YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Culture Clash : Suburban Tract and Countrified Neighborhood Agree to Disagree on Future of a Dividing Fence

June 12, 1986|JUAN ARANCIBIA | Times Staff Writer

On one side of the wooden fence along Denni Street lies Cerritos and a neat tract of upscale suburban homes, built just 12 years ago.

On the other side of the fence, in an unincorporated area of Orange County near La Palma, are a dozen or so 40-year-old frame bungalows set in a more rural atmosphere. Chickens, cows and other barnyard animals wander through the half-acre lots that line Denni Street.

The problem is that no one on either side is happy with the fence, which also separates Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Those on the Cerritos side want to rebuild the fence--which they call "The Berlin Wall"--to keep the farm animals, rodents, skunks and possums from defecting to their side, and to block their view of the older, often run-down homes.

The residents of the Shadow Run housing tract in L.A. County say the Orange County side is an unsightly collection of abandoned cars and loud barnyard animals. One house--says neighborhood leader Jim McMahon--has a collection of old paint cans that line the front porch.

Another View

But those on the Orange County side say the fence should be torn down because it is an eyesore and because the 1,000-foot-long wooden barricade blocks their access to Denni Street, a public road. Residents say they are forced to use a narrow paved easement that runs across the front of their properties.

"This is my property," said Curtis Hare, an Orange County resident who organized a homeowners group after he moved to the area two years ago. "Therefore (the easement) ain't a street."

Denni Street residents agreed to have the temporary asphalt road built almost two decades ago to allow traffic for a development project north of their neighborhood.

The fence--which the Orange County residents call The Great Wall of China--was built by the developers of Shadow Run in the mid-'70s when they build 63 stucco-faced homes on what was once a cow pasture. The slat fence, built just inches from the property lines of houses that face Denni Street, is now beginning to fall apart, fueling the disagreement on both sides. Shadow Run residents want a new concrete barrier built, while Denni Street residents hope the fence will come down once and for all.

Even though the fence is owned by the city of Cerritos, Orange County residents are blamed for not trimming the shrubbery or sweeping along it, Hare said.

Because it hides the homes on the Orange County side, the fence also prevents people and even emergency vehicles from finding them quickly, Hare said, citing the case of an ambulance driver who couldn't find the home of a stroke victim on Denni Street until neighbors flagged him down.

The fence also creates blind spots for motorists at both ends.

"We have had some major accidents," said McMahon, president of the Shadow Run Homeowners Assn. "Probably a couple dozen accidents per year," occur there, he said.

Hare said that because the street is essentially two roads together, a car trying to turn off the easement can easily collide with a vehicle turning off Denni Street.

But Shadow Run residents, while wanting street improvements, are opposed to having the fence eliminated.

"We would not buy that," McMahon said, as long as Orange County looks the way it does. The unincorporated 9.5-acre county "island" essentially Denni Street and Marion Street, is governed only by Orange County regulations, which have little control over the appearance of residences, he said.

Housing Costs

McMahon says the fence is necessary to protect Shadow Run property values. Homes on the Cerritos side sell for about $250,000. Hare said he paid $60,000 for his small one-story home on a quarter of an acre two years ago.

Shadow Run residents cite other problems caused by their proximity to Orange County. The Cerritos development--which has five-digit street numbers like those in Orange County--frequently confuses emergency dispatchers who think the neighborhood is actually in Orange County.

"You have to call one fire department, then another, and another," McMahon said.

The numbering mix-up occurred before the new housing tract was developed. At that time, McMahon said, Orange County had agreed to handle public services for the tract. But that agreement apparently collapsed, and now the area is serviced by Los Angeles County.

McMahon said streets around the tract are plagued by crime and that drug trafficking, all-night parties and drag racing are common.

Hare agreed that some of those problems do occur in the area, but added that he has never seen any drug trafficking on his street.

Several other problems affect the area, McMahon says, such as litter along nearby railroad tracks and a railroad crossing without barriers.

But the Denni Street wall is a top priority, McMahon said. When he polled Shadow Run's 63 households, 98% said they wanted the fence replaced and 86% said they favored having Cerritos trap some of the wild animals to control them.

Los Angeles Times Articles