At last, the city's Planning Department says, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will have his security wall. In February, Villaraigosa's office said it wanted to put a 6-foot-high fence in front of his official residence in Windsor Square. It wasn't his idea to beef up security, he demurred; it was the LAPD's. Not that the wall would stop a terrorist attack, but it would probably keep some kook from doing harm.
The mayor needed a zoning variance because the city limits fences and walls to 42 inches — a rule that is spottily enforced. In Windsor Square, however, there is a historic preservation zone and a cluster of rich and powerful residents. They didn't want Getty House to become a fortress, guarded by battlements, side by side with handsome 1920s mansions with sweeping, open yards. The preservationists lost, trumped by the argument that the mayor needs his protective perimeter.
Residents were right to fight the wall; it will be a blight. But the real issue isn't one of historic preservation or aesthetics. Nor is it a zoning problem.
The problem with putting up a wall around the mayor's house is that it is one more step toward separating civic institutions and the leaders who operate within them from the people they serve. As it is, under the cloak of security, our routine experience, from the moment we enter a public building, is largely shorn of the openness necessary to lend commonality to common ground. We now enter the seats of justice and power as suspects — as outsiders who must be watched with a wary eye. The consent of the governors has become more important than the consent of the governed.