Chain Link Fences Separate Apartment Dwellers From Homeowners In Orlando, Residents Are Finally Tearing Them Down

Screenshot: Steve DaSilva / Google Maps
Screenshot: Steve DaSilva / Google Maps

American cities have always been laid out along class lines. Far too often, we see highways built to destroy neighborhoods or to separate the haves from the have-nots. The city of Orlando, FL, though, appears not to have bothered with all that “transportation infrastructure” pretense — it simply threw fences up between rich and poor.

In Orlando, chain link fences separated the single-family Agnes Heights neighborhood from the high-density apartments just across the street. Without gates or passthroughs for cars, residents of those apartments were forced to walk around blocks of low-density homes — including crossing a treacherous five-lane road. One local resident decided to take things into her own hands, destroying the fences and letting pedestrians through, but now her neighbors are rallying to put them back up. StreetsBlog has the details:

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Smalley’s government, though, may or may not be on board with her plan, even as many of her neighbors signal their support.

In the months since her and the teenagers’ unconventional act of tactical urbanism, the Orange County Public Works Department has launched a formal process to decide what should be done about the barriers, including completing the demolition process Smalley and the teenagers started, restoring the fence but restoring pedestrian cut-throughs, or building a brick wall for which surrounding residents would have to pay an estimated $100,000. (Bafflingly, an option to restore the fence as it was without pedestrian openings also seems to be on the table, despite the fact that the agency says it doesn’t comply with the city’s comprehensive plan.)

Petitions have popped up on both sides, one from Smalley in favor of removing the fences and another from another resident demanding they be replaced. The latter petition seems focused around the idea of some sort of marauding crime hordes who will flood the neighborhood, whose presence was apparently entirely hindered by a chain-link fence that children were known to regularly climb.

Most curiously, the dwellings on either side of this debated fence aren’t incredibly dissimilar in price. Square footage and prices vary on both sides, but they’re relatively comparable when looking at Zillow estimates and recent listings. It seems the class divide that established the fences is already petering out — no matter how much some residents want to enforce it.

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