Members of the Amberton-Stockdale Alliance filed suit Monday, seeking the removal of a wall Stockdale Estates homeowner Michael Hansen had built June 14 on his private property, blocking a walkway used by a generation of school children to the neighboring Amberton subdivision .
The lawsuit, filed in Kern County Superior Court on the first day of school for many students in the two neighborhoods, asks a judge for a preliminary injunction ordering Hansen and his father Dan Hansen to "immediately deconstruct the wall, repave the passageway and otherwise restore the passageway to the condition it was in before defendants erected the wall," or to allow the plaintiffs to do the same.
Alliance members also are asking a judge to find that, by having used the passageway for more than 30 years, the public has an "implied, common law" right as well as a "prescriptive" right to use the walkway.
They're also seeking unspecified damages, and attorney's fees.
"We would have liked to have had the injunction before a judge before school started," said Keri Taylor Mikkelsen, one of 12 Amberton residents named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "We're just glad that it's happening, and hoping that we get the injunction, so that we can get the wall back open, and that in the meantime no kids get hurt out there."
"Obviously, our primary goal is to have the wall removed," said the Alliance's attorney, Michael T. Whittington. "It's just really shocking to go out to that section of Ming (Avenue), and watch the volume and speed of traffic, and imagine a little fifth grader out there. Ming Avenue was not designed to have a bike path."
Ray Mullen, Michael Hansen's attorney, declined to address the lawsuit specifically since he hadn't seen it. But he said that whether students use the neighborhood or 500 feet of Ming Avenue, they can walk that distance.
"I haven't understood, and I never got a response from Mr. Whittington, about why that is not feasible," he said. "There's no guarantee, if they pedal the bike through the wall, through Amberton or through Stockdale Estates, that they're not at risk there either."
The walkway between the two neighborhoods in southwest Bakersfield is only recorded in city documents as public property on the Amberton side. The Hansens' side of the walkway has always been private property.
Michael Hansen said in June that he built the wall because he feared for his family's safety following two home burglaries and a theft, and because as he was backing out of his driveway he nearly hit a motorcyclist who rode down the walkway. Michael Hansen did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
His father, Dan Hansen, is named as a co-defendant, because the two men share ownership of the house in the 3700 block of Calle Privada Michael Hansen lives in, on the southern edge of Stockdale Estates.