A pine tree in San Francisco has triggered a neighborhood feud, restraining orders and even has city officials involved.
At issue is whether a homeowner is allowed to cut down a pine tree in the backyard of his Richmond district home. Advocates claim the tree is rare and should not be removed.
A renowned arborist recently declared the tree to be a rare hybrid pine, which is the only one of its kind in San Francisco. The finding could be the key to getting the tree declared a landmark and protecting it from being cut down.
Opponents, however, warn such a move could set a bad precedent for other homeowners.
The issue began on Cook Street 11 months ago when new homeowner Dale Rogers chopped down two date palm trees and a pine tree -- all of which were his property.
Rogers' decision outraged neighbors, who said the pine trees dates back 100 years and make up the landscape and character of their neighborhood.
"Just because you own property doesn't mean you can act above the law," neighbor Vanessa Rutolo said. "You can't change the law."
Rogers did not do anything wrong at the time of cutting down the trees because they were not recognized under the city's landmark ordinance. Neighbors vowed to change that by using restraining orders to protect the remaining tree until they could convince city leaders to save it.
On Friday morning, neighbors got their wish when the Urban Forestry Council voted in favor of the landmark status.
Rogers' attorney said the council's decision sets a bad precedent.
"I'm more concerned about the message this is going to send," said Barri Bonapart, a lawyer representing Rogers. "Developers or people with ill intent will go ahead and start removing trees in anticipation that this ordinance will be misused in this way."
The final decision belongs to the Board of Supervisors who can overturn the council's ruling.