OAKLAND -- Phyllis Bishop has fought long and hard with her former neighbors, Okhoo and Ernest Hanes, for her right to clear trees and maintain the panoramic views from the Oakland hills home that she purchased with her late husband, Lloyd, in 1964.
"I want to bring to an end this exhausting case of justice, long delayed and still not resolved," the 95-year-old told Oakland City Council at its Tuesday night meeting.
Finally, Bishop got her wish.
In a unanimous decision, the council upheld Bishop's right to an unobstructed view under the Oakland View Ordinance, effectively ending a decade-long legal feud between the neighbors.
That decision allows for clearing and topping trees on public land adjacent to the Bishops' home. The Haneses had appealed to stop the tree cutting.
"Cutting destroys a public asset and destroys the beauty of the Oakland hills for the sake of one property owner," said Okhoo Hanes at Tuesday's meeting. "Oakland's View Ordinance violates the Environmental Protection Act of 1970."
In addition, the council voted to remove an indemnity provision that would have made Bishop liable if anyone sued the city for cutting down trees on public land.
The dispute began after the Haneses, both 55, moved into their home on Winton Drive in 1984, next door and downhill from the Bishops. Today, both homes are rented out. The Bishops moved to a retirement community in Oakland in 2009, and the Haneses live in Napa.
Unlike neighbors in the past, the Haneses refused to trim trees on their property that began to obstruct the Bishops' views across the bay. In 2003, the Bishops took their neighbors to court.
On Oct. 27, 2011, after years of legal wrangling that hinged around Oakland's View Ordinance -- and two days after Lloyd Bishop died -- the Bishops won their case, and the Haneses were forced to clear 25 acacias, pines and redwoods from their property.
However, after the Haneses' trees were removed, Bishop realized that trees on city land were also blocking her views and sought permission to have them removed or trimmed. In January, the Oakland City Council approved cutting 15 trees and topping another 21 from the public land. The Haneses lodged an appeal.
Oakland property owner Mary McCallister supported the Haneses' view at Tuesday's meeting.
"You have the opportunity to examine Oakland's ordinance which is in violation of state law," said McCallister, who said she came to speak on behalf of trees and their benefits to the environment.
Bishop's attorney Barri Bonapart also appealed to the council to remove an indemnity provision that would make Bishop liable for lawsuits against the city over tree removal on public land.
"As a practical matter, the City Council is telling Mrs. Bishop she can't go forward for fear of getting sued," Bonapart said. "I hope and pray that Phyllis will see this resolved in her lifetime."
District 4 Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, who represents the residents on Winton Drive, said she is "very familiar with the passionate feelings about views and trees."
"I want to assure both appellants that I come with an open mind," Schaaf said.
However, she urged her council colleagues to deny the Haneses' appeal and also remove the indemnity provision as it was written after the appellants' case was already underï»¿ way.
"I ask my colleagues to deny the appeal and go ahead with the restoration of views under the ordinance," Schaaf said. "I ask that the indemnity provision not be imposed here, but imposed on future cases."
After the unanimous council vote in her favor, Bishop expressed satisfaction with the resolution.
"It's a great relief," said Bishop outside council chambers. "We've spent so many years working on this. It was so frustrating not being able to work with the neighbors. They promised to discuss it but instead put up a chain-link fence between our properties and a 'No Trespassing' sign."