Let the Hedge Wars Begin

Views and Privacy Debate Starts Up Again

<b>BUSHY BARRIER:</b> Go ahead and hedge your bets that walls of green won’t be going away any time soon.
Paul Wellman (file)

GOING UP? Never mind about Russia versus Ukraine; what about the hedge wars brewing along quiet Santa Barbara streets?

The city is pondering whether to let front-yard shrubs be twice as high as the existing ordinance allows ​— ​which it ignores anyway.

Look, I survived the Goleta water wars of the 1970s and a few years ago escaped the simmering Riviera hedge wars. I’ve seen these leafy battles pit neighbor against neighbor. I know families who haven’t spoken for decades. And woe to the innocent homeowner who buys into one of these combat zones. Forget about going next door for a cup of sugar.

Barney Brantingham

You can close escrow on a hillside charmer with a gorgeous ocean view, look out the picture window, and notice the guy downslope planting one those fast-growing hedges that all too soon will block the whole darn Santa Barbara Channel. Some cities have passed view-protection laws, but not Santa Barbara. Too nasty to mess with, I guess.

Some hedges hit way over 10 feet. In a worst-case scenario, it means going to court. You pay the downslope owner for a view corridor running with the title. Don’t laugh. It happens.

A sunset view is likely to cost you big bucks when you negotiate for a home. Then the guy-next-door’s hedge goes up. In Bakersfield, this probably wouldn’t matter, but here it does.

The existing ordinance ​— ​which the city in all its wisdom and desire to opt out of controversies decided six years ago not to enforce ​— ​sets a front-yard hedge limit of three-and-a-half feet. The new proposal would allow seven-and-a-half feet.

I’m not clear about who’s pushing this, except that in the feedback I’m hearing, there’s a certain xenophobic ring. Some people apparently don’t want others to see their house, or them in or around it. Could be dangerous, you know. And they don’t want to see those driving or walking by, either.

I can understand the desire for privacy, though ​— ​certainly a fading commodity in a society where drones can skim over your swimming pool or hot tub and snap photos (not that a hedge would stop that).

In our desire for the benefits of urban living, we give up a lot. We hear and see our neighbors, but if we’re lucky we can enjoy them and become friends. Here on our flatland street in San Roque, no one has a front-yard hedge, but mountain vistas are still spectacular.

No sidewalks, either. Neighbor kids play in the street, and I enjoy seeing them. A boy down the block plays drums once in a while, and Ed across the fence toots his trombone melodiously. But so far, no garage bands or spite hedges.

HELP FOR HOMELESS KIDS: If any kid needs a leg up in life, it’s a homeless one. Luckily for preschoolers at the Storyteller Children’s Center, 2121 De la Vina Street, they get classes, meals, and TLC, and their parents get counseling to help start a new life. And to assure that little ones still have that TLC, Storyteller just announced that donations have allowed it to buy the property ​— ​a permanent home for homeless child care. Storyteller has been there since 2007, at a property owned until now by the Orfalea Foundation, which provided it rent-free. (Donations are needed, including $100,000 a year just to cover the cost of feeding the tykes breakfast, lunch, and snacks.) A second Storyteller Center is located at 2115 State Street. There are 100 children on the waiting list, also living in shelters or in substandard, crowded conditions. (More info at storytellercenter.org.)

SCOUTS’ GOOD DEED: It was pouring down rain, but Boy Scouts of Troop 126 braved the downpour to go door-to-door collecting Food Bank donations.

MURDER AT THE WATERFRONT: Someone got killed while I was eating dinner at Chuck’s Waterfront Grill, and we guests were supposed to guess who dunnit. It’s all a show, of course. Murder at the Waterfront plays are staged by Susie Couch of the Circle Bar B Ranch Dinner Theatre and her usual cast of suspects from up there. Next show: March 19.

NEW AND BLUE: Santa Barbara’s hottest new restaurant, by the railroad station, is the Blue Tavern, upscale but casual, with a superb menu with California-Peruvian flavors. The menu I tasted ranged from sea bass ceviche, sea urchin, scallops and shrimp toast (a real winner) to pappardelle pasta. I sipped that classic Peruvian drink, pisco sour, in honor of Chef Ricardo Zarate. (119 State St.)


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