Tree-Killing In Laguna Beach

[Moxley Confidential] The nanny state is alive in Laguna, where officials slyly back a new 'right' to an ocean view for the well-connected who want trees killed

"Value to the owner of the hedge, such as privacy, shade, temperature reduction or other environmental benefits, are not considered in the [new] Hedge Height Claim process," wrote city planner Carolyn Martin in a February 2011 memorandum that also aimed to strengthen the government's ability to punish residents who don't obey tree-killing orders.

Believing they were being wronged, Pahnos and Stephens refused to destroy their trees. In response, the city issued $1,000-per-day citation fines and filed formal courthouse charges that seek to imprison both of them for six months.

"They want to put us in jail," said an incredulous Stephens. "Can you imagine putting us in jail over trees and a view?"

Pahnos and Stephens: Leave our trees alone!
Kenneth M. Ruggiano
Pahnos and Stephens: Leave our trees alone!

Details

In January, Superior Court Judge Marjorie Laird Carter dismissed the misdemeanor charges and ridiculed the city tactics, saying, "I would think most homeowners . . . would throw up their hands and say, 'What the heck are we supposed to do?'"

Three days later, the city sent Pahnos and Stephens another threatening letter. Using Newport Beach attorney Charles Mollis, the couple then filed a motion seeking a court order prohibiting future harassment. The city's response? Incredibly, officials refiled the already-dismissed criminal charges in an attempt to shop for a favorable verdict with a different judge, former prosecutor Andre Manssourian. Tired of the games that have resulted in legal bills and personal turmoil, the couple this month filed a lawsuit for damages against the city.

"I don't blame the Phelpses," said Pahnos. "They want to increase the value of their home by getting a better view than they paid for when they bought their house. I can understand that, but what I don't understand is why the city of Laguna Beach hasn't been fair. We'd just like to enjoy our retirement in peace."

This column appeared in print as "A View to a Killing: The nanny state is alive in Laguna Beach, where officials slyly back a new 'right' to an ocean view for the well-connected who want trees killed."

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11 comments
snp_drgn
snp_drgn

Killing a live tree that gives off oxygen and helps the plant somehow does not seem to justify someone to have a view of the ocean. The story states the trees are 80 years old, therefore the trees have been there longer than the resident who is complaining of their lack of an ocean view. If it such an issue why did they buy a house that already had an obstructed view. They had a choice to live anywhere yet they choose to live there. The city seems to have a slanted view based on financial reasons only. The outcome may be harsh and unreasonable and they should be ashamed of their actions.

Holly Terrell
Holly Terrell

Really? You Patty Barnett are just a mess. How bout that?

Patty Barnett
Patty Barnett

Annettelap is right. These trees are a hot mess.

KELLYWASKILLEDBYYOU
KELLYWASKILLEDBYYOU

Whenever I think of Laguna I think of Chief Sellers.

Whenever I think of Chief Sellers I think of Kelly Thomas.

Justice for Kelly Thomas

annettelap
annettelap

First I want to say that my husband and I  like reading the OC weekly - it's one of our favorite local publications. We are liberal minded and do not like to kill anything, but here Mr.  Moxley is so wrong that we have to comment. 

First of all Laguna is not  entirely populated by the ultra rich, there are residents like us ,who run a small  local business and are just extremely lucky to  live in this beautiful place for over thirty years. We understand that Mr. Moxley's job as a reporter is to stir emotions but to do so by twisting a story to make it sound like a case of the well to do against the not well connected is so off base he ought to be ashamed of himself.  We have had an almost identical situation with a couple across the street. The two gentlemen purposely blocked our view and were entirely uncooperative to our requests , while they enjoyed a completely unobstructed 180 degree view. 

My husband and I are neither  wealthy nor well connected. We also had to go through the process and the DRB decided in our favor. It was sad that we could not work things out with couple across the street.

With regards to Mr. Moxley's story, I can see from the picture that this tree has not been maintained at all. There is no attempt by the owners to trim it back or lace it out and I can totally understand the position of the people who's view is destroyed. The whole argument over who or what was here first is total  nonsense - the only indigenous vegetation here is coastal chaparral.   There were no tall trees or palms on the hillsides of Laguna. We are not proposing every tree should be cut down, who doesn't like a tree? But we are for increased responsibility of property owners to  maintain the vegetation on their land as to not have  a destructive impact on the views of neighboring properties. This whole issue is very complicated in our city  and our council and boards try their best to find solutions and inevitably someone will not like their decisions. But to write a story that is so slanderous to our city officials and residents, like Mr Karawatani, who we do not know personally, but is a lifelong Laguna resident and former owner of our local nursery and to call him a lobbyist for the well connected is nothing more then proof that good journalism is hindered by the fact that you need to stir emotions rather then stay with the facts. Shame on the couple that insisted on blocking their neighbors views.

P.S. and what exactly  do Elizabeth Taylor, Ted Kennedy, Johnny Cash or Adolf Hitler have to do with being a good neighbor?

 

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

Analagous to building houses next to MCAS Miramar (of course, NAS then) in the 70s then complaining about the noise of the jets.  Maroons.

socialdem
socialdem

 @annettelap

 Shut your pie hole crazy!  The issues are not "complicated" and neither are you.  You are a dumb ass Laguna Beach snob. You don't read OC Weekly...you read this story. I bet you are a republican or a teabagger.  Laguna Beach is not liberal. I know....I lived and worked there so like I say shut-it old lady. How bout that?

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

 @annettelap

 If it's my tree on my property, I'll maintain it, or not, as I want. The law says if my tree protrudes into your property you can do as you wish with that portion.

annettelap
annettelap

 @socialdem Well much to your surprise I am neither an old lady nor a republican or teabagger - and you my friend give us social democrats a bad name by you vile poor language and pubescent response.

annettelap
annettelap

 @BillxT If the law gives you the right to be a lousy neighbor does not mean you have to exercise it!

 
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