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Resident Told to Cut 40-Foot Hedge

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jonathan Friedman

May 8, 2014 -- The Santa Monica neighbors of former State Treasurer and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides must reduce the size of their 40-foot hedge or take their case to a courtroom.

A hearing officer issued a ruling late last month that affirmed the City’s order that Leana and Browne Greene lower the hedge between their house along Pacific Coast Highway and a condo where Angelides and his wife live from 40 to 28 feet high.

Hearing Officer Toni Dragon wrote in her decision that Leana Greene failed to provide sufficient evidence at the April 1 hearing that she and her husband were legally allowed to have the hedge.

She also determined that Greene’s testimony that her dyslexia caused her to register the height of the hedge with the city incorrectly was not credible.

The decision can be appealed to the Los Angeles Superior Court. Browne Greene, who is a noted personal injury lawyer, did not return a call for comment on whether he and his wife plan to continue their fight.

City law limits the height of hedges to 12 feet. But The Greenes’ hedge and approximately 2,600 other hedges, fences and walls are allowed to exceed this limit because they were “grandfathered” in based on their heights in 2007.

The Greene’s hedge was registered in 2007 at 28 feet, but Leana Greene said at the hearing that the height of the hedge in 2007 was 40 feet.

“She [said she] might have gotten confused because she thinks the hedge on the other side of her property is 28 feet,” wrote Dragon in the section of the decision summarizing Greene’s testimony. “She is dyslexic, which she thinks confused her at the time.”

Greene’s claim about a documentation error being caused by her dyslexia “is not convincing,” Dragon wrote.

Greene brought photos to the testimony that she said proved the hedge was 40 feet in 2007 and 2005, the year Angelides moved into the condo.

Cutting it to 28 feet would cause the trees that form the hedge to die, Greene testified according to Dragon’s decision. Dragon concluded the photos had “no probative value” because the height of the hedge could not be determined by looking at them.

“This does not seem possible,” wrote Dragon of Greene’s claim the hedge has been the same height for several years. “As it would mean that the hedge has never grown. This is clearly not the case.”

The hearing came nearly three months after Angelides filed a complaint with the City about the hedge, alleging it blocked his view.

Following an inspection, Code Enforcement Officer Roberto Trejo sided with Angelides, and gave the Greenes 15 days to cut the hedge. When they did not comply, he fined the couple $250. They paid the fine, but Leana Greene requested the hearing.

This is not the first hedge conflict in Santa Monica. There have been several so-called hedge wars, and one gave birth to the political career of former Mayor and current County Supervisor candidate Bobby Shriver.

He was inspired to run for office after being told to trim his hedge when the City began enforcing its height-limit law in 2003, several decades after the law went into effect. Shriver went on to be elected to the council in 2004 and 2008.

The hedge law was amended in 2007 to allow residents to keep them at the then-current heights

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