Monday, November 11, 2013

Trees and Views in Tiburon California

Some towns are more protective of their residents' views and access to natural light than others. Do you have a Bay view? Can you see the magical City of San Francisco out your window? Does the sun bathe your garden in a rich glow to help keep the flowers bright and healthy and provide you with a sunny disposition?

Or are some trees down hill starting to encroach on the vista and block out the rays? If you live in the Town of Tiburon California (and many others, but we're focusing on one today), there are steps you can take to restore what you probably paid a premium price for when you first bought in a bucolic location.
Chapter 15 of the Municipal ordinance is entitled: 


To give you an example of how expansive the protected views can be in a town with such an ordinance, here is an excerpt from the code (under section 15-2 Definitions):

"View" means a scene from the primary living area of a residence or the active use areas of a nonresidential building. The term "view" includes both upslope and downslope scenes, but is generally medium or long range in nature, as opposed to short range. Views include but are not limited to skylines, bridges, landmarks, distant cities, distinctive geologic features, hillside terrains, wooded canyons, ridges and bodies of water.

Some additional examples are: 

(1) San Francisco Bay (including San Pablo Bay, Richardson Bay, and islands therein);

(2) The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge;

(3) The Golden Gate Bridge;

(4) The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge;

(5) Mount Tamalpais;

(6) The Tiburon Peninsula or surrounding communities (including the city of San Francisco).

Protecting your view and access to light does not allow you to unfettered tree removal. There are suggestions such as trimming, windowing or selective thinking to restore the view while providing the neighbor with shelter and privacy. And you are only entitled to restore the view and sunlight access that existed when you moved into the property.

And there is a strict procedure to be followed before any action is actually taken. For instance, you must first try to work things out with the neighbor amicably. If this does not work, you next offer to go to mediation with the neighbor. This is, in the opinion of this writer, a prudent move, one that can save the homeowners time, money and a lot of additional aggravation.  

If mediation fails, or your neighbor does not agree, you may prepare a tree claim, outlining your grievances and next offer the neighbor the opportunity to go to binding arbitration. Details on preparing your claim are outlined in the ordinance. Before undertaking any of this, read the ordinance carefully.

If all else fails, you may bring suit against your neighbor. While this may become your only option, and you may well prevail, this is sure to be costly and lead to ill will on all sides. Think about it carefully.

One note: neither Tiburon nor any other Town or City that I'm aware of provides names of mediators experienced in tree law and view disputes. If they did so, mightn't it be more likely that homeowners would choose that route to resolve their differences?


Christine Cunha said...

Hi Dottie- How about Bolinas? We've got a situation out here that has been unresolvable. You know the views (now obscured) well.

Dotty LeMieux said...

Unfortunately Marin County has no view ordinance. Hardly a tree ordinance. Is this your property? Happy to talk.