Tue, Aug

Fencing Competition

BOX SOAP - A couple of weeks ago, the “Tale of Two Fences” story prompted a flurry of debate over the merits of over-in-height fences, the inequities of a complaint driven enforcement policy, the rights of individuals vs. the rights of the community, and public safety.


CityWatch covered the brouhaha in “LA’s battle over safety and too-tall fences”  and proposed public safety solutions in “Solving crime: one step at a time”  followed by some specific recommendations for the Mayor and City Hall in “LA: not an equal public safety provider”.

Fox11’s John Schwada took a walk through East Hollywood to visit the homes of the residents who were the subject of the seven-fold increase in over-in-height fence citations, stopping on Normandie to chat with Walter and Rubby about public safety, resulting in his “Tale of two fences”  report.

Through it all, the Mayor’s requested variance from the City’s 42” limit on fence heights was quietly approved, a journey that initially drew contempt from the LA Weekly and support from the LA Times, then more support from the LA Times, an evaluation by the Park La Brea News, then coverage of the variance grant by Curbed LA, the Huffington Post, the LA Times. The journey came full circle over the holiday weekend as the LA Times reversed its position with another editorial, this time taking the Mayor to task for turning another City of LA landmark into a security check point. Whew!

Meanwhile, in East Hollywood, the residents wait for the Mayor to join them for East Hollywood Street Beat, “Taking back the streets, one step at a time!”

CityWatch readers have offered up advice, some of it coming from inside City Hall and some from the perspective of neighbors who have fought City Hall.

“JU” advised “Nearly a decade ago, the City Attorney's Office arrived at a working solution that limited criminal prosecution of overheight fences to those instances that threatened public safety. In all other instances, a City Attorney hearing or other administrative proceeding would be the course. Alternatively, the violator would be referred to Planning to seek a variance or an overheight fence district.”

“JSP” proposed “There is a practical way to get a compromise on this issue with the City Planning Department's help.  It is easy to adopt some standards for front yard walls/fences which if followed, would allow a "by-right" approval with no cost or waiting other than a Building and Safety inspection for construction compliance.  

The Planning Dept has already done this over 20 years ago with Mini-mall projects.  The current Code section allows for mini-mall project to be built by right if certain required standards are met.  The same idea would apply for over-height security structures.  

For years, Zoning Administrators in Los Angeles have talked about changing the Code to allow for automatic approvals of modest, well designed front yard security structures.

Here are some of the likely features that could lead to an automatic approval subject to final Building and Safety inspection:

1) Wrought iron fencing not to exceed 6-ft with block pilasters for support not to exceed 8-ft,

2) Landscaping next to the fencing to beautify the appearance of the fence and provide some additional privacy as long as there is not a "solid" hedge behind the open fence design and the landscape is not taller than 3-1/2 ft.  Tree planted adjacent to the fence would have to be 3-ft apart for their trunks.  

3) Any driveway gates would have to be pulled back from the sidewalk enough to allow a car  driver to see beyond the fence down both sides of the street when they drove out of the property, and

4) A concaved mirror can be placed at the driveway so that a car leaving the site can see oncoming pedestrians on the sidewalk.  Anyone who wanted to deviate from these conditions would file an over-height fence application, which is the current way to get an approval for the wall/fence over 42-inches in height.  As a Zoning Administrator for over 20 years, I did hundreds of over-height front yard structures so I can sympathize with residents who want an easier way to help provide security and privacy.”

“LONR” suggested “I believe if you check with Building and Safety, the rule on front yard fences is you cannot put up a fence of the same material that exceeds 42” inches in height. But you can put a fence no higher than six foot if the fence is two different materials.  For instance you can have a three foot block wall fence and then put up three feet of rod iron.  That is legal.  You cannot put up six feet of rod iron, brick, etc.  But you can put up a six foot fence as long as it is two different  materials. Not sure if you have to be able to see out.

So you can check this out for yourself.  And the Hollywood residents should know that they can put up a six foot fence but not all one material for example it cannot be all six foot fence of rod iron or all brick.”

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at:            [email protected] .) Photo credit: Curbed LA         –cw

Vol 9 Issue 54
Pub: July 8, 2011