Out of other problems, L.A. city government goes after…tree houses

posted at 10:01 pm on September 11, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

Strange, is it not? The city can’t seem to use the ridiculous amount of tax money they scoop up in Los Angeles to, say, fix potholes and provide basic services competently. But they can come after a 10-year-old tree house. Oh, boy, can they. Take it away, Steve Lopez, and thank you for giving this some ink in the L.A. Times:

On May 22, a diligent public servant at Los Angeles City Hall wrote a letter to a Venice homeowner about the treehouse that’s been in her yard for 10 years. And you just know, don’t you, that a story with this beginning will not have a happy ending?…

The owner of the well-maintained treehouse is Eileen Erickson. She lives on a Venice walk street not all that far from a neighborhood I wrote about recently in which residents spent years begging the city to repave their horribly potholed streets, only to be told that they would have to pay to fix their own curbs first. So you can understand Erickson’s surprise and frustration when she opened the letter from the city’s Department of Building and Safety and read through two pages of bureaucratic gibberish identifying no fewer than 17 code violations. She was ordered to “demolish” the treehouse or face thousands of dollars in fines and possible imprisonment.

“Everyone thinks it’s ludicrous, given the many problems in the city,” Erickson wrote to her council office at one point during her ongoing nightmare. She noted in that correspondence that she gathered hundreds of signatures from neighbors hoping to save the treehouse, which has been treasured by many children.

Let’s talk about the fines, shall we? That’s what this is about—squeezing a little more revenue out of law-abiding citizens instead of doing work for the community worthy of the exorbitant amount of money they’re already extracting. So, how much might they bleed Mrs. Erickson for?

“An inspection has revealed that the property … is in violation of Los Angeles Municipal Code sections listed below,” it said, adding that Eileen would be charged $356.16 for the inspection and could be in for thousands of additional dollars in permit fees and penalties, if not imprisonment…

She has since spent countless mind-numbing hours trying to get hold of city officials, visiting city offices, trying to decipher municipal codes and having more than a few emails and phone calls ignored…

Erickson said she is reluctantly willing to pay a $3,500 fee for a variance, but there would be no guarantee that her problems would end with that. Based on her research, she suspects another reason the city might swing a wrecking ball is that the treehouse — and the trees, which were there long before she and Sid arrived on the scene — are too close to a public right of way that takes pedestrians along the walk street.

Well, that would put her $4,000 in without any assurances that she’d be able to keep the tree house and no idea when the problem might actually be resolved either way.

The tree house can’t possibly be described as any sort of eyesore. It’s a beautifully constructed bamboo structure that looks like Tarzan meets mid-century modern chic. And, as most tree houses do, it has sentimental value to the family and the neighborhood. The man who built it was a veteran who bonded with Eileen’s late husband while working at the house, and Eileen has hosted neighborhood book clubs and community kids in the tree house over the years.

Here in the D.C. area, an Iraq vet fought a similar fight over the beautiful treehouse he built for his sons to fulfill a promise he made while away on his combat tour. Thankfully, he won that battle but it took a national media campaign and the father in question, Mark Grapin, happened to be perfectly suited to a national media blitz— an honorable public servant, a well-spoken man with a near-flawless natural sense of how to talk to the press.

“So my whole deployment, I must have made hundreds of sketches,” he said. “What can I do to fulfill my promise to build a tree house? We’ve got two great trees we can put a tree house in.”

Grapin learned early in the project he didn’t need a building permit for a tree house and he got to work. Then he got the notice. Someone anonymously brought the tree house to the zoning board’s attention.

Call me crazy, but you shouldn’t need a compelling personal narrative and what amounts to the skills commensurate with a ton of media training to build a tree house. But this happens all the time, thanks to a combination of overbearing regulation, overzealous regulators, and neighborhood narcs happy to turn in their fellow property owners.

Sadly, this is the kind of thing that flourishes when your government is big, unaccountable, thirsty for all yo money, and protected from punishment by a nearly 100 percent liberal electorate. I’m hoping for the best for Erickson, but I can’t say I’m terribly optimistic.


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Comments

Out of other ideas, blogger writes about…tree house regulations

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

Another reason to live in the country.

RickB on September 11, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Out of other ideas, blogger writes about…tree house regulations

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

With so many subjects to comment on ….fu cktard comments on blog post about tree house regulations.

CW on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 PM

Out of other ideas, blogger writes about…tree house regulations

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

One of the neighborhood narcs makes an appearance in the comments to make excuses for his despicable kind.

Mary Katharine Ham on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 PM

L.A. city government goes after…tree houses.

It’s a jungle out there.

[Nice to have you back, MKH.]

coldwarrior on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 PM

You don’t want a treehouse in LA. Vagrants squat in them. Even if you have them arrested and thrown in jail, they just get out and return.

Blake on September 11, 2013 at 10:10 PM

So, not all liberals are tree-huggers, huh? Crazy priorities of out-of-control government officials. This is ridiculous.

Welcome back MKH!

conservative pilgrim on September 11, 2013 at 10:11 PM

One of the neighborhood narcs makes an appearance in the comments to make excuses for his despicable kind.

Mary Katharine Ham on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 PM

Nail, meet Hammer.

TXUS on September 11, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Nail, meet Hammer.

TXUS on September 11, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Haha. Don’t mess with The Hammer.

conservative pilgrim on September 11, 2013 at 10:12 PM

So, living under a rock is likely out of the question as well?

Cuz I had plans, people.

predator on September 11, 2013 at 10:13 PM

I think if you studied travel patterns of douchebags over the last 40 years or so you would find that most of them seem to travel between California and New York, making occasional stops in Minnesota.

What is it with these dysfunctional states which seem to produce so much misery at the hands of people you would just love to beat the ever lovin’ shiite out of for being smarmy pricks.

Bishop on September 11, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Darryl Hannah hardest hit!

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on September 11, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Thanks for bring these kind of stories up MKH. It really highlights just how much government is sticking their nose in places it doesn’t belong.

Flange on September 11, 2013 at 10:13 PM

I hope Erickson doesn’t try to open a lemonade stand to make money to pay for her treehouse property tax … then she’ll be in REAL trouble!

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on September 11, 2013 at 10:15 PM

Maybe it’s Small Man’s Syndrome extended to the populace at large, little people with self-esteem issues who get a bit of power and become lords as far as they can get away with it.

Bishop on September 11, 2013 at 10:16 PM

Mary Katharine Ham on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 PM

…Hi Mom!…look good!…missed you!…don’tTAKEnoShit!
(:->)…and beat Juan for me!

KOOLAID2 on September 11, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Call me crazy, but you shouldn’t need a compelling personal narrative and what amounts to the skills commensurate with a ton of media training to build a tree house. But this happens all the time, thanks to a combination of overbearing regulation, overzealous regulators, and neighborhood narcs happy to turn in their fellow property owners.

If I wrote you a short story exploring that, would you read it, MKH? Cause there’s stuff there. And because everyone is busy. And because I just wondered in passing if you’d ever see it.

Anyway — They are building a perfect community. They think they know how. And they are writing rules — perfectly reasonable rules, written by experts — and when they are done, everything is stuck in place, because nothing can be that they didn’t think of in the beginning — when they originally wrote the rules.

^That’s what’s going on. That’s why closed systems seem fixed in the past.

Axe on September 11, 2013 at 10:18 PM

Wait until Erickson finds out that the treehouse has to have handicapped access …

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on September 11, 2013 at 10:18 PM

One of the neighborhood narcs makes an appearance in the comments to make excuses for his despicable kind.

Mary Katharine Ham on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 PM

This should be MKH’s new anthem. (Warning, adult language)

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:19 PM

Out of other problems, L.A. city government goes after…tree houses

Crush individuality and expression….what Progressives do best.

…..that……and control the media.

PappyD61 on September 11, 2013 at 10:20 PM

Another reason to live in the country get the he11 out of California.

RickB on September 11, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Which I did, five months ago and several years too late …

ShainS on September 11, 2013 at 10:21 PM

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

…so mommy let you out of the basement again?

KOOLAID2 on September 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM

Oh for the love of gawd,LA,

**** Stop it,….Stop it…….d*mn Maroooooons *****!!!

canopfor on September 11, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Out of other ideas, blogger writes about…tree house regulations

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

One of the neighborhood narcs makes an appearance in the comments to make excuses for his despicable kind.

Mary Katharine Ham on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 PM

I like it. Motherhood suits you well Mary Katharine. ; )

Bmore on September 11, 2013 at 10:32 PM

Another example of the joke that is the Left’s supposed “live and let live” philosophy.

mankai on September 11, 2013 at 10:33 PM

First they came for the HOOPS,then the trees???????????????

We go back into Hot Air Time:

Video: First they came for the basketball hoops
posted at 4:13 pm on March 29, 2011 by Allahpundit
**************************************************

http://hotair.com/archives/2011/03/29/video-first-they-came-for-the-basketball-hoops/

canopfor on September 11, 2013 at 10:33 PM

Out of other ideas, blogger writes about…tree house regulations

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

red_herring:

Its NEWS!!

canopfor on September 11, 2013 at 10:35 PM

In my subdivision (in Illinois) you cannot build a shed but you can build a playhouse… Hmmm, what would a very enterprising person make a shed look like, lol.

Fallon on September 11, 2013 at 10:35 PM

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

Do you find the optics of an overbearing government uncomfortable?

Bmore on September 11, 2013 at 10:42 PM

red_herring:

Its NEWS!!

canopfor on September 11, 2013 at 10:35 PM

It’s local Venice neighborhood news, LA news at best. MKH has a national audience of thousands (hundreds of thousands?). Governments abuse their power and do truly horrible things all the time. Yet MKH chooses to focus on a local issue involving a tree house?

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:44 PM

How did you not realize that?

blink on September 11, 2013 at 10:42 PM

The whole point of a red herring is to distract and go off scent.

Flange on September 11, 2013 at 10:46 PM

Kind of makes you wonder WHO is “working” for WHO.

Tony Villar Aka Villarigosa left the city’s finances in a mess. They’re flirting with bankruptcy so it’s only natural that they’ll squeeze citizens for every dime they can.

GarandFan on September 11, 2013 at 10:46 PM

Sorry, maybe you didn’t see this question.

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

Do you find the optics of an overbearing government uncomfortable?

Bmore on September 11, 2013 at 10:42 PM

Bmore on September 11, 2013 at 10:50 PM

So its a tree house not a doll house for Georgia.

Welcome back mommy blogger extraordinaire. When do you return to FNC?

meci on September 11, 2013 at 10:56 PM

Governments abuse their power and do truly horrible things all the time. Yet MKH chooses to focus on a local issue involving a tree house?

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:44 PM

I guess you figure that with all the “truly horrible things” out there, bureaucrats who refuse to fix roads but bring the power of the State to bear on a tree house isn’t a pathetic overreach, and an abuse of office?

Keep digging, son. I’m sure that there is gold down there somewhere.

ss396 on September 11, 2013 at 10:57 PM

I think if you studied travel patterns of douchebags over the last 40 years or so you would find that most of them seem to travel between California and New York, making occasional stops in Minnesota.

Bishop on September 11, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Lots of them in and around D.C. Seem to be more coming in every day too.

Oldnuke on September 11, 2013 at 10:58 PM

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

An odd way to abandon a thread. Why did you even bother commenting? Mary Katharine, you haven’t been naughty with that one have you? Lolz!

Bmore on September 11, 2013 at 11:07 PM

I think if you studied travel patterns of douchebags over the last 40 years or so you would find that most of them seem to travel between California and New York, making occasional stops in Minnesota.

What is it with these dysfunctional states which seem to produce so much misery at the hands of people you would just love to beat the ever lovin’ shiite out of for being smarmy pricks.

Bishop on September 11, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Preach it, Brother! If we could just kick the idiots from California out of New Mexico (mostly in Santa Fe and Taos), NM would be a Republican state.

RoadRunner on September 11, 2013 at 11:23 PM

I can still remember when the bureaucrats were public servants.

Axion on September 11, 2013 at 11:23 PM

All I want is this stupid government out of my life.

txhsmom on September 11, 2013 at 11:26 PM

What is it with these dysfunctional states which seem to produce so much misery at the hands of people you would just love to beat the ever lovin’ shiite out of for being smarmy pricks.
Bishop on September 11, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Like this?

txhsmom on September 11, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Second try. Stupid phone.

txhsmom on September 11, 2013 at 11:32 PM

predator on September 11, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Move out to my neck of the woods. A gentleman up the road dug a 20 x 20 x 10 ft deep hole. Sealed the floor and sides added a roof and lives in it. In this area people live and let live.

chemman on September 12, 2013 at 12:01 AM

It’s been there 10 years, and the govs have only just now noticed it’s “illegal”?
Who on that street believes the owner dissed them, and turned her in?
PS – wonder what LA would do with this one?

AesopFan on September 12, 2013 at 12:24 AM

MKH chooses to focus on a local issue involving a tree house?

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:44 PM

This little wannabe better watch out. The Hammer has never been a pushover but now she’s armed with WMDs.

Soiled diapers. The biggest tough guy gets mellow when threatened with one.

platypus on September 12, 2013 at 12:39 AM

Stupid phone.

txhsmom on September 11, 2013 at 11:32 PM

NSA-free?

Shy Guy on September 12, 2013 at 12:54 AM

I guess there weren’t any Lemonade Stands left to regulate.

jaydee_007 on September 12, 2013 at 2:23 AM

Out of other ideas, blogger writes about…tree house regulations
 
red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

 
It’s not a post about tree house regulations.
 
It’s about silly bureaucrats.
 
How did you not realize that?
 
blink on September 11, 2013 at 10:42 PM

 
That’s easy. (D) voter. It’s a even recognized as a bug feature:
 

Jensen said he worried that respondents may not have understood what they were being asked,”

rogerb on September 12, 2013 at 7:06 AM

No sympathy here for Mrs. Erickson. If she wants to live free, she needs to leave Kalifornia. Clearly, she doesn’t want to live freely.

olesparkie on September 12, 2013 at 7:16 AM

Out of other ideas, blogger writes about…tree house regulations

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

No one forced you to read the article.

zoyclem on September 12, 2013 at 7:33 AM

Keep an eye on what your local municipality is doing. They usually just keep on piling on more regulations and nobody notices until they apply to build something (and often can’t) or start getting hassled by a vogon over something like a treehouse.

forest on September 12, 2013 at 8:02 AM

Remember children, it’s for the trees . . . /sarc

Imrahil on September 12, 2013 at 8:11 AM

Anonymous “snitching” should be reserved for when one can reasonably expect to be targeted by actual violent criminals. Good neighbors just looking out for their neighborhood should have to put it right out there in the open.
After all, they want everybody else to know they’re looking out for them, right?

questionmark on September 12, 2013 at 8:40 AM

See, this is what happens when you actually DID build that!

questionmark on September 12, 2013 at 8:42 AM

What is it with these dysfunctional states which seem to produce so much misery at the hands of people you would just love to beat the ever lovin’ shiite out of for being smarmy pricks.

Bishop on September 11, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Mostly? They stopped letting you beat the ever lovin’ shiite out of them for being smarmy pricks. Back when interpersonal relationships were a little more … raw, there were fewer Eddie Haskells and more John Waynes.

GWB on September 12, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Strange, is it not?

No. When you can’t do anything worthwhile do something to make it look like you are at least doing something. Tens of thousands of stupid laws are better than one good law and you don’t even have to work as hard. I have it on good authority from somebody I know in public service. Make sure you do nothing to piss off the people that give you lots of money and make sure you don’t do anything you can be blamed for.

Dr. Frank Enstine on September 12, 2013 at 9:25 AM

I will bet you that Erickson votes Democrat. Will this change her vote?

MTF on September 12, 2013 at 9:28 AM

Government is completely out of control, becoming highly oppressive and surpassing their authority…It is time for Americans to say to themselves, “Enough’ then turn to these government beaurocrats and say, “F* OFF!”

easyt65 on September 12, 2013 at 9:37 AM

I’m sure that if there were a bunch of illegal squatters living in it, the city would be okay with it.

chewmeister on September 12, 2013 at 10:01 AM

It’s local Venice neighborhood news, LA news at best. MKH has a national audience of thousands (hundreds of thousands?). Governments abuse their power and do truly horrible things all the time. Yet MKH chooses to focus on a local issue involving a tree house?

red_herring on September 11, 2013 at 10:44 PM

domains are cheap and wordpress is free, let us know how it goes for you.

dmacleo on September 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Amazing that the courts can stop a petty compelling and common sense challenge based upon a party’s “standing”, but local bureaucracies will take complaints about a potential violation of some obscure ordinance from an anonymous “tipster”.

Other than for reasons of public safety, I’d be in favor of no complaints accepted if the complainer could not show harm or loss.

NeoCon_1 on September 12, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Funny, you don’t hear stories like this coming out of places like Houston, where they don’t have ANY zoning laws, and people are moving to – not away from.

Another Drew on September 12, 2013 at 4:25 PM

NeoCon_1 on September 12, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Welcome to the magical world of Code Enforcement!

Another Drew on September 12, 2013 at 4:26 PM