Feelings about views run high

Laguna panel working on an ordinance to deal with homeowner complaints about overgrown trees hears passionate appeals.

June 27, 2013|By Barbara Diamond

A Laguna Beach City Council subcommittee appointed to craft an ordinance dealing with view loss has been meeting since February and was still hearing passionate arguments at a meeting Tuesday.

The subcommittee has the job of creating the ordinance without raising the hackles of environmentalists and property rights advocates, about 70 of whom showed up for the meeting in the council chambers.

Among the questions being asked and sometimes vociferously answered: What views should be protected, all or only those from ceremonial rooms? Should the distance of the blockage be limited to 300 feet, 500 feet or as far as the eye can see? Should a claim of view blockage be limited by date, and if so what date? Who should pay for restoration — the tree owner or the person whose view is restored?


And what exactly qualifies as a view that should be preserved or restored?

"A view is anything people want to look at," said Dave Connell, a long-time supporter of view restoration without restriction.

However, the majority of people who attend committee meetings lament the loss of an ocean view, complaining of a grievous cost to their quality of life and property values. Some speak up for trees.

"Trees inspire; they are the greatest living things on the planet," said artist Fitz Maurice.

Three groups responded with differing answers to hard questions at Tuesday's meeting.

"Some of you know I am not comfortable speaking in public, but what I am more afraid of is that this ordinance will pass," said John Thomas, representing the View and Tree Balanced Ordinance group.

The group recommends that claims be considered invalid if the complaint predates the ordinance's passage. It also wants blockages disqualified if more than 300 feet away and that the work be paid for by the claimant.

"There needs to be balance (between) trees and views, sunshine and shade and the property rights of all parties," Thomas said.

Woods Cove resident Greg Gilroy, speaking on behalf of the Citizens for View Preservation and Restoration, opened with a quote attributed to Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes: "Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose," adding, "You have a right to a tree until it blocks my view."

Gilroy's group backs the homeowner's right to a view regardless of when the home was purchased and when or where the blockage occurs, and says the costs of the claim and restoration should be borne by the person who prevails.

"He loses, he pays," Gilroy said.

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