Trees - redwoods, live oaks or blossoming fruit trees - are usually considered sturdy citizens of the sun-swept peninsula south of San Francisco, not criminal elements. But under a 1978 state law protecting homeowners' investment in rooftop solar panels, trees that impede solar panels' access to the sun can be deemed a nuisance and their owners fined up to $1,000 a day. The Solar Shade Act was an obscure curiosity until late last year, when a dispute over the eight redwoods (a k a Tree No. 1, Tree No. 2, Tree No. 3, etc.) ended up in Santa Clara County criminal court.
The couple who planted the trees, Carolynn Bissett and Richard Treanor, were convicted of violating the law, based on the complaint of their neighbor, Mark Vargas, and were ordered to make sure that no more than 10 percent of the solar panels are shaded.