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Fence codes still being developed

Committee members work to balance the rights of property owner with safety, privacy concerns.

January 10, 2007|By Chris Wiebe

BURBANK — Ten months after homeowners flooded City Council Chambers to debate new codes for fences, walls and hedges, a Blue Ribbon Task Force charged with reviewing the regulations is still a long way from making its recommendations.

"We haven't even probably covered 10% of it," task force Chairman Robert Idavia said. "It's a lot to go over."

Since the nine-member task force acts as an advisory committee to the council, which approved interim codes in March, the final results of its deliberations will go before the council strictly as recommendations.

The interim codes called for a 4-foot height limit for frontyard fences, with the top 1 foot an open design such as picket or wrought iron, Assistant Planner Tracey Steinkruger said.


For street-facing side yards, the interim code allows 4-foot fences from the frontyard to the rear of the house and a 6-foot maximum for fences running from the rear of the house to the rear property line, she said. Interior rear fences can be up to 8 feet in height.

Having tackled only the fence- and wall-related portions of the standards, the task force has been divided on most issues in an attempt to balance the rights of property owners and safety concerns, Steinkruger said.

"We have some task force members who have been very supportive of those interim standards," she said. "But there are others who want to see some changes."

Task-force member Margaret Sorthun said she has argued for the rights of property owners, opposing policies that would limit what homeowners can do with their homes.

"What people do with their properties is their business, as long as there is nothing criminal or it doesn't affect the safety of others," Sorthun said. "As far as how they want to design their homes or their landscape — that's their business."

Setting a "one-size-fits-all" ordinance in stone would not be practical because Burbank is a diverse city where different standards would suit different areas of town, she said.

"I am hesitant to put ordinances in cement," Sorthun said.

"Let's be cautious about how we do these ordinances because we get some nitpickers who will be issuing violations and that intimidates people."

But any potential ordinance would be open for fine-tuning because property owners could file for variances and permits, as long as the structure in question did not pose safety hazards, Idavia said.

"You have to think about the safety of children and everything," he said "But if you have a side [yard] facing a street with cars always coming by … you don't need people driving by and staring at your house. We want people to have their privacy as well."


Are you satisfied with the city's interim fence ordinance, or does it need to sway more toward safety concerns or property rights? E-mail your responses to; mail them to the Burbank Leader, 111 W. Wilson Ave., Glendale, CA 91203. Please spell your name and include your address and phone number for verification purposes only.

  • CHRIS WIEBE covers City Hall and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at

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