NBCU fined with $250 fine for trimming ficus without permit

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After a union accused NBCUniversal of trimming trees along the sidewalk where WGA and SAG-AFTRA members were picketing outside Universal Studios in Los Angeles, the city of Los Angeles has fined the company $250 for unauthorized landscaping work.

When news of the union complaint first surfaced, NBCUniversal denied that the trimming had anything to do with the strike.

It said that the ficus trees on Barham Blvd. abutting the mega-studio’s lot, were trimmed annually around this time as advised by an arborist.

“We understand that the safety tree trimming of the Ficus trees we did on Barham Blvd. has created unintended challenges for demonstrators, that was not our intention,” the NBCU said in a statement. “In partnership with licensed arborists, we have pruned these trees annually at this time of year to ensure that the canopies are light ahead of the high wind season.”

The trees provided much-needed shade for picketing union members during a particularly hot snap in the city.

The trees, however, sit on public land and are technically the responsibility of the City of Los Angeles. The city does allow private organizations to perform maintenance after receiving a permit to do so.

The $250 fine aimed at NBCU is specifically for performing the trimming without a permit. The city noted that the $250 amount is the maximum it could fine the company under what some view as outdated rules.

The fine does not take a stance on how the trimming affected the safety of striking workers.

City Comptroller Kenneth Mejia expressed frustration that city could not take further action against NBCU, while also acknowledging a $250 will have little to no affect on the company, which reported $39.2 billion in revenue in 2022.

After the trees were first trimmed, NBCU said it was working to find a way to provide shade for striking union members, though it did not clarify if it had taken any action in that area.