Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jousting with Fence Boards

Labor Day was a very busy day for someone hired by Allen & Brassey to rebuild two portions of fence. The first job was to replace a "plywood patch" on their front fence, which remained unfinished until yesterday for lack of fence boards. It now looks halfway respectable.

The second project was a stunning farce, another over-the-top manipulation for which Lynda Allen is widely infamous.

To relate this properly, I must go back to last February. After the picture in this post appeared, Ms. Allen calculated the angles and added one-foot lattice toppers to the sections of the decrepit six-foot fence between our houses. A seven-foot fence still wasn't enough for her, so while I was gone away to friends on Father's Day in June, A&B hired a guy to rebuild several sections of our common property line fence, starting at the very back of our 185 feet deep lots. A couple more sections were done the next day, for a total of six eight-foot sections. The old boards were redeployed (horizontally!) as backstops to the sections up front, between our houses, until every chink, crack, and knothole was covered.

Good Neighbor fences are usually a joint effort, at joint cost, and the boards alternate sides with each eight-foot section. That was not the case here. First, I was not consulted on the fence replacement project; second, I was not asked to contribute to its costs; third, the fence was "bettered" (newer and higher than the original one); and fourth, the old fence boards were appropriated for other uses by A&B as described above - for these reasons I did not object to the installation of the new fence, even though I got the side with all the 2x4 stringers. Better fence... neighbors' nickel... NOT a problem... really. I accepted her offer. Everything was cool... so far.

The funniest aspect of Ms. Allen's charade is that after she closed all the knotholes, the knothead discovered she could no longer see if my truck was in my yard, or if my blinds were drawn, or if my lights were on. (Keep 'em guessing, I say.) It was no longer easy for her to detect signs of my presence. How do I know? Because, during my ladder-assisted project described next, I observed their step ladder set up next to the fence just for such use. On rare occasions it is put away, but generally not.

A month ago, I embarked on a modest beautification project: a freestanding screen or trellis to span the gap between my house and my outbuilding. A row of 4x4's was set in the ground five feet away from the property line fence, 2x4 stringers were bolted on, and two courses of 4x8 redwood lattice attached horizontally. Ivy, bougainvillea, morning glories, and other climbing greenery would in the future provide a "green screen" - a visual break from TLC Catering's ugly backside always mooning me over the fence.

[Special note: this trellis, even overgrown, IS NOT a noise barrier - in spite of Ms. Allen's acoustical architechure and engineering degrees and her assertions to Manteca's code enforcement pencil pushers, duly noted, that lattice and plywood perform that function. (Honest! I don't make this stuff up!)]

In the inscrutable and infinitesimal mind of the genius next door, however, that damned trellis was interfering with her ability to ascend her step ladder, surmount her own lattice fence topper, and scan my house and property for signs of my presence. Reverting to the Machiavellian axiom that imitation is the best form of flattery, she hired a guy on Labor Day to pull the boards off two sections of the "new" fence and redo those sections using the staggered offset pattern I used on my northern front fence (away from her property.) She may want an "open" fence on our property line, but I certainly do not. I was not flattered. (We're not even friends, let alone intimates!)

It is obvious that her architectural genius is exceeded only by her dog training skills. The fence boards she used were only 5 1/2 inches wide (cheap, cheap), with gaps between them ranging randomly from 2 inches to 4 1/2 inches ("eyeball" method?), and the offset pattern on the other side of the stringers was nowhere close to precise (it's really hard to find good [free?] help these days!) The result looked like shit - but produced her desired goal of opening my property to her view without revealing any of her own property.

Unfortunately for the hammering hamsters, there is this little bit of common law regarding common fences that does not allow one party to dictate the structural elements employed on the side of the other party without consent. Her erection constituted a solicitation for agreement. I rejected her proposition the next morning by removing the fence boards on my side, piling them neatly next to the fence, and placing the container of removed screws on top of the stack. Nothing oral by either party, but the communications (advance and rebuff) were absolutely clear and unmistakeable.

With great regret, I was absent when the roach coach co-pilots returned to their business yard, but I truly hope their disappointment, with wailing and gnashing of teeth, was not inflicted on their very nice junk yard dogs. As expected, however, by my return in midafternoon, a large blue tarp had been carefully stretched out and tucked over the tops of the gap-tooth boards remaining on A&B's side of the fence. At 5:00 p.m. a guy appeared, retrieved the boards, and for another hour removed the ones on the other side and did the best he could to reattach them in a close approximation of their previous, simpler layout. I hope he allowed for the small "summer gaps" that accommodate the winter's swelling of wooden fence boards to prevent them from warping and popping off the fence.

Oh, and let me tell you about the junk yard dogs... and the house dogs... and the narrowly averted hosing down...

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