- Works with the Landscape Committee and vendors to accomplish the projects and actions approved by the Board.
- Documents homeowner complaints and reports of landscape issues and take appropriate action.
The Landscape Committee
- Creates concise Request For Proposals (RFPs)
- Works closely with vendors and the management company to accomplish the projects and actions approved by the Board
- Provides oversight on issued work orders and contracts to insure the work is completed as contracted and to the standards expected.
- Suggests projects and solutions to address problem areas, risk management, and legal directives.
- Recommends landscape budgets, and help prioritize expenditures to maintain the budget.
- Documents practices that are working and defines industry standards as they apply to the HOA.
- Measures the urban forest in order to track progress and asset value.
- Seeks professional advice to insure the HOA is maximizing the value of the shared green spaces within the budget allowed.
- Establishes area themes and manages long term themed goals.
- Find the volunteers needed to implement a sustainable urban forest management plan.