Local authorities launch probe after trees trimmed amid Hollywood strike

Local authorities launch probe after trees trimmed amid Hollywood strike

NBC Universal denies wrongdoing as LA City Controller Kenneth Mejia begins investigation

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) - Local authorities in Los Angeles have opened an investigation after a series of trees were trimmed outside Universal Studios where actors and screen writers have been striking in searing heat.

LA City Controller Kenneth Mejia said Tuesday that his office is investigating the incident after trees were cut where strikers are "exercising their right to picket."

"Trees are essential to providing Angelenos with significant environmental and public health benefits, especially during a heatwave," he wrote in a series of tweets.

Los Angeles is currently under an excessive heat warning, and is seeing daily temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 C).

No tree trimming permits were issued within the past three years for the location near NBC Universal's studio lots, and the city did not issue any permits for the trimming activity that took, he said on Wednesday. Strikers noticed the trimmed trees Monday, according to statements they posted on Twitter.

NBC Universal denied any wrongdoing, saying it trims the trees annually.

“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 company said in a statement, according to multiple media reports.

"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. We support the WGA and SAG’s right to demonstrate, and are working to provide some shade coverage. We continue to openly communicate with the labor leaders on-site to work together during this time," it added.

The strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA, the two unions that represent Hollywood's writers and actors, has brought studio production to a standstill.

The Writers Guild Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to screenwriting, posted a picture of canopies along the picketline that it said were provided by NBC Universal after the tree trimming.

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