L.A. residents seek security in gates

  Sally Ann Stewart;Jonathan T. Lovitt


  USA Today


  Page 03A

  (Copyright 1992)


  LOS ANGELES - Whitley Heights is long past the days when Marlene Dietrich,

  Rudolph Valentino and Judy Garland lived in this Hollywood Hills neighborhood

  of 200 Mediterranean-style homes.


  Now, instead of star-gazing, residents of this national historic neighborhood keep

  their eyes peeled for criminals who drift over from notoriously seedy Hollywood

  Boulevard, just two blocks away.


  That's why homeowners, whose houses start at $500,000, united and decided to

  install electronic gates.


  And that's why Jon Jay - who rents an apartment just below the mansions - filed

  suit to stop the homeowners from shutting those gates.


  ``They're ... public streets,'' Jay says. ``I like to go up there to walk and jog ...

  but once the gates are closed, nobody will be able to go up there.''


  At least 33 neighborhoods are waiting to see whether Whitley Heights wins its

  case, potentially turning this city into a series of barricaded neighborhoods.


  Whitley Heights homeowners' association President Karen Newman call it an

  absolute necessity: ``There have been rapes, robberies, muggings, even murders.

  We just feel like we're under siege.''


  The fight started 10 years ago. Homeowners persevered through three City

  Council representatives and a host of regulatory agencies. But last year, Jay and

  other renters formed the so-called Californians Against Gated Enclaves.


  Their argument: State codes prohibit gates on public streets.


  Newman, a lawyer, says ``we interpret the law differently.''


  Deputy City Attorney Leslie Pinchuk - who's on the side of the homeowners -

  says the ``city really has no position.''


  Jay's response: The issue goes beyond mere law.


  ``Los Angeles could become a gated city,'' Jay says. ``It would further separate

  the haves from the have-nots, which, I think, caused (last spring's) riots.''


  Homeowner Raul Cavazos, 42, a contractor who's lived in Whitley Heights for

  six years, says his neighbors don't want to block out urban problems. They just

  want safety.


  ``We're not saying, `Let's put up gates and keep all the poor black people out,' ''

  Cavazos says. ``We seem more concerned with protecting the criminals' rights to



  Newman - whose car has been broken into twice - says everyone in the 70-

  year-old neighborhood has a crime story or two. ``Believe me, we had to be

  pretty desperate'' for homeowners to pay $3,000 apiece for the gates.


  But police say the area isn't especially crime-ridden.


  Gates won't solve anything, says lawyer Leon Dayan, who's representing

  anti-gate tenants.


  ``The mentality is that our problems will go away if we just take care of our own

  little narrow world,'' Dayan says. ``It's a false sense of security they're buying. If

  the city becomes even more divided, the problems just get worse.''


  CUTLINE:IN LOS ANGELES: Raul Cavazos and Gloria Vojansky want some

  Whitley Heights streets blocked by gates to deter crime.

  PHOTO,b/w,Bob Riha, Jr.,Gamma-Liaison