Tree-economics 101: My lost trees = My lost dollars. Who pays?

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Hold on a minute. With all the subjective talk about trees and views, let’s talk about objective economics.

Let’s understand that there is a definable economic component of value to beautiful trees on a property. It’s the difference between a property’s estimated market value with existing trees, and without. This is a “bucket” of incremental tree value that, in Laguna Beach, can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Example: When I bought my house 25 years ago, a certain portion of its market value—and the price I paid—was based on the canopy of old trees (which I’ve kept the same size as when purchased), their cooling effect in summer, and the beautiful tree view from all windows. The value of the trees was featured in sales literature, discussed in negotiations, and had a real-dollar contribution to the appeal of my home, and thus the final price.  Economically, the price I paid for my property with its tree value was more than it would have been without. And the price I could sell it for with fewer trees would be less.

Soon, I might have to cut my trees to give someone far away a view they never had, nor paid for. That’s  a big problem.

Bottom line: Take away my trees, and you take away an objective, economically justifiable, clearly definable portion of my monetary value.

I can understand the reverse: if someone had a view when they bought, then lost it to a new buyer growing trees. Make it caveat emptor (buyer beware), both properties stay the same as when purchased. That’s fair.)

Who’s going to pay for my lost tree value? Has no one considered the economic and legal implications of a view ordinance? Of the radical demands of the profiteering groups? Of wealth transfer without payment (aka theft)? Of real dollars taken from homeowners? Do you think tree owners will stand by while huge amounts of money are taken?

Who’s going to compensate me for my provable loss? Who? The uphill strangers who bought without a view, and now want to cash in using my bought-and-paid-for tree value? Who pays me back?  The city? View Equity Committee? Mayor and council?

Someone better think about this. Voting citizens are. And I can tell you for a fact, so are the lawyers.


Mike Bartlett, Laguna Beach

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