Neighbors Unhappy With Trees Planted at Donald Trump's Calif. Golf Course

Published: Jun. 23, 2007 at 3:44 PM EDT
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RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. (AP) - Donald Trump has upset his upscale peninsula neighbors - again.

First he erected an unauthorized 70-foot flagpole at his Trump National Golf Club, then he built a tee 8 feet higher than allowed. There was also a mysterious but illegal freeway sign pointing to the ocean bluff golf course.

Now, it's ficus trees. Hundreds of them. Planted without city permission in rows to screen the driving range from multimillion-dollar homes. Affluent peninsula neighbors are fuming.

"I laughed out loud - maybe I shouldn't have - it's either laugh or cry," Councilman Doug Stern said. "It seems like this is a cultural trait within their organization."

Trump downplayed the latest controversy.

"It was done for two purposes: beautification and safety," he said of the two rows of trees. About 45 of them are 12 feet tall and another 300 are about 6 feet high.

"They're bushes - they look beautiful and everybody loves them. We have not had one complaint," the billionaire real-estate developer said.

It turns out residents turned to the city instead.

"This is a very tenuous situation," said Jessica Leeds, vice president of the Portuguese Bend Club East Homeowners Association. "Some of us at the Portuguese Bend Club are displeased that these trees have ended up there."

The trees were planted for the televised Michael Douglas & Friends celebrity golf tournament on April 29. They provided a green backdrop for television cameras.

But ocean views are a major factor in determining the value of nearby homes, so the city imposed strict rules on the public, $350-a-round golf course.

Those rules include a landscape plan requiring city approval for all trees and other vegetation. Trees taller than 16 feet or those that block views aren't allowed.

The Trump Organization belatedly applied for revisions to its landscape permit so the trees can become legal. The organization also indicated it was willing to remove or trim any trees harming anyone's view.

But fallout from the tree plantings could affect the city's expected approval of the flagpole.

The city has agreed in principle to allow Trump to keep his flagpole and oversized flag, but the final deal won't be signed off until July 17.

Mayor Tom Long has warned Trump the tree situation must be resolved by then or he might change his swing vote.

"If they're not gone by July 17, from my point of view the question of the flagpole is reopened," Long said.