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The Value of View Law Ordinances is Community Harmony

A recent view dispute in Manhattan Beach points up the usefulness of view protection ordinances, and petty and expensive disputes that arise in the absence of view protection laws.

It’s really a wonder that a city like MB doesn’t have a view protection ordinance on the books given its miles of spectacular ocean views.

Consider the quarrel between Frank Wattles, who has lived in the city for 44 years, and Donna Howell, a neighbor. Wattles has allowed four yucca trees to grow so tall that they exceed municipal height regulations. Mr. Wattles loves his trees and believes it is his duty to protect them. Ms. Howell loves her ocean views which are currently obstructed by Wattles’ Yuccas, and hates the drop in her property value.

After an administrative review of the conflict, MB officials believed they had a simple solution: trim the trees. But Mr. Wattles wasted no time filing a law suit.

Wattles told the Daily Breeze that he believes that the time and money he has spent fighting City Hall and his neighbor is “well over $50,000.” Not to mention costs to Howell and Manhattan Beach.

The conflict will consume a lot of energy in the months to come as it progresses through the Parking and Public Improvements Commission and then the City Council. Wattles is convinced his trees are protected because they were planted long before the 2003 landscaping ordinance restricting height was put into place.

Meanwhile, in a letter to a code enforcement official Howell mentioned “a 30-foot cypress tree that she removed from her property when a neighbor complained of a blocked view,” according to the Daily Breeze.

Failure to create a clear view protection ordinance is part of the problem here. There are always going to be disputes of this sort. Cities with undeniably spectacular scenic vistas ought to make an effort to codify the rules and enact a dispute resolution process to resolve these disputes efficiently and at low-cost.

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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