Man fights City Hall, wins battle over dead tree

Posted at 3:30 PM, May 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-30 21:39:44-04

Gary Roberts is a happy man, now that a months-long fight over a tree in the front yard of his family's Mira Mesa home is finally over.

"It's such a weight off my shoulders because I've been working on this for so long," Roberts told Team 10.

It all started when Roberts' father-in-law placed a large planter filled with dragon fruit plants atop the 10-foot stump of a palm tree that sat inches from the sidewalk. Someone reported the interesting configuration to San Diego's Code Enforcement Unit.

RELATED: Man says city being "unreasonable" about removal of dead palm tree in front yard

Not wanting to challenge the government, Roberts' father-in-law, who escaped the fall of Saigon, immediately chopped the tree down.

However, That was when the real problems began.

Roberts was told removing a tree in the city's right-of-way not only violates city ordinance, it also requires a permit. When he tried to retroactively apply for the permit, Roberts learned the city would require him to replace the tree with a tree approved by San Diego.

Roberts balked, saying it would cost his family as much as $1,000 to replace a dead tree that was never planted by the city. In fact, Roberts claims it was a weed that grew in his yard on its own.

He wrote letters, got neighbors to sign petitions, and even called Team 10, but the city wouldn't budge.

Then Roberts went to the Mira Mesa Town Council, and they agreed with him, and so did a representative for Councilmember Chris Cate.

"They're only operating on the rules that our council and past councils have set," said Cate. "You want to have some common sense weaved into these types of decisions, and that's what we're here to be."

Cate convinced city staff to drop its case against Roberts.

"Let's let the guy and the residents remove the stump, assess no fines to him, and let's move on and make sure that the rest of the neighborhood is up-kept and the quality of life there is sustained," Cate added.

Roberts' efforts paid off.

"If there's something that you really believe in, you have to fight for it in any way that you can and you can get it done," he said. "If you get the right help you can fight City Hall."