Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, summer — the season of back porch grilling, front porch lounging, purchasing obscenely large tubs of mayonnaise-based salads, and getting into a heated spat with your neighbor over issues of landscaping — is, for all intents and purposes, upon us. Let’s focus on that last point, the one about landscaping disputes, shall we?
Ever since Martha Stewart notoriously duked it out
with her erstwhile East Hampton neighbor Harry Macklowe over misplaced shrubbery, fighting with your neighbor over lawn maintenance has evolved into a late spring/summertime tradition that ordinarily fizzles over after a bit of compromise. However, such disputes can turn violent
, and in the case of Bay Area business magnate/billionaire Larry Ellison, very obnoxious.
Ellison, best known as the fifth richest man in the world and co-founder and CEO of software company Oracle, initiated what the Wall Street Journal
calls a “full-blown spectacle” over a cluster of trees that he believes are partially obstructing the views of the San Francisco Bay enjoyed through the floor-to-ceiling windows in a Pacific Heights home that he purchased in 1988 for $3.9 million. (The WSJ article also has photos of the view from Ellison's manse.) The offending trees, three redwoods and an 80-year-old acacia, are growing in the $6.9-million backyard of Bernard and Jane Von Bothmer who moved into a manse downhill from Ellison’s residence in 2004.
The “tree problem” started not long after the Von Bothmers moved into their home and decided to let the trees grow naturally without regular trimming as they enjoyed the privacy that the towering green canopy behind their home provided. Upslope in his 10,742-square-foot home used primarily for “entertaining,” Ellison was not too pleased. After several years of back and forth bickering and allegations of "tree-passing," Ellison and the Von Bothmers were to go before state Superior Court in San Francisco on June 6. Representing Ellison: Barri Bonapart, an arbor-oriented attorney who specializes in “tree and neighbor law.” According to Bonapart's website, Treelaw.com
, her firm offers "practical solutions for an impractical world."
But as new details
emerge, it looks like Ellison and the Von Bothmers won't be heading to court after all: over the holiday weekend, the lawsuit was settled out of court and the Von Bothmers have agreed to cut the three redwoods and landmark-worthy
acacia that have been causing Ellison so much grief. Paging Julia Butterfly Hill ...
Read all the
juicy particulars of the Ellison vs. Von Bothmer case — basically a Lifetime Original Movie meets Court TV special with a dash of the National Geographic Channel thrown in — here
and let me know what you think. How have you settled landscaping disputes with neighbors? Any San Francisco residents out there have strong opinions on this much-publicized case and on the city’s “Tree Dispute Resolution Ordinance?”
In my humble opinion, Ellison sounds like nothing more than a schoolyard bully — an extremely powerful, multi-billionaire schoolyard bully who is used to getting what he wants ... including unobstructed San Francisco views.