Several years ago, Buena Park’s City Council decided to remove a whole street of beautiful old jacranda trees because their roots were affecting the sidewalk.
I remember thinking, “Thank God I don’t live in a city where they would cut down old trees to maintain flat sidewalks.” Little did I know that I did live in such a city.
Now we have a new city committee, the View Ordinance Committee, that seems hell-bent on giving any homeowner the “right” to an unobstructed ocean view as they define it, jeopardizing trees throughout the city on private property or public (think Heisler Park) even going back to before the current owner bought the property and extending as far as their eye can see.
This committee is being bird-dogged by a self-made “view preservation” group. They have their advocates on the appointed city committee. Chris Toy, for one, insists, “It is undeniable that there is a hierarchy of view over trees. If you put more restrictions in the ordinance (about saving vegetation) you take away the power of the city to restore views.” When did the city get into the business of “restoring views”?
There’s a reason no other coastal city in Orange County, including Newport Beach, offers residents such “view protection” and that is lawsuits. This committee had to go all the way to Rancho Palos Verdes to find another community with a View Protection Ordinance, and even that doesn’t seem to provide enough “protection” to these committee members since it limits jurisdiction to 1,000 feet of the residence. Many want there to be no limit at all. And no date in the past that constitutes the “view” that was “lost”.
When did we decide that an individual homeowner had a guaranteed “right” to an unobstructed view? And since when are important city committee members handpicked by the mayor without having to go through any application process or produce any qualifications other than their antipathy for trees?
Anyone who speaks on behalf of the value of trees is openly mocked or ridiculed. This is a real failing of committee chair Larry Nokes. If people cannot express an opinion at a public meeting without intimidation or harassment, it’s no wonder the committee is only hearing from one side of the issue. The entire make-up and mandate of this committee is suspect.
The City Council, not just the mayor, needs to look closely at the makeup and presumed purpose of this important city committee before it’s foregone conclusions become the law.
Anne Cox, Laguna Beach