Santa Monica Fences and Hedges
Can't we all just (sniff-snuff) GET ALONG?
Editorial Comment Copyright © 2004 TrixiePixGraphics.Com
California's at it again.
It's what California and Californians seem to do best.
The city of Santa Monica, California is embroiled in a feud, neighbor against neighbor, yuppy against yuppy. Over what? Of all things, it's the height of their hedges....
Are you scared yet? You shouldn't be. This isn't a new fight, dreamed up by bored housewives in suburbia -- it's a long-standing war between those who feel they have a right to privacy, and those who, for whatever hair-brained reason, feel their neighbors do not. And it's happening all over America.
In old Mexico, in Spain, and, indeed, in much of the "real" world, you'll find that basic yard architecture allows for privacy. And why not? The Spaniards loved to build "courtyards" surrounded by adobe or brick walls perhaps twelve or even sixteen feet high, places where they could enjoy a peaceful glass of wine on a warm summer evening, where their children could play in almost complete safety, where they could shed their clothes and their inhibitions if the mood struck them, where they weren't bothered by roving dogs or sneaky cats or snakes or their neighbors' inconsiderateness and obnoxiousness. Courtyards were considered private little outdoor worlds. If one had the loot to buy a thousand acres on the outskirts of town, one might not need to seek privacy and relief from loud, obnoxious neighbors. But if one must, or wanted to, live in town, where other folks lived, the courtyard offered the best of both worlds. The walls were often ornate, and were certainly capable of being just as aesthetically pleasing as the facade of any home.
Though we know of no formal studies, it's almost a certainty that neighbor vs. neighbor grudges and crimes were much reduced in communities that allowed its people to enjoy as much privacy as the height of their courtyard walls could afford them.
T'aint so in America.
The people of Santa Monica's burbs seem almost equally divided between those who want (need, crave) some privacy, and those who are steadfastly determined that they shall not have it.
The concept of privacy is universal. Human beings need it to greater or lesser degrees---but all of us need some. The situation in Santa Monica seems to be a conflict between those who need much, and those who need little. What's curious to many is that those folks who need less privacy seem absolutely determined that their neighbors have just as little. One wonders at the psychology of it. CNN airs quips of homeowners who whine and complain that their neighbors' hedges are too tall, reasoning that's an attractant to criminals. We say: Easily solved. Require that hedges be contained within a fence that prohibits bad guys from hiding in it (better yet, drop the laws prohibiting tall fences!). Still others gripe that the hedges are unsightly. We say: Define unsightly! Frankly, we can't stand the looks of most homes in Santa Monica. We'd rather not see them at all! Tall hedges may, then, utterly save us from blindness if, by some happenstance, we were forced to drive through that community. Some neighbors try to reason that tall hedges are "not what the community wants". Ever take a vote?
We suspect the problem really comes down to this: Some folks are offended when you don't want to know them. Honestly, if we committed some horrendous crime and were sentenced to ten years of living in the burbs of Santa Monica, we'd end up right back in court for offing about half of our neighbors in the first six months. Santa Monica tends to be a smarmy kind of place, and who but another Californian can stomach smarm. It seems some Santa Monicans get downright angry when their neighbors simply don't want to know them. They can't think of a legitimate bitch about the high hedges, so they make up things like, "I'm afraid to pull into my driveway at night because there might be a robber hiding in my neighbor's hedge." Or "I don't like the looks of my neighbor's hedge." Get enough of these crackpots living in one area and pretty soon they form homeowner's associations and city councils, and set up covenants, codes and restrictions, and pass laws to make sure everyone has to think just like them (or get fined). All this accomplishes is to make normal people want to know them even less, and the height of the hedges gets even taller.
We feel for those folks in Santa Monica who can't leave, who are stuck with $600,000 homes and who simply want a little relief from their noisy/nosy neighbors. To those folks we say, "You're in a heck of a spot."
What's our solution? It is to never, ever buy a home where our right to privacy is legislated out from under us by silly people with far more money than brains, and that includes just about all of the lower forty eight states.