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Don't fence them in

August 27, 2004

Andrew Edwards

The prospect of a 30-foot high fence around Laguna Beach High

School's baseball field has residents worrying that construction

could strike out their ocean views.

"We came out here one morning and said 'Look at the poles,'"

neighbor Jay Nelson said. "If that's the top of the fencing, we lose

our view."

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Nelson lives on St. Ann's Drive, and from his front yard, spots of

blue water can be seen through the trees and buildings between his

house and the ocean. Nelson and his neighbors are worried that the

30-foot gray poles that rise above the baseball field could herald

the end of their views.

The baseball field lies adjacent to the Breakers' newly renovated

football field and track. More work on the $3.2-million project to

refurbish athletic facilities are under way to enlarge the baseball

field, and the orientation of the field is being changed so the

outfield will back up against St. Ann's Drive. School officials

defend the fence as a necessary precaution to prevent batted balls

from flying into residents' homes.

"There's nothing that's 100% safe, but what we're trying to do

makes it as safe as we can for the neighbors," athletic director Ron

Schwartz said. The field is being reoriented to make room for playing

space. In past seasons, the Breakers have had the smallest baseball

field of any high school in the county.

Workers are already installing 10-foot-tall sections of chain link

fence at the field, said Carl Neuhausen, the school district's

construction-project administrator, though there is some uncertainty

whether the completed barrier will be as high as residents fear.

"The full height, 20 feet of netting [on top of the fence], that's

still in question," Neuhausen said.

On Tuesday, district officials met with residents upset by the

fence. School board President El Hathaway said the district will look

for ways to try to alleviate residents' concerns.

"Do we have some options?" Hathaway asked. "Maybe we could reduce

the existing height, maybe removing a pole or two."

However, the district will not go as far as to completely change

plans for the field.

"We're not going to spend a whole bunch of money to redesign,"

Hathaway said.

The school district is accountable to the state Department of

Education and is essentially immune from the city's design-review

ordinances, though resident David Smith said neighbors will approach

the City Council to see if there is any recourse available through

the city. They have already found one sympathetic ear on the body.

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