Wednesday, December 28, 2005
A neighbor of mine has two cats. They’re his “sort of” pets; they’re pretty much feral, and they aren’t allowed inside, but center their territory around his back yard. One day they got my neighbor into trouble, as one of them decided to enter his neighbors’ house through a window and kill their prized Persian cat (you know, one of those pathetic inbred things with the face so smashed up it can’t eat right; I suspect that if I were a healthy cat I’d want to kill one of those on sight, too).
Now you might ask, not knowing the behavior of dumb animals, why on earth would a cat want to do that? Simple. The cat is a dumb animal, which does not recognize human property rights or boundary lines. He figures that if he can see it, it’s in his territory.
Which brings us to the latest legislative idiocy to come out of City Hall, a bill that, apparently, encourages those pesky neighbors of yours to continue thinking like dumb animals.
You see, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick has introduced legislation, which would allow people to landmark trees on private property. Not just their private property, but also other people’s private property. So this means that if you can see a tree, it’s suddenly yours! Just make sure that nobody else sees the tree, or it might become theirs!
Despite the fact that McGoldrick is the main sponsor of this bill, we see the stubby-fingered hands of a certain Board President on this one; it’s pretty clear this turd was inspired by the recent non-controversy over a Telegraph Hill resident cutting down a rotting and unsafe cypress tree in his yard, which had been home for some of the noisome parrots which habituate around there and have developed a following.
Now, we all love trees. Ken Garcia especially loves trees, as he pointed out in a column he did in the Examiner yesterday, which I can’t link to because Zoran forgot to make sure it was put up on the Examiner website. He loves some trees so much that he reminded us all of how he hates the Natural Areas Program, because they want to put up certain kinds of trees on public land that he doesn’t like, at the supposed expense of certain stinky highly flammable trees that he happens to like. But he does rightly point out (note that I must quote here, as Zoran forgot to make sure it was put up on the Examiner website):
“So why the sudden need for a new bureaucratic branch of tree police? Supporters of the legislation to give a host of city agencies to ability to nominate trees for landmark status say it’s necessary because San Francisco has one of the lowest percentages of tree cover of any city in the country. But you don’t need a law to plant new trees – which seems to be a more fruitful solution – and no garden-variety civil libertarian would give city officials the power to decide which trees someone must maintain on their property.”
(Note to Zoran: You might wanna go ahead and make sure that article gets put up on the Examiner website. Thanks.)
Unfortunately we have here yet another example of a game the Board of Supervisors has become annoyingly good at: Pander to Dumb Instincts and Damn the Unintended Consequences. Everyone agrees we could use more trees. The question is, can that be accomplished by bringing intrusive regulation onto private spheres such as one’s back yard?
Think about it. It’s one thing to legislate prohibitions in public space and commerce. It’s quite another to invade beyond that into the private sphere. Just because you can see it, whether because you can look into window or it sticks up over a fence, it doesn’t mean that that something is yours to do whatever the hell you want with it. We are human beings who govern ourselves with an accepted system of rights and responsibilities; not dumb animals. Speak For The Trees all you want, but it’s quite another thing to go after other people’s Thneeds just because you don’t like the looks of them. Somehow that standard of common decency is forgotten at City Hall.
Of course, the Board has had a history of failing to learn to avoid the unintended consequences in this area. They add more restrictions on to property conversion and eviction control because they say there are too many evictions; lo and behold after they get through with their legislative work even more evictions, now backed by state law, occur. They put a handgun ban on the ballot and it passes, despite the experience of other cities that have seen violent crime rise, not fall, in the wake of similar bans.
So will it surprise anyone that once this piece of legislative crap is adopted, that there will end up being not more, but less, trees on private property in the City?
I can just see it now: realtors and landscape architects are going to start recommending Japanese stone lanterns in place of ornamental trees. Trees will become too much trouble as too many homeowners realize that if they do want to plant a tree, they won’t be able to cut it down or even prune it if it grows into a problem.
Of course, the Supervisors aren’t thinking about that, since all those headaches will occur shortly after they move on to something else.
Posted by Able Dart at 1:34 PM