John Olerud wants neighbor to cut down tree blocking great view of Seattle

David Brown

This is what happens when you buy a house, I guess. You fight with neighbors over the size, placement and quality of trees on their property, across the street, that obscure your view of the nonpareil Seattle skyline.

Well, at least that's the case with former Seattle Mariners slugger John Olerud and his wife Kelly, who have been arguing with neighbors for two years about what should be done — if anything — with the 50-plus-year-old Chinese pine tree that obscures their family's view of nearby Seattle, along with Lake Washington and the Olympic Mountains.

The Oleruds did not comment to the Seattle Times for this story, but John sure raised heck at a recent Clyde Hill "Board of Adjustment" meeting. The board is the body responsible for making a final determination if Olerud and neighbor Bruce Baker — Rev. Bruce Baker, that is — cannot agree by November. Olerud can't understand why Baker won't cooperate. They're good friends.They've coached each others kids. Both men share Christian values. The Bakers even let their neighbors stay at their house for months while the Oleruds built their dream house across the street. So, what gives?

Olerud doesn't think much of the Chinese pine, shorter and fuller than the towering Douglas firs nearby. Baker has agreed to remove a Colorado spruce behind the pine.

"You guys saw the trees," Olerud said at the board hearing. "They're not attractive trees. I would say they're the kind of tree that only an arborist would love. ... "

You guys SAW the trees! Only an arborist — a low-down, filthy arborist — would love the Chinese pine! Besides, trees are only good for cutting down, so major leaguers can have bats, am I right?

I swear to the goddess Pomona that the rest of the world is reading stories like this and they're laughing their collective backsides off. But before you libertarians ask where Olerud gets the gumption to tell another homeowner what to do with a tree on his own land, remember, this isn't Illinois — where Mr. T can just run around with a chainsaw and deliver his own brand of justice as nature quivers in fear. This is Washington state, and towns such as Clyde Hill have ordinances designed to help regulate property values, and those regulations include protection from the unsightly trees of a neighbor. The value of Olerud's $4 million property is on the line — the tree line, if you will — here.

Baker has cut down or trimmed other trees that block Olerud's view, but he wants to keep the big ol' Chinese pine that "stands sentinel" over his family's back yard. That should be good enough. Too bad for Olerud, right? The offending tree was there long before Olerud's house. Now, why Olerud didn't buy property on the lake so he could control his own view, and cut down his own trees, nobody has said. But there seems to be a chance he could win a verdict from the Board of Adjustment, though they've never had to cut down a tree in the 21 years the rule has been in place. Others with grievances either worked them out, or agreed to disagree and moved on with their lives before government got involved.

Going by the Seattle Times story, Baker seems to be an accommodating person. But I bet he's regretting letting the Oleruds stay in his house. No matter how neighborly it seemed at the time. Check out this Olerud logic:

"I'm just making the point that if you're willing to cut down your own trees to maintain your view and yet you aren't willing to offer that to your neighbor, how is that being a good neighbor?

"The Bible says, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.' That's Jesus' commandment."

Thanks for reminding the reverend, John. But aren't you guilty of coveting thy neighbors' view?

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