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.


Like Black Crows said...

Hi, I live in California and my neighbors have an easement over my property which reads for ingrees and egress and incidental purposes.can you tell me what incidental purposes are? They are parking on my roadway and allowing their guests to park there also to preserve the beauty of their property from oil drippings. They block us in and will not stop saying they have an easement. Does incidental purposes mean parking lot? The easement granted to the electric company has the same wording. Thank you very much.

Like Black Crows said...

Hi again,

I also want to know who is responsible for the maintenance costs of the ROW? and is it possible for me to add a speed bump because they drive very fast/ If I add the speed bump am I liable for all of the costs? Thank you again.

Dotty LeMieux said...

Hello Crow,

Maybe I missed your first message. What row are you talking about? The row of Eucalypts in Larkspur? or in your own neighborhood? Is there some kind of easement along the road?

Send me the missing details and let me know where you are.



Dotty LeMieux said...

I think I responded to you once, but never heard back again, but your post showed up again. CAn you let me know if you still need help?


Anonymous said...

I recently had a man visit my doorstep in Petaluma, ca. We have owned this home for the last 6 years. He claimed to have bought the house behind us and was asking for permission to top off my Redwood Trees because they were blocking his view and he believed his property line came beyond the fence 15 to 20 feet so they could be on his property anyway. I said no he could not touch the redwood trees and that if he could show me proof of the property line conflict we could then discuss the trees. 3 days later I came home to find my trees had been topped off approx. 30 ft. I have also come to find that the man does not own the property but is in a lease to own situation. We complained to their real estate agent and the owner of the property claims to have told the guy not to cut the trees and now wants to work with us. I do not trust any of these people and fear for my family's safety and privacy with such an irrational man living behind us. I contacted police department who will not do anything because they said it is a civil matter. I do not know what my rights are, who to contact, or who can help us. Could you please advise?

Dotty LeMieux said...

You need to have a survey if you don’t have one, to see where the property line is. And you need a consulting arborist to evaluate the amount of damages caused by the tree topping. This happens all the time, and it is hard to get police to do anything. Your option is to bring a suit. If the damage is less than $7500 you can bring it in small claims court.

Good luck.