Solar v. Trees

We talked about it here.

The judge's decision is in. Guess who won. Link.

Via Trey.

I had to delete the blogpoll from the that post--the blogpoll took over my blog and held it for ransom. Literally. Be careful if you choose to use blogpoll.com.

Anyway, voting was neck and neck, but a few people voted over and over for their preferred side. Everyone else who blogged about that story or wrote about it included a poll too, but I did it first! :)


Christopher C. NC said...

You are so ahead of the curve Chuck. I voted for the solar.

I also came to your blog when it was hijacked and considered a comment at Whoreticulture to let you know, but you fixed it pretty quick.

chuck b. said...

I voted for solar too.

Was it obvious?

Brent said...

I was a solar voter too. The linked article portrays solar guy as more of a techno-phile than nature lover. That doesn't change my opinion though.

I'm fighting others' poor tree choices both on my property and next door. Ficus, Brazillian Pepper, Sequoia. Phaawh. No sympathy for the tree-people.

Anonymous said...

I for the tree guy.

It is a property rights issue with me. I think the law is whacked.

The fact that I could be ordered (essentially by a neighbor) to remove a tree grown a wholly on my property and which does not overhang other property is frightening as hell.

The fact that the trees were planted first didn't seem to matter.

The solar guy put panels near existing trees and then complained that there was shade.

I do not choose Trees over Solar. But I think this law is outrageous.

chuck b. said...

I don't think it's okay to plant anything you want, neighbors be damned. It's one thing if you live in the country, or you have many acres. But to plant coast redwoods (the tallest tree species on earth) in suburban Sunnyvale... That idea just repulses me.

Put it in the context of (perhaps?) more reasonable suburban prohibitions against parking junked cars on the front lawn, frontyard landscapes of overgrown thistles and weeds, leaving your trashcans on the sidewalk all week long, etc.

For the good of all, there are a lot of things that you can't do.

It's a give and take, it has to be.

Anonymous said...

I see your point of course. It is reasonable. But I wonder at your approach.

You are correct, the idea of planting such trees in a suburban landscape is poorly conceived at best (and at worst, irresponsible in the extreme).

But... you are a reasonable guy.

In fairness, in THIS CASE, the problem with the trees was NOT that they were Coastal Redwoods (the tallest tree species on earth). The problem was not even that the trees (as a species) were objectionable. The problem was that the trees cast shade on a neighbors lawn.

Any of a hundred non-repulsive tree choices would have done the same. Any number of perfectly acceptable community trees would have done the same.

These trees weren't 15 years old. With respect, tallest species on earth has nothing to do with anything. A large arborvitae would create the same problem.

Now... to further nit:

There is and was no ordinance prohibiting the planting of these trees (unlike the garbage can and thistle situation you describe). The fact is that these trees were not problematic (in terms of any kind of code) until someone installed solar panels AFTER the trees were planted.

THIS is what bothers me. This alone.

I am not concerned about one's ability to generate power or not. I am not concerned about the role of government in enforcing community standards.

I AM concerned that perfectly legal trees and perfectly legal behavior (whether you or I like it or not) can become "retroactively illegal" because of a neighbor's ex post facto action.

And it get's better. Remove the solar panels and the trees become legal again.

So... our neighbor's actions determine whether our own actions are legal, after the fact.

This is only possible because of the abstruse solar law.

This is a well intended but poorly executed law.

That's my point.

chuck b. said...

"There is and was no ordinance prohibiting the planting of these trees (unlike the garbage can and thistle situation you describe)."

That's false. The solar easement law was on the books twenty years before the trees were planted. This isn't case law, it's statutory--written by an Orange County Republican and signed into law by Democratic governor Jerry Brown. The neighbor's were made aware of it not long after the trees were planted; the plaintiff made good faith offers to negotiate years before filing suit.

A democratic process took place that prioritized solar power over tall trees that shade someone's roof. That's it. And it's reasonable. Some personal liberty is the price you pay for living in civilization. Want enormous trees without the bother of other people? Move to the country.

And whatever the matter about the various potential tree sizes is, there are many, many other trees one can grow in California that will not shade a neighbor's roof.

Anonymous said...

So your interpretation is that the trees were in violation of criminal law the moment they were planted?... that these trees were prohibited from being planted?"

So... every property owner in California who has a tree on his or her property that cast a shadow on his or her neighbor's property is criminally culpable right now?

I don't see that.

My interpretation is that these trees were not in violation until years after the fact, when the neighbor installed solar panels. At which time, you are correct, they were CLEARLY in violation.

The law is bothersome.

chuck b. said...

No, the trees were in violation when they grew so high as to obscure the solar panels which were put in place shortly before the trees got that high. Or were about to.

"Every property owner in California who has a tree on his or her property that cast a shadow on his or her neighbor's property is criminally culpable right now?"

First of all, the issue is shading solar panels, not merely casting shadows on property.

Let's be clear: The law does not give solar panels the right to chop down existing trees that are already casting shade. But once the solar panels go up, the trees cannot grow to obscure. The easement is granted when the panels are placed, before the trees cast the shade that would make panels pointless. The law wants to protect the solar investment. It's not about getting solar panels so you can make your neighbor chop down his tree.

What I will grant is bothersome, is that that the makes the defendant criminally liable when it seems like a civil matter to me. It does not seem like a crime against the whole of society to destroy one person's solar power investment.

Anonymous said...

That makes good sense. The theory anyway. I see.

chuck b. said...

As Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest."

lisa said...

I'm with Hank that making this a criminal issue is a bit much, and the "after the fact" tone bothers me, too. But I see your points as valid too, Chuck. I suppose this sort of thing will come up more and more in the future, so somebody has to start ironing it out. We have similar issues in the midwest, as suburbia encroaches upon fading farm land. You have a farm that's been in place for 100 years, then soccer mom in her new house complains about the farm smell. I have actually seen farmers put out of business by litigation from these complaints...again, a bit much. This here planet's gettin' crowded!