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Mailbag: When government invades your front yard

June 03, 2011

Attention homeowners: Let me tell you what our diligent City Council has done that may surprise you as much as it did me. The council put into effect a code that says that for uniformity and safety reasons, any hedge in the front of your property that is next to the sidewalk can not be higher than 2 feet, 6 inches for 20 feet back from the sidewalk (20 feet is practically half of most front yards.

That code was made effective in 2001. Were the citizens of Costa Mesa told about this new code? No, only if you were getting a permit for plantings would you know about it.

Recently, I got a citation to the tune of $150 for a hedge that has been in existence — and well maintained — for 28 years. That's 28 years with lots of guests and never an accident or near-accident.

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Why was my hedge singled out? Because a neighbor whose driveway is 70 feet away from my hedge called and complained. Seventy feet from his driveway, and he can't see to back out of his driveway.

Uh oh! Dial 1-800-CODE-ENFORCEMENT.

Wait, it gets better. I contested the citation and had a hearing. I lost because my hedge is higher than the code. Period. No discussion.

And, if I want to apply for a variance, it'll cost me roughly $1,600, with no guarantee I will be successful.

I realize that we do need safety codes. However, it seems to me, on a street where no more than five cars pass in front of a house each day, there could be leeway.

My driving record is good. Grandmother me in.

So, dear homeowners, better check your foliage and make sure your tulips aren't too high. And, by all means, voice your opinion about too much government in your yards — unless, of course, you like that.

Sylvia Hatton

Costa Mesa

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City survey was biased

Re. "Survey: Majority of voters want pension reform now" (May 27): I'm disappointed in the Daily Pilot for reporting this biased survey as if it were a legitimate take on how the county feels, and for under-reporting the obvious bias in the questions.

The first question of the survey, available in an agenda report on the city website, is typical of the bias. Note the emotionally loaded words "benefit," "overly generous" and "bankrupting."

This kind of questioning is not of the quality that nonpartisan poll takers such as Gallup, Roper and Pew Research require. These firms take great pains to phrase questions in a neutral way so that respondents give their honest opinions, not those covertly suggested by a partisan pollster.

Perhaps an inadvertent clue to the survey's value is that the pollster wasn't paid anything for his work. Maybe an unbiased survey would yield exactly the same results, but we won't know until an unbiased one is made.

Tom Egan

Costa Mesa

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