After a lengthy public hearing Tuesday, the City Council decided to extend the interim ordinance which regulates the height and location of fences, walls and hedges on private property in the City until September 30, 2007.
The Council revisited the issue because the interim ordinance was set to expire at the end of March. City staff experience has been that the ordinance was weak in the grandparenting provision because it diminishes the ordinance’s effectiveness and the City’s ability to enforce regulations, and “the Objection and Registration processes are perceived as unfair and not achieving the anticipated results.”
On the other hand, community members who spoke at the meeting felt that the ordinance was working effectively and should be left alone. The Council vote reflected their sentiments. However, they did amend the interim ordinance so it was clear that it in no way precludes property owners from taking additional legal actions if there were issues with neighbors about the height and location of their fences, walls and hedges.
The Council also requested that staff come back in September with a revised ordinance for their review that will include options for currently unregulated grandparented hedges, standards for the depth of hedges that are eligible for unlimited height adjacent to alleys and standards for maintenance of hedges. Also included in the revised ordinance will be clarification of the objection criteria in terms of prior complaints, date of purchase of house, privacy and line of sight and standards for key lots and reverse corner lots. There was also discussion of a registration process for grandparented hedges that haven’t been registered.
Originally the issue came up when the original 1948 ordinance, which limited fences and hedges in front yards of private houses to 42 inches and side and rear fences and hedges to eight feet unless they were hazardous or obstructed vision, was suddenly enforced by the City beginning in January 2004.
Most residents were unaware of the ordinance and were disturbed and angered by the City’s sudden enforcement of it. Their anger was compounded by the City’s Compliance Order letters, which stated that unless outsized hedges were cut back to comply with the 42-inch limit, their owners would be fined $25,000 per day with a maximum of $500,000. According to the City, the letter was incorrect and the fine should have been $2,500 a day, but residents were not mollified, and continued to protest.
The Council then turned their attention to a nonprofit cannabis dispensary that was being proposed for Main Street by Nathan Hamilton, CEO/President of the Southern California Co-Op nonprofit. He explained to the Council that his dispensary would be a “safe way” for those who are sick to get cannabis. He stated he had spoken with the neighbors at his proposed location and they were comfortable with having the dispensary there.
Chris Kosco, the Los Angeles County coordinator for American Safe Access, stressed that there is “no safer place” for sick patients than a well-regulated dispensary that operates with the cooperation of a city.
Jenna Linnekens, a City Council candidate in November, disagreed. “This is not the right time allow a marijuana clinics in our City. We are ill-prepared for the consequences of such actions. Although the voters approved Proposition 215, approving the distribution and use of medical marijuana, the government hasn’t passed the appropriate legislation to control its distribution.”
Former Mayor Michael Feinstein stated that since 71.3 percent of Santa Monica voters approved Prop 215 the Council should “implement the public will.”
The Council requested City staff to analyze how this use could be regulated effectively in the City.