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Portola Valley: Resident agrees to $75,000 penalty for felling trees without a permit

Original post made on Apr 25, 2013

Portola Valley resident David L. Douglass has agreed to pay a penalty of $75,000 to head off a potential lawsuit from the town over the felling, without a permit, of at least 18 trees on a lightly forested hilltop on his property at 18 Redberry Ridge.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 25, 2013, 10:58 AM

Comments (14)

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Posted by downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm


How many other people actually could see these particular trees on private property? Does "open space easement" mean that it's OK for the public to walk within it? Hope not. That would seem like trespassing, to me.

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Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Apr 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I wish the county would impose similar fines. These people know about the ordinances and deliberately flout them. Serve him right.

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Posted by Leroy the libertarian
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

We are a nation of laws. We are a nation of community, of barn builders, not solo Daniel Boone's out in the wilderness.

If you don't like the law of the land, move to Texas. Heck, you don't even need to install sprinklers in Texas in your bomb, errr, fertilizer factory.

downtowner: why do you object to open space easements? It's an up-front agreement. google it.

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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 25, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I'm not objecting, Leroy. I'm asking for definition. What is an "open space easement"?

I think it means the owner can't build a structure on his property within the easement. Does it also mean that he must allow access for the general public to walk/rid/drive on his property? Can he fence the open space easement to separate it from his personal, presumably private & non-easemented space?

Why do you interpret a question as an objection?

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Posted by Leroy the libertarian
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 25, 2013 at 10:23 pm

"Why do you interpret a question as an objection?"

Perhaps because most questions posted are rhetorical, as they are so easy to answer one's self, that most posters use a question as an objection (in my experience/opinion.)

But then, I'm strange that way. Aren't I?

For example, it's almost as easy to go to portolavalleydotnet and search 'open space easement' and arrive at a number of documents as it is to type the question here and wait for someone to possibly give you an answer of questionable accuracy.

Typing that into a search might even find the document in question (such as document #5600,) or definitions of conservative easements, as in doc #4520 here Web Link

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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 26, 2013 at 1:21 am

Thanks, Leroy!

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Posted by Leroy the libertarian
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 26, 2013 at 2:20 am

"conservative" should have been 'conservation' easements

would blame the spell checker, but..................

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Posted by Redfield Flash
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm

A person that can afford that property can look at $75,000.00 as "chump change". Given how long it takes for those oaks to grow, the property owner will have a lifetime of open viewing for a a relatively small amount of money. I'm thinking $75,000.00 a tree would have been more appropriate.

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Posted by Fred
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 27, 2013 at 8:23 am

A Million dollar view for 75K, not a bad deal. Also, I'm wondering if the replacement trees will reach the all important 11.5 inch diameter (measured at a certain height of the tree) in 5 years? Probably not, so in 5 years he can just cut them down again?

This fine should have been much higher, in my opinion. Also, no building permit for 5 years.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 27, 2013 at 9:17 am

I personally think property owners should be given the freedom to use their own property as they wish PROVIDED IT IS WITHIN THE RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THEIR MUNICIPALITY. In this case, the homeowner failed to get a permit. The permit would have been granted so he should be penalized for failing to secure an administrative document.

I find it ironic that some posters are suggesting that this homeowner (who purchased those trees...) IMPROVED his view by taking the trees down. Some might suggest that looking at trees is valuable.

So he now has a million dollar view? I'd pay $75,000 for something worth a million dollars.

1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 27, 2013 at 9:37 am


I think the suspicion is that had this owner applied for a tree removal permit it WOULD NOT have been granted and thus he would be denied his "million dollar" view. So, the owner just went ahead and did it anyway and rather than asking permission he asked forgiveness figuring it would cost him $75,000 to get the view he would have otherwise been denied. I think many suspect this just another example of a wealthy person skirting the rules.

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Posted by Annelise Connell
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Apr 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm

You don't have to be wealthy to skirt the rules. My neighbor built a 15 ft-retaining wall on my hillside property in old landfill (only 3 ft above ground) without my permission, did not get a permit - and then sued me when I tried to take it out.

The result? I was forced to agree to apply for an as-built permit, where the Town ignored my engineer's drawings and evaluation, accepted the neighbors - and granted an as-built permit without ever checking to see if the drawings submitted were what was actually built. The contractor lived in Portola Valley, by the way, but an engineer with no first hand knowledge of the wall submitted the engineering plans.

The same neighbour has put in a driveway without permits. What can I do ? I told the Town and they did nothing.

In this Town, forget the permit. Do whatever you want and just threaten the Town with a lawsuit and they will give you a tap on the wrist - and most importantly - will grant as-built permits without even checking to see if they are safe.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 28, 2013 at 9:16 am

Annelise Connell -

It's difficult to comment on your specific experience without knowing all of the facts but it does not appear to reflect well on Portola Valley officials.

My experience has been that when illegal construction or modifications are promptly reported to city officials, they do not hesitate to issue a "red tag" to stop the project in its tracks. Once illegal construction is completed, it may be more difficult to "undo" the illegal gains. But in Woodside, officials have not hesitated to make a property owner demolish illegal structures (even parts of a home) or restore property to its original condition.

I would suggest you talk to your Mayor and Council Member, address the Town Council during public comment, or even ask the Town Manager to place your issue on the Council's agenda for a formal review.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on May 31, 2017 at 10:30 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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