Below find two different stories of victims of Laguna Beach City Hall who have both filed a Hedge Claim against neighboring residents, and city residents who are still being sued by the City due to neighbors not happy with the height of their hedges.
David Pahno’s Personal Story –
David Pahnos and Barry Stephens (sometimes referred to as “Pahnos and
Stephens”) have been the defendants in Orange County Superior Court Case Nos.
12HM05768 and 12HM05769 brought by the City of Laguna Beach. These were criminal
complaints based upon a local ordinance known as the Hedge Height Ordinance.
Pahnos and Stephens, a gay couple, are the only persons the City has taken to criminal
prosecution over the Hedge Height Ordinance. The ordinance purports to represent a
City policy but it has not been enforced against all residents of the City equally, but
rather discriminatorily, and in this instance, Pahnos and Stephens have been singled out
for no reason other than that they have insisted on being afforded their property rights,
physical safety, and constitutional rights, and because they made it clear from the outset
that they are intolerant of corruption and are themselves incorruptible.
Stefanee Freedman’s Personal Story –
My neighbors Jane and Greg Bruzell, along with my father (and resident co-owner) Marshall Freedman and myself hired local attorney Larry Nokes and filed a hedge claim against our resident neighbor, Howard Jacobson, in July of 2014. In October of 2014, Tony Farr submitted a ruling that there were indeed hedge height violations in the Jacobson’s yard and they should be trimmed back. In December 2014, Howard Jacobson filed an appeal to Tony Farr’s findings that resulted in the issue going before city council to vote on the hedge claim findings. At that time Jacobson had hired Tom Davis as his council. A meeting was set for February 24, 2015 at which time both parties had agreed to work on a settlement.
After that meeting, The Bruzell’s, my father and I learned that attorney Tom Davis was no longer the Jacobson’s attorney and Steve Dicterow was now representing the Jacobson’s in our settlement agreement. We were very happy to compromise with our neighbors, The Jacobsons and looked forward to signing an agreement that would satisfy all the parties. Dicterow never had any intention of getting his client, Jacobson, to sign that agreement and was instrumental at costing the Bruzells and myself more and more money with Nokes while he has been able to delay Jacobson from agreeing to the settlement and keeping it from the city. At this point, Tony Farr’s original findings to trim the hedge still stands at the city level and the Jacobsons have gotten away with refusing to comply or trim their hedge.
During this entire issue, Jane Bruzell was undergoing Chemotherapy for stage 4 breast cancer with two teen boys at home. My father was also suffering from terminal prostate cancer and passed away on June 3, 2015 never seeing the resolution to this issue before his death. Due to family issues surrounding my father’s passing, I had to sell my property at 31865 Cypress Lane just east of the Jacobson’s residence with a loss of $200,000 due to the view loss from the Jacobson’s reluctance to trim their hedges and Dicterow’s success in allowing the Jacobsons to never have to comply with the hedge claim findings from Tony Farr.
The Bruzells and myself seriously question Dicterow’s involvement while a city council member and feel he should have never represented a private party on a Hedge or View claim while he was a council member. Nor been allowed to help circumvent an agreement in the favor of the party he was (and still is) representing.
While Mayor Dicterow has been a council member he has allowed this Hedge Height dispute issue to remain unresolved and the matter has never reached an agreement or settlement while he has been in office. That is just bad government for the city of Laguna Beach!