Tree lover supports view ordinance


Our civic literary culture has been enriched and enhanced immeasurably by the nature writing of Ellen Girardeau Kempler. Her “keep it wild” bio-essays for the Laguna Canyon Foundation always eloquently and informatively articulated sound environmental ethics.

Ellen’s ode to the eucalyptus (“Eucalyptus Trees, Rooted in Laguna’s Art History,” Feb. 22) took me back to barefoot walks on warm summer mornings in the North Laguna neighborhood where I lived at my grandma’s house.  I used to gather eucalyptus leaves, flowers and gumnut capsules in my hands, rub them together briskly and inhale the vapors.

I still do and it always brings back vivid memories of exploring the hidden treasures of the greater Boat Canyon area as a young boy.  I also recall graceful alabaster limbs of tall eucalyptus trees swaying in the wind, like sinewy arms of human dancers, adorned in tufts of blue-green leaves shimmering in the golden horizontal light of a sultry late August afternoon.

But we are in a season of our civic life when any sentimentality we share about trees obviously sparks thoughts about the mayor’s view ordinance initiative. In that regard, I am a tree lover who never asked downhill neighbors to cut trees, which as far as I was concerned augmented my oceans views.

However, for many years I promptly cut trees on the uphill side of my property to a height below my roofline and did so at my own expense whenever asked to do so by a neighbor.  That is because anyone who has a sufficiently developed understanding of the natural and cultural history of Laguna Beach knows maintaining trees that block an uphill neighbor’s view against that person’s wishes is an inherently anti-social act.

With respect then to the local history of the eucalyptus, it is true these were the subject of some works by early plein air masters, but mostly in canyon landscapes and demographic studies of dwellings and public places. While there were exceptions, in most seascapes and shoreline scenes painted in the past trees were either not present or did not dominate the state of nature depicted.

Thus, art history does not bode well for those seeking to preserve old Laguna charm by opposing building that blocks ocean views, but who support proliferation of non-indigenous tress that block ocean views. That is another classic case of an irrational town double-standard.

Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

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