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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 10:42 am | Fair 68º


Santa Barbara City Council Moves to Suspend Hedge Ordinance

Members say they want a new ordinance, perhaps with less of a cookie-cutter approach, within two years.

Good news for anyone whose front-yard hedges have crept well past the city’s legal height limit of 3½ feet: It appears that the rule soon will be a goner.

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to direct staff to bring back — in as early as a week — an ordinance that would temporarily suspend the hedge ordinance.

In the meantime, city officials will craft a new ordinance that might take less of a cookie-cutter approach.

Over the years, squabbles between neighbors, spotty enforcement and overwhelmingly large numbers of too-tall hedges have led city officials to call for an update.

Drafted in 1957, the hedge ordinance is part of the larger law that also applies to fences, screens and walls. The height of those items is not to exceed 3½ feet near front-yard sidewalks or driveways, or 8 feet anywhere else on the property. The idea is to ensure safety by, among other things, clearing visibility for cars leaving driveways, and to prevent neighboring homes from getting boxed in and sun-deprived by a growing green wall.

Tuesday’s action sets the stage for the suspension of the only hedge portion of the ordinance, not the fence, screen and walls portions. It wouldn’t even entirely do away with the hedge law. To ensure safety, left in tact would be a rule stating that people must keep hedges shorter than 3½ feet within 10 feet of driveways.

Council members said they want a new hedge ordinance within two years, and furthermore want that fact to be codified in the language of the temporary suspension.

Mayor Marty Blum said the hedge ordinance isn’t all bad.

“We all like the small-town feel of Santa Barbara,” she said, “and I don’t equate with the small-town feel with tall hedges in everyone’s front yards.”

Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at [email protected]

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