Neighbor wants us to remove trees

We bought our house recently. We were doing some work before we moved in and the neighbor came over and asked about what our plan was about the tree removal. They had asked the previous owner to remove the trees. Nice way to meet a new neighbor! Buyer’s remorse set in very quickly but we are stuck here. Since we moved in, the same neighbor has asked several times about the tree plan. These trees are large,  create shade which we want but I guess they don’t want. They also claim that the trees block their view and are affecting the retaining wall. We had several arborists come and all of them confirmed that these trees, if anything, might affect our retaining wall but not theirs due to the topography and the type of trees they are. I asked the neighbor and they don’t have photographic proof of the view they had at the time of purchase. These trees predate any of the property owners that live in the neighborhood. The trees provide valuable shade and privacy for us. Neighbors did not offer to pay for removal and replacement. Just simply keeps asking “what about those trees?” I want to feel comfortable in our new home and neighborhood. The neighbor in question is generally well liked in the hood and otherwise cordial and friendly. They are never rude but persistent. Arborists all tell us it’s doing great things for us now but may be beneficial to remove in the next 10-20 years as they do have potential to grow very tall and these are all small lots.  They are healthy and what they do for us is nearly impossible to replace because trees don’t grow to 20-30 ft fast and not many trees can provide similar shade. Arborists estimate these trees may be over 50 years old. We got an estimate and it would cost over $10,000 to remove and replace. We also spoke with a lawyer who specializes in neighbor law and were informed that the neighbor does not have legal right to force removal and thus court would order them to pay to remove and replace. 

Should I suggest a mediation? I want to be a good neighbor and what they want and what we want seen irreconcilable.

Comments, thoughts, insights will be greatly appreciated.

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I would put the ball back in their court and simply tell them that based on the specialists you've consulted, the trees are healthy and not a danger to their retaining wall, so you have no plans to remove them given that the shade and privacy are important to you. You could certainly prune the trees down a bit (which it sounds like you might want to do anyway to keep them a more manageable size) and present that as your peace offering. It sounds like the previous owners also declined, so this won't be the first time they've heard it. If the trees predate their ownership of their property, I don't think they have a leg to stand on as far as the view, and wouldn't even open that can of worms. If they want to push that as the rationale, let them do so through the official channels. Depending on the city you live in, you may not even be permitted to remove them--Oakland, for instance, has a tree ordinance that requires a permit and notice to all of the nearby neighbors, some of whom may actually enjoy your trees. Good luck!

I agree with the prior poster. As a peace offering, tell them that you are comfortable having the trees pruned, as long as they pay for this, and you ok the arborist and the amount of pruning. By way of background, we went to our downhill neighbors with a similar proposal - we had photos of our view when we bought the house, and offered to have an arborist of their choice trim their trees for our benefit primarily - to restore our views. It went very smoothly - though it was expensive. 

We had similar problems. Agreed to move a tree from the lot line which died, and also agreed to cut down another tree. Then they had concerns about other trees and plants. Talked to both an arborist and a plumber who both said that their concerns about their pipes were unwarranted -- that the pipes were old and if they cracked it would be because of age, not because of our trees. Long story short, we attempted to meet their demands for a number of years, and the demands escalated. At this time we are barely talking to each other. I don't have a solution, but I would say that allowing demanding neighbors to control how you behave in your yard is likely to lead to more demands, not resolution.

I think you’ve already done everything a good neighbor should do (and then some) by obtaining the advice of an arborist and an attorney. Honestly it sounds like the neighbor is trying to intimidate you. Next time it comes up I would just politely but firmly state that you are not removing the trees as they provide a benefit to your property and that you’d rather not discuss it again. If it comes up again I would write them a letter again politely laying out everything you’ve said in this post and restating that for all these reasons you will not be removing the trees. You shouldn’t have to research mediators. This isn’t your problem, it’s your neighbor’s. 

You've gone above and beyond by having specialists come out to examine your trees, and by consulting with a lawyer. They have no legal right to ask you to make this change. Maybe tell them firmly you will not be removing them and it is not up for discussion. If they keep pestering you, tell them you are happy to have a friendly chat but unwilling to engage in any further discussions about your property.

Although this was not about trees, our neighbor wouldn’t leave us alone about getting our house painted when we moved in. The first words out of his mouth were, “you know you need to paint your house right?” He kept at it for like a year. I was always so nice to him and half-jokingly said things like, “we don’t have the money- do you want to pay for it?” I never avoided him and always waved or talked to him when I saw him. Now it’s 7 years later, and we have developed a very friendly relationship. He quit bringing it up. My point is that kindness and empathy go a long way. Maybe they would leave it alone after they get to know you. But other than that, I agree don’t let them dictate what you do. Good luck! 

If they want the tree pruned for their view, they have to pay for it.  Neighbors above our house demanded that our redwood be pruned so that a "window" be made in the middle.  The arborist was fantastic and really represented the tree and its health rather than the neighbors, and made a plan as to which branches would be cut.  They thought they could orchestrate the whole thing from their house while the cutting was in progress but he said absolutely not.   And if the professional opinions state that there's no damage to their retaining walls, just be sure you get that in writing to show them. 

This has happened to me on 3 occassions. The 1st guy we decided to cut down the tree for and his request for additional things were endless. In our next house a neighbor complained about the tree and we said "no" and she ended up poisoning the tree so we had to remove it. On our most recent house the neighbor came over and complained about the tree and we told them if they wanted to remove it, they could at their cost. Meanwhile we pruned it back. They became extremely bitter never removed it and have been the bane of our existence. Even coming up with frivolous lawsuits.
It's a no win situation. Just save your money and pray these people go away. It always baffles me people sense of entitlement in things they don't own or shouldnt have a say in.

I think you are just going to have to cut off contact with these people. Tell them "NO." And never talk to email with them again. Don't try to be a good neighbor. They are counting on that and you really shouldn't get involved. 

We had a similar problem after moving into our home in the berkeley hills. Neighbor said previous owner agreed to remove tree because it had grown to a point it was blocking his view and it didn’t before. We called previous owner to check his story and he said it was a lie. We told neighbor of what previous owner said. Neighbor wanted 8 feet topped off  which would have killed the tree. We presented  letter from arborist saying as such. We declined topping off tree. We received a few letters from neighbor including one threatening legal action. We ignored the letters and haven’t heard from him in over 10 years. The reality is many, if not most, homes in the berkeley hills have a view blocked by trees. If you want to keep the tree tell him you enjoy the tree and will not chop it down and ignore him. What you’re going through is a common “initiation rite” for new home owners in the Berkeley Hill. Hold your ground and they’ll go away. Try this: invite your neighbor over and show him a tree blocking YOUR view and tell him if he can convince the owner of that tree to chop down that tree you will chop down your tree blocking his view.