Trees Blocking Sunlight

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Solar Access vs. Neighbors Trees

Dec 2011

We have a house in Walnut Creek with a neighbor who has redwood and pine trees.

It has become apparent that the trees in the neighbors yard shade our garden on the far north side of our lot. They also shade the southeast bedroom of our house until after 9:30 AM. It will be later by Dec 21, Winter Solstice.

In addition to this, the neighbor has planted 6 more redwoods that will, in a few years, shade our house even more, later in the morning when we want to warm the house with the sun in the winter.

I called a solar energy company about installation of a system on our roof. They said we were a no-go on account of the shading issue.

We want to stay here for the long term but also want to have the warmth of the sun in our children's room and be able to have renewable energy power our home. We also want our 17 fruit tree mini orchard to be able to thrive so we can take advantage of our suburban lot.

I've yet to say anything to our neighbor as I don't want to say the wrong thing. This is extremely important to me to do the right thing to resolve this issue. I feel that we have some right to have sunlight fall on our house.

Smart people of Berkeley - What is the most effective thing for us to do to be able to work issue out?

Walnut Creek, CA Wanting our days in the sun

You want to be environmental -so great; your neighbors are clearly environmental (also fabulous) -- I would go to them and discuss the dilemma and find mutually agreeable solutions between you. Dialogue together instead of as dualistic. Great gifts you both have. Linda

First off I would call the city building department or planning commission and find out what the rules are regarding access to sunlight and view. It is a big deal in Berkeley and Oakland so there are rules. In Walnut Creek it may be more a solar issue or a Mt. Diablo view. Once you know where you can go legally put it in your hip pocket in case you need it later. Next have a talk with the neighbor about your long term residence plans and solar power turn down and ask if they can help. Redwoods leach tanic acid which can wreck the finish on a car with red rust like stains, they grow like weeds, and just aren't a wise choice around homes and foundations as they get too big too fast. You could offer to pay for him to plant something smaller, or pay for the removal. Folks don't like to do anything that costs them money. My brother had this same issue in LA where he has a pool and wanted the sun his neighbor was blocking. They ended up in court and my brother won a court order for the neighbor to remove the tree which he did and now my brother has an arch enemy next door forever. So try to use sugar first and resort to vinegar if you have to. Otherwise forget solar and live with the shade and your neighbor. First step is to let them know it is a problem and see how they respond. Good luck. anon

Tall trees along fence line blocking our sun

Nov 2010

We are Berkeley residents, whose next-door neighbor has planted a row of tall trees along the fence line between our property, which in effect have raised the height of the fence to 15-20 feet. The result is not that our view is blocked, but that our once sunny patio area is now completely covered in shade. (This is not how we planned or intended the space). Do we have any recourse? Do any of you have any advice for us? Will the City intervene, using the fence laws? Thanks for any help/recommendations/suggestions/ideas. Sunny area obliterated

Berkeley ordinances don't distinguish between a property line fence or hedge However, enforcement is another question. Height is limited to 6 feet. Here is my experience with this. My neighbor planted additional hedges and erected a 7' tall bamboo fence between the hedges and my new redwood property line fence (6') blocking light and views across our property line. When I first sought relief via code enforcement, they seemed very concerned and told me what he had done was illegal. However, several weeks later when they came out to look at the fence and hedges, they clearly changed their mind and told me: ''It doesn't look that bad. You have no reason to complain. Call us again if it gets too much higher.'' At that time the hedges was 8' high. I called again the following year when the neighbor extended his 7' bamboo fence all the way acroos the property line, leaning against my fence, and the hedges were over 10' tall. They refused to look at the proplem again with me and insisted on viewung the conditions only when I was not there. Their response was: ''Why don't you quit harrassing your neighbor...'' I sited the ordinances to the head of code enforcement, and insisted that it was a violation of the ordinances. I then told me that they couldn't be bothered with this problem, the law was whatever they said it was, and if they didn't feel like enforcing any particular ordinances, that was their choice, they had no obligation to do so, and no one could do anything about it. This is a very simplified and condensed version of events that lasted 6 years. Bottom line is, if the neighbor knows someone or has connections at City Hall, code enforcement will let them do whatever they like. If you complain that the ordinances are not being enforced, you will be insulted, berated and told to go away. I appealed to my City Council member about the events and got a similar reaction. At first she was sympathetic and agreed that code enforcement should act, then she reversed course the next week and,likewise, accused me of harassing my neighbor and causing trouble. She insisted that I just give it up, because nothing was going to be done, and if I didn't like it I should go and hire a lawyer. The hedges are now 10'-16' tall and eliminate direct winter light from my rear yard. Good luck. C