Earlier in the week, NBCUniversal drew controversy when it suddenly up and pruned a bunch of shade trees in front of its lot. Up until then, those trees were being used by striking writers and actors as shade during their picketing, because it’s been really hot in Los Angeles lately. To see them cut down felt like a very deliberate move against picketers, even as Universal insisted it was nothing more than a not-so-happy coincidence.
With how supportive folks on social media have been of the strike, the trees drew a lot of attention, with many declaring “tree law” when it seemed like a potential punishment may be in store for NBCUniversal. As explained by LA’s City Controller Kenneth Mejia, those trees fall under the city’s jurisdiction, not Universal’s, thus prompting an investigation. Come Friday, Mejia said that StreetsLA would issue a fine of $250 to the corporation for the violation of cutting trees without a city permit.
Yes, it’s just $250, which is a first-time offense for anyone who cuts trees in the city sans permit, and regardless of the number of cut trees. For a company like NBCUniversal, that fine isn’t much of anything, and $250 is probably the combined amount they pay actors in residuals, as we’ve all recently learned. Mejia acknowledged that the laws are outdated, saying they “limit penalties the City can issue,” and “aren’t equitable across offenders, especially big corporations.” He recommended that the City updates its laws, fine amounts, and penalties for illegal tree trimmings, but admitted that it may take some time since StreetsLA is understaffed.
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