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Here's to picket fences in Los Angeles

August 27, 2005|By: Charlotte Laws

Regarding "Changes to city's fence ordinance in the works," Aug.

13-14): of the 359 homeowners in my area of Los Angeles, 112 are

running afoul of the law in a deviously blatant way by committing the

heinous "fence offense." In other words, breaching Los Angeles

municipal code sections 12.21 and 12.22, which limit frontyard fence

and hedge height to a maximum 3 1/2 feet above grade. Now that's a

lot of criminal activity for one neighborhood.

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With their pens and pads, my investigative team -- three

17-year-old, out-of-work baby sitters -- scoured my neighborhood in

search of scoundrels and found one very troublesome woman. This

74-year-old widow named Barbara gave them a suspicious story about

how her "charming wooden slats" were installed unknowingly by her

otherwise law-abiding husband in 1987. My detectives measured the

"offensive picket" at a full 4 feet, rather than the legal 3 1/2

above grade.

When pressed, Barbara confessed that she had just received a

letter from the Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo asking her to

"appear for a city attorney hearing to determine if a criminal

complaint should be issued against (her) ... for an alleged [fence]

violation."

"It's a stressful situation," Barbara said. "It makes me feel like

a felon. Shouldn't there be a statute of limitations on fences that

have been in place for so long?"

Fence snitches are on the rise, according to some local

representatives. Meddlesome neighbors or quality-of-life protectors,

depending upon one's perspective, protest fences by calling the

city's toll free number anonymously to tattle on their neighbors for

wrought-iron, chain link and hedge indiscretions. Barbara's picket

caught the attention of authorities when complainants tipped off the

Department of Building and Safety to another neighbor's fence. A

dozen families on the street received the ominous code violation

letter.

My investigative crew told me to grab my polygraph and

interrogation spotlight, and scurry to Barbara's home for a

"Guantanamo Bay-style probe. But when I arrived, I took pity on the

wide-eyed senior, hinting 'Have you ever seen Leonardo DiCaprio's

movie, 'Catch Me If You Can?'"

Of course, I would never advise Barbara to creep further into the

recesses of crime by snubbing Delgadillo and tossing the violation

notice in the trash. And I would hate for the fence fiasco to

culminate in a showdown at a dusty printing warehouse in France, all

on the taxpayers' dime.

But I wondered -- merely as a philosophical exercise -- what would

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