Using Cypress Trees to Hide Ugly Views of Your Neighbors

One of my properties is in an HOA. Though many people dislike HOAs and having to pay a monthly HOA fee, one huge benefit of being in an HOA is you never have to deal with unsightly views from the street. If someone violates the CC&Rs, they are fined and forced to stop. This improves everyone’s curb appeal including the neighborhood as a whole. For me, and many others, that’s valuable. But, my other properties are not in an HOA. And, unfortunately, people have very different ideas of what looks good. One neighbor put down pavers himself but was either lazy or didn’t know how to do it right. As a result, the pavers are uneven and weeds are growing everywhere. Another neighbor beheaded their tree leaving a 5′-tall trunk in the middle of their front yard surrounded by probably one of the cheapest rocks you can find – gray gravel. This is bad, but it’s nothing compared to another property of mine where one immediate neighbor is a mechanic who works on cars in his driveway almost 24/7. The neighboring property is a triplex owned by a slumlord who doesn’t appear to care one bit that her ghetto tenants are destroying her property as long as she collects the very low rent that she can get. Their lawn is destroyed because sometimes they park their cars on it. Their garbage bins are always overflowing and are a fly magnet. And if that’s not enough, the other immediate neighbor covered their lawn that meets my property line with concrete and illegally parks a beat-up pickup truck on it. They also leave a grill, used car parts, engine oil, and various other garbage along their side of the property line. As a result, no matter how much I improve my property, being sandwiched between two ugly neighbors significantly ruins my property’s curb appeal. Reporting code violations to the City is useless as they never do anything. Putting up a fence helps but the municipal code limits how tall they can be. Fortunately, there is no height limit on trees as there are 2 and even 3-story-tall trees in nearby front yards. So, one solution I decided on to block the unsightly neighbors is by creating a fence made up of Cypress trees. These trees are super low maintenance, evergreen, the leaves don’t fall and create a mess that you have to clean up all the time, and they grow in a very predictable manner (straight up) so you don’t need to worry about stray branches hitting your eaves or roof.

I bought the 5-gallon trees from a nearby nursery for $75 each. In Spring, you can get them at Costco for $40. You can rent a flatbed pickup truck from the Home Depot for $19 for 75 minutes. These trucks are ideal because you can lower the tailgate and the sides as well, making the loading and unloading of trees, or anything for that matter, much easier.

Along the east-facing fence, I had to dig holes in a section where there was no concrete. Digging holes is a PITA for sure. But, using the right tools like a gas-powered auger makes it less of a PITA. In the photo below, I made a square hole by making 4 small holes at each corner using the auger, then another hole in the middle, and then removed the remaining dirt.

Along the west-facing fence, I had previously poured concrete so I had to cut squares in it for the trees to go in. After backfilling with dirt, I covered the dirt with cement board to be used as weed fabric (regular weed fabric is useless), and then poured a layer of ginger rock.

Here’s how the west side looks. The fence boards are red-stained and cost about $3 each from Home Depot. I ran a 1/2″-diameter tube from the back of the building for irrigation. Connected to that tube are smaller tubes for drip irrigation directly at the root of each tree. The photo below is from before the concrete was pressure washed.

Here’s how the east side looks. You can still see the junk cars next door but after these trees grow tall and thick, my tenants will be shielded from the unsightly views next door and the curb appeal will continue to improve and there will be a clear delineation between my property and the neighboring ugliness.

I continued the fence/tree design alone much of the east side to block as much of the neighbors as possible.

Within 5 years, the trees will be as tall as the 2-story buildings and have a much wider diameter.

So there you have it. One way to block trashy neighbors while not violating most municipal codes.