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Seeking a Little Privacy Creates View Law Nightmare for Homeowner

When does a quiet, beautiful neighborhood turn into a nightmare?

When a homeowner plants a row of trees for privacy and in doing so blocks the ocean view of her neighbor.

Ah, modern life.

Laguna Beach resident Maria Jones now faces criminal charges — yes, criminal charges —for allowing her dozen ficus trees to grow more than 6 feet, 7 inches, a limit set by the city.

Big deal, you might say. And Jones’s neighbor would agree.  It is a big deal.  That’s why he filed “a hedge-height claim” that insists the foliage blocks not only the view but also limits sunshine on his property.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Jones’s attorney is astounded by the charges.  “In my experience, it is unprecedented for criminal charges to be filed over the height of a hedge,” Dan Lawton said.

Things to Come

Lawton may be right, but in the future I suspect we’ll see more of these neighborly disputes achieve “unprecedented” heights as the material world teeters and land owners naturally grab for the intangibles.

The intangibles include the comfort of privacy, as well as access to plentiful sunshine and ocean, beach or mountain views that lift the spirit while, at the same time, increase property values.”

Both parties want what they want.  And you or I might side with both sides of the argument, because we can understand each need.

The Jones vs. Neighbor entanglement has turned “criminal” because Jones refuses to trim her 14-foot trees.  And while California law does not protect a homeowner’s right to his or her view, who can blame anyone for wanting it restored in full glory?

Jones told the Times, “This has all been a nightmare.”

I don’t doubt her.  And without improved View Law legislation, many more homeowners may wake up screaming.

Attorney Charles F. Peterson, Esq., is an expert in View Rights, View Restoration Law, View Preservation Law, Tree Ordinance, Mediation, and View Ordinance Law.
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