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News-Press, the fence ordinance should be repealed.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The simple truth is that the law is outdated and overly intrusive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like this ordinance and wishes it repealed.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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
* PAUL AND ARLENE MEADOWS are residents of Glendale.