Laurel Abbott

After a five-year moratorium, the City of Santa Barbara has begun a review of the Fences, Screens, Walls and Hedges section of the Municipal Code (aka the hedge ordinance).

The hedge ordinance regulates the height and location of fences, screens, walls and hedges on private property. Specifically, it limits the height of those elements to 8 feet in required setbacks, and to 3½ feet within 10 feet of a front lot line, within 10 feet of either side of a driveway for a distance of 20 feet back from the front lot line, or within 50 feet of a street corner (measured from the edge of the vehicular traveled way).

So what does the city want to do now to the ordinance?

Well, I’d like to applaud what the city staff has proposed, and the Ordinance Committee agrees: to develop regulations consistent with the community’s values that can be regularly and fairly enforced.

Basically what’s being proposed is that fences, screens and walls stay at the current ordinance limits, but hedges would be consistent with the community’s values, which will equate to a higher height limit than the current stated ordinance. Although the height limit for hedges could increase, the height limits for fences, screens and walls will not increase. We have entire neighborhoods surrounding the City of Santa Barbara that function beautifully with above-regulated hedge heights, e.g. the Hedgerows in Montecito.

Some of those who are opposed to this change feel that hedges decrease the feeling of community because people are walling themselves in. Most Realtors will tell you that “good fences make good neighbors,” and we know that many of our buyers specifically buy homes with higher hedges, which provide privacy.

I am aware there are differing opinions on this subject, so you can have your say in the development of this policy. As with all ordinances, this process will take a while since interior setbacks, front lot lines, adjacent to driveways and street corners, and administrative authority need to be discussed more in depth.

There are at least five public hearings scheduled if you wish for your voice to be heard. The next meeting is scheduled with the Neighborhood Advisory Council at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14 at the Louis Lowry Davis Center, 1232 De la Vina St.

Contact your local Realtor or Krista Pleiser at the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors for more information. Special thanks to Krista for her efforts on this.

Laurel Abbott is a real estate agent with Prudential California Realty and president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Contact her at or 805.879.8050. The opinions expressed are her own.