Ordinance, bad behavior fence off fairness

Paul and Arlene Meadows

Regarding your question in Thursday's edition of the Glendale

News-Press, the fence ordinance should be repealed.

One of our cherished American dreams is to own a little home with

a white picket fence -- but apparently in Glendale this can only

happen if you comply with the narrow permission of city government.

Of the 90-some people who voiced their opinions Tuesday at the

City Council meeting, only one spoke in favor of the ordinance, and

his arguments for keeping the ordinance were not compelling.

The simple truth is that the law is outdated and overly intrusive

into the private lives of our citizens. Those people in favor of

having open spaces may choose to landscape their properties in such a

manner, but to impose this single style of landscape architecture

upon a diverse community where this style is either not practical,

desired, or even appropriate is unfair, unjust and meddlesome.

The use of the informational lien is even more problematic and

oppressive as it has resulted in the inability for some to obtain

refinance loans or sell property with it in force (it has apparently

even prevented one citizen from obtaining the money to become

compliant with the ordinance).

It is clear that a significant proportion of Glendale does not

like this ordinance and wishes it repealed. If you use the mayor's

metrics (he chastised the City Council audience for not showing up in

previous years and thus in his view there must not have been any

opposition to the ordinance prior to this most recent meeting), then

89 out of every 90 residents of Glendale oppose the law. We suspect

that if the ordinance was put to a popular vote rather than placed

under the sole discretion of the City Council, the law would suffer a

resounding defeat. can see no compelling reason to keep this

oppressive law on the books. Glendale is a very different community

compared to 1922, when the ordinance was enacted, and our laws need

to reflect the times and sentiment of the community.

The City Council meeting on Tuesday was a very interesting and

disappointing affair to attend. Of the City Council members present,

four were principally involved in the discussions. Ara Najarian

recused himself from the discussion because his property contains a

fence in violation of the ordinance. As a member of the audience, he

spoke eloquently about the issue and showed great dignity and

decorum. Remaining to discuss the issue were (from audience left to

right) City Council members Bob Yousefian, Rafi Manoukian, Dave

Weaver and Frank Quintero.

Early in the audience participation portion, Mike Brewster made

the unfortunate statement that he suspected inappropriate behavior on

the part of the City Council regarding the collection of fees related

to fences and their use for special interest projects. This was

clearly inappropriate and did not reflect the feelings of the

audience at large (nor should it have been assumed to be

representative). However, rather than showing leadership and

maturity, Mayor Manoukian proceeded to get into a heated exchange

with Brewster and appeared to provoke a fight, which was completely

unwarranted. A true leader could have readily dismissed the

inappropriate comments and moved the discussion on to the next

participant. Rising to the bait planted by the mayor, Mr. Yousefian

also chided the audience and at one time was loudly and sharply

trying to get the attention of a small boy sitting on his mother's

lap in an effort to compare the boy's behavior to that of the

audience. This was clearly frightening to the boy and inappropriate

behavior by our elected officials.

At the end of the audience participation portion of the meeting,

Mr. Yousefian and Mr. Manoukian used their exclusive privilege of

unfettered speech (which the audience does not enjoy) to accuse the

audience of racial and ethnic bias. These condescending and horrible

speeches elicited shock, anger and dismay in the audience, many of

whom stood up and shouted back at the City Council and many of whom

left the chambers in disgust.

Many, many people in the audience were rightly indignant at being

insulted by the mayor and Yousefian. To be grouped as racists because

of the inappropriate comments by one member of the audience is

extremely unfortunate, and again, shows a tremendous lack of

leadership and maturity. Mr. Yousefian continued his diatribe against

his perceived oppressors in the audience, despite the clear disgust

of the audience and his fellow City Council members. Inasmuch as the

audience had no opportunity to either rebut or debate the statements

made by the mayor or Mr. Yousefian, their condescending comments and

outright insults continued unabated and, in my opinion, were

completely inappropriate and uncalled for. The mayor and Mr.

Yousefian would do well to observe the reserved and dignified manners

of Mr. Najarian, Mr. Quintero and Mr. Weaver and the rest of the

staff present, and would possibly recover some of their lost respect

in the community by issuing an apology for their atrocious behavior.

We think that there are several issues that the City Council needs

to consider. First, it would be useful to see what the city residents

really feel is desired. Contrary to Mr. Yousefian, who apparently

feels that once a law is made that it should stand forever, the law

could indeed be contrary to the wishes of a majority of Glendale's

residents. If it takes a vote by the residents to gauge this, then so

be it.

Secondly, the database that has taken years to compile is

inaccurate. We live in the Verdugo Woodlands area of Glendale and

were cited for our fence by the city. Of the 10-block area in which

we live, we walked about and photographed more than 40 homes that

appeared to be in violation of the fence ordinance. Yet, in the

entire area that borders Verdugo to the west, the Glendale (2)

Freeway to the east, Oakwood and Marcia Road to the north and Fern

Lane to the south, there are less than five entries in the database.

Since Director of Planning Elaine Wilkerson implied that the

database was complete, including homes that have violations but are

exempt because of structural or other code reasons as well as the

violations that are not exempt, it is clear to me and to many in the

community that the database does not reflect the actual compliance

percentages.

The city has had years to study this issue and compile its

database and yet it is far from accurate. Even an exhaustive

statistically significant review of a few sections of the city could

verify the integrity (or lack thereof) of the database and would be a

good project for the neighborhood services division, considering the

importance of this issue. The city must also present a reasonable

response to its residents and be fair about the process for

addressing issues. Upon initiating our discussions with the city

after receiving our violation notice, we were advised not to seek a

variance because we were sure to lose in our efforts to sway the

zoning committee and would waste the $1,500 required to apply.

Apparently, this is the standard response to everyone who inquires

about this process for fence issues, as evidenced by comments by the

audience at the City Council meeting.

Mr. Yousefian made the statement in his diatribe that because many

homes have come into compliance, the law must be working because

these homeowners must surely understand the need for the law and must

desire to be compliant.

This is a very narrow and unrealistic view. Many of the homeowners

have been bullied into compliance because they either need or desire

to sell or refinance their homes and their only opportunity to do so

would have to include being compliant and thus achieve removal of the

lien.

Others simply capitulated to the law despite their desire to keep

their fences, sometimes to their economical and safety detriment as

described by many of the speakers from the audience.

Others may have become compliant but had no strong desire to keep

their fences. One thing that is true is that all of these residents

had to expend either money or effort or both to become compliant and

for no other reason than to satisfy the city.

These fence changes and removals would surely never have occurred

if not for the actions of the city.

As we stated in our address to the City Council, the city of

Glendale needs to understand that it exists for the benefit of the

citizens, not the other way around. Many highly respected cities

surround Glendale and do not have oppressive fence laws like

Glendale.

We have lived in Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills, Alhambra,

Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge, and none of these beautiful cities

have ordinances such as this. Mr. Yousefian is out of touch with a

significant portion of Glendale, and his lone dissenting vote on the

recent motion regarding the fence ordinance reflects his complete

indifference to the sentiments of the audience and to the citizens of

Glendale.

Tradition and the compliance of citizens bullied into submission

does not validate an unjust and unwanted law. Frankly, Mr. Yousefian

acted like a benevolent dictator who places himself above the

citizens he serves and his behavior and demeanor is not appreciated.

We wish to thank Mr. Weaver and Mr. Quintero for their patience

with the proceedings and for their constructive comments and

discussion.

Despite his inappropriate remarks and behavior, we wish to thank

Mr. Manoukian for his eventual support on the motion regarding the

ordinance, even after his extremely condescending comments that were

directed to the audience without their opportunity to debate or

discuss them.

We hope that this issue will be appropriately discussed in the

future and that eventually this repressive law will be repealed. We

also wish that our elected representatives and our public service

workers keep in mind who works or serves for whom. We hope that the

behavior displayed at future City Council meetings takes a turn for

the better.

* PAUL AND ARLENE MEADOWS are residents of Glendale.

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