First the city of San Francisco decided that homeowners were responsible for pruning and otherwise maintaining the municipally planted trees on the sidewalks in from of their homes. Now it’s hitting them with big fines for doing it improperly. [San Francisco Chronicle via Amy Alkon]
Great moments in blame-shifting: In Dade City, Fla., an ex-con with cocaine and other drugs in his system tried to outrun the cops in a high speed chase, then veered into a farm neighborhood where he smashed his car into two trees on a one-lane dead-end private road, instantly killing himself and a passenger. Now the estate of his passenger (who was also on drugs) is suing 21 local residents who jointly maintain the private road, saying they should have kept it clear of trees and did not provide adequate signage. “There were no apparent visual roadway obstructions or environmental factors that would have contributed to this crash,” a report from the Florida Highway Patrol stated at the time. [Tampa Bay Times](& Alkon)
To get your power turned back on in the Rockaways, according to a spokesman for the Long Island Power Authority, you’re going to need a pre-inspection for your house not just from a licensed electrician, but from one licensed in NYC — nearby Nassau County, or upstate, won’t do. If occupational licensure makes any sense at all — and Milton Friedman had a thing or two to say about that — it certainly needs to be reconsidered under conditions of public emergency and disaster recovery, or so I argue in my new post at Cato at Liberty.
For more background on the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) as a political football, by the way, check out Nicole Gelinas in the New York Post. Also on disaster recovery, why this might be a good time to rethink municipal ordinances barring property owners from removing old trees [Chris Fountain]. And: “Can customers sue power companies for outages? Yes, but it’s hard to win” [Alison Frankel, Reuters]
New Jersey: “The state Department of Environmental Protection requires permits and engineering work totaling $12,000 before the township can pull a tree out of a creek near Pittstown, Committeeman Scott Bauman told the Township Committee on Feb. 9.” The tree fell on private property and is causing a drainage problem by obstructing the creek. [Hunterdon County Democrat]
I’ve got some observations at Cato at Liberty about the arguments one Montgomery County, Md. councilman has made for a public takeover of local electric utility Pepco — as well as some background about the trade-off often found between leafy splendor and storm-outage resilience in residential settings.
The injured man “took the [legal] action after health and safety inspectors concluded the hotel failed to carry out a risk assessment on the dangers of pruning. They also said that his employer should have given him training on where to place the ladder.” [Telegraph, Daily Mail]
To borrow the summary from the highly recommended Arts & Letters Daily: “The British love their trees, but across the land beautiful old trees are being chopped down in their thousands. The reason? Safety rules and hungry lawyers… ” (Michael McCarthy, “Green giants: Our love affair with trees”, Independent (U.K.), Apr. 25). Earlier: Dec. 3, 2006, etc. More: Scott Greenfield says don’t blame the lawyers, blame the towns and other authorities for overreacting.
A beloved San Francisco tourist attraction, the birds roost in two ancient cypress trees whose owner says he can no longer afford the liability risk should they topple or shed branches on spectators. The city is stepping in to spare the axe by taking responsibility for the chance of injury. (Charlie Goodyear, “Preserving perches for wild parrots”, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 14; “Buzz saws threaten home of Telegraph Hill parrots”, CBC, Nov. 3, 2005). A 2004 film about the parrots is available here on DVD.
This time from the U.K.: Simon Jenkins has some choice words in the Guardian about the tendency to turn a relatively rare phenomenon — injuries caused by tree falls — into the occasion for legal punishment, and the undesirable incentives this creates for those entrusted with the care of trees. (“Those who walk under trees are at risk from these terrorising inspectors”, Nov. 17). More on tree hazards: Jun. 11, Jul. 31 and Nov. 27, 2006; Apr. 30 and Jul. 19, 2005; Nov. 16, 2004; Mar. 12, 2002.
From a New York Times article on the city of Los Angeles’s decision to curtail the planting of palm trees along public streets and parks, one reason being that the majestic plants have been known to drop bulky fronds on persons below:
“Hawaii has a lot of coconut tree liability problems because they fall on people’s heads,” he said. “But the people there have said, ‘That is something that we have to accept.’”
(Jennifer Steinhauer, “City Says Its Urban Jungle Has Little Room for Palms”, Nov. 26). See also Jun. 11 (similar, from Torquay, England). More on coconut liability, in both cases relating to the decorated Mardi Gras variety: Mar. 4, 2005 (thrown at parade spectators); Mar. 13-14, 2002 (copyright claim).
Officials in Milford, Ct. agreed to take down three healthy hickory trees along an avenue after resident Una Glennon “demanded that the trees be removed because one of her grandchildren is allergic to nuts and can’t play in the pool with the other children when the nuts are falling.” Author and Common Good president Philip K. Howard detects the distortive influence of what he calls “legal fear”. (New York Times, Jul. 30). Also: Emily Bazelon, “Trees vs. children: Are nut allergies taking over the planet?”, Slate, Jul. 27.