Glendale Considers Lifting 1922 Ban on Frontyard Fences

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Glendale resident Randy Carter has a simple message: Don't fence me in.

Not only is it Carter's message, it is the law in Glendale. For nearly 80 years, residents have been banned from installing fences in their frontyards.

Carter and many of the other 191,000 people who live in Glendale have nothing against the American icon to home and hearth. It's just that fences, any fences, would change the look and feel of the city's neighborhoods, Carter said.

"That's the myth of the little white picket fence," said Carter, a member of the board of the Northwest Glendale Homeowners Assn., which staunchly supports the fence ban. "Any time they discuss walls and fences, it's always the white picket fence, not the rusty chain-link or the ugly corrugated green plastic. Well, the little white picket fence is still a fence."

The City Council placed a moratorium on enforcement while they studied whether to change the law. The moratorium will remain in place at least until June 26, when the council is scheduled to decide whether to lift it. The council also could approve a zoning change that would allow fences only in Glendale's Rancho area near Griffith Park, which consists mainly of property zoned for horses. About 300 lots would be affected.

Glendale is a rarity. Most communities in and around Los Angeles County do not ban fences. The law was written in 1922 as part of the city's General Plan, said Sam Engel, a neighborhood services administrator who oversees code enforcement.

"It was significant in the way they wanted the community to develop over time," Engel said. "You can't put in anything under Glendale's code except a walkway, a driveway, an 18-inch planter box, a flagpole, a bay window, eaves and a front porch."

Not everyone agrees with the law. Gerald Mehrabian put up his fence, an 18-inch-high aluminum number, to keep roaming dogs from defecating in his yard. He said that in the 10 years since he installed the fence, the city has never come calling about it.

"If they do, I'll take it down and tell them to come and pick up the dog messes," he said.

Mehrabian said he doesn't find Glendale's mostly wide-open frontyards appealing.

"I think the streets look more secure and nicer if the yards have fences," he said.

Of the estimated 64,000 parcels in Glendale, the city has identified more than 1,500 with fences that could be considered illegal, said Assistant Director of Planning James Glaser.

But no one has been cited for being on the wrong side of the fence law since October 1999, when the latest brouhaha bubbled up over a fence on Colina Drive, which the homeowners constructed to keep neighborhood kids out of the yard. Not only did they put up a fence, but they also built part of it on city property, Engel said.

"That was the start of it this time," Engel said.

Mayor Gus Gomez said he wants to hear what residents have to say before he stakes out a position on the fence law.

"Some people feel the law's been around for 80 years and it's worked," he said. "Others feel it's been around for 80 years and--because of changes in our size and population--it's time to change it."

But Carter will fight any proposed changes, he said.

"Glendale is becoming a polarized city, with more economic and ethnic differences," he said. "We need to go out in our frontyards and see our neighbors. We don't need to be going behind walls."

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