Rancho Cordova cleans up neighborhoods one chain-link fence at a time

Video: Rancho Cordova chain-link fence program

The city pays homeowners $1,000 to remove chain-link fences on properties.
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The city pays homeowners $1,000 to remove chain-link fences on properties.

Mayor David Sander wants to transform Rancho Cordova from an aging suburb to an attractive place to plant roots and buy a home. His latest project to turn the city around: Paying residents $1,000 to take down their chain-link fences.

At first glance, a chain-link fence in a front yard seems like a harmless way to keep a dog from running away, or to establish a sense of security with children romping around outside. But Sander said a chain-link fence is more than a barrier to the street. It also blocks economic growth.

“If you see a chain-link fence, you know it’s the cheapest means to protect yourself from something,” Sander said. “It’s a public signal of distress, and it devalues properties.”

About a half-dozen fences have been removed since Rancho Cordova launched a buyback program at the start of the year. An additional 20 homeowners sent in pending applications, and Sander expects to complete as many as 50 projects in the next year.

It’s a public signal of distress, and it devalues properties.

David Sander, mayor of Rancho Cordova

Other communities have likely tried similar fence buyback programs, but the city wasn’t familiar with any others when officials dreamed up the initiative, he said. The program is part of the city’s Growing Strong Neighborhoods campaign, which launched in 2007 to make the community safer, cleaner and healthier, he said.

The chain-link fence stigma was news to Victor and Amanda Marquez, two Lincoln Village homeowners who welcomed a city-organized volunteer crew to demolish the fence on their property Saturday. The couple said the fence was already up when they bought the house a decade ago. While chain-link isn’t their desired fence material, the family of six directed their attention and finances to more important issues over the years.

“It was ugly and I never liked it,” said Amanda Marquez, 29. She hopes to use the money for drought-tolerant landscaping and to replace a side fence.

The couple heard about the city’s fence buyback offer through their work with It Takes A Lincoln Village, a group that attempts to clean up the neighborhood.

“Anything we can do to make the neighborhood a better place, or even look better, we’re happy to do it,” Victor Marquez said.

High-crime neighborhoods in Sacramento and elsewhere are often characterized by chain-link fences. Sander said it’s a red flag for anyone who wants to flip a house and that several fences on a street can decrease the home values of the entire block.

The Lincoln Village neighborhood has experienced its share of violent crime. Albert Alexander, 19, was shot to death in the middle of the afternoon on Lincoln Village Way last May, and 43-year-old Dion Zigler was killed outside a nearby liquor store the following month.

For a couple hours on Saturday afternoon, teens from Cordova High School, city volunteers and members of a faith-based nonprofit called Sierra Service Project tugged on the Marquez fence and cut through metal posts with power tools.

“I love helping the community in any way,” said Terrill Johnson, a 17-year-old Cordova student. “I want to help to give back to the people in the community who have helped me be who I am today.”