Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eucalypts versus the Neighbors once again

Once again, a group of dreaded Eucalyptus trees, the shaggy aromatic, limb dropping bane of the urban landscape, is at war with its human neighbors. In this case, in Larkspur California. Eucalyptus trees have both their detractors and ardent defenders. They do serve useful purposes, even thought they are no natives to the US. They provide way stations to migrating Monarch butterflies, for instance, and in some places entire groves have been protected for that purpose.

My first legal case was an attempt to save Eucalypts on Angel Island from clearcutting by the California Park Service, who planned to restore a native grassland. My client, the poetially named POET (Protect Our Eucalyptus Trees) was passionate about the Blue Gums, and hired experts, among them my husband, consulting arborist Ray Moritz, to prove their point.

Alas, those trees were eventually removed, but not until the needed environmental studies were performed and I earned my first Defendant paid attorney's fees. The Park Service also was forced to use a kinder gentler method of removal that protected the fragile landscape around the trees themselves.

However, in many cases, these Australian interlopers have proved to be less than desirable, dropping bark and little Eucie nuts all over the place, and whose cracking limbs in rain and wind storms have landed on many a car and house, sometimes even on people, unfortunate enough to be underneath them at the time. These "widow makers" have even uprooted themselves to land with an earthquake like thud, often to disastrous effect.

Which brings me to the case of the Larkspur trees, beloved by their owner, feared by the neighbor. Again, enter my husband, the consulting arborist, who has weighed in on the side of the fearful neighbors. One of these giants has already fallen, and the rest stand mutely but menacingly over the neighbors' yard.

A Marin County Superior Court recently ruled in the neighbors' favor, decreeing that the trees must go. As another court said so eloquently many years ago, "A Eucalyptus tree that falls in the urban landscape is not an Act of God," or words to that effect. If these trees topple, their owner is likely to be on the hook, especially after having been warned of the hazard she is harboring.

The owner of the trees, however, has vowed not to remove them, "pledging to take the fight to the Supreme Court - or even jail - if necessary to protect her trees. 'This is why I bought the property. It has a lot of sentimental meaning to me.'"(San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 2009.)

The case is on appeal and we will be watching it with interest.