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Originally published Monday, January 7, 2013 at 8:59 PM

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Tree battle in Clyde Hill ends; Olerud to pay for view

Former American League batting champ John Olerud may soon have a better view from his Clyde Hill home, but he'll have to pay for it. Olerud's downhill neighbors, Bruce and Linda Baker, have decided not to appeal a city Board of Adjustment order that they cut down two 50-foot-tall trees partially blocking his view of the Seattle skyline.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Former American League batting champ John Olerud may soon have a better view from his Clyde Hill home, but he'll have to pay for it.

Olerud's downhill neighbors, Bruce and Linda Baker, have decided not to appeal a city Board of Adjustment order that they cut down two 50-foot-tall trees partially blocking Olerud's view of the Seattle skyline.

The board's written ruling in favor of John and Kelly Olerud last month was the first time the city has ordered a tree removed under its 1991 "view obstruction and tree removal" ordinance.

The Bakers objected that the law allowed an unconstitutional taking of their property for their neighbors' benefit, but informed the city last week that they won't appeal to the City Council.

"They concluded that while they weren't happy with the order or the ultimate decision, they wanted to make peace with their uphill neighbors while also protecting the interests of the other people with trees in Clyde Hill," the Bakers' lawyer, David Brenner, said Monday.

The Bakers felt the board ruling "struck a good balance" because it requires the Oleruds to pay a hefty price to improve their view.

The Oleruds must choose between two bids — $62,694 and $64,440 — obtained by the Bakers for removal of their rare Chinese pine and more common Colorado spruce, and replacement of them with two shore pines.

If the new trees grow above 25 feet, the Bakers must prune them.

The Board of Adjustment ruled the existing trees unreasonably obstruct the Oleruds' view while providing only a minor benefit to the Bakers in visual screening, wildlife habitat and morning shade.

While some Clyde Hill residents supported the Oleruds, many others said the Bakers shouldn't be forced to cut down 50-year-old trees that were there long before the Oleruds bought their Clyde Hill property in 2006 and subsequently built a new house.

An appraisal commissioned by the Oleruds said removing the trees would increase the value of their $4 million property by $255,000. The trees block 40 percent of what would otherwise be a 30-degree view of Lake Washington, Seattle and the Olympic Mountains, John Olerud told the Board of Adjustment.

Neither family returned phone calls seeking comment Monday.

"They're pleased that it's resolved," said the Oleruds' lawyer, Paul Taylor. Taylor declined to discuss the case in detail, but said he was confident the law would have been upheld had it been challenged in court.

The neighbors' dispute was fraught with references to the Christian faith shared by both couples. At the first of two city hearings, Olerud cited Jesus' admonition to love your neighbor as a reason the Bakers should give the Olerud family the same commanding view they enjoy.

An Olerud supporter at the same hearing told Bruce Baker, a Presbyterian minister and Seattle Pacific University professor, that if he didn't understand the Oleruds' concerns, "boy, I tell you, you'd better find a different line of work, buddy, because you're not very Christian."

After the Board of Adjustment voted in the Oleruds' favor in November, the Bakers' lawyer told the Oleruds' lawyer the parties could avoid an appeal by agreeing to a settlement that would include tree removal and a $25,000 "tithe" of the property-value increase to a charity of the Oleruds' choice.

"The Bakers would like to see a resolution of this dispute which will allow them to live in peace with the Oleruds as neighbors and better model for the watching public what it means to be fellow citizens of the Kingdom of God," Baker attorney Brenner wrote in that settlement proposal, which wasn't accepted by the Oleruds.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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