Palm Wars

We don’t see much of our neighbors. Cruising in or out of the driveway, we exchange smiles or a nod.  If we feel particularly perky, we wave. On our block, the only thing to spark meaningful dialogue is conflict.

My next-door-neighbor probably sensed this when Molly and I approached her last week. At least I think it was her. Since 1993, I’ve glimpsed her maybe six times; hair back in a severe silver bun, eyes the color of chlorine. She’s my Boo Radley; only she never gets nice.

“Is that a new dog?” From her icy tone, I knew the conversation was not destined to go well.

“We’ve had her two years.” My neighbor tacked a stray hair back into place and stared past my shoulder, waiting for someone. I ignored the cue to make tracks. “I notice you haven’t been trimming your trees,” I tried sounding respectful. It came out meek.

Her yellow-green eyes shifted back to mine.





Cross at your own risk




For weeks, dead palm fronds had been sailing 70 feet down from her lone Palm Tree and landing like missiles onto our property. Though Beverly Hills constantly trims the palms that line our street, my neighbor hasn’t followed suit. There are 1300 aging palm trees that the city manages because a) as a symbol of our town they need to look as picture-perfect as a postcard, and b) if you don’t, a fungus called Thielaviopsis paradoxa can spread through the trunk until the palm can’t support its own feathery head.

The gorgeous BH fireman who got the call when the first one-ton crown fell said, “It made a huge crater and the debris exploded everywhere!” To his knowledge, however, a palm had never hurt a resident.

Yet. Can you see the Coroner’s Report? Death by Date Palm?

                                                    Time Bomb

My neighbor gave me a blasé look. “Nobody trims their trees.”

Of course people trim their trees. Considerate people. “The dead fronds might hit somebody.” Or worse, damage Mr. UnHollywood’s Direct TV satellite dish.

She pushed past me to a waiting car. “So sue me.”

This. From my neighbor of 19 years.

I turned tail for home and got BH Code Enforcement on the horn. They advised me to fire off a letter to her. Plus, they offered to send a city investigator. Yes!

I crafted my letter. Printed photos of fronds. Sent it all U.S. Mail. (Did you expect me to knock on her door?) Within 48 hours, the city inspector rang my bell.  He gave her two weeks to trim. Double Yes!

It’s been two weeks.  More fronds have fallen. She hasn’t phoned. I’ve heard no reassuring whir of the trimmer’s saw. Meanwhile, Boo is holed up in her Ranch House fortress.  Doing Zip.







What if she ignores the citation?  “Then it’s a civil matter,” the Inspector said. “Strictly between you and her.”

I refuse to be yet another litigious Angeleno. It’s beneath me. But nobody said squat about launching fronds back over the fence to her side, did they?


Author Description

Cynthia Baseman

Cynthia Baseman is the author of 'Love, Mom: A Mother's Journey from Loss to Hope.' She writes about motherhood, the environment and education.

There are 7 comments. Add yours

  1. hello!,I love your writing very much! I require a specialist on this house to solve my problem. Maybe that is you!
  2. 7th April 2012 | Ellie May says: Reply
    Bad situation but your writing makes it a fun read. Maybe you should tie the fronds with a pretty ribbon before you leave them in her driveway - just to be a bit neighborly. Good luck!
  3. 6th April 2012 | Hayley says: Reply
    I'm with Helen and Tanya. Leave all her fronds in an inconvenient place on her property.
  4. 6th April 2012 | Helen says: Reply
    That's sad! When we lived on that block, we were often in and out of various neighbors' homes... Now I live in the 90036 and I feel like I live on a commune. People on my block are so friendly, everyone always stops to say hi and chat, my neighbor up the street brings me fresh eggs from her backyard chickens, I routinely find children exploring in my front yard veggie garden, and anytime I need a cup of sugar or cornmeal, it's only a phone call away. Sadly, your offending neighbor sounds like a miserable person, operative word being 'miserable.' Who knows why, but generally well-adjusted, content people don't act that way. So, you could try to take the high road and appeal to her with compassion (harder than it sounds), or you could collect all the fallen palm fronds and leave them at her front door. That's what I'd do, but I'm still working on the whole high road thing. Then, come visit the 90036.
  5. 6th April 2012 | Ellen says: Reply
    Right on!
  6. 6th April 2012 | Tanya says: Reply
    She's a terrible neighbor! I'd return the favor and give her all her fronds back ....
  7. 6th April 2012 | Gavin Polone says: Reply
    If the City cited her, she must be violating some code and that then means it is misdemeanor, right? I don't see how it is a civil case.

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