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Is Legislating Neighborliness Possible?

On May 13, 1997, I read the following letter to the City Council.  Since then these issues have become much worse.

The view ordinance, as proposed, has no teeth in it!  I don’t see how the City Council can be in favor of it. Since it does not address the problem of view obstruction of existing trees, it leaves the affected neighbors holding their bags or clippers.

I strongly believe in a board or commission that looks at every view obstruction individually. Every case is different. Trees can be laced out and trimmed by an expert at the proper time. Some people will tell you that trimming their tree would kill it. That is a poor excuse of an irresponsible property owner. According to several arborists that I have asked:  “Every tree can be trimmed.”

Some people don’t like the word “topping.” So, let’s call it “lowering.” Lowering is sometimes necessary when homeowners have not done maintenance for a long time.  If maintained regularly, lowering is rarely required.  It comes down to being a good neighbor.

If the DRB can regulate the size of a house even within its legal envelope, it surely can regulate the size and envelope of trees. Building envelopes are legal. It follows that maximum vegetation envelopes are just as legal. We are all concerned about property rights and how to legislate existing conditions. We also know we cannot do whatever we please with our own property if it will have serious adverse effects on our neighbors.  By the way, the city mandated the removal of all inside-lit signs, and those were existing conditions! Reasonable people should be able to agree on that.  It is at the heart of the matter.

What is this Council going to do to help those citizens who are adversely affected now?

Ann Weisbrod, Laguna Beach

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