Jewish Journal


September 21, 2011

How does a large cross hurt property values?


One thing I remember from most of the stories I wrote at the LA Daily News about community disputes was that they often came down to property values. Or at least they were framed in terms of concern over property values.

Maybe the most vivid was the role that property values supposedly played in the Conejo Valley eruv fight. I wrote:

“Is it me or am I the only one that finds this strange?’’ Carlos Bernal of Oak Park wrote in an e-mail to local officials. ``Why don’t we install a crucifix at every stoplight? Or the picture of Muhammad at every pedestrian crossing?

“I’m not a religious guy and certainly don’t have anything against the Jewish faith ... but this rubs me the wrong way.’‘

Jews were equally critical of the glistening wires that zigzagged across residential streets—a threat to property values and unsuspecting birds.

“It is not some biblical thing that says, ‘Hang some fishing line.’ It’s an arbitrary man-made work-a-round,’’ said Susan Flores, a Reform Jew who, like most, does not keep Sabbath.

“While you are making stuff up, why don’t you make up something that is a little less obtrusive.’‘

So less than a month after the Conejo Eruv was erected in Agoura Hills, Oak Park and Westlake Village, its supporters tore down the Oak Park section.

With that in mind, check out this story from my old colleague Connie Llanos. It’s about Laly Dobenar, who erected a 24-foot cross on her lawn in the western San Fernando Valley:

the monument has infuriated some of the neighbors, who complain the symbol is an eyesore that is attracting lookie-loos to their quiet cul-de-sac and hurting their property values.

While residents have complained to city officials and the Department of Building and Safety in an effort to get the cross removed, Dobener said she hopes her religious freedom will be protected.

“I don’t understand what my neighbors are so upset about,” Dobener said in an interview. “This cross isn’t hurting anyone.

“It is my way of expressing my love to God and to the world ... to bring God’s love to everyone.”

Dobener’s neighbors on Hyannis Drive, however, are not feeling the love.

“When you turn down our cul-de-sac it looks like there is a church on our street,” said neighbor Laurie Biener.

“It’s bad enough how property values are these days. Then you have something like this affecting them even more ... It’s like she’s making a statement for the whole neighborhood, and that is just not right.”

How will this effect property values? Dobener parked a cross, not a car, on her lawn. Connie quotes an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty stating that religious discrimination often hides behind the land-use context.

I definitely saw that when I reported on opposition in Apple Valley to a Hindu temple. But you don’t hear a lot about discrimination directed at Christians. Seems like there may be some other community dynamics going on here.

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