The fence around the Merryhill School in midtown doesnt look right.
Its a little ugly. Even worse, it blocks the view of the old Newton Booth School building, where the privately run Merryhill set up a campus and the fence last year. The school is a well-preserved landmark in a city where many historic buildings have been ruined.
Thats why some in the Newton Booth neighborhood a tranquil slice of the central city surrounding the school at 26th and V streets want the wooden fence gone. But theyre in a tough spot. So are city officials, whove known for months that the fence was built without the right approvals.
Just try arguing with this: The fence went up to protect young children. And whats more important, preserving the views of a historic building? Or doing everything possible to ensure that little kids can play and learn in a safe environment?
Neighborhood associations in this city go to war with outside interests with little provocation. The Newton Booth Neighborhood Association has been cordial. The groups president, John Hagar, has written a couple of letters, but there havent been any angry rallies.
After eight months, Hagar is starting to lose patience. He said Merryhill has ignored his pleas to replace the fence with one that fits the historic nature of the building and doesnt block the view of the school.
Its a shame, he said. Merryhill has a great reputation and neighbors were thrilled when it arrived in Newton Booth.
Weve never had any complaints, Hagar said, except for that damn fence.
The city wants a plan from Merryhill soon. Hagar wants the city to revoke the schools occupancy permit if a suitable design isnt prepared. The city said it isnt going to do that and is confident Merryhill will come up with a plan everyone likes.
Merryhill said its not going to replace the fence, but will change it enough to allow for outsiders to see the schools decorative main entrance and facade during non-school hours.
Denise Ondrof, the principal, didnt directly respond to an interview request last week, but she issued a statement through a Maryland-based public relations firm. The company that runs Merryhill is based in Pennsylvania.
Design concerns were brought to our attention after the fence was erected, and we have been in ongoing discussions with the city to modify the fence in a manner that will continue to celebrate the historical and architectural elements of our beautiful school grounds, the statement read.
Hagar doesnt want to appear hostile toward young families. The neighborhood is attracting lots of them to its modern homes and old bungalows.
A school is a good use for that beautiful old building, he said. Theres no sense hiding it with a fence.
Then again, that old building isnt the only thing behind the fence.
Call The Bees Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.