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View Dispute Resolution Process
updated: May 28, 2014, 8:23 AM

By Edhat Subscriber

Has anyone had any success dealing with Santa Barbara's municipal code regarding View Dispute Resolution Process involving disputes between homeowners where a neighbor's trees are obstructing views? It appears that the city does not become involved in the dispute but merely recommends mediation and arbitration between the homeowners."

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 522718 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 08:33 AM

No easy way about it, people everywhere feel entitled to a view if there is a potential for one. If you have the trees that are serving a purpose, to provide shade...I'd say stay strong. If your trees could easily be trimmed and not impact your property, I'd say be a good neighbor and let them pay for pruning every year.

A lot of big names are/were in similar disputes. For fun, read about the Larry Ellison case in SF or the Costner case in Carpinteria.


 ROB EGENOLF agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 08:55 AM

I would argue that "hanging tough" is not often a wise choice here and can prove to be both expensive and inefficient.

The Santa Barbara ordinance has surprisingly significant enforcement strength for protecting views that existed when someone acquired their home.


 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 09:25 AM

My aunt, on Mission Ridge, had a huge tree that the neighbors behind her offered to pay for trimming to enhance their view. The City wouldn't allow it. Not a native tree or anything special. Didn't seem right to me!


 YIN YANG agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 09:30 AM

Indeed, Flicka. One can't be sure of the reasons without speaking to the owner. I know people turned down for tree removal, as I was. But trimming?! wow...
Seek to speak to those involved, and good luck.


 COMMENT 522755P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 09:57 AM

The old photos show a mostly treeless landscape. Aren't most of the native plants large shrubs (e.g. manzanita) except in the canyon or riparian settings?


 COMMENT 522761 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 10:08 AM

On the Riviera it was built so that every home has a view and if your neighbor's trees are blocking your view the neighbor MUST pay to have the tree trimmed.


 COMMENT 522764 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 10:23 AM

Unfortunately, I live in Goleta. But we had a completely unobstructed view of the mountains until the county planted what is now a huge pine tree in the park 15 feet from our fence line. It not only obstructs 80% of the view, but it drops about 3-4 trashcans full of needles into our yard and pool every year.


 COMMENT 522847P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 12:53 PM

@YIN YANG. There's "trimming," and then there's "TRIMMING."

You should see what my one neighbor has done, since she inherited the property from her parents. A once lovely and tour-worthy landscape is now a former shell of itself. Some trees were "trimmed" to 2/3 of their height. Appalling.

Years ago, I had a neighbor ask me if he could "trim some trees" near the property line. Some of his Pittosporum was overhanging my property. This was in August. Nothing was said about anyone coming into my yard.

Two hours later, I came home to find my neighbor's live-in yard maintenance guy STANDING IN my beloved Shiro plum tree (rare tree around here), sawing 3/4 of the way through 3"-inch diameter branches and then TEARING the branches the rest of the way off the tree . . .long strips of bark being torn away.

When I saw this butchery taking place----who "prunes" stone fruits in August?!?----I was stunned and nearly went into shock. This was the tree I would prune, manual in hand, making sure I was preserving the precious fruit buds.

My neighbor's excuse was that I had given him permission to trim trees and that this particular plum was interfering with the view from his upstairs window.

I went to Home Improvement Center and bought some tree sealant, to paint over the ends of the stumps left---stumps of branches that had once been fruit-bearing branches.

In hind sight, the sealant wasn't the best treatment. But I had to do something. My then 40-year-old tree has never really recovered fully.

My other neighbors "trimmed" a full-grown, 60-year-old (or older?) Canary Island Palm street tree----without a permit----and really botched it, by shaving huge chunks out of the trunk of the tree. There went the Barn owl nest, there went the granary for the Acorn woodpeckers. There went any safe nesting spots for the other birds.

"Trimming" is not always what it is cracked up to be. ... [ more ]


 COMMENT 522855P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 01:01 PM

Does one need a permit to prune heavily or remove an old (and questionably healthy) avocado tree that's on the interior of one's property? Where in the SB Municipal Code should I look?


 COMMENT 522905P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 02:56 PM

The city usually only cares about front yard setback trees and two designated city trees. They are jaceronda and coastal live oak. Trimming trees keeps them healthy. Especially oaks. When done by a professional. This town is a little tree crazy. I know a few home owners who have had their views jacked up by trees.


 COMMENT 522929 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 03:33 PM

There is a rule about trimming or removing trees that affects more than 30% of the shade area of your property. But like most City rules, it would never be enforced unless you have a neighbor that hates you and rats you out.

Palms are the most useless trees there are. The only animals that like them are the rats that live in them. They don't produce fruit that other animals can eat. Get rid of them and plant something that is actually habitat for other creatures.


 COMMENT 522943 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-28 03:52 PM

Actually, palms are not useless; they are the favored nesting spots of orioles. Palms are also used as nesting sites by owls (who prey on rats and other rodents). The fruit of the date palm is eaten by various species of wildlife.


 COMMENT 523074 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-29 06:30 AM

I just had a neighbor cut down 6 mature oaks and a bay tree...on my property without permission....all for a view. When confronted about it I received all kinds of excuses like "I didn't know it was your property" and "don't you care about fire prevention?" And other stuff....very upset about it as it ruined my backyard which has stood that way for over 80 years! The tree company that was hired did a hack job of it and didn't even ask or look into permission. When confronted about it the tree guy said he was told it was on his client's property (no way) It's very sad. This person had no right and needs to be punished.
I know I can sue and press charges, and am thinking about it. This edhat post is timely and strangely coincidental.


 COMMENT 523088 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-29 07:14 AM

Refer to the city's tree protection ordinance and view dispute resolution ordinance. Hire a Consulting Arborist, rather than a certified arborist. Trimming more than 1/3 of canopy is frowned upon and topping is a no-no; heading back, done with care, can be a solution. Lots of tree hackers both professional and guy with a pickup truck and a chainsaw. Low bid = get what u pay for.

074 Trees and landscape can add up to 15% of value to a property. I'd consider a legal representation. You must be able to document the pre trimming condition though, photos.

Re: early treeless landscape of SB: what did the Chumash use for firewood? And how long was there a large population here before the first drawings were made of "treeless" landscape?


 COMMENT 523120 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-29 08:19 AM

Thanks for the advice, 088, yes already hired consulting arborist and went over the damage and options. I have a lawyer ready to go if needed. I have numerous photos of before and after. As angry as I am about this, I am loathe to take my neighbor to court and will 1st try and have "a chat" and offer a fix that should be acceptable based upon arborist and consulting arborist recommendations.
Maddening thing is that no matter what I do, the neighbor has got what they wanted and now it's just a matter of determining the cost they will have to pay. Those oaks took a hundred years to grow that way, it will never be the same in my lifetime. I am tempted to erect an addition to my home that blocks their view.
Btw, their view was not blocked by my trees, they just wanted a bigger more expansive view than they previously had.


 COMMENT 523133 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-29 08:54 AM

120, curious, are these new owners that moved in aware of the trees that were there? It seems that new people in town pay to move here, then want to grab everything they can get to justify the money they spent. just wondering.......


 COMMENT 523162 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-29 09:58 AM

074, your neighbor giving you an "oops, my bad," is not going to teach him anything. By all means take him to court!


 COMMENT 523167 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-29 10:02 AM

133, no, these folks have been there for years and knew better. I don't hate them and am not vindictive, just feel violated and that they took advantage of me not being around to stop it in time. The situation you describe sounds awful, I cant say I am surprised by it though.
My neighbor, when confronted by me, described the whole situation as a nightmare; I said no, what happened in IV was a nightmare, this is just boneheadedness and "un-neighborly" behavior


 COMMENT 714606P agree helpful negative off topic

2016-07-05 04:58 PM

Are there local attorneys experienced, successful with enforcing SB's tree ordinance? Who are they? Is a fire fully paved road easement subject to same landscape/tree/ hedge setback requirements of 8' tall as are setback requirements along a standard City road?

Is there a local definition of an "Urban Forest"? Trees planted 2' apart, 10' feet apart or something similar that can be quantified?

Is alteration of approved landscape plans at the time of construction to ensure views subject to different enforcement codes or ordinances?


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