By David Swedelson, Senior Partner at
SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys
A longtime client of the firm was sued by a woman that did not live in the association who claimed that our client had illegally obstructed her view of a lake owned by our client association. After a jury trial on the sole cause of action that was left after we prevailed on a motion for summary adjudication knocking out all of her other frivolous claims, the jury decided that there was no spite fence. This result was not a surprise as the plaintiff was not entitled to her view of the lake, no matter how precious it was to her.
Here are the facts: the plaintiff’s home bordered a park that the association owned and maintained and she was entitled to use the park. The park was between the plaintiff’s home and the lake, hundreds of feet separating her home from the lake. The park had been, at the time the plaintiff built her home, unimproved except for two 200 year old oak trees that partially obstructed her view. Otherwise, the park was made up of dirt and native grasses. Her neighbors wanted the park improved and prevailed upon the developer of the association to improve the park as was required by the development documents and the county. The plaintiff did enjoy a view of the association’s lake. But her view became obstructed several years later when the trees that the association’s developer planted grew up.
The plaintiff’s property, while not part of the association, is part of a community association, which unlike the association that is our client, is not a mandatory membership community association. It is a voluntary association, formed to manage issues of the homes in and around the plaintiff’s home (which homes were built before the association was formed). The plaintiff acknowledged that there were no restrictions on the land that require that she be provided a view or that require that our client association provide the plaintiff with an unrestricted view of the lake.
[NOTE: In the 1986 case of Pacifica Homeowners Association v. Wesley Palms Retirement Community, the California Court of Appeal concluded that “[a]s a general rule, a land owner has no natural right to air, light or an unobstructed view and the law is reluctant to imply such a right.” However, “such a right may be created by private parties through the granting of an easement or through the adoption of conditions, covenants and restrictions …”]