Looking into Houston’s Burger King Tree-Hacking Problem, Beginning Right Down the Street from the Kirby Dr. Wendy’s

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston Heights

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston HeightsFresh off receiving a $300,000 settlement for the unauthorized removal of 6 oak trees in the city right-of-way from Ali Dhanani and Haza Foods, owner of the Wendy’s franchise at the corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd., the city of Houston’s legal staff has turned its attention to 2 other oak-tree-hacking incidents at neighboring Burger Kings — one a couple blocks to the south at 5115 Kirby Dr. at the corner of South Blvd., and the other at 2116 W. Holcombe Blvd. at Main St., next to the Medical Center. At each location, according to a report from the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris, landscapers pruned an oak tree on surrounding public property excessively, making it “likely to die.”

Both Burger Kings, it turns out, are owned by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani, whose company, Houston Foods, happens to be the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country. (And with a just-announced purchase, his Dhanani Group is about to double the number of U.S. Burger Kings it owns, to more than 450.) But this latest scuffle with the city is not Shoukat Dhanani’s first experience with aggressive limb-cutting of city-owned oaks. Two and a half years ago, Swamplot readers reported on the mysterious beheadings of oak trees surrounding 2 other Burger Kings, both of which also happen to be owned by Houston Foods.


Photos of the crape-myrtle-style “topping” of street-side oak trees surrounding the Burger King at 2803 Yale St., adjacent to the 610 North Loop feeder road (shown at top), were sent to Swamplot and published in May of 2012. Shortly thereafter, a reader sent images of the Burger King at 3730 Scott St. (below), directly across from UH’s football stadium, showing similar oak butcherings.

Damaged Oak Trees, 3730 Scott St., University of Houston

At least some of the trees shown cut down to tall stumps in the 2012 photos at that location appear to have since grown back leaves and branches.

Photos of cut trees at 2803 Yale St. (top 2) and 3730 Scott St. (bottom), 2012: Swamplot inbox

Fast-Food Landscaping

34 Comment

  • These guys are quite the D bags and repeat offenders.

  • Not too long ago the Chik-Fil-A (did I spell that right?) on the West Loop near Shady Acres cut down a bunch of trees, too. Don’t know if they were in the right-of-way.

  • Terrible terrible people. Never eating there again.

  • here we go again…

  • COH needs to make it clear to developers that when they cut down ROW, city owned and protected trees without permits they will be penalized to the full extent of the law. They are not welcome. Depending on the repetitive nature and severity of the offense, in my opinion this should include felony criminal mischief charges. A $300k fine for the 2nd largest BK franchisee is not necessarily going to get their attention.

  • Really? Really? I mean really???

  • Time to revoke permits to operate, and hit them where it hurts. Also in the bigger scheme of things, city should look into tree cutting regulation like many other cities do. I know Minneapolis, Tulsa, austin etc have very good regs when it comes to stopping illegal chopping.

  • It appears that the trees were pruned in such a way as to resemble highly visible, large, middle fingers sticking straight up in the air.

  • Remember folks, these guys are from the desert. From this report it looks like the city of H could
    seek another $700,000. The city forestry dept is a joke.

  • multiple offenses should equal felony.

  • These guys have so much money. They don’t even care.

  • Time to make an example of these two. Revoke all permits to do business in COH, permenently and make sure they’re not allowed to form under another name. Bar them completely.

  • That will make them care, I assure you.

  • I am grappling with how this happens. One Brother says says, “Gee, we need to prune those trees– after all, it’s February when it is the bestest time to do this. Now you go and prune them, ok?” And the Chief Landscape Architect says, “Sure, boss! Dabboo!” I mean, clearly… are all the cylinders firing?
    Just imagine… Tomorrow, One Brother says over golf, “You know it is cold here. And did you know, I have to pay the city over those trees I pruned?” The Other Brother’s reply is, “Of course it’s cold. It is February, you moron. Anyway, I had the same thing happen to me. But it’s only three hundred thousand dollars.” “Oh, that is all? Will hit the ball already my nuts are frozen.” “By the way, my frozen brother: can you get me your CLA’s contact information? He did a fantastic job!”
    How is it possible that was consistent with “pruning?” Don’t these guys have… any… ounce of… anything?

  • Is it that they don’t think people can see their business? I just am having a really hard time seeing why it is they even do this in the first place.

  • Not defending these guys…they are obviously being shady. However, what if you do want to aggressively prune back an overgrown tree in the city ROW abutting your property? I’m not talking about lopping off every single limb like those pictured, but just knocking it back so that people can walk on the sidewalk, cars can park, and grackles don’t roost and shit everywhere.

    I seriously doubt the city will come out and maintain the trees. What is a responsible owner supposed to do?

  • Just when I thought this story was finally dead . . . .

  • Arrogant pricks, the Dhaninis are. Shoukat Dhanini’s house near Austin is surrounded by trees. I guess he likes the shade and the oxygen. But he doesn’t think we Houstonians are worthy of those things?
    It speaks volumes to the kind of people these are.

  • (Mohammad) Ali Dhanani and his wife appear to have his and hers mansions down in Sugar Land. There are very few trees around them but it could be because they’re brand new.

  • The COH has NEGLECTED our green resources for decades. The COH of needs to grow a pair and enact an all encompassing tree preservation ordinance.That severely restricts the cutting down of old growth trees: for example any tree that has a diameter of 5 inches and over CANNOT be cut down ,ever. The property owner,if starting NC , adding on /expanding/ remodeling on their property MUST configure the foot print to avoid said trees. The ordinance can include provisions ,that,if the foot print cannot be con- figured to avoid losing any trees, the ordinance will allow two trees MAXIMUM to be removed. The mandatory requirement is that in such an event, the property owner, is legally obligated to plant enough trees to replace the cut down trees ( as measured by total trunk diameter) either on the property in question or in a public space: park,green space, green belt / exercise trail, a public building,right of way,etc. And the developer /property owner MUST deposit funds for a minimum 5 years of maintenance into a neutral third party escrow account. This approach has worked for decades in Vienna, Austria. There the government will track down , whup ass and shoot any tree molester!!! ( Just yanking y’alls chain on the last paragraph- but that would get their attention). P :)

  • The Wendy’s tree cutting story made the Austin American Statesman this week. Unfortunately, it was just a small paragraph in the city/state section. But at least it got some coverage.

  • Padraig, so what would I do with our 3 ft diameter water oak the arborist says has a maximum of five years left? or the neighbor across the street who had to cut down 3 trees that were rotting. You cannot make a blanket statement about preserving trees on private property without taking into account the fact that trees have finite lives.

  • According to one of the pics here, if the hacked tree is on the city’s easement, then so is their ugly metal sign…the city should make them remove it!

  • That tree in the bottom photo must have stolen something or perhaps committed adultery.

  • The city should prune their signs. lol.

  • They cut these trees in such a way as to attempt to kill them ….. if they die due to this “pruning” they should be fined to the maximum possible.

    Anyone who sees these tall stumps should realize what they are doing and I hope they will drive right past without making a purchase.

  • It’s almost unbearably discouraging. I just don’t get why COH doesn’t pursue CRIMINAL prosecution. if the Dhanani brothers wielded spray paint and paint pens, there would be City Councillors calling for arrests and prosecution of “those criminal vandals”. If Freddy’s Landscaping and More decided to take up painting graffiti on public property like the Dunlavy Bridge or the Kirby 59 underpass instead of fatally maiming and outright murdering public-owned trees at the behest of the Dhanani brothers, their laborers would be arrested, charged, and quite likely convicted, thereby losing their futures in the country wherein a city exists whose municipal legal department celebrates a $300K payoff from multimillionaires who think nothing of dismembering and destroying some of that city’s most beautiful arboreal citizens.

  • Why does this family hate trees so much? Was their mother shot by a neighbor’s tree?

  • Something needs to de done to The Dhanani Brothers, who obviously own quite a few franchises across Houston.
    They seem to have no regard for the law, and a strategy of slash and burn. They should be punished to the maximum.
    I think the city should identify all properties owned by these two brothers and do an onsite survey of each one and start either closing them or fining them for each one of these violations.
    We need to get their attention.
    If the city doesn’t get ahead of this other developers will continue to destroy our important tree population.

    Ross I think with good judgement in cases where trees are proven to be dying and a hazard to individuals the city will allow for said trees to be removed. This shouldn’t be an overzealous reaction to a developer/business owner syndrome.

  • I realize the city is limited in fines it can assess, but if this is city property can they put up a sign that says “This tree blocked Burger King’s sign so they cut it back”. In big block letters, for everyone passing by to see.

  • Well good for you guys those dang trees need to be taught a lesson…its us vs them I say chop’em all down!!! This is Houston! hmmmm I feel like BK…..Texas Double Whopper here I come!

  • It seems to me that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I’ll bet that a good look at the Dhanani businesses will reveal other unsavory activities. Who knows? Tax evasion maybe? Illegal hiring practices or discriminatory behavior? It would appear from these stories reflecting complete disregard for trees not to mention civic duty that the Dhananis are bad seeds. Thanks, Swamplot, for this energetic and informative journalism and research.

  • The brothers are d-bag tree KILLERS!!!