Street Tree Project

Updated 1/23/24


Serrano Park HOA owns about 220 Brazilian peppertrees located in the parkways along Paseo Sombra and Paseo Tranquilo.  Most are about 40 years old and are at end of useful life.  This is the opinion of the Landscape Committee, verbally verified by arborists from Harvest and Great Scott, and summarized in an independent detailed arborist report presented to the HOA by Arborgate.  In the coming years, there is no doubt that these trees will continue to decline, and the hazards of failure will continue to increase.  It is for these reasons that a management plan appropriate for overly mature trees has been adopted.

This plan has two separate efforts.  The first, is to carefully manage the existing Brazilian pepper trees in an effort to extend their life as best we can.  The second effort being proposed, is to fill in the gaps with our new tree pallet.

Brazilian Peppertree Management:

In the past, the peppertrees have been consistently over-pruned in an effort to reduce the mess during high growth seasons.  This causes extreme stress to the trees contributing to their decline.  To slow their decline, we intend to change this practice.  Going forward, we will be pruning only as needed.  To handle the mess from berries and leaves, we have increased the sidewalk cleanup maintenance as needed.

  1. Broken limbs will be attended to immediately.
  2. Trees will be trimmed as necessary to maintain street clearance of at least 10 feet and sidewalk clearance of at least 7.5 feet per our Best Practices.  This will be performed by Harvest as needed during parkway maintenance.
  3. Watersprouts on the trunk up to 6 feet high will be trimmed by Harvest as needed during parkway maintenance.
  4. In April, the landscape committee will inspect the trees for any additional maintenance that may be needed and put together RFPs for the work.
  5. During seasons when the peppertree berries are dropping, Harvest will increase the number of times they clean the sidewalks and parkways from a minimum of once per week to a maximum of 3 times per week during peak seasons.
  6. Any other issues will be attended to as they come up.

Since this program was started in 2019, the change from heavy pruning to selective structural pruning has reduced the stress on the trees and significant reduced maintenance costs.  This has improved the health of these trees greatly and slowed their decline. However, due to the rains of 2022-2023, the crown weight is increasing and we now need to find a balance between too much weight on the limbs and removing too much of the crown needed to nourish these old trees.

Brazilian Pepper tree Replacement:

The best plan for street tree replacement is to treat them as a crop and completely replace a block at a time. This assures us of healthy, long-lived street trees for the next 40 years. However, we cannot afford this without a huge increase in our monthly dues.

The Landscape Committee has found a way to plant compatible trees in the larger gaps and gradually enhance the appearance and health of our parkway trees.

  • Canary Island Pine trees will be planted in small groups in gaps where we can use more height in our trees and we do not have room for the wider trees.
  • Podocarpus trees will be planted in gaps where larger shade is desired.

You can see this look of pepper trees among pine tree groupings along Trabuco and Lake Forest Drive.


  • This plan change is awaiting approved by the HOA Board.
  • Rebate Project 3 includes a test section for this new look.

The annual cost of this project will be low, adding what trees we can afford each year.  As the Brazilian pepper trees continue to fail, the tree gaps will get larger and more plentiful. We do not yet have an accurate cost of what it would take to fill in trees at a faster rate than they are failing but it should be manageable.

We believe this to be the best management plan going forward based on the current state of our street trees.  This project is ongoing, developed and managed by the Landscape Committee at the discretion of the HOA Board, and will be updated as needed with Board approval as the project progresses.

Actual Brazilian Pepper Street Tree Count:

  • 1 / 1 / 2017 – 234
  • 1 / 1 / 2018 – 232
  • 1 / 1 / 2019 – 232
  • 1 / 1 / 2020 – 231
  • 1 / 1 / 2021 – 223
  • 1 / 1 / 2023 – 219
  • 1 / 1 / 2024 – 212