It was the 20th century American poet Robert Frost who wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

But when Oildale homeowner Drew Torris built a new fence in his front yard this spring, a neighbor complained to the county’s code compliance division that Torris’ 5 foot tall fence is too tall.

Last week, the 31-year-old husband and father received a notice from the division making the complaint official.

"The Kern County Code Compliance Division has received a complaint alleging that violations of the Kern County Ordinance Code may exist at the identified address," the letter reads. It goes on to identify the alleged violation: "Fence in excess of height restriction."

"When it happened, we were both upset about it," Torris said of him and his wife Amber's initial response to the letter.

So last week, Torris brought his case before the court of public opinion — on Facebook group page called "You know you're from Oildale when." And the comments started rolling in, totaling 274 by Monday morning.

If the comments are any indication, a large majority of Torris' Oildale neighbors are behind him.

"I think it looks great. So does your yard," Lorie Hilbern-Grigsby wrote on the Facebook post. "Probably the nicest looking place in the neighborhood."

"It looks beautiful," wrote Diane Barker, another commenter.

Ricky Keel of Fence Menders, a local fence contractor in Oildale, said one reason for the height regulations is to ensure that the vision of motorists is not blocked and neighbors can safely pull out of their driveways.

"I have to adhere to the rules every single day when we build new fences," he said.

Torris said he believes most of his neighbors are pleased with the fence.

“Many neighbors have told us how great it looks — and people driving by too, (people) we’ve never met,” Torris said in his post.

If you drive just about any direction from the family's Ray Street address, blight and disrepair are all too common. There's an old love seat dumped near the sidewalk a few streets away. The fences in the neighborhood — including the ones that are code compliant — are often unattractive chain link or broken-down pickets.

One front yard fence at Oildale Drive and Decatur Street is about 6 feet tall and covers both sides of the corner lot. And, unlike Torris' fence, one can't see through the solid wood slats. Apparently it's been there for years.

Al Rojas, code compliance supervisor, said the division responds to complaints. Officers don't normally patrol the streets looking for violations.

So if the fence on Decatur, or the couch on the sidewalk, or the junker car parked in the front yard, never received a complaint, code compliance officials may have no occasion to address the issue or visit the location.

But Torris received a complaint, which demanded a response.

Rojas confirmed that, according to the zoning ordinance, the maximum height of the Torris family's front fence is indeed 4 feet.

"He contacted our office," Rojas said. "He was informed he can get a zone modification."

But going to Planning for such a modification begins at $1,490.

So Torris figures his best option may be to cut the top off the fence so that it no longer exceeds the height restriction.

But that doesn't mean he has to like it.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

(25) comments

TimRoss

We should give this homeowner an award for improving his property and the neighborhood. And we should send the employees in "code enforcement" to a mandatory "Common Sense" training that they have to pay for..

Sage on the Hudson

I recommend that Torris construct a one-foot-tall, grass-covered compacted earthen berm at the base of his fence, which will then — technically — reduce the height of the five-foot fence to four feet.

BobPrange

The fence looks great and so does the house and landscaping. I wonder if there might be an issue beyond the fence like a long-term dispute or some other type of dispute with the neighbor who placed the complaint. There might be more to the story than the fence. If my neighbor put up a fence like that, I’d bake him chocolate chip cookies! However, I'm not sure we are getting the full story on this one.

Pgee

Ok, Code enforcement has issues with a fence, how about all those damm shopping carts the homeless are pushing around leaving on streets and alleys. Code enforcement needs to pick and choose its battles because it makes them look like a bunch of Jack asses when there is much more and bigger problems in Oildale.

barbara meuleman-girga

Lighten up, neighbors. With so much ugliness and horrible looking yards in Oildale, someone who tries to do something to make his home more liveable gets turned in. Somebody needs to get a life and enjoy it; not look for problems to report.

Rdbinc

Simple solution: friends & neighbors need to contact code compliance and register their complaints on every violation within a square mile of this house, county officials have the responsibility and time to elevate standards for all residents of the community....

Stephen

Considering all the things that truly need complaining about this is a stretch. Yes, the fence violates code by a foot and, had I been his neighbor, I would have shared that fact with him but either way, it's not something I would have ever complained to code compliance about.

As a regular complainer in the city, using the Bakersfield app i complain about illegal dumping, graffiti and other elements of blight. In contrast this fence doesn't even come close to being a detraction on the neighborhood.

In the south part of the historic Westchester neighborhood someone built what has to be the ugliest tan slump block wall exceeding 6 feet making their corner house look like some sort of prison compound. And that in a neighborhood filled with beautiful historic homes dating from what some historians refer to as the "golden era of the single family home." The difference is, in a laps of judgement, the city granted these folks a permit to inflict this eyesore on the neighborhood.

Fence aside, has anyone noticed what an absolutely handsome house it surrounds? The space, mass and proportions Mr. Torris' house and the composition of the visual elements of its structure are excellent.

To the complainer I would say, pick your battles and complain about the many elements of blight that are in the area. As an element of blight, that fence doesn't even come close.

JimmyDude

Stephen, you said, "Fence aside, has anyone noticed what an absolutely handsome house it surrounds? The space, mass and proportions Mr. Torris' house and the composition of the visual elements of its structure are excellent." That comment caused me to take a second look - and really see - you're spot on! Cool house, interesting features, Thanks for helping me see something I would otherwise have missed.

jerry28drj

The person complaining is probably the neighborhood porch package thief and wants easier access!!!

Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

All of Oildale should be condemned

GetReal2

Spray-paint In God We Trust on a bedsheet, hang it on the fence and everyone will quiet down.

Boogerface Nutter

Hmmm...this kind of reminds me of the "Spy Fence" Laws that are still on the books in many cities. That one can see completely through this great looking fence and that they use the excuse that it blocks the view of a motorist pulling out of a driveway seems....silly.

Kate

That mans house, yard and fence are beautiful!! You can see thru the fence so not a traffic hazard! Good grief, some people just have to gripe about something so they can feel "important"!!

2carpoor

Cut the wood, bend the wire, replace the wood at the new height. Put flashing LED's on top and aim them at the complaining neighbor. Maybe said neighbor would like a new couch in their front yard. Always be careful who you p*ss off and why. Time and place count. The yard looks great as is. Go Fund a re-zone.

taschu

Zone modification starts at $1490? Hope they at least point a gun at you before they take your money.

lrlopez74

Um, follow the rules and you won't get complaints. Duh. You white folks don't get to whine about immigrants "breaking the law" if y'all don't follow the law yourselves.

Boogerface Nutter

WTF does this have to do with the story?

Patricia Edna

You’re such a miserable person, it’s funny.

Boris25

Irlopez74, your ignorance is breathtaking!

ReefRanger

...Says the perpetual and ever-present racist hater.

Ledzepplin4800

I’m surprised you didn’t get a fine for non permit ,

thatryguy

Lower it to the "Correct" height, and then cover it with moldy plywood and softcore porn. Then the county would surely give it their stamp of approval. Good grief.

bakodon

The county ought to be ashamed of it self! Oildale is an eyesore and this gut does something nice....no good deed goes unpunished!

7nickfish

Exactly right.

GaryJohns

Oildale is one huge Ordinance violation. This seems kind of petty....

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