City to Homeowner: Don't Remove Your Chain Link Fence, or Else

New rule: If you find yourself using the phrase "mid-century vernacular" in the commission of telling a homeowner that she can't tear down her chain-link fence, it's time step far, far away from a government salary and any power to tell people what to do. Here's the Washington Post's John Kelly:

To most eyes, a chain-link fence in the front yard does not scream curb appeal. Simple — but not what you'd call "elegantly simple" — it's what a set decorator might prescribe when he wants to conjure up mean streets. A white picket fence it ain't.

Which is why some homeowners in Old Town Alexandria were surprised to learn recently that their chain-link fences were historic and that removing them could put them in hot water with the city's historic preservation office. [...]

As the historic preservation staff wrote in its recommendation: "While many feel that [chain-link] fences have negative connotations, this material has played an important role in the development of mid-century vernacular housing and their cultural landscape.... By eradicating this 'simple fencing solution,' the applicant would be removing an important contextual clue to the original occupants of this neighborhood."

And here's your requisite Stockholm Syndrome quote:

Charles Hall has been helping his sister with the red tape. He said he understands the need for zoning rules. "You cannot have everybody in the city doing what they want," he said. "You'd have chaos."

Link via Megan McArdle by way of Sonny Bunch. Reason on historic preservation here, including this link to Charles Paul Freund on the new preservationist taste for Brutalism.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    I bet $5 that person has no architectural background what-so-ever. Chain link fences as "mid-century vernacular" is beyond laughable, it's a slap to any designer's face.

    And if they do have some kind of architectural background someone should bend them into the shape of a Barcelona Chair.

  • ||

    “I think those are interesting houses,” said Al Cox, historic preservation manager in Alexandria’s Department of Planning and Zoning.

    Then, buy them, or fuck off.

  • ||

    Bet he doesn't live in one.

  • Tank||

    So odds are, he doesn't even live in the city, let alone the neighborhood. When I worked as a temp for the city a few years ago, there was a mild brouhaha over the fact that only 30% (or something like that) of city employees were Alexandria residents. Ah, stupidity. May you never stop manifesting.

    But seriously, forget illegal immigration, how do we control those dirty Fairfaxians?

  • Joe R.||

    You know, there are bits of the libertarian philosophy (like legal heroin) that I understand is tough to get people to understand. But things like this as a property rights issue seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • ||

    So much for private property. Kind of like having to ask for permission/approval for plans before building on your land.

  • sarcasmic||

    Free people do not take orders or ask permission when going about their daily activities.
    We live in a country where you will be beaten if you refuse orders from a "public servant", and where you must ask permission to build on your own property.

    Free country?

    In your dreams.

  • ||

    So, what happens if you tear down your chain-link fence anyway?

  • Charles Hall||

    CHAOS!

  • Alexandria Resident||

    The City of Alexandria will cite you into the poor house. This city has a fucked up authoritarian bent.

  • juris imprudent||

    The neighborhood turns into Somalia.

    Desertification, anarchy, the whole bit.

  • Brandon||

    The temperate climate of Virginia is only maintained, of course, by rigid government control.

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    This reminds me of the idiots in Pittsburgh who cry over any long abandoned, vermin invested, circa 1900 row house turned crack house that gets demolished by the city because they are "historically significant". Of course, they can't ever find the money to buy it from the city for like $10,000, but they just know that it is too valuable to destroy.

  • ||

    Of course, they can't ever find the money to buy it from the city for like $10,000, but they just know that it is too valuable to destroy.

    "Whaaa? You want me to buy a bunch of crackhouses. No, no, I just don't want to see them torn down. If you can't understand such a paradox, then you should be re-educated, you troglodyte."

  • T||

    And people ask why libertarians are against zoning laws. There's reductio left, is there? We're almost at peak absurdity.

  • T||

    Uh, insert a 'no' in there somehwere as you deem fit.

  • sarcasmic||

    Peak absurdity? Wait until you see the new legislation that will be created to deal with the unintended consequences of ObamaCare and the latest finance regulation.

    The absurdity has barely begun!

  • T||

    We need to figure out how to harness absurdity for beneficial and profitable ends.

  • sarcasmic||

    Absurdity can only be harnessed to the benefit of power and the destruction of profits.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    As someone who is a bit of an expert on MCM architecture and housing in particular, I can safely claim that chain link fencing adds nothing to the MCM "vernacular". This may be the most frustrating pile of bureaucratic bullshit I have ever had the misfortune to step in.

  • Tank||

    Buchanon Street!? That qualifies as Old Town?

    I love Alexandria. But historical preservationists are idiots.

  • ChrisO||

    No doubt. That's basically Del Ray as far as I can tell, not Old Town. The key to understanding this is the part where the author notes how the neighborhood used to be working class but now has old brick crap shacks selling for $500k or more.

    "Oh, that house is so *charming*, darling, why just look at that chain link fence!"

  • ||

    That's a fucking historical slippery slope there. Don't you be gumming it up or even think about demolishing it.

  • ScottyB||

    The only laws regarding what someone can do with their property that could make sense are those that negatively impact neighbors or harm public safety. These situations are quite rare, and can be dealt with on an audting basis rather than making everyone submit plans for inspetion before they do anything.

  • ||

    "negatively impact neighbors"? Fuck that. ANYTHING can negatively impact somebody. Maybe they have a hatred of green and think it must be tan paint or their property value will drop. Public safety is one thing, neighbors' taste is another. Get away from me, Statist!

  • ||

    Doug Jemal, a DC developer, bought 2 houses next to a lot he owns, that he intended to tear down and build low-income housing on. The city objected, saying that they were in a historic district and refused the tear-down.

    So, Jemal basically told DC to suck it. The lot remains empty and the houses are slowly rotting away. They actually smell at this point.

  • adam||

    And teh city is going to care, why? They'll just assess him the vacant property tax, which is three times higher than the usual. City wins.

  • adam||

    Oh, and the city will also complain about the lack of low-income housing and will use that justification to seize his or someone else's property. City wins again.

  • ||

    You miss the overall point. City wants to preserve "historic" houses (which aren't historic nor significant). Houses instead rot and aren't preserved.

    Everyone loses.

  • adam||

    And you miss my point. The city doesn't give two sh*ts about preserving historic houses. The city wants revenue and power. City wins.

  • NAME REDACTED||

    The city doesn't care about the houses. They want money and power. The zoning rules are just a way to get both, and to make corruption more profitable..

  • ||

    and the houses are slowly rotting away

    Temporal Demolition. Pretty clever.

  • --||

    Do they not sell gas cans and road flares in these locales. It sounds bad, but arson is the best way to combat this kind of city council nonsense.

  • ||

    So too is a car driven at 40 mph through a historically significant chain link fence.

  • /dev/null||

    the original occupants of this neighborhood

    deer? squirrels?

  • ||

    Trilobites and archaeocyathids.

  • Number 2||

    This silliness speaks for itself:

    "While many feel that [chain-link] fences have negative connotations, this material has played an important role in the development of mid-century vernacular housing and their cultural landscape.... By eradicating this 'simple fencing solution,' the applicant would be removing an important contextual clue to the original occupants of this neighborhood."

    Translation - we don't know what the fuck we are talking about, but we have been given legal authority, and damn it, we are going to use it!

  • juris imprudent||

    Almost as idiotic as the Cal Dept of Transportation moaning about the "view shed".

  • robc||

    Hail Eris!

  • Ramsey||

    The Mgt.

  • Matrix||

    "You cannot have everybody in the city doing what they want," he said. "You'd have chaos."

    And this is why you fail...

  • ||

    "While many feel that [chain-link] fences have negative connotations, this material has played an important role in the development of mid-century vernacular housing and their cultural landscape.... By eradicating this 'simple fencing solution,' the applicant would be removing an important contextual clue to the original occupants of this neighborhood."

    Replace "[chain-link] fence" with outhouse.

  • ||

    And here's your requisite Stockholm Syndrome quote

    Love it! Individual is not bothered at all by zoning laws, therefore he must suffer from a paradoxical psychological phenomenon! People who disagree with us are neurotic! We berate others for employing that rhetorical tactic, but when we do it? Applause!

  • you have it all wrong||

    it's the state-supported threats of violence and property seizure accompanying said rhetoric that's a problem.

    also, fuck off, slaver.

  • ||

    fuck off, slaver

    Love it! Miss the point entirely and resort to a hackneyed internet cliché!

    Are you one of the best and brightest here?

  • Greer||

    are you one of those people who reads everything here as complete, literal, truth? He was making the point that the city has this idiotic stance toward a stupid fense and the homeowner (or her brother) instead of being outraged, shrugs his shoulders and says, "well, it's not so bad".

  • Brandon||

    You're right. Every sentence in a blog post must be dry, academic objective fact, or the entire point of the post is wrong! But only for libertarian blogs! Even though you are free to ignore literally 85% of a response to your idiocy and then accuse the remaining 3 words of missing the point! Tell me, are you a moron, or just an asshole?

  • Mensan||

    In the area where I grew up there is one house with a fense of triple strand concertina. Just inside his front gate there is a sandbag bunker with what appears to be an M-2 barrel extending from the firing port. He also has signs along the fense warning of landmines. The owner raises and slaughters his own pigs, and places the severed heads on his fense posts.

    If he's violating any zoning law, nobody seems to care, because that house has been that way for at least 20 years.

  • adam||

    It's a historical relic then. Zoning laws must be enacted to ensure no one ever changes it.

  • Michael||

    I've been away from the comment threads, so apologies if this has already been posted.

    http://www.clickondetroit.com/.....etail.html

    The two additional shots fired once the wounded dog was already restrained are a nice touch.

  • ||

    The traditional finish for such a post is:

    But nothing else happened.

  • Michael||

    Shit. I completely forgot.

  • Mensan||

    Police said officers were responding to a complaint that Buddy, in particular, was out on the loose. Police also said Buddy was a Rottweiler mix. Boyle said Buddy was a rescued dog, and if anything he was a Labrador-shepherd mix, not Rottweiler.

    It's amazing that assholes who believe in the whole dangerous breed myth cannot even identify the breed of a particular dog.

    My brother was evicted from an apartment becuase he owned a "prohibited breed of dog." A neighbor said they saw him walking a Pitbull, and then the apartment management decided that his dog was not a Pitbull, but a Rottweiler which was also prohibited. Both were wrong. He argued with them, and even got a letter from his vet stating that his dog was in fact a Shar Pei. They said that they didn't care what the vet said, that they knew what kind of dog it was, and evicted him anyhow.

  • ||

    Yeah, another reason apartments suck

  • ||

    "You cannot have everybody in the city doing what they want," he said. "You'd have chaos."

    If, by chaos, you mean freedom.

  • Brett L||

    I know a guy who got himself elected to a small-town council to redraw the historical district around his property. Turns out:
    (a) if you go door-to-door in a town of less than 500 you can get elected for cheap and
    (b) nobody actually gives a shit what the boundaries of the historical district are as long as the 5 people who want to be on the historical register are included in it.

  • NoVAHockey||

    gerrymandering wins again.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    "While many feel that [chain-link] fences have negative connotations, this material has played an important role in the development of mid-century vernacular housing and their cultural landscape.... By eradicating this 'simple fencing solution,' the applicant would be removing an important contextual clue to the original occupants of this neighborhood."

    The Onion couldn't get within three ZIP codes of writing material like that.

  • juris imprudent||

    Well The Onion is constrained by having to maintain some level of believability.

  • ||

    While I think us architexture lovers can all be sad when perfectly good examples of classic style houses are destroyed, the fact is "historic designated areas" are just legal disasters waiting to happen. A true historical designated area without loopholes would stagnate and property values would be locked into housing value. Some areas can afford that, but that means homeowners are now limited in their ability to market to buyers. Land value all around them may skyrocket, but their's never would because the houses would have to be left a certain way and if value were to fall around them, their's would fall faster based on those limitations. Historic designations do nothing but appease a few historic architecture busybodies that love walking their dog down a particular street.

  • ||

    Thanks for posting this, Matt. They're trying to designate my (mid 20th century) neighborhood as "historic."

    Anyone with any links, resources or whatever about how to fight this nonsense, please post here.

    TIA

  • Chris||

    If you do what your want on your propriety it's called freedom not chaos. If you don't want free neighbors don't buy a house in the city. If you think you can use the city to stop freedom your subverting the reason for government.

  • CE||

    "You cannot have everybody in the city doing what they want," he said. "You'd have chaos."

    And maybe even better looking front yards.

  • CE||

    the applicant would be removing an important contextual clue to the original occupants...

    So if I bought a house from rednecks, I need to leave the '68 Rambler up on blocks in the front yard and I can't take down the Christmas lights from the front porch in the summer?

  • Spartacus||

    Exactly. And do not even think about moving the satellite dish. Or the trampoline.

  • Spartacus||

    You are, however, allowed to use the Rambler's engine and radiator to convert the above-ground pool into a giant hot tub.

  • ||

    I live in a freegin' mid-Century modern neighborhood. The only chain link fence around is at the non-mid-Century elementary school.

  • cynical||

    When I'm dictator, I'm forcing this asshole to dress in the most outlandish styles from whenever he came of age, to preserve his historical integrity.

  • ||

    The lesson here is that when you want to make some changes in your property, go ahead and do it, and don't tell the raving bureaucrats about it. If they bitch about it after the fact, invite them into your back yard to examine the cauldron where you're cooking the tar that you'll need to adjust their attitude.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Obviously, Alexandria's budget is too large. Lay off half the municipal staph. [sic]

  • ||

    I suggest late night applications of an oxidizer, perhaps something as available as muriatic acid, to hasten the rusting and sagging of these misbegotten and often mis-installed excuses for fences. What the hell is with those latches, anyway?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement