A View One’s Own: This Is the Most Contentious Real Estate Dispute in L.A.

In Los Angeles, gazing from one’s window at a city scene commands a hefty premium—at least until the jerks next door block it

A decade ago, when Michael (not his real name) purchased a hilltop home in the Laurelwood section of Studio City, the clincher was the view of the San Fernando Valley. “I walked through the front door and saw an incredible view that stopped me in my tracks,” he recalls. “I thought: This is it. I have to buy this.”

Today, Michael is crestfallen when he looks out those same windows. “Our neighbor planted ficus trees that have obliterated our view. And we paid handsomely for that view.”

According to realtors, an unobstructed view in the hills above L.A. adds a minimum 20 percent premium on a property compared with an equivalent home without one. For ocean-view estates, that premium jumps into the millions. “A view property sells faster, has fewer days on the market, and commands a significantly higher price,” says Coldwell Banker realtor Lisa Platt.

Kevin Carter, an attorney at Loewenthal, Hillshafer & Carter, says view obstructions are one of the most contentious real estate disputes in L.A. “It surprises a lot of my clients when they learn there aren’t ordinances to protect them.” It certainly surprised Michael, who was shocked to learn he has little legal recourse, even if the view represents a sizable proportion of his property’s value.

“I now hate my neighbors, and I have always been the guy who gets along with his neighbors,” he says. “I’ve tried everything—I even offered to pay tens of thousands to trim their trees. They ghosted me.”

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.