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Real Estate & Property Law

New Round in 25-Year-Old Tree Dispute Puts Same Neighbors, Now Elderly and Elsewhere, At Odds Again

Posted Sep 18, 2012 3:05 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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After a dispute spanning 25 years that at one point went briefly to the California Supreme Court, an elderly Oakland woman won the right to trim neighbors' trees that were blocking the view from her property of the San Francisco Bay.

But now Phyllis Bishop, who is 95 and living in a nursing home after the death of her husband, has a new problem, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Once she paid to have trees on Okhoo and Ernest Hanes' property trimmed and cleared, Bishop realized that city trees now block the panoramic view she once enjoyed. Under a local ordinance, she has a right to a reasonable amount of the view that existed when she purchased, as a city report explains.

She talked to the city, which agreed she could cut the public trees, too. But now Okhoo and Ernest Hanes have objected. Like Bishop, they no longer live in their home, either.

The Haneses, both 55, reportedly spent some $200,000 in their prior legal battle with Bishop, only to lose their cherished trees and what Okhoo Hanes describes as "the sense of seclusion" they provided.

Last year's opinion by the California Court of Appeals, First District, upheld the Bishops' right to what the court calls "view restoration." Unsuccessfully appealed by the losing defendants to the state supreme court, it also upholds a trial court's award of more than $35,000 in attorney fees and costs to the prevailing plaintiff.

The article says prior owners of the Hanes home, which is adjacent and downhill, agreed to let Bishop and her husband trim the trees. When the current owners refused permission, Phyllis and Lloyd Bishop eventually sued under Oakland's View Ordinance.

At this point, Phyllis Bishop isn't holding her breath over the situation. But she does have one hope, she tells the newspaper: "I'm going to try to outlive them. I don't know if I will or not. Would you care to place a bet?"

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Ex-Mariners Star’s Desire for ‘Amazing View’ Puts 20-Year-Old Tree Law in Center Court"

San Francisco Chronicle.: "Appeals court rules on Oakland hills tree dispute"

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