City Reportedly Planning Legal Action Against Kirby Dr. Wendy’s Late-Night Tree Whackers

Chopping Down of Trees along North Blvd. at Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The City of Houston intends to proceed with legal action in connection with the overnight disappearance of half a dozen oak trees from the public right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr., according to 2 separate sources. The trees were chopped down and ground up on site under cover of darkness Tuesday night as part of a renovation of the fast-food spot, which sits at the corner of Kirby and North Blvd. The removals took place on city property, but had not been permitted by the city.

“I have already been assured by the City of Houston’s enforcement officer that the city intends to proceed with a civil case,” writes Trees for Houston executive director Barry Ward in an email sent to members of the canopy-enhancement organization this morning. He calls plans to pursue legal action “a continuation of the recent, positive trend by the current administration to put an end to illegal tree removal in the City right-of-way or on city property.”


Partial Demolition of Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, Houston

The Kirby Dr. and North Blvd. oaks had been planted by Trees for Houston volunteers acting on behalf of the Boulevard Oaks Civic Association (with approval by the former Wendy’s franchise owner) more than a decade ago. While noting that his organization is not opposed to tree removal “where appropriate and legally executed,” Ward indicates in his email that Trees for Houston “is horrified by the irresponsible behavior exhibited here.”

If it proceeds with a civil suit or a criminal prosecution, it is possible the City will seek both replacement of the oaks with large substitutes and a financial penalty based on the value of the removed trees. One estimate for this incident values the oaks at approximately $150,000.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

$150K for More Sunlight

74 Comment

  • Now yee peasants may commence with the public outrage.

  • You Huggers have one job ……….

  • I do hope they hit these morons where it hurts.
    Not all trees are created equal. There are “trash trees” (I’ve heard Trees for Houston people call them that), which can be cut down. But these were nice street-trees. Oaks I think? Worth keeping.
    @Commonsense: you live in The Woodlands don’t you? More than a little hypocritical to live surrounded by trees, and then cheer on a property owner who illegally cut down trees in the dead of night – don’t you think? I’ll be if they clear cut your neighborhood, the HOA would go ape-shit, and you wouldn’t disagree with them….

  • If there is any justice in the world the owners of Wendy’s AND the contractors who took down the trees should both lose … they knew it was illegal. At a minimum the contractor (and any “reincarnations”) should be banned from any future city contracts as well.

    The replacement of the trees is just icing on the cake and should serve as an enforcement model for all future illegal tree removals.

  • Sign: “Pull pork”? SMH

  • One of the few cases where I wish they would make an example of them and mark the fines way up. The way it was done showed they had clear intent to do it illegally, clearly premeditated. They should have done it during the day when they had a plausible excuse like ‘well we didn’t know that was an issue..’.

    At least we’ll have a sleek modern concept Wendy’s!!! That will add so much character to the hood.

  • Just brought this incident to the attention of Wendy’s national Customer Service department. Let’s see what they say.

  • Let’s hope the city actually follows through on this and it not be just an empty gesture to appease people upset about these trees and then drop the case when the attention moves elsewhere. The ghost of Dave Thomas owes us some oak trees…

  • All city permits for the renovation should be on hold until the issue is completely resolved:

    “If it proceeds with a civil suit or a criminal prosecution, it is possible the City will seek both replacement of the oaks with large substitutes and a financial penalty based on the value of the removed trees.”

    That will make other businesses and homeowners think twice before doing crap like this. The permitting process may suck, but it could be worse.

  • “The removals took place on city property, but had not been permitted by the city.”

    Well, I guess that clears up that little mystery. Gosh, and I really thought the city must have issued them a permit to cut down the city’s own trees in the dark of night.

  • Really applaud COH if they take these guys to task. Just an idea and I’m no attorney, but to deter against future violations why can’t COH pursue civil AND criminal charges. If someone destroys my property and the value is $150k I’m going to pursue criminal mischief charges.

  • well the city better get ready to ‘take legal action’ against companies all over the city including Kirby dr for tree removal as everyone has removed including all the fast-food restaurants on kirby dr who rebuilt or remodeled. Plus the city will have a tough time disproving Wendy’s didn’t plant them originally when the location was built in the early 80’s which would make them either property of Wendys or illegally planted in the first place. Again, trees are removed all over the city on the public right-of-way so this could be a lengthly battle again all new or removed development throughout. The real reason folks are upset in this specific area is Wendy’s and other type establishments don’t ‘fit’ with what people think should be in business in the first place.

  • @ZAW, I used to live in the woodlands and even they had a reasonable tree policy …. “If it’s in the name of the progress, by all means cut it down, as long as you promise to plant new trees equal to total trunk diameter that you took down” (a bunch of small trees in a place of a couple of big ones.) Now I live in Piney Point and they have a very similar policy and I never see any wackjobs getting their biodegradable panties in a wad.

  • I’d just like to point out a comment made in the last entry about this:

    “I find it hard to believe a contractor for Fortune 1000 company would take a shortcut like that.”

    This would be a little more laughable if it didn’t seem so naive/pity-inducing.

  • Hopefully the city decides to make them pay to plant new trees that are bigger.

  • It has happened before, remember?

    They decapitated these trees, let them grow back, and then removed them – also under cover of darkness. Fast food and live oaks do not mix, I guess.

  • Yeah it’s pretty shady that they did it during the night. Oops…too soon?

  • If I destroyed someone else’s property worth in excess of $100,000, they would call it a felony.

  • You crazy bunch of m***********s. Even if the contractor had obtained a permit to take the trees down, he’s not going to do it in the middle of rush hour [which for this stretch of Kirby is 7am-7pm – he’s going to do it when there’s less chance of a piece ‘o tree falling on a car.

  • In full Houston tradition, we can now enjoy an unobscured view on fast food boxes, car dealers, their lots, billboards, and utility poles/power lines. All in one view!

  • Call Wendy’s at 1-888 624 8140. Or email them at their website. Click on “contact us.”

  • Upon further reflection, the whole “City is planning to file civil suit” thing sounds more like wishful thinking on part of the Two Secret Sources. The enforcement officer has no say so whether a lawsuit will progress and I’m sure his comments were distorted from “If, perhaps then” to “We definitely will”. Furthermore it is way too early for anyone to say a suit will be filed, the incident happened less than 24 hours ago, it may take months for the legal team at COH to even decide whether to file a suit at all.
    I’m not saying it won’t happen but it’s certainly not written in stone yet.

  • @c.l – yeah I always have contractors do work in the pitch dark.

    Channel 13 news truck is now on the scene.

  • “Yeah it’s pretty shady that they did it during the night”, if they were honest they would have shut down a lane of traffic on Kirby during rush hour.

  • I don’t know if I’d agree that fast food and trees don’t mix. McDonalds replaced their store at Bissonnet and South Gessner, and they kept the trees. They had a bitch of a base flood elevation requirement on that site (just look at some of their driveway slopes over there) – and they STILL kept the trees.

  • Wen, even if Wendy’s had planted the trees ten years ago on the public easement (without knowledge of city) they then become the property of the city. Same law breaking with tree removal in either scenario.

  • I predict a $75-100K settlement in addition to tree replacement. Renovation just got a whole lot more expensive for either Wendys or the contractor.

  • Not sure why you would call Wendy’s corporate offices. They don’t own the stores- franchisees do.

  • At least a dozen oaks at least this size cam down for clearing of the lot for the new Marriott Marquis downtown. And they were all on the sidewalk. What I find disappointing is that developers/city planners seem to forget how valuable natural shade is in this city. Oak trees do well in our climate (thankfully) and we should promote their growth – and shade for pedestrians – wherever possible.

  • I’m guessing they’re using the wood pulp for their burgers.

  • @c.l. wrote “Even if the contractor had obtained a permit to take the trees down, he’s not going to do it in the middle of rush hour”

    While traffic is bad, this contractor was simply too cheap to purchase the required lane closure permits. They should have had those permits regardless of the time of day.

  • “Now yee peasants may commence with the public outrage.”

    “Yee”… is that how you think that word is spelled?

  • Top reasons given by the defenders of illegal tree-cutting on here:

    1. They can be illegally cut down, since they were probably illegally planted.
    2. It’s in the name of progress.
    3. The overgrowth of trees needed removing, to show off the new building and signage coming. Remodeled Wendy’s look great.
    4. Wendy’s probably planted them on city land 20 years ago, so it’s okay to cut them.
    5. It’s hard to believe a contractor for a Fortune 1000 company would take a shortcut like that.
    6. Do the people who eat at Wendy’s really give a s— about trees?
    7. Live oaks are overused.

    Yep, these are actual reasons given on these threads by actual people. Wowzers.

  • Pretty sure it’s not illegal to plant a tree on city property between the sidewalk and your property…in residential neighborhoods, it’s actually encouraged. They’re called “street trees” – the city even published a list of preferred species.

  • The franchise owner is Haza Foods, LLC and Mohammed Ali Dhanani is the manager of the entity. The owners of the property are Colina Ventosa, Ltd, which is comprised of David & Lias Steen as well as Shannon Mann. It is a safe assumption that answers to this lie with these groups.

  • Lol @ Wen’s comments on this and the previous thread. Associated with the offending side much?

  • OK – it states quite clearly in the article that the trees were planted by the neighborhood association 10 years ago. Please stop with the inane illegally planted trees speculation. You sound like idiots.

  • Houston had enough trees. The ground litter those oaks produce is a nuisance and an eyesore. Besides, shade like that around fast food places invites the homeless to lounge. Better off cut and opened.

  • So much sky. Looks like outter loop(s) real estate now.

  • Just to add to the “trees and fast food don’t mix ” meme, did anyone notice that all the 20 year old live oaks planted along the 610 North feeder by the Home Depot at Brinkman were cut to the ground a week before the Chick-Fil-A opened on a pad site there this summer? I’m sure it was to increase visibility.

  • I too, also live in Piney Point, devoid of any hippie tree huggers. Everytime they cut down trees in my neighborhood, I purchase 10 VHS copies of Ferngully and light it on fire with the remains of the tree. As the smoke rises and the fumes fly high, all I can think of is making all those obama loving liberals squirm.

  • No criminal charges for vandalism? Imagine if they took a sledgehammer to one of the walls of city hall…

  • From Wendy’s to more Wendy’s is not progress, so you guys can stop that “in the name of progress” stuff right there. It’s not like they were clearing land to build children’s burn wards or cat blanket factories.

  • I’m just relieved that the shrubbery has been saved!!

  • I showed up at Memorial Park… or City Hall… with a chainsaw… and started cutting trees down… they’d throw my stupid ass in jail and throw the book at me.

    And rightly so.

    The same applies here–and then some. These are supposed “professionals”. The architect. The landscape architect. The landscaping company. The general contractor. Every single one of them knew exactly what they were doing. That’s what they go to school for. That’s what they get PAID to know. Someone–if not several someone’s–along the way must have said–should have said–“Uh… wait a minute guys… those trees are not on our lot. Maybe we should ask permission from the owners–the citizens of Houston–before we cut them down for our own purposes.

    My guess is that happened… and whoever was the “decision maker” simply chose to ignore that advice… hence the late night / after hours chop session. And that’s the guy the city needs to go after.

  • i think what we need to know, is if the Trees for Houston people got permission from the City of Houston to plant the trees in the first place. JS

  • Finally we have Eye-Witness… nevermind. The sad thing is that it’s a civil suit? Seriously?, that’s all? It was a direct and witnessed violation of ordinance. So Haza will pay some retribution and promise to plant “oh great wonderful new trees!” They’ll point out the plurality along with how NEW and FRESH the the trees they ‘replant’ are. Dear God.
    HOW ABOUT Haza RECYCLES and REUSES. Maybe THAT will make some “apology” from any of them more, uhm, palpable than Dave’s Baconator at any rate.

  • All the people joking about “hippie tree-huggers” are overlooking a pretty obvious fact: environmentalists seldom care about decorative trees planted in rows. What they usually care about is trees growing at random in wilderness, not selected and pruned. They often actually dislike trees that decorate and enhance property values in wealthy areas of town.

    No, the people angry about this are the people who just want their city to look nice. If you want to criticize them for that, fine, but if you say you live in the Woodlands or Memorial, I’m going to call you a hypocrite, because you were obviously willing to pay a lot extra for your house in order to have decorative trees everywhere.

  • good to see the strong chance for the law to come down hard on this property owner. the gulf coast has such little reminder of natural beauty as it is then you have to deal with selfish, greedy property owners stealing from the public what’s not rightfully theirs. i hope the city lawyers fry these culprits.

    and the folks on here who actually support this heinous action? the courage you show in posting your mental indolence is nothing to be proud of.

  • Superdave……”Pretty sure it’s not illegal to plant a tree on city property between the sidewalk and your property…in residential neighborhoods, it’s actually encouraged. They’re called “street trees” – the city even published a list of preferred species.” The developer of my neighborhood complex told me that the reason they were unable to plant the trees that they had included in spec images of the finished complex was that it was illegal. I told him exactly what you said and quoted the law and was brushed aside. I had to plant trees myself to improve the street. The developers rule…..The sidewalk is now crumbling and they said that it is the city’s fault for approving the sidewalk in the first place. Houston is the wild west!

  • Sue em; Sue em good. These nighttime tree cuttings are ridiculous. The culprits know full well what they are doing. Replace the trees for sure. Increase the fines.

  • You can contact Wendy’s corporate office about this franchisee’s skullduggery here:

  • Speaking of sidewalks (re: @Dunston), if they took down the trees because they were @#%-ing up the sidewalk, did they at least re-pave the sidewalk? Otherwise, what difference does it make?

  • If the franchisee pays no attention to City Ordinances regarding trees and permits for removing trees Do you have any guesses as to whether the franchisee follows City ordinance for food safety and restaurant cleanliness?

  • Last I heard was that a lesbian couple bought the place and are in the process of turning it into a modern tofu takeout complete with urban rock garden.

  • As Wendy’s slogan says “Now thats better”!

  • Piney Point is full of Republicans who hate hippies and tree-huggers, but their actual ordinances about removing trees are very tree-positive: “It is unlawful for any person to remove any Protected Tree or RMD Tree, or to damage or cause serious trauma (as determined by a Certified Forester) to any Protected Tree or RMD Tree during any of the following activities, without first having obtained a Tree Disposition Permit, unless otherwise exempted by the provisions of this Section.” RMD stands for Required Minimum Density, which Piney Point establishes as 1 tree per 2000 sq ft of lot area. So not only can you not cut down trees on public right of ways, you cannot cut down your own trees without applying for permission first. And the penalties can be severe, including stopping any construction or remodeling or refusing to issue a permit of occupancy.

    The charter expressly says that one reason for this is to maintain property values. People move to heavily-zoned Piney Point because it offers a quality of life they want–and regulations like the tree RMD help to guarantee that quality of life is not degraded.

  • @Robert, I’ve had to deal with Piney Point and other villages tree removal process, despite what the letter of the rule says, in real life it’s quite simple… If you’re doing new construction, you can obviously remove as many trees as you need. If you need to remove other trees (which doesn’t happen very often anyway), you have to plant some more elsewhere on the lot. And yes, you have to get prior approval first, which isn’t that hard.

    As a resident of Piney Point, I assure you, the trees are not the reason everyone lives here, not even reason #54, sure it’s nice to have them around, but property values, lot size, schools, low crime, etc. are much more important.

  • Oh, but they don’t say a word about the trees cut down by Chic-Fil-A on the North Loop, but of course the people in that area don’t drive Jaguars and Beamers……

  • @Higher Density Yes, the franchise owners are to blame, at least according to this article in the Chronicle:

    According to a commenter in that article, “Mohammed Dhanani (of Haza Foods LLC) has a local office in Sugar Land. The phone number listed is 281.201.2700 if you’d like to express your opinion on this issue.”

  • Thanks Toby. I laughed for the first time today. Here in the heights you can put up signs selling meth as long as your also trying to adopt out starving doggies.

  • On a main drive in Kingwood it is so lovely. The trees remain and only a sign peaks out to tell you was business hides behind the trees. Don’t use this establishment. It would have been a more pleasant place to eat there with the trees. The owner disregarded city property, the aesthetics of the neighborhood, and his lies are an insult to anyone with a brain because the truth is obvious. They don’t deserve to make money from the community they have offended.

  • I don’t get how a guy named Mohammed is even in the business of selling pulled pork sandwiches.

  • “As a resident of Piney Point, I assure you, the trees are not the reason everyone lives here, not even reason #54, sure it’s nice to have them around, but property values, lot size, schools, low crime, etc. are much more important.”

    Yes, and the trees pretty obviously raise the property values, otherwise why would they have such strict regulations? Why would the place even choose to call itself Piney Point, an identity based on the presence of pines? Why do you think Piney Point evolved into a more prestigious area than, say, Alief? I suppose next you’re going to tell me that trees in the Woodlands are not why people choose to live in the Woodlands, there just happens to be a lot of trees there…

  • I dunno about Mohammed selling pork but I saw Jesus cursing out Maria the other day

  • Once again, correlation does not equal causality. Saying that trees dramatically increase property values is like saying driveways promote the sale of Porsches because I see a lot of Porsches in driveways. If trees were the sole or even a major determining factor to property values then east Texas would be the most desirable place to live.

  • @Mr me this is the real media. I just wish they had a site that allows direct response to you. This is all so 2000

  • BOYCOTT THAT WENDY’S!!!!!!!! Run this guy out of town!! His apology is just an excuse! It is not enough for his monsterous deed!

  • This probably isn’t the first time that the Wendy’s contractors committed this offense. I did a little research and noticed where the Wendy’s at Walnut bend and Westheimer also had an oak tree on what appears to be City ROW cut down. I suspect that this is the M.O. for Haza Foods LLC when they renovate the local Wendy’s restaurants. Is anyone else aware of other incidents?

  • Pathetic…cutting the trees down in the middle of the night. They knew exactly what they were doing.
    Haza Foods……281-201-2700
    Call Mohamed and give him a piece of your mind.

  • What about the building at 2401 Portsmouth that was approved & given a permit by city to take down ALL the healthy, grown & lovely trees around the ENTIRE BLOCK the building sits on for “foundation repair”!! I called it into 311 & a Houston city Parks ranger checked on it. She even called the police to help. It seems to me foundations can be repaired around trees if wanted to or required to. It would take extra effort which I guess the owner didn’t want to assume, but the Shameful thing is the city readily gave them the OK!