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Laguna homeowners dispute over ocean views

Richly hued sunsets, the majesty of the bluffs, the glimmer of the Pacific Ocean -- these are all fine reasons to purchase ocean-side property in Southern California. In short, a home can be worth millions in large part because of the view it offers. But with coveted real estate comes the potential for real estate disputes.

In Laguna Beach, for instance, homeowners who for years have had panoramic views of the ocean are upset that their neighbors' trees are getting in the way. To address the issue, the city already has a couple of ordinances -- one voluntary, the other not.

The view preservation ordinance is voluntary, and using it, Laguna residents who believe their view is being encroached upon can file a claim. That claim goes to the city, and the ensuing process usually involves mediation between the disputing parties and the input of a certified arborist. If the mediation doesn't lead to an agreement, the dispute could turn into a civil lawsuit.

There is also an ordinance that limits the height of hedges that surround a property. That ordinance is enforceable according to city code. To file a hedge height claim, residents have to pay a $630 fee, and city officials are even considering making that process voluntary, too, given the time and money the city spends on implementing the ordinance.

Some Laguna residents are members of homeowners' associations, and that usually means their community has already established certain guidelines regarding the protection of views. But not every residential property owner is a member of such an organization, and cooperation, the ordinance process or civil action are the available options.

If you would like to learn more about real estate law and property disputes, our Encino real estate litigation site is there to help.

Source: Orange County Register, "Laguna dispute over ocean views gets heated," Joanna Clay, Jan. 24, 2013

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