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May 26, 2022

Datebook

- Submit Datebook items to [email protected] or drop off press releases or photos at 5215 Scotts Valley Drive, Ste. F, Scotts Valley 95066. Deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday. Entries are subject to editing, and publication is not guaranteed.

Scottish Games Saturday

Families can head to Roaring Camp Saturday to enjoy the energy and culture of the Scottish Gathering and Highland Games.

The Mountain Gardener: Don’t let ivy choke your trees

Well, it's that time of year again when all things seem possible.

Plain Talk about Food: My journey with Lucy and her favorite dinner

I have a small patio in front of my house where I love to sit on sunny mornings, drinking that first cup of coffee and watching the chickadees fly back and forth from their birdhouses on the arbor, feeding their babies, My neighbor Morris always greets me with a “good morning” while walking his dog, and often a stranger will comment on my garden, leaving me with a smile on my face.

Talk about Money: Not even death, taxes are certain in extraordinary times

In 1789, when Benjamin Franklin said “In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes,” even a mind as great as his couldn’t have predicted the surreal state of our tax system at the beginning of 2010. By not properly prioritizing the legislative agenda, our Congress has failed to preempt the one-year repeal of the estate “death” tax and the inevitable mess that will ensue.

Club roundup

Scotts Valley Host Lions

Got Bonsai?

Every year I have the privilege a visiting a bonsai artist from Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai in anticipation of their annual show at the Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz. This will be the clubs’ 31st annual show and will feature over 100 stunning bonsai trees developed by members and special demonstrators. I got the full tour of Bud Brown’s collection recently at his home in Boulder Creek plus some inside tips on how he grows such impressive specimens.

Valley Neighbors: Director continues Valley Churches’ mission

Linda Lovelace, operations director for Valley Churches United Missions, learned all about giving at an early age. Her parents had a big influence on her, especially her dad. Helping others was their way of life, whether it was taking home someone who needed a place to stay or giving them a Christmas tree and food for the holidays.

Off Hours: Privacy protection not easy to come by in digital world

I had to call on my friend, Dave The Destroyer, the other day. In spite of up-to-date antivirus protection for my computer, a Trojan horse slipped through.

It’s the Law: The Sky’s the Limit

If you live in Scotts Valley, it’s impossible to miss the substantial increase in noise due to airplanes constantly flying overhead at relatively low altitudes.There’s not just a buzz in the air, but also in the local papers as residents complain about the noise and those unaffected whine about those who are whining. It’s serious enough that phone numbers (877-206-8290) and websites (http://www.flysfo.com/community-environment/noise-abatement/file-a-complaint and http://www.sossantacruz.org) are dedicated to the problem. What is the law when jets buzz the local landscape? You might wonder whether those jets are trespassing. This, in fact, was a question asked when airplanes first started roaring overhead. The common law held that landowners owned the sky to the periphery of the universe. The civil code in California still declares that a landowner owns everything situated above the land. That stance, however, was modified in the early sixties to conform to federal cases that declared at least as early as 1932 that the federal government has a permanent easement to use the skies for public transportation. Trespass actions and most attempts to enjoin airplanes from flying overhead were rebuffed by the courts.Other landowners claimed that the flights constituted a taking entitling them to compensation. In United States v. Causby, the Supreme Court found a taking because the flights above the landowner were outside of “navigable airspace.” As you might expect, Congress went dizzy with fear that tens of thousands of landowners would sue for takings because of flights outside of navigable airspace. Their solution? Redefine navigable airspace, of course, so that virtually all airspace is “navigable.” The current presumption is there is no taking if the over flight is more than 500 feet above the ground in rural areas (i.e., Scotts Valley) or 1000 feet in congested areas. While it may be possible to prove a taking above these elevations, good luck in finding a lawyer who will take the case.Does this mean the good citizens of Scotts Valley are doomed with no recourse? Certainly not. I can think of two actions one may wish to take (other than whining). First, ask the county assessor to reassess your home and lower your property taxes. I suspect even the most jaded government assessor would agree that hundreds of flights over one’s property, at all hours of the day, diminishes the value of your property. (If the assessor doesn’t agree, tell him you’ll be blowing an air horn outside his house every few minutes 24 hours a day.) Second, one can sue for nuisance and inverse condemnation. Nuisance is a particularly convoluted law, such that one legal scholar declared, “There is perhaps no more impenetrable jungle in the entire law than that which surrounds the word nuisance.” Still, it is well settled that one can sue an airport, in this case SFO through the city and county of San Francisco, for nuisance and/or inverse condemnation.If you have the stomach (and wallet) you can do full blown litigation, but one can also go to small claims court. While the details of how to sue for nuisance and inverse condemnation is beyond the purview of this column, here are a few guiding principles. First, you have to file a government tort claim. The form is online at http://www.sfcityattorney.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=427. If you have any plans on doing this, you better get moving because the usual time limit is six months from when the problem accrues (there is an argument it should be 1 year, but I wouldn’t risk it). When referring to airplane noise, this is sometimes called the date of stabilization. I suspect the courts will say the “cause of action” accrued when the NextGen flights began. I understand this was in early March, so the deadline looms. Even if you’re not sure you want to follow through with a claim at this time or don’t know your damages, it’s still best to file the claim or you will lose it forever.If the government rejects your claim or remains silent for 45 days, you can proceed with a lawsuit but, again, don’t delay as there are statutes of limitation. Your next task is to determine damages. While you won’t be able to put a precise figure on the annoyance and emotional distress, you can determine how much the value of your home has diminished. A court may accept an assessor’s drop in assessed value due to the flights but the assessor isn’t necessarily looking at market value. To get diminished market value, you must hire an appraiser. While the diminished market value should work as proof of “substantial interference”, you can also bring witnesses to testify and educate the court on the hundreds of flights flying daily over your property. Some of this information can be gleaned from San Francisco International Airport’s website. Otherwise you may have to make a public records request.I want to stress that the law surrounding nuisance, inverse condemnation, tort claims, damages, evidence and civil procedure can be remarkably complex. Plus, statutes of limitation lurk everywhere. A layperson doing this on his/her own in Superior Court can quickly be overwhelmed, but a diligent individual should be able to maneuver through small claims court. Go for it! The sky’s the limit- but only $10,000 if you’re in small claims court.Gary Redenbacher of Scotts Valley is an attorney in private practice. E-mail him at [email protected]

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