Laguna Beach City Ordinance 12.12.004 prohibits certain specified conditions. One of the prohibited conditions is any of several enumerated plants, “all of which are non-native plants that are highly invasive and injurious to native vegetation and that may be a flood or fire hazard.”
Without the quoted material, the ordinance would simply operate to strictly prohibit each of the several enumerated plants. How does the presence of the quoted material alter that result? Some would argue that it doesn’t. They would argue that the quoted material is simply superfluous and does not at all alter the result that all of the enumerated plants are strictly prohibited. A problem with that argument is that there is a general tenet of statutory construction that as far as possible statutes are to be construed so that no portion is superfluous. A better interpretation that would provide at least some purpose for the quoted material would be that the phrase, “and that may be a flood or fire hazard” is intended to limit the scope of the ordinance so that the general prohibition only applies to stands of the enumerated plants that may be a flood or fire hazard. This should be the preferred interpretation.
Unfortunately, the city Fire Department, which has responsibility for the enforcement of the ordinance, has adopted the first interpretation, which is that the enumerated plants are strictly prohibited without regard for whether they may be a flood or fire hazard. If that is the intention of the City Council, then, the ordinance should be amended to reflect that intention. In the meantime, the ordinance should be enforced according to the less onerous and better second interpretation.
Doug Jolley, Laguna Beach