Many of us live in Montecito Heights for what is not here — houses everywhere. For all of us, it is just a short walk to open space with the attendant views. The San Gabriels, snow, dusky sunshine, thunderheads, our almost close-enough-to-touch downtown skyscrapers and the iconic city hall, the Hollywood sign seen backwards from the way the world knows it above the Griffith Observatory, sun glinting on water off Santa Monica, the Vincent Thomas Bridge and the harbor’s gigantic Praying Mantis container gantries, city lights, stars overhead, Catalina Island. The city and the mountains. Not only are there not many cities with similar first-class views, not many people in Los Angeles have what we have.
This is a good time to think about how much we value what we have.
Fencing off access to the open area between Montecito Drive and Lincoln Heights is a demoralizing blow. Some of us will find a way in anyway (my wife and I have), some will be dissuaded, and others will bemoan the loss of what they simply knew was there (something like loving LA for its museums and music, but going to neither). We thrive on the proximity of art and music and open space.
Some will write this off as a private property issue. Perhaps it is, but I doubt it. The same was thought of the path at the end of Montecito Drive, but, lo and behold, it proved to be a public easement!
Here’s the question for the holiday season: Is access to our neighboring Flat Top (which needs a better name, since it’s only a tiny knob in about a hundred open acres) worth lifting a finger to preserve? How much do you value it?
For the sake of providing some historical perspective, let’s remember that the wall and gates on Montecito Drive are the consequence of efforts of this community, not the church that owns the adjacent forty acres, to deal with a very serious problem of outsiders, including gangs, who made it impossible for homeowners on Fenn and Thomas to come or go. Summer weekend nights were especially problematic. There were sexual assaults, drugs, gatherings of hundreds of cars, vandalism and thefts on Montecito. The LAPD could not cope. It was we who lived here who worked for several years to get unanimity among the residents beyond Flat Top to agree to a locked vehicle gate. Then the church had to be persuaded. Once the wall and gates were built, members of the community had a work party to paint the wall. But at no time were neighboring pedestrians meant to be kept out. If that had been the aim, we would not have advocated for the wall and gates in the first place. Only this week, 24 years after the wall and gates went up, are we being locked out.
I maintain we have a prescriptive easement over Radio Rd., Gilig, Fenn, Thomas, et cetera. Since Aimee Semple McPherson had the curbs poured to delineate the streets for her proposed tabernacle more than eighty years ago, the residents of Montecito Heights have had routine access in the same way residents on Fenn and Thomas clearly have an easement right over the church’s roads. All these years of de facto access may equal de jure!
What’s the point in living here if, at least, the views can’t be yours? Please give this some thought.
Good holidays for all,