When do property rights and quality of life issues trump tree preservation? In Laguna Beach it is a difficult call, and, as the daughter of a landscape architect, I understand the issues. When I remodeled my home, I made costly design decisions in order to preserve two Torrey pines planted by my father, Fredrick Lang, in the 1940s. Having lived under them for five years, I now realize I made a mistake.
Torrey pines drip sap constantly and profusely. The sap coats everything – my front porch, driveway, stair railings, and the soles of everyone’s shoes. Sap on shoes holds pine needles and gravel from the driveway and is tracked inside to scratch my bamboo floors. Guests will not park in my driveway because of the sap and complain that the sap travels on their shoes to their homes. Add to this that the sap is a fire hazard, the danger of one of the trees falling, and the lowered the market value caused by the sap mess.
Costly trimming has been done yearly to maintain the health of the trees, but this fall, I removed several major limbs over-hanging my driveway and front porch. However, before the job could be completed the city stepped in. Code enforcement cited me on three alleged violations because the trees were shown on my DRB plan. My position is that the trees were shown only as existing trees on the plot plan, no full landscape plan was part of the approval and there was no condition on my approval that stipulated any special maintenance of these trees. They are not heritage trees. They are fully on my property and my nearest neighbors support my trimming efforts. As I look out my bedroom window this morning, I see a tree that is left dangerously lopsided because of the unfinished trimming.
My Torrey pines have become a major stress and a financial drain. I love Laguna Beach because we value art and culture, beautification and trees, nature and historical preservation, but I thought we also cared about people. Are we the type of town that thinks old trees are more important than the quality of life of our citizens?
Kathryn Lang Slattery, Laguna Beach