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Neighbor's Pine Tree

Original post made by pTownLover, Birdland, on May 29, 2012

My neighbor has a pine tree about 25 feet tall close to their side of fence. The branches "overflow" to our side of the fence creating substantial shade on the ground.

Can I cut the branches that are hanging to our side without telling the neighbor?

Comments (33)

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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 29, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Here's one site: Web Link Better to work with the neighbor, even if you have to cover the cost of a tree trimmer?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2012 at 2:15 pm

If you harm the tree in any way the neighbor can sue. My cousin in another county paid $3,000 for an arborist to prepare a legal document stating that his neighbor harmed a tree with aggressive pruning. Went to court, tree trimming neighbor was stuck with all costs, including tens of thousands of dollars in damages for loss of property value.
You harm that tree, you will be sorry. FYI, I agree that the tree should be trimmed, just don't do it without working with the neighbor. And if that tree is a "heritage tree" (look that up on the city website) the fine can be thousands of dollars to the city just to touch the tree.


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Posted by Kayla
a resident of Avila
on May 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Talk to the city first to make sure it's not a Heritage Tree.


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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Del Prado
on May 29, 2012 at 6:15 pm

If it's on your side of the fence, you can cut it.


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Posted by Mr. Mittens
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Doesn't everybody have an (Word removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff) yard crew who have the expertise to make those kinds of decisions? I always leave the manual issues to people who are best suited for stoop labor.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Ask yourself it is worth getting into a feud with your neighbor...or worse potentially into legal issues? It's always better if you can communicate and work with your neighbor if at all possible. Giving you this advice based on my work which deals with people in land disputes.


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Posted by Owner
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2012 at 9:26 pm

As someone who moved here recently and inherited some big redwood trees, I would be happy if a neighbor wanted to trim their side. I'd suggest talking to them.


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Posted by Steve Madden
a resident of Birdland
on May 30, 2012 at 8:05 am

I believe you can but you should consult with them first to make sure they are cool with it


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Posted by ccwc
a resident of Jensen Tract
on May 30, 2012 at 8:27 am

It is NOT okay to cut your neighbors tree - EVEN if it hangs over your fence. Get their permission first and if it becomes a problem - get the city involved or you'll be 'asking for it'.


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Posted by jen
a resident of Birdland
on May 30, 2012 at 8:32 am

One of the neighbors on our street took it upon himself to "trim" the branches that were hovering over his yard and pool. Well, he ended up hacking the limbs off the poor tree and the neighbor (and the rest of us) was left with a huge eyesore. And then all H*@@ broke loose because of it. It just takes a call or visit to your neighbor so they know what's going on. I'm sure they won't mind - might even thank you!


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Posted by simple question
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on May 30, 2012 at 9:00 am

question is, why not just go ahead and talk to the neighbor?


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Posted by Bill J
a resident of Downtown
on May 30, 2012 at 9:03 am

I recommend reading Neighbor Law from Nolo Press (Web Link) and contacting the city. Mike Fulford, Pleasanton Landscape Architect will know what to do.


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Posted by Mr. Mittens
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2012 at 9:09 am

I apologize profusely to all readers and the PW editorial staff for using the "I" word. Goodness sakes, anyone who knows me knows that I have always been a staunch supporter of "I's". In fact I even employed some illegal "I's" until it came time to run for president. One of my first acts in office will be to purge the "I" word from American dictionaries. My second act will be to ask all illegal "I's" to self deport themselves.


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Posted by Pete
a resident of Del Prado
on May 30, 2012 at 9:33 am

The Idea of being a good neighbor is where this whole thing goes off the rails.. I have three neighbors who have planted large trees within 5 feet from the fence-line. So their giant, lovely trees are hanging over my pool, roof and yard. And somehow I'm responsible for hiring a licensed Tree specialist to trim them ? I can't understand how the homeowner who planted these behemoths aren't responsible for their own tree ..? Naturally they don't want to spend thousands of dollars to trim their own trees... The trees we have here in Pleasanton are what make our City beautiful, but, something doesn't seem right here...


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Posted by Lousy neighbors
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 30, 2012 at 9:53 am

I'm with Pete. My rear neighbor has trees they let grow UP & out of control to shade their patio. Every year MY patio is filled with
their leaves that continue to drop in rotation for about 5 months. I'm a lone female and have to clear out knee deep leaves. Two different years their branches have ripped off their trees, one falling on my glass patio table and umbrella that got twisted. After knocking on their door he comes with a little hand saw to piece the tree to drag out. Another year a long-armed branch that covered my patio like an umbrella,peeled of his tree dropping over my side of fence. 12 years of begging him, and he says I can hire/PAY somebody to trim off.....only to DIRECTLY over our fence. I explained how much sooner he'll have to pay for his half of replacement fence, with all his vines and growth coming through our fence


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 30, 2012 at 10:09 am

Good luck getting the neighbor to pay for half the fence; you cannot compel him to do so.


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Posted by veteran of fence wars
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 30, 2012 at 10:18 am

California Civil Code 841 regulates fences and such.

Web Link

Here is a good article called Your Neighbor's Fences and Trees – Are They A Nuisance?.

Web Link


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Posted by PTowner
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on May 30, 2012 at 10:27 am

We had a 42 year old pine that was ugly and was dying underneath. The ugliest part hung into our neighbors yard. They asked us to cut it down, but unfortunately it was a heritage and 1) we couldn't 2) It would have been extremely costly. They trimmed their side and in the last storm 6 months ago it snapped at the base and took our our entire fence, as well as all of the neighbors. It was very scary and costly. Fortunately our insurance covered ALL of the damage to them because they had spoken to us abouttheir concerns and wanted to cut it down. If they had not had a conversation with us they would have been out of pocket. Insurance calls it an 'Act of God'. I suggest you speak to them about your concerns, and if you're able to cut it down, go for it. They were very nice, and we felt awful. Good luck! Some of those pines die around 40. It could've killed us if it fell the other way!


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 30, 2012 at 10:46 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Heritage trees can be removed if they are creating a dangerous situation, especially when they are sickly and dying. You have to work with the City on it. Web Link


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Posted by Carlos
a resident of Highland Oaks
on May 30, 2012 at 11:09 am

Who seeks legal advise from "no life nerds" on PW?

signed, NLN


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Posted by veteran of fence wars
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 30, 2012 at 11:48 am

Legal advice? Carlos, but local lawyers certainly have a stellar winning track record and reputation. Yes! With all those cases they've won, especially those hired by our local gov to give 'advice', and those that run over people in their Mercedes, those lawyers do walk on water don't they?


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Posted by pTownLover
a resident of Birdland
on May 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Thanks much for all the viewpoints. I am much the wiser now. Will talk to neighbor and see how this can be resolved.


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Posted by PW Readers Husband
a resident of Birdland
on May 30, 2012 at 10:18 pm

A friendly contact with the neighbor first is best. Draft a letter that states just the facts. State what is the tree doing, and what the impact is on your family and property.

Ask whether the neighbor will agree to a trimming of the tree with shared expenses to alleviate what is the tree doing. Send the letter on plain paper, signed, and with your contact information. Do not quote law or even say that the tree is a nuisance. The facts speak for themselves.

In our case, the neighbor realized the tree was a nuisance (his words, not mine), and agreed to a trimming that alleviated the trouble.


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Posted by Lynn Martin
a resident of Birdland
on May 31, 2012 at 8:18 am

My pine tree was separated from my neighbors yard by the walk through to the park. Needles got in their pool. I came home for lunch and found two men with chain saws IN MY YARD cutting down my tree. Talk to your neighbor if you can. They may be willing to LET you trim. I got permission from the city to have it removed WAY later. We still laugh at the nerve.


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Posted by dontLikeTrees
a resident of Downtown
on May 31, 2012 at 10:00 am

I would propose the city council should immediately get some kind of rule passed.

If my neighbor wants to plant a tree close to my property and which in future would overhang into my property, then the neighbor should send a letter to me and to the city stating that they wish to plant the tree along with tree details. If I object, then they should not be able to plant the tree.

Anyone who will support this?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 31, 2012 at 10:42 am

dontliketrees -- Absolutely YES I support that. My neighbor planted a large tree less than 12 inches from my fence. It would have dropped into my pool, damaged the fence, etc. Unfortunately (for him) the tree died of unknown causes. I explained to him the potential costs he could incur if he did that again and he chose to plant shrubs about 5 feet from the fence.


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Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on May 31, 2012 at 11:58 am

"don'tLikeTrees" said: "I would propose the city council should immediately get some kind of rule passed. If my neighbor wants to plant a tree close to my property and which in future would overhang into my property, then the neighbor should send a letter to me and to the city stating that they wish to plant the tree along with tree details. If I object, then they should not be able to plant the tree. Anyone who will support this?"

I think that that's a bit too much. Certainly, no one should plant a redwood or other large tree within a few feet of a neighbor's fence. But banning any tree which has the potential to overhang another property sounds like too much to me. In my backyard there are several medium sized trees and one large tree near the fence boundary with my neighbor, some of the trees being his and some being mine. His trees overhang a bit and my trees overhang a bit, and we're both fine with it.

Except for extreme cases such as a large tree within a foot of the fence/property line, living with your neighbors' trees is the price you pay for living in a suburban setting such as Pleasanton. If you don't like the occasional overhanging branch, or the leaves falling on your lawn, or the shadows cast by the trees, then you shouldn't have a house in Pleasanton or any other suburban setting.


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Posted by dontLikeTrees
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 1, 2012 at 8:15 am

Sam -- I didn't say i am against ALL trees. Just big trees that mess up my yard and where the owner doesn't care. Why do you need a pine tree near the common fence with neighbor? Small fruit trees are perfectly okay. It's all about common sense which is quite uncommon!

So with the rule in place, they will think twice before planting something that becomes a problem to other neighbors down the line.


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Posted by Mr. Mittens
a resident of another community
on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:25 am

Really the easiest solution I have found for this kind of thing is to hire a firm or two to lobby city government on your own behalf. A mere $80 can get you a lot. It got me a car elevator for my Mormon compound in La Jolla. That's how we do things in America, isn't it? I mean, golly sakes!


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Posted by Mr. Mittens
a resident of another community
on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:27 am

Oh heavens, I didn't really mean $80 DOLLARS! I meant $80 THOUSAND dollars! I'll bet you 10 grand that some of the little people are going to make a big deal about this!


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Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Jun 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm

"dontLikeTrees" said: "Sam -- I didn't say i am against ALL trees. Just big trees that mess up my yard and where the owner doesn't care. Why do you need a pine tree near the common fence with neighbor? Small fruit trees are perfectly okay."

We're in agreement, then! I agree that big trees shouldn't be planted too close to a property line and, in fact, when we bought a house in Pleasanton I felt forced to remove a small redwood that the previous owner planted within a few feet of a neighbor's house because I felt that the tree would be a nuisance to the neighbor when it got larger.

Overall, though, I love having large trees around. Personally, I think that the presence of large shade trees give older neighborhoods a warmer character that is lacking in many newer housing neighborhoods that haven't had time to grow large trees (or maybe never will because their lot sizes are too small to accommodate large trees).


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Regulations on neighborhood trees will need to catch up at some point. With the increasing use of solar panels on rooftops, there is the potential for real economic damage to a property owner if a neighbor plants a tree that will grow to shade or partially shade the panels.


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Posted by Heather
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

It IS OKAY to cut your neighbors tree branches that hang over your side of the fence. But you can only cut to the property line and not over on their side. You also have to dispose of it yourself.


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