Laguna Beach Hedge-Height Feud Reaches Criminal Court

Neighbors say hedge grown to protect privacy obstructs their ocean views

Laguna Beach residents will go a long way to protect their ocean views and their privacy.

One Laguna Beach woman is facing criminal charges for refusing to trim hedges that allegedly obstruct neighbors’ views of the Orange County coast.

Maria Jones’ reasoning behind planting the line of bushy Ficus trees stems from privacy invasions by a former neighbor, whom she claims poisoned and cut down the trees that originally shaded her yard on Ocean Way. Jones claims the city advised her to plant a hedge after rejecting her request to build a 12-foot wall in 2010, council minutes said.

The 12-foot tree-walls grew to as high as 16 feet, said Phillip Griebe, who owns the property adjacent to Jones’ back yard, according to city council minutes. After nearly two years of dodging city hedge height regulations, Jones’ arraignment in Orange County superior court is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

[UPDATE, Tuesday, 10:35 a.m.] The hedge was cut down two weeks ago, according to the city attorney.

In Laguna Beach, a community where “50 percent of the people who come before the Council [are] considered friends,” hedge height is an issue regulated by municipal code, Mayor Jane Egly stated in council records.

Following neighbors’ complaints, the city notified Jones in August 2011 that her hedges needed to be trimmed to two heights to accommodate the views of her neighbors.


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One portion of the hedge was to not exceed the 6 foot, 7 inch height of the white railing on the deck of the house adjacent to her backyard. The other portion was allowed to be 9 feet, 7 inches high, as tall as the eaves of her neighbor’s roof.

But Jones, who did not respond to interview requests, asserted that the hedge gives “her and her family peace of mind, safety and privacy” and cutting the hedge would “create an impossible living situation,” she said before the council last month.

Griebe opposed Jones’ request to modify the city council’s original 2011 decision, saying that the eviction of his former tenant with whom Jones had privacy issues solved Jones’ privacy problem.

“Before the hedge there were five police calls each week to Greibe’s property, and after the hedge, zero police calls were made,” testified Attorney Dan Lawton, Jones’ lawyer, according to council minutes.

The council voted unanimously to deny Jones' request for modification to their original decision.

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