In Which The City of Portland Makes Me Seriously Consider Becoming a Registered Libertarian

Just as everyone becomes a liberal when Walmart announces a new store in their neighborhood, it turns out everyone becomes a libertarian when dealing with dead trees.

Or maybe it’s just me.

As many of you know from past posts, three years ago my wife and I built our dream house.  (If you saw it you’d immediately note that our dreams are relatively modest.)  During the building process, our builder recommended removing several trees for aesthetic reasons.  We vetoed all of his recommendations, because we like that the house feels like it’s in the middle of a forest despite being in the middle of a major metropolitan city.

Last spring we began to have arborists show up at our door in the early evenings.  They were passing by, they said, and wanted to know if we knew that the two large fir trees in our front yard were dead.  They needed to be taken down; would we like a quote?  At first I dismissed these as the landscaping version of the Kirby vacuum salesman, but over the period of three months we had five separate arborists stop by – one of them several times.  Even then, it was well off of my stack of Urgent Things to Think About until our next-door neighbor brought it up.  He referred to trees like ours as “widow makers,” and pointed out that because of their size if they fell they might just as easily land on his house as ours.    Our other immediate neighbors concurred, and so we agreed to take them down.

We took quotes from the man who had showed up repeatedly, as well as a contractor our builder recommended.  The cost for removing two large firs in the middle of a metropolitan area is, perhaps not surprisingly, pretty substantial.  Interestingly, both quotes came back with identical pricing, and we went with the guy who had been so proactive to warn us about the dangers.  Two weeks and four figures later, all that remained were the stumps, and we went back to our lives.

And then things began to get crazy.

I was working from home last August when I glanced out my front window and noticed a man walking through our front yard, taking measurements.  I went out and introduced myself; the man turned out to be an Urban Forestry Inspector from the City of Portland’s Parks and Recreation Department.  He was there, he said, to investigate illegal tree removal on my part.

“Did you obtain authorization from the city to remove these trees?” he asked, pointing at the stumps.  I confessed that not only had I not done so, I hadn’t been aware that I would have been required to do so.  He let me know in no uncertain terms that he was sure that I had known, and just chose to flaunt my disregard for procedures.

I mentioned that I thought it odd that the city would not do tree compliance through the arborists, since they need to be licensed and therefore presumably do know what the regulations are.  Neither of the people we got quotes from once mentioned the need to get a permit.  Sure, I was told, they should know the city tree ordinances, but I was the one that was required to know them.

“Besides, I can’t just take your word for it that they were dead.  Apparently other people thought they were just fine.”

Note: Here is a picture of the very stump he was looking at when he said this:


The tree inspector explained that the only reason he was out here at all was that someone had sent a letter complaining to the city.  It was anonymously sent, three pages long, and very, very angry.

(This isn’t entirely surprising.  Now that we live here, we get along with most of our neighbors.  However, our builder spent eight months building the house next door to ours right before he broke ground on our lot, and immediately after we moved in our other next-door neighbors hired him to do an extensive remodel to their house.  Which means that for about two years straight our neighborhood was a noisy, crowded, dusty place to live.  Because of this a lot of people were pissed at us long before they met us.  In fact, one evening after the house had just been framed we drove over with the kids to walk through it.  Someone from the neighborhood had let us know the degree to which we were not welcome by taking a very large dump in the center of the third floor for us to find.)

The inspector let me know I was looking at a fine.  When I asked how much, he said his best guess was between two and three thousand dollars.

Three thousand dollars in fines for removing two dead trees?!”

“Actually, that’s per tree – so you’re actually looking at quite a bit more.”

I asked if there was anything I could do to mitigate the fines.  He said that they would send me a formal notice and that I would have a period of time to respond.  If I could show that other people besides myself thought the tree was dead, give the names of the contractors who did not let me know I needed a permit, and was willing to plant two trees to replace the ones I had cut down, he was pretty sure we could get out of the fines.  I gathered almost all of the information over the next few weeks, but the notice from the city never came and it fell of my radar.  Since the trees were obviously dead, I figured, the city had moved on to bigger things.

I finally got the notice two months ago.  I called the inspector to let him know I would forward all of the info we discussed over the summer.  He let me know that since our initial talk he’d gone on to Google Earth and found a picture taken of my property when the trees were still there; they were indeed dead, he now knew.  However, the fines were still applicable because even though the city would have granted a permit had I asked, I didn’t ask.  But if I mailed in everything for his records and planted new trees, he was sure the fines would be waived.  And so I sent in the information, along with a written request to get the specifications of what the city would find acceptable for the replacement (species, size, placement, etc.).  Two weeks ago he said he had not received my documentation and request, so I resent them.  They now have the information and have forwarded me the new tree specifications, which read like a Kafka novel.

First of all, the new trees cannot go where the old ones were, because those were within five feet of the road and the city does not allow trees to be within five feet of the road.  Yes, that’s right: the trees he is angry I removed without permission were in a place the city does not allow trees to be.

The trees need to be one of several species that are between 50 and 100 feet tall, and must be – I s**t you not – fully mature at the time of installation.  Further, they each need to be at least twenty feet from any other tree.  Because of the yard layout and existing trees, we cannot put in any trees that will be 20 feet from other trees unless we remove some existing trees first – which, as I now know, I will need a permit in order to do.

And of course, this kicker: once the trees are in place and the city gives its final approval, it reserves the right to still fine me all of the money it was going to fine me in the first place.

This weekend we hired an arborist to come out and review the options.  According to him, if he plants the species of tree the inspector is insisting upon in the area we’re being told to do so, the trees will either not survive or their roots will choke out the existing trees and may even eventually damage the street.  He suggested a few other species better suited for the space requirements.  I forwarded these concerns and recommendations to the city inspector.  He doesn’t really care what the arborist says; we need to do it his way.

A review of city code has revealed that almost none of this is per written regulation.  Portland ordinance only allows for fines of $1,000 per tree, and the species the inspector insists we use are specifically cited as recommendations; there actually is no requirement for species when replacing trees at the city’s demand.  Also, written regulations state that replacement trees can go anywhere on my property, not just a small area where the inspector demands they be put.

And the irony here is that I actually want to plant trees.  In Portland, trees have greater value than simply looking pretty.  With our high levels of  rain, we need them to they anchor the actual Earth our homes are built on.  If you take away too many trees, it leaves the remaining ones highly vulnerable to being blown over in a storm.  And besides, they do look pretty, damn it!

I have no idea exactly how this is all going to play out, but I do know this: by the time this is over, I am going to have spent a lot of time and money for taking down two dead trees that were in a place the city didn’t want them to begin with.
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174 thoughts on “In Which The City of Portland Makes Me Seriously Consider Becoming a Registered Libertarian

  1. Without knowing applicable local laws, is it legal to figure out who wrote the initial letter and then go and punch them in the genitals? Because that ought to be legal.


      • Wow, that is amazingly stupid. Johnson got elected TWICE in a 65% Democrat state, was the most popular governor ever, and was registered Repub because of the realities of this locked-down political environment. Use your head. I bet he’s closer to your views than any major Dem you can name — pro pot, pro gay marriage, anti-war, pro-immigration, anti-drone, anti-Empire… I don’t care if he used to be registered as a National Freakin’ Socialist, he represents sanity and a possible future. With Bushama, we’re done for…


        • It amazes me that the vast majority of people still believe in the “two party” system, also believing that it creates opposition thus providing a “balanced” outcome. HA! We have a single establishment party, therefore, a strong Libertarian candidate would introduce some opposition…..until they become part of the establishment party as well.


        • Yeah, first time I visited NM in 95′ it was in pretty bad shape and downtown ABQ was an abyss. When I moved here in 07′, it was a much changed place for the better and much of the credit can be given to Mr. Veto of stupid laws and even dumber regulation. Overall, NM is doing better than anyone could have ever expected and we just hope that that the faux Hispanic Richardson and his cronies in the Demo party didn’t mess up Gary’s work of trying to undo our one party system that I like to call the Repubocrats or Democans, whichever way you like as they revel in brainwashing the masses-nothing changes, only gets worse with their uniscam.


  2. You’d think that the burden would lie with the city to demonstrate you knowningly violated a law, rather than on you to prove that you didn’t.

    Also, I’d be curious who would have been liable if the law HAD demanded you keep them up, and one of the trees HAD fallen on and damaged someone else’s property.


  3. Sounds like it’s time to hire a tree lawyer to sort through the byzantine city regulations regarding trees. Surely tree lawyers must exist in Portland.

    Seriously, what a clusterf**k. It sounds like that inspector has no idea what he’s talking about but just enjoys busting people’s balls.


    • I worked for a city councilwoman in San Diego, and a good part of my job was handling these kind of “constituent services.” And most of the things that I did followed the same template as yours: overzealous enforcement of an otherwise nominally-enforced statute by a brittle, officious bureaucrat. If the request was reasonable and civil, our office would intervene, and 99% of the time, that would be the end of the matter.

      There is a certain breed of person that becomes a civil servant because it provides the perfect outlet for their passive-aggressive impulses. Because this is government, and any individual discretion would be seen by others as “arbitrary,” laws tend to be mind-numbingly specific and rigid. But, since government is made up almost entirely of human beings (for the most part), enforcement of these kinds of rules and statutes tends to follow pretty common sense guidelines.

      But for the officious official, these very specific rules can be used as a weapon. Is twenty feet required between trees? I’m sorry sir, but your trees are nineteen feet and ten inches apart. You’ll have to remove them all and replant them with a rare Antarctic species.

      Contact your city councilperson. Be civil, and divide the letter into two parts: a human-readable summary of the situation; no more than a page and a half (because that’s all that anybody will actually read), and another section that goes into excruciating detail about names, dates, and circumstances. Relate everything that was in this blog post, but add as much specific detail as you can. Be sure to mention the name of the inspector with whom you’ve been communicating.

      In all normal circumstances, your councilperson’s office should intervene in this, and make the whole thing go away (press for written confirmation of this, by the way). This whole process works better in competitive districts, but you should have no problem.

      Let us all know how it turns out.


    • Just make sure read and following all laws and regulations regarding the scanning of dead trees and making contact with your councilman, and most important the . Also make sure you following all regulations regarding the reading of regulations.


  4. Take what you just wrote here, change the word “arborist” to “lawyer”, add a zero onto the total pricetag, and you’ll have a rough idea of what trying to get the IRS/DHS/DoS/SSA/INS/WTF to grant my wife and oldest three children the same rights as my youngest daughter (born here) and me has been like for us over the past four someodd years. I can only thank the Gods that health insurance and public education doesn’t care what order the paperwork comes back in.

    Now, imagine what it would be like if we were coming from Haiti, with 3rd-grade educations, and spoke only French Creole.


  5. One of my wife’s hard and fast rules is to check for, and add as necessary, an item in the contract for any significant work that the contracting company is responsible for obtaining any necessary permits.

    Just out of curiosity, how big a hole do you need to transplant a fully-mature 75-foot tree and have a reasonable chance of success? And, have you spoken with your city council member (or whatever Portland’s equivalent is)? Elected officials tend to be at least somewhat sensitive to abuses by the hired staff over in the executive branch. You can scream and shout and get nowhere; it’s a different story when the council member calls and asks for an explanation.


    • An item in the contract for any significant work that the contracting company is responsible for obtaining any necessary permits.

      I have it on reasonable authority that this eliminates every halfway decent contractor from your job pool in some communities.

      If your City’s Permit office has a sufficiently bad reputation, contractors won’t deal with the permits as it simply takes too much of their time, and they can’t successfully bill for it without making their customers’ heads explode.


      • For the most part, permits are only needed for structural work. Pulling permits here is almost trivially easy, at least for the folks with licenses. The big hassles for unpermitted work show up when you go to sell the house/property. Do you owe back taxes because for ten years the house has been bigger and more valuable than the tax records show? Does the work meet code? The city will take a cursory glance at work done by licensed professionals who pulled a permit after the job is done, and you’re off that particular hook. If they discover it ten years later, things may get a lot more complicated.


          • No, Colorado. Fortunately not in Denver or Boulder either, where the permit process can be much more tedious. I have a friend who is slowly renovating a Denver house built in 1905. A couple of years ago he had windows replaced. The City of Denver office that handles permits was initially unwilling to issue a permit just for the windows, they wanted the electrical wiring and plumbing for the entire house brought up to current code at the same time. As I recall, when he got hold of the head of that office, the head said, “That’s just silly,” and took care of it.

            Permitting and inspection for non-residential construction is much more rigorous.


        • Actually until Rick Perry signed a new law in Tx if you were outside of a cities extra territorial juristiction, or the city chose not to enforce its right you did not need a permit to build at all. Yes you might need a permit for a septic system. My parents built outside a municipality in 1986 in Tx and were very surprised at this.


          • I had my piping redone — my contractor handled all the permitting. (In fact, he was quite clear on what he was doing, and what was mandated by code. And then he went on at length about how he was glad [some particular method of joining pex pipe] was mandated by my city, because the [other commonly used method] sucked and leaked and frankly anyone using it should be beaten with hammers).

            The City did send out an inspector who verified the work was up to code. The whole “city” part of the process took about 30 minutes, and was done while the plumbers were hooking up last of the appliances. I then got told “You’re lucky we didn’t get [x] — guy loves to drag it out, pretends we work for him”. *eyeroll*

            I’m gonna echo everyone else: This isn’t a Portland problem — this is a jerk inspector problem. Contact your local councilmen. You got an officious twit infestation — can happen anywhere. Sunshine and a little unhappy boss tends to sort that right out.


  6. Trees bring out weird things in people. Year’s ago i was visiting Wrangell-St Elias NP in a fairly remote part of AK. In the middle of this giant park is a dinky little town of McCarthy. They have a hundred year round residents. The entire town, one night, had a heated town meeting about one person who had to cut down a tree to move their house. And i mean heated; yelling, screaming, tears over cutting down one tree in a remote town in the middle of the biggest NP in the country.


  7. The fact that the city arborist is with the Parks & Rec department only goes to show that the tree ordinance enforcement in Portland is actually a sport.


  8. Print the applicable portions of the code. Schedule another meeting with the inspector. And remember: inspector sounds like a wannabe-cop; wants to inflict his authority. When you talk to him, refer to the actual printed copy of the applicable code to support your case.

    And remember: inspector wants to exert his authority. So within the rules of the code, let him. Give him a bit of power (the bit he thinks got removed when you cut the trees without asking) and give it to him within the limits of his authority based on the code you’ve printed out. (Make sure to ask him the applicable sections of code when you schedule the meeting; and then do a search yourself to make sure there isn’t some other lurking code you don’t know about.)

    And remember: inspector needs to feel like he’s got authority. He does; it’s given to him by the code. Print the code; read it, understand it, make notes on your printed copy. And if it’s not illegal, tape your meeting with him so that you can file a complaint about him exceeding his authority.


    • As I noted above, first step is to determine if the trees were “public trees” or “private trees”. Without that, you may be quoting the wrong part of the statute. And just because they were on private property doesn’t guarantee that they were private trees. The code summaries that I looked at basically say, “If it’s a public tree, you’re screwed if you did anything to it without involving the city.” If they were public trees, the statutes are on the inspector’s side.


      • Oh, there is no doubt having read the regulations that I absolutely did need to get a permit. Because they were close to the road, they are considered “street trees” and I do need to get a permit in order to take one down.


        • Given that they were dead and you have qualified witnesses to that, this still seems like something that can be made right after the fact. I’m on the same page with Blaise and Patrick about calling your city council person, admitting guilt (so far as the permit goes), laying out the facts, and offering to do reasonable things now. As far as I’m concerned, a demand that you put in a 75-foot or thereabouts mature tree is unreasonable. If they stand by that, I’d be looking at recovering from whoever sold you the property and any brokers involved for not revealing pertinent information.


  9. The City of Pasadena is very protective of its arboreal cover. There are reasons to like this (we have birds, which cut down on the bugs… we have shade, which cuts down both on the power bill and the general “Jesus God it’s blazin’ hot” in August, it increases the property values, etc.

    However, the city has basically put every species of tree on the protected list. Trees on the protected list require a permit before removal. These permits are… shall we say… difficult to obtain.

    When the big windstorm hit recently, a goodly number of trees which were dead or dying and probably ought to have been removed quite some time ago decided, “Hey, now would be a good time for us all to fall down at once”. This caused a number of problems, city-wide, delayed power restoration, damaged more than a few pieces of property, etc.

    As far as I know, the Permit Office hasn’t started expediting tree removal permits much.

    I’ve learned (regrettably) through general experience, don’t ever make any changes to your property without checking your city code first. Installing a fence? Regrading a driveway? Removing a tree? *Planting* a tree? Check the code.

    Find out all the relevant bits of info. Print them all out, make yourself a nice file. Then take a day off work and go down to the City Permit office and file for your permit. Take the name of the person accepting your permit application.

    And then call them, every day, until you get your permit.

    Oh, and if a City Inspector ever shows up unannounced at your property, start recording the conversation.


    • There’s sort of a phenomenon with civil servants that the general public doesn’t seem to have grasped yet.
      I call it the “justifying your existance” problem. If the civil servant isn’t filling his day shuffling paper and handing out citations, if they make it too conspicuously obvious that there is no reason for them to actually have a job, there is always a risk that their department’s budget will get cut and they will wind up without a job.

      Have no doubt whatsoever that a large part of the and government programs job is devoted to compiling statistics on all the work they are doing to present to the city council in the next year’s budget request. Numbers of permits issued, number of citations handed out, amount of fines collected, whatever. The boss’s job is to get as much of a budget increase as possible, so he/she has to prove they are understaffed and swamped with all the illegal tree removals happening rampantly all over town so they can get more money for next year. The boss makes sure the employee knows that if he/she isn’t making the statistics look like they are swamped with work, he’s number one on the chopping block if their budget gets cut. And so the employee goes our and FINDS things to cite people for. It’s not pettiness or anal-retentiveness, it’s just how their incentives are structured.


  10. There is unrest in the Portland
    There is trouble with Tod’s Trees
    For the city is not happy
    And they want to get their fees

    I am going to have to go through something similar fairly soon; I have a couple water oaks that are nearing the ends of their lifespans (unlike live oaks, which can live hundreds of years, water oaks only go about 50 years, and we’ve had a couple arborists point out the signs of their decrepitude – basically tree tumors).

    Not looking forward to it, since I will probably have to first convince the city of the danger posed by leaving them up, then pay for a permit so I can take them down, then pay to actually take them down & the stumps ground.

    For old, dying trees. On my property. That are potentially endangering my house as well as my neighbor’s. I don’t THINK I have to replace them, but we’ll see.


    • I remember when I was a kid we had a large Sycamore that had been damaged by a tornado (because of some sort of interdimensional vortex, 3 F0 tornadoes went through our backyard during my youth) and had died. We, by which I mean my dad, my uncle, my next door neighbor, my brother, and me, took it down ourselves. My brother and I had a blast doing it, too. See, the South really is different!


      • I remember my dad & uncles taking trees down too, and not always even dead ones. I am not sure if that is so much “the South” as it was “a long time ago” – I get the sense that back then there were fewer codes to violate, and your neighbors were less likely to turn you in for doing something to your own property, though they might grumble about it.


  11. Sounds like Portland has a nice scam going on, with arborists who push-sell you tree-removal and then other people who force you to hire arborists to plant replacements.


  12. Perhaps the tree inspector says you’ll face six thousand dollars in fines (far above what the regulations state) because he kicks some of the extra money to his bands of roving arborists who con people into running afoul of the tree inspector.


  13. As the saying goes, libertarianism happens to people.

    Seriously, we need a rule that any law or regulation must be written so the average High School Freshman can read & understand it. Either we’ll get fewer & simpler laws, or the reading comprehension scores of Freshman across the country will skyrocket!


  14. Two years later there is large healthy well fertilized tree in Tods yard and no one knows what happened to that pesky inspector. If you gotta dig that big a hole, might as well use it wisely.


  15. Good luck, Tod. As someone who recently had a tree fall on their house and came out largely unscathed through a very, very fortunate landing spot, you did the right thing to get rid of the dead trees when you did.

    I don’t know the legality, but in the town I grew up in, which prides itself on its trees, they apparently lay claim to all trees within 10 or 15 or some-odd feet of the curb, regardless of whose property they are actually on.


  16. You know, I’m one of those guys who sort of likes trees. I personally take comfort in the fact that an individual can’t arbitrarily decide that an old tree is a nuisance and turn it into firewood whenever they muster up the gumption.

    A neighbor of ours once moved in and cut down every tree in their yard. They said that the came from California and hated the fact that they couldn’t see anything because of them. I suppose I could have complained, but I take a fairly libertarian point of view on this as well. Unless the tree removal would put my home at risk perhaps due to soil erosion, I was going to let it go. I figured I could counter by planting a few very large trees on my side of the fence (so much for your visibility).

    Anyway, if the arborist who took down your trees didn’t secure a permit, I’d certainly complain to them. They should be licensed and insured and you do need to check that before hiring them. If they aren’t willing to share some of the responsibility of failing to comply with local ordinances, I’d consider naming them here or on Angies List.

    I am hopeful that common sense prevails in this case. The photo of that rotted stump really tells the story.


    • “Anyway, if the arborist who took down your trees didn’t secure a permit, I’d certainly complain to them. They should be licensed and insured and you do need to check that before hiring them.”

      We are needing to get some work done on our septic field and possibly install a sewer line. No licensed, insured, and bonded contractor will move an ounce of dirt without properly securing permits. While I don’t necessarily want more bureaucracy, if you are going to have such systems in place, it seems fair to properly put the onus on the more knowledgeable parties.

      If permits are a standard requirement, the pros should have known and shouldn’t have moved until they had them.


    • “”If they aren’t willing to share some of the responsibility of failing to comply with local ordinances, I’d consider naming them here …….””

      You would have made a wonderful neighbor. In Communist East Germany.


        • Sometimes it seems like people want capitalism to be all “price per unit” with no room for reputation, past quality of work, etc.

          It’s always interesting to see where people instinctively draw the line on information.


        • “”Jesse Ewiak April 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

          Letting people know a business did something wrong in public is equivalent to ratting to the Stasi?””

          When “local ordinances” are such obscene bullshit like this… uh, yes. Maybe rather than resorting to authorities to enforce your petty grievences, you should actually, you know, talk to your neighbors, and try to reach some kind of compromise rather than pull the “the state will solve my problems for Everything!’-card. Just a thought.


          • Um, did you not understand what Tygh wrote? He said, ” If they aren’t willing to share some of the responsibility of failing to comply with local ordinances, I’d consider naming them here or on Angies List.” In other words, if the arborist isn’t willing to help Tod out, he should consider naming them publicly on this website or on Angie’s List. I see nothing in the post about going to the government, even though, ya’ know, I think there are certainly times when you should tell the government a business is blatantly not following regulations.


            • “”I think there are certainly times when you should tell the government a business is blatantly not following regulations””

              Gee, you almost make it sound as though the application of said ‘regulations’ were being applied reasonbly in this case, even though when TK looked at such determined that it was probably a case requiring a lawyer….? So what you’re saying is, “Caveat Emptor is bullshit = we should always defer to whatever arbitrary, uninterpretable bullshit local ordinances proscribe, then force businesses to suck up costs of constantly being required to act as de facto-legal-council for citizens… which is *prefectly reasonable*” Who’s the “BAD GUY” here? The fucking guy who did a job for a fair price, or the shithead local regulator who applies his authoritah with utter arbitrary whimsey? Oh, CLEARLY its the businesses fault… cause…i’m sure they have such enormous margins they can afford a Legal Department.


              • Actually, I can think the regulator can be an asshole for arbitrarily enforcing a down-the-line strict reading of a certain regulation and the business were assholes as well for just taking the money and not letting Tod know, “if we do this, you might have a problem with the city.”

                But hey Jaybird, Hanley, and the rest of the League Libertarian Crew. These are the arguments I’m used to from libertarians. Basically, before you purchase something, you should read the entire regulatory handbook for your city or go f yourself because cavaet empetor, mofos.


                • “”These are the arguments I’m used to from libertarians. Basically, before you purchase something, you should read the entire regulatory handbook for your city or go f yourself because cavaet empetor, mofos.””

                  Or maybe, even more CRAZY TALK!! = How bout undoing some of these stupid, arcane, useless, make-work-making regulatory schemes and actually dealing with local issues without the Government declaring random authority to fuck with people in every minute detail of their lives?? Thats clearly even harder to discuss than… you know, just characterizing my opinion as some kind of sick capitalist laissais faire nimrod with no grasp on reality. Kudos, there. I’m clearly just advocating trees crashing on every house and SOMALIA and ROADZ!!!


                • Basically, before you purchase something, you should read the entire regulatory handbook for your city or go f yourself because cavaet empetor, mofos.

                  Jesse, in practice this results in regulations that apply to you and your fellows but not me nor mine. I have connections with city hall, I have a friend who is a cop, I know a guy who knows a guy.

                  And you’re just this guy.

                  So I don’t have to caveat emptor… because I have privilege.

                  But, please, keep pushing these laws! They keep undesirables out of my neighborhood.


  17. My neighbor & I pulled down a pine tree that was dropping sap on his boat & clogging up my sewer lines. Never heard a word from the city. Replaced the tree with a gorgeous Maple sapling. Lovely red leaves in the fall.

    I know Seattle has problems with self-entitled folks killing trees not on their property in order to improve their view. Doing stuff like girdling the tree, or topping it & botching the job.

    Of course, the bigger issue is when they forget they live on a hill, they cut the trees & clear the brush, and the whole hillside slides away…


  18. The trees need to be one of several species that are between 50 and 100 feet tall, and must be – I s**t you not – fully mature at the time of installation.

    Oh for fishs sake, the bigger a tree the more likely it is that moving it from where it is growing now to your yard will kill it, probably by damaging the roots. This is basically asking for a repeat performance of the whole thing in a few years time.


  19. I wouldn’t imagine it’s worth pursuing adversarially (like, in court), but I imagine it’s worth making the contractor you chose aware of the situation and hinting that, like, maybe they’d want to take a step or two toward compensating you for your trouble if not for the fines (as it sounds like the may yet be waived). Even if as Pat suggests, they have a policy of not dealing with permit processes, certainly they have some kind of business obligation not to go forward with work for which a permit is necessary without those permits, or at least to suggest to you that you should be sure that none is necessary for that work before they go ahead with it. You have every right at this point to be shouting from the, er, treetops the name of this contractor who is going around proposing and bidding tree removals and performing the work without so much as a mention to property owners that a permit might be necessary for the work to legally go forward, and you have every right to communicate to them that it is your intention to do exactly that, but that you are potentially dissuadable from that course of action.


  20. Pingback: Trees Falls in Portland: A Cautionary Study in Impossible-to-Satisfy Local Busybody Regulation - Hit & Run :

  21. The solution – as to most things in life – is an illicit beaver.

    “No sir, I didn’t cut those trees down, I’ve got a beaver problem.”


    • I do not visit H&R as much as I used to, but I decided to check out the response to the post. I have gotten used to a higher quality of comments here. Going back there was like visiting high school or something.


      • For me, it’s like my own personal Balloon Juice. The posts are from a sane Libertarian universe, the comments are another one entirely. In the comments, more or less *EVERYBODY* is Libertarian and, if someone shows up who isn’t, *WHAM*… they’re jumped on.

        I cannot condone how non-Libertarians are treated there… but, man, if I’m ever feeling down and alone, politically? I read the comments there and I feel a lot better.


        • “”In the comments, more or less *EVERYBODY* is Libertarian and, if someone shows up who isn’t, *WHAM*… they’re jumped on.””


          But what happens during the ‘jumping’? HUGS AND KISSES AND WEDGIES!! Just like high school, yep. But really, I dont think non-libertoid-bots are as castigated as you make out… its more that it is a large group that is so familiar with each other that they tend to ‘prod’ newcomers to at least show a little intellectual backbone. Implying its childish there is…ok, fine, yes the sense of humor is downright toilet-town… but you’re mistaken in characterizing the H&R readers as ‘doctrinaire’…which they’re not. They are FAR better than the Lew Rockwell types, for whom there is only ONE type of ‘libertarian’ and all else is rejected. There are social-cons, gays, military dudes, proggie-converts, anarchists, 2nd Amendment purists, former public defender lawyers, etc. pretty much a very diverse crowd who doesn’t mind ball-busting each other every day. Strangers? yeah, they catch shit from everyone… but its more a tough-love thing. I think its a bit of newbie hazing rather than a closed circle environment. If anything, no one likes thin-skinned types. Perhaps thats the reason (no pun!) it has become such a magnet for the “punch first, laugh about it later” types.

          FWIW, many people there read this blog


          • I’m thinking about, oh, Dunphy. And Tulpa. And “White Indian”. And T O N Y. And Shrike.

            I miss the jokes made at the expense of LoneWacko and, um… the HFCS guy? I forget his name.

            But, anyway, responding to those folks the way that, oh… let’s say “many”… folks over there respond to those guys is not an option over here. (But let me let you all know that many of those responses are one hell of a guilty pleasure for, at least, me.)

            And I’m very, very pleased that many people there read us over here.


            • “”Jaybird April 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm

              I’m thinking about, oh, Dunphy. And Tulpa. And “White Indian”. And T O N Y. And Shrike””


              Well… for one, Dunphy i think gets a raw deal for being the one “active cop” who always has to post like…. 5000 word entries trying to justify every example of police excess… which is like Bear Baiting the purist libertoids. They swarm and attack out of sheer fury. I am actually pretty sympathetic to him, personally. He’s a good dude. He just catches shit from a number of usual suspects.

              God, the others?…. you’ve got to be kidding. Those people are pure insane masochists who purposely go there and spout the most deranged stereotypes of Statist douchehat propaganda just to get a rise out of people.Tulpa is maybe a strange middle-ground guy who just thinks ‘centrism’ is a wonderful thing, and will always be the devils advocate for ‘MOAR REGULATIONZ”, despite the facts. White Indian or Tony? Those people are pure sockpuppet punching bags who we all have always suspected of being trolls, perhaps even alter-egos of actual Reason writers which simply exist to drive the commenters into a violent froth for their amusement. You can’t really take them seriously as ‘real people’… simply by virtue of the fact they will pursue the most retarded line of argument despite being steadily debunked at every turn. Its clear they’re there simply to throw chum in the shark pool and hope for some kind of “lunatic fringe” reply. Most often they simply get visciously mocked and/or ignored. Why anyone honestly of that stripe chooses to waste words in the H&R crowd makes no sense, any more than I would spend time defending free markets at Democratic Underground… where I would recieve treatment probably far worse (and far more boring, frankly) than I’ve ever received Reason. For one example = I have been a defender of absolutist religious freedom in a largely ‘atheistic’ community there for years… (despite being athiest/lay-catholic myself)…and while I caught shit in the beginning, there have been great productive debates on the issue. Its not a closed society in the least. Just a very vulgar, snappish, and cliqueish regular crew. Which can be funny when you get used to it.


                • “”Jaybird April 16, 2013 at 11:28 pm

                  Personally, I think that the forced registration changed a lot of the dynamics there. Some are better.””

                  for one of the more strange pre-registration trolling examples, check out the weirdness on Kurt Loders review of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt2” (or whatever the *&*%$# it was). I think an early incarnation of White Indian tried starting shit with me. It was funny. lame and funny.


            • “”I miss the jokes made at the expense of LoneWacko””

              You mean that the MexicanGovernment hasnt been using the MassMigration of IllegalImmigrants to UnobtrusivelyConsolidatePoliticalPower?? WE NEED TO POST TOUGHQUESTIONS TO YOUTUBE AND REPOSTPOLITICIANSREPLYS???

              I miss him too. He was a one of a kind freak.


            • BTW, the best comment H&R right now on this blog piece is…

              (drum roll, envelope opening)

              “reads like = “Sometimes a Shitty Notion””

              points for oregon and tree references, unintended consequences of do-gooders… all in all, masterful commenting.


        • LG&M is like that for liberals, where “liberal” means what Sean Hannity thinks it does. I got jumped there the other day for dissing Fidel Castro. (And I am not making that up.)


          • If you’re a Ravens fan, why would you go to a Steelers bar? But you sure as hell enjoy Ravens bars.

            And you probably understand why Steelers fans go to Steelers bars.

            And I took out all of the references to stabbings and institutional failure.


  22. Silly and frustrating, sure. But totally self-inflicted. I’m not referring to having cut down the trees, but rather choosing to live in such a place. I’m sure he had his reasons for wanting to live where he does, but complaining about it takes a bit of chutzpah.


  23. “”Just as everyone becomes a liberal when Walmart announces a new store in their neighborhood…””

    I dispute this.

    First off, if Wal Mart is in your ‘neighborhood’, you live somewhere where property values are cheap and space widely available; conditions unavailable in the traditional liberal breeding grounds. I would counter that if by some strange coincidence there were in fact some screaming leftist living in the boonies… the precise opposite would occur = they would secretly enjoy the low prices and one-stop-shopping convenience, while publically tut-tutting how awful their labor policies and how ‘cheap’ and crude their products are. It would be a newfound joy in their lives, where they could simultaneously direct their scorn and disdain at some now-physical example of their corporatist-nemesis, while also enjoying the benefits of Global Trade and economy of scale. Win-Win.

    Conservatives? They’d love it too! Great place to buy cheap ammo.


      • Thank you!! You’ll also enjoy my new puppet-show, which is structured around a confused love-affair between “Racist Redneck” and “Communist Tree-Hugger”. I tried making it a 3-way with an ex-con rapping basketball player who turns out to be gay on the DL but it got too hard to do all three accents.


  24. Pingback: And I thought I had it bad with my neighbors!

  25. I once had a house in a town with restrictive tree regulations. There was a dead tree on the corner by the street. We left it alone rather than deal with the city. Once a large branch fell off into the street. The city came and cleared it. After that we secretly hoped the whole tree would topple into the street. Didn’t happen. A few months after we sold the house, the tree fell over into the roof.


  26. “The tree inspector explained that the only reason he was out here at all was that someone had sent a letter complaining to the city. It was anonymously sent, three pages long, and very, very angry.”

    This also illustrates why the sentiment, expressed elsewhere recently, to make everything more political, is incorrect. If the letter writer were popular, and you are not, you are going to come out on the short end of any political process.


  27. Dude, that’s gnarly and I feel and know your pain. How? Well, I lived in good ol’ Portlandia aka Puddletown aka Rip City from the mid 90s to mid oughts and dealt with something quite similar treewise and it was almost as absurd but your story is over the top but not shocking at all for one like me who is a certified libertarian (yes, there were about 20 of us in PDX at the turn of the century including sort of Jim Goad who rants here- ). In 1996 my now ex and I bought a restored turn of the century Vic in the very mixed and shady hood of Kenilworth. We had a nice corner lot with 4 trees on the long side and 2 on the short side between the sidewalk and street. Nice trees. In fact I bet at some point the never ending vicious commie bureaucrats who steal our property tax dollars probably encouraged a much prior owner to plant them for beautification purposes.

    Well, lo and behold, trees have roots and dang it, they eventually push up the sidewalk! And who’s prob is that when it happens? Of course, the current owner. I got an inspection and then an estimate in 97′ for the city to do the work of fixing the sidewalk for just under $2K! What a deal! Luckily I was a teacher at the time and had some fun, dimwitted and unemployed neighbors who I was able to do the repair with them during the summer for about $600 AND a lot of absurd backbreaking work cutting and digging up concrete and waking up (priceless) the shiftless hippie scum crew across the street who lived in the slumfest digs that one of their folks bought them, at about 8 am on a Saturday.

    But damn, it was all Kafkaesque indeed. Beautify AND pay the piper AT THE END OF a barrel of the gun or else. And remember, this was a neighborhood with lots of issues and houses falling apart and my restored Vic was improving property values!

    So now I am thinking I need to send your “tall” tale off to Fred Armisten and what’s her hipster name from that annoying Kill Rock Stars band (oh yeah, the relocated Olympia cum Seattle act, Sleater Kinney) so that they can have a whole episode on this next season of Portlandia and I can relive the delicious irony all over again whilst thinking about Sunday brunch on Hawthorne. Anyway, I grew tired of the never ending hipster socialistland after about 12 years and relocated to another high desert locale not unlike Bend but with lovely cacti-the Land of Entrapment in the Burque, Albuquerque where there are practically trees to push up the sidewalk or even die but the vistas, sunshine and montanas are as captivating as demonstrated in Breaking Bad and no drizzle is never to be seen. Heck, we ever have a solid microbrew scene though no band ever stop here on the way from Austin to Phoenix so I will never get to see Caustic Resin (the best band from Boise ever!) again but then again I think they broke up anyway.


  28. Tod,

    When you have decided that you have had the last straw, and want to come meet people who believe that the solutions to our social problems and the principles of government should not be rooted in violence, fraud, suppression, oppression and war …. you can come meet us.

    Despite what some members of the media try to portray us as, we are NOT republicans ;)


  29. Fight it! You don’t need to hire a lawyer – you can figure it out yourself, if you’re reasonably intelligent. You have due process rights that mean the government can’t just take your money or your property without giving you a chance to prove your case in court. You will get a hearing before a judge or an ALJ, where you can make your arguments. If they are asking for more than the maximum fine, if they are trying to force you to do things the code doesn’t require — no judge can order those things. Fight it yourself.


  30. Pingback: Trees and neighbors

  31. It amazes me that anyone would prefer to live in the city. This sort of nonsense doesnt happen much in the rural areas of the nation. People are just trouble.

    I bet this mess is the result of a lot of greenies bitching and moaning about environmental crap. Amazes me how draconian metro people are about that shit. And they typically take the route of quarantining nature as their prefered method of ‘conservation’. A hands off elimination of man sort of policy. Madness.


  32. Tod:

    A well-told tale of bureaucratic absurdity, and entirely believable given my own experiences with our fair city’s government. There’s an ideal opportunity coming up for you to make your woes known to City Council. On April 24, Council will be considering an ordinance that would give park rangers authority to issue citations to people with off-leash dogs in parks. Right now, all they can do is issue a warning. Any citizen is entitled to testify at hearings like this, and you typically get 3 minutes. You just have to sign up before the hearing starts. Your pitch, if I might be so bold as to suggest one, is that the abuse of enforcement discretion that you experienced raises serious doubts as to whether Parks & Rec employees can be trusted with an expansion of their authority. I would guess that Council will go ahead and pass the ordinance, but your case will have been heard nonetheless. Check the City Auditors web page a couple of days ahead of time to see whether the matter is on the agenda.


  33. I wonder if the same one that took a dump in your unfinished house is also the same person that sent the letter whining to the inspectors over the removal of a dead tree….and could they have been calling the arborists to persuade you into the removal?

    My point is, were you set-up by someone very angry with you in the neighborhood who is looking to make your life hell?

    I have friends that moved into a association neighborhood, and later discovered the association chair would use the bylaws and his authority to harass any minority that moved into the neighborhood…until they eventually moved away. Its unfair, illegal as well but difficult to prove.


  34. Pingback: Environment roundup - Overlawyered

  35. You should have taken a DNA sample from that “large dump”. And, if human, hire an investigator to track down the source.


  36. If you had only asked to have a bike boulevard or trolly line on your street, the city would have come and chopped down all the trees on you street, free of charge.


  37. The law that is giving you so much grief wasn’t written for people like you. You are trying to be responsible in every way.

    The law that is giving you so much grief was written for people like your builder. I do not understand what the thing is… but many builders, owners, and landlords get a kick out of cutting trees down for “aesthetic” reasons. And they commonly say “oh it was diseased.” or “oh it was dead”.

    And because of people like your stupid-ass BUILDER….
    …. you now have to deal with an Alice-in-Wonderland style bureaucracy, when they should just drop all concerns and let you be.

    But then there’s people like your BUILDER. And because of the existence of THEM…. we need to have laws to protect trees from those who have a fetish for cutting them down for “view” reasons.


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