Trees Obstructing Views
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Neighbor's responsibility to maintain tree heights?
- Neighbor's trees making a mess in our yard & blocking view
- Neighbor wants to plant trees that will block our view
Could you, please, pass on to me any information, personal experience, or contacts regarding a neighbor's responsibility, or otherwise, to maintain tree heights and vistas in the Berkeley hills? We are having a tough time with this non-issue. Thank you.
It's not clear how much research you have done yet. If you haven't looked up the Solar Access and Views Ordinance, start there: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/bmc/Berkeley_Municipal_Code/Title_12/45/index.html
If this link doesn't work, go to the City of Berkeley home page at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us and click on Municipal Code & Zoning Ordinance (near the top) and in ''Contents'' on the left navigate to Title 12 and then to Chapter 12.45 anon
Our neighbor, whom we share our back yard fence with, has secluded herself with trees as high as 20 ft. some fruit trees are hanging above our yard, and when the fruits fall, it all goes on the ground. There is one tree which has small white bloom (no fruits) and is the tallest. It makes such a big mess in our yard, all over, and on top of that, blocks the view. Over the last 6 years since we bought the house, the view to the bay (which we feel is part of the house value) has gradually become more and more limited.. I tried to approach her once and she got defensive, and said she would not trim it down, since it has been there for over 25 years. I should also add that we live in an unincorporated zone and the border between us and the Richmond city IS our shared fence. Any ideas how to handle this situation? anon
Our neighbor had the same attitude (he's a lawyer and said 'so sue me' at one point). So we sliced the trees, as if a laser came straight up from the fence. If it was on our side, we cut it, and all was good. Have fun anon
Our situation is opposite of yours - we are considering planting some trees so that our neighbor, who has built up and UP and UP, can no longer see into the living room of our house. Unfortunately, our trees could partially block her view of the bay.
Our town has the local ordinances online. In our town in Contra Costa county, ''A claimant has no right greater than that which existed at the time of the claimant's acquisition of the property involved in the view claim.'' I assume this to mean that our neighbor only has the right to the view they had when they bought the house, that is, their pre-addition view. If there is a similar ordinance in your town your neighbor might be legally obligated to trim her trees.
Our ordinance also states that the claimant has to provide ''evidence.'' Pictures or video, I guess, of the original view.
It would be good to know specifically where you stand with local regulations before talking to her again. It's too bad she's defensive. Would it be worth it to you (to preserve neighborly good feelings) to split the cost of the tree trimming with her? Leigh
I'm going to take your neighbor's point of view at least slightly. We have an oak tree overhanging our deck and yard that is growing primarily in our neighbor's yard. Having the tree is, we feel, a major part of the beauty of OUR view. In the time that we've lived there, we have had a neighbor who lopped off, without any regard for the health or beauty of the tree, the top two-thirds of the branches. After this happened, I couldn't stop crying for hours. It totally messed up, for us, the feeling of living in the treetops that we had had before that. So please understand, the trees may be to your neighbor what the bay view is to you.
I am not saying don't work with your neighbor to get the trees trimmed. But please, please understand what your neighbor may be afraid of, and that your neighbor may love the trees very much. With that in mind, perhaps you could approach your neighbor again, explain that you would be willing to pay for at least half of the services of a GOOD, SENSITIVE tree-trimming company, who could truly trim (as opposed to butcher) the trees, making them healthier and more beautiful as well as helping out with your view issues Karen
Read the book Neighbor Law: Fences Trees Boundaries and Noise published by Nolo Press (probably available at your library) for ideas for solutions - I believe that you have the right to trim the portion of the tree that hangs over your property a
If i were you, my first step would be to have an arborist (certified or licenced?) visit your yard and take a look at the trees and see what they would do IF they could do it. And get an estimate. It often helps to get an expert opinion. You can probably find recommendations for arborsists here.
Before or after that, see if there are tree ordinances for the City of Richmond and for COntra Costa COunty unincorporated areas. Get yourself educated.
Once you get an ideaa of responsible options for pruning or otherwise caring for the trees, then you could casually approach your neighbor and try another dialogue. Perhpas you can set up a meeting with you, your neighbor and anarborist to go over recommendations and costs.
The last resort, I think, is to trim back what you think needs trimming on your side of the fence. I am not an expert in the law or in your local ordinances, but I THINK that usually one can trim anything hanging over their property line. My BIG caution would be to not trim anything that would make the tree's sprouting worse (that is why you need professional advice). And definitely don't go on her property (or ask your arborist to) without her permission Tree Lover and View Lover
As far as I know, if your neighbor's trees hang over your yard/property, you are allowed to trim the tree back to the property line. You don't need their permission, just do it. The only caveat is if you trim it so much that the tree dies, then you're liable for the damage to their tree (i.e. don't trim so much that it affects the tree on their side of the property line)
My husband and I recently bought a house in the Berkeley hills with a view of the Golden Gate bridge. For the most part, it's not an uninterrupted view, as many trees, telephone poles and such are in the way; but we can see the bridge from parts of the house and from the backyard, which is upslope from the house. My neighbor, who has an uninterrupted expansive view of the bay, has decided to plant a wall of sycamore trees along our shared property line. These trees, when fully grown, will block most of our view from the back yard.
We have had a good relationship with these neighbors. We converse regularly, pass garden vegetables over the shared fence, and we have never complained about the constant barking of their two German Shepherd dogs.
We have had several polite conversations about the proposed sycamores, where we've expressed our concerns about our view, and suggested alternatives (different types of plants, shorter trees, etc.). However, our neighbor has decided to plant these trees anyway (though he hasn't yet). His argument is that our view is from our house only, not from the backyard. He wants to plant these trees to block his view of our roof from his backyard.
We continue to have a friendly dialog about about planting these trees. However, he is growing more adamant, and I'm not confident that he can be persuaded.
Does anyone have any suggestions on what else I can do? Does Berkeley have any view ordinances regarding trees (not buildings)? Thanks very much for any ideas. anonymous
I've read that Berkeley does have an ordinance protecting your view. You have the right to the view you had when you bought your house, but if you have to pay for your neighbor's trimming if you insist on maintaining that view. You'll want to investigate this further and then inform your neighbor. Obviously it's better if you can dissuade your neighbor now. Berkeley also has a low cost mediation program that might help you. In the meantime, you might take a few photos of your view for future refernce. Anon.
There is a tree/view ordinance in Berkeley though I don't recall precisely what it says. You should be able to get it through the City's website. I would also recommend you initiate mediation. Berkeley Dispute Resolution Services (BDRS) does just this sort of neighbor mediation on a donation basis. Whether you resolve it on your own or through mediation, check the ordinance first so you know where you stand legally on the issue. Amy
Before your neighbor plants the trees, give the East Bay Community Mediation a call. (http://www.ebcm.org/index.html) They are located on San Pablo Avenue. They offer consultations and mediations to neighbors. They will send out a letter to your neighbor asking for a mediation. You can then talk about the trees and the barking dogs in a neutral setting with two mediators. Last I checked, it was about $40/ sliding scale. Well worth the money.
I commend you for wanting to resolve this issue before it becomes confrontational. Your situation is challenging because these are your neighbors who you will see/live with for a long time to come. Also, they have a right to plant their trees even if they are blocking your lovely view. I hope you come to a happy resolution what ever it may be--different trees, different location, different sleeping area for dogs, different time schedules for dog run. a former mediator
You should talk to an attorney. California has a law that limits fences that I believe has been interpreted by courts to apply to trees that block views, and most cities have similar ordinances (I'd be shocked if Berkeley didn't - you can even check online because most cities post their ordinances). There is definitely case law on the issue of a neighbor blocking another neighbor's view, and the neighbor with the view may be protected. I don't think it matters whether the view is from the house or yard. Anyway, a real estate or land use attorney should be able to help you. Try Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger in SF, I think they specialize in this kind of thing, or could refer you to someone. anon
Berkeley has a view preservation ordinance that addresses tree blockage, codified as Title 12, Chapter 12.45 of the Municipal Code. You can find the Municipal Code on-line at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/bmc. I think that the ordinance extends to backyard views, although I'm not sure. You might also call the City and ask if they have any regulations of this particular sort of tree -- some cities require a permit for trees that are particularly apt to cause view problems. Ann
We have been on the other end of things with a very unreasonable neighbor who aggressively ''suggested'' that we top or cut down a beautiful, mature tree that is older than his house (and on the opposite end of our property from his) in order to preserve something like 1% of his panoramic view. Over the years we have learned a lot about the tree/view ordinances in the area and strongly suggest that you read Berkeley's ordinance for yourself, from beginning to end. However, the bottom line is, you don't own the air space over your neighbors' properties. If you approach it from the standpoint that you will be asking your neighbor for a favor, you will get much further than you ever will by going to court or even a mediator. Invite your neighbor to your home to talk about the problem. Serve refreshments. Show the neighbor the problem from your standpoint. Invest in the relationship, show courtesy and interest in his point of view, and be willing to compromise. Offer to share in the expense of replacing the new plantings with low-growing species. Offer to pay for an arborist's visit to get a good recommendation. Consider it a long-term investment in your peace of mind. This is a very hot issue all over the Bay area so there's a lot of experience to draw from. Although some people are impervious to respect and reason, my advice is to brush up on your people skills before running to a lawyer. Good luck. Been there