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Editorial

Fence-in the mayor

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should be allowed to build a 6-foot-high fence at Getty House, his official residence.

March 02, 2011

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to build a 6-foot-high fence in front of his official residence, Getty House. To do so, he needs a variance from the city, which limits fences and walls to 42 inches. Of course, in a historic preservation area, a fence is never just a fence. The proposal has not escaped the scrutiny and criticism of the mayor's neighbors in Windsor Square, the venerable Mid-city neighborhood of stately historic homes and lush landscapes that preservationists protectively monitor and film location scouts lust after.

The mayor's office says this is an issue of security, and that it's not the mayor's idea. The proposal came from the Los Angeles Police Department after a security assessment several years ago by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security determined that Getty House was at high risk and suggested a fence. A 6-foot-high fence, according to the mayor's office, is not going to stop a terrorist attack. But it should stop, or at least slow down, a deranged individual.

The Windsor Square Assn. is unpersuaded. At a meeting Monday, the group adopted a resolution officially opposing the variance: "There are several consulates and many celebrities that live in Windsor Square. The owners of these properties have similar security concerns and will support our findings that a 42-inch fence will accomplish the same goals as a taller fence, wall or hedge." The organization says the fence is "inconsistent" with the nature of the community. Although it acknowledges that the mayor has special safety needs, it also maintains that there is plenty of sophisticated security that can be used with a 42-inch fence.

The mayor's chief of staff, Jeff Carr, responds that the city has already lowered the proposed height of the fence from 8 1/2 feet to 6 feet. "We're talking about putting up a fence," he says. "It's not a barricade or a wall or a moat."

It's difficult to argue against the Department of Homeland Security and the Police Department saying the official residence of the most public elected official in the second-biggest city in the country needs a 6-foot-high fence. He could move, and some of his neighbors have mused out loud that perhaps he should. But Getty House is the official residence of the mayor. It doesn't belong to Villaraigosa; it belongs to the city. And it's nice to think that the mayor of Los Angeles — a city with an abysmal record of preservation — lives in a historic residence in a historic community that neighbors pride themselves on protecting.

We want that neighborhood to remain beautiful, but in this case, a variance seems reasonable.

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