Oak Park, CA — Fishing line recently installed above streets in Agoura Hills, Oak Park and part of Westlake Village is intended to enhance the Sabbath for local Orthodox Jews.
But some other residents are unhappy with the nylon filament that crisscrosses about three square miles of the community.
During the Sabbath, from sundown Friday night to sunset Saturday, Orthodox law forbids Jews to carry anything outside the confines of their homes. The clear filament, fastened at telephone-line height to light poles and fences and attached to hillsides, forms a symbolically enclosed area known in Hebrew as an “eruv.”
Inside the perimeter during the Sabbath, observant Jews cannot drive cars, but instead must walk and push strollers or wheelchairs while going from place to place, according to Tom Block, a Chabad member and eruv organizer.
“It’s a huge blessing for Jews,” Block said. “It’s a nice thing for the community to have and will make our property values go up.”
Others, like Tom Hughes, president of the Morrison Estate Owners Association in Oak Park’s Sutton Valley, oppose the high wire. Hughes said he thinks the lines are a hazard. He recently noticed one had snapped and was hanging across the sidewalk and into the street at Lindero Canyon and Kanan roads. He stopped his car to pull the line off the street and tie it to a bush.
“If these lines go down in the road and somebody is injured–a motorcyclist or bicyclist–they can sue us (the homeowners’ association),” Hughes said. “These lines are a major hazard.”
He also called them tacky, pointing out one line that zigzagged across Lindero Canyon Road.
Three red-tailed hawks in the area were said to be dead or injured after flying into the wire.
“They had broken wings, which is consistent with flying into wires,” said Linda Parks, the Ventura County supervisor who oversees Oak Park.
Block said the eruv will be rerouted in areas where neighbors are upset.
“We will figure out a route that is less obtrusive,” Block said. “We want to be good neighbors.”
Eruv organizers spent three years raising funds to pay more than $30,000 for the project. They obtained permission for the installation from Southern California Edison Co. and the cities of Agoura Hills and Westlake Village. An outside contractor handled placement of the lines.
For Oak Park, an unincorporated area of Ventura County, a permit was issued by the county transportation department without public review, according to Parks.
Oak Park residents said they didn’t know about the eruv until it was already in place.
Parks also said she wasn’t aware of the eruv until she began receiving calls from concerned residents. She plans to address the issue at the Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council meeting at 7 p.m. Tues., Jan. 23 in room G-9 at Oak Park High School.
Southern California Edison reportedly gave its permission for the lines to be attached to light poles in Agoura Hills, but not in Oak Park, Parks said.
“Hopefully, there are some options available so that we can work this out,” she said.
In some areas, pole extensions were installed to keep the wire up.
Although Agoura Hills gave permission for the eruv to be installed, at least three violations of the rules for attachment have been reported since the lines were put up, according to city engineer Ken Berkman.
The installer was contacted to rectify the problems and at least one line already has been removed.
Eruvs have been installed in areas of Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Long Beach and Hollywood. One was recently approved for Venice.
In the Conejo Valley, there are about 200 active members of Chabad’s two locations on Canwood Street in Agoura Hills and Conifer Street in Oak Park, but hundreds more come sporadically, said Rabbi Moshe Bryski, Chabad executive director. A committee is forming to create an eruv for Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks, Bryski said.
“We love our area and want people to be happy,” Block said. “We will figure out an alternative route.”
Fishing line strung between street lights, forming a religious boundary called an eruv, is being removed in Oak Park after residents raised concerns about its appearance, safety and lack of permission to put it up.
No problems have been reported with the eruv in neighboring Agoura Hills and Westlake Village, officials said.
“We’re going to fix it and make it so it looks good in the area,” said Tom Block, a volunteer overseeing the eruv project. “I’m open to discussion and talking to neighbors who have complaints or concerns.”
An eruv creates an area in which observant Jewish families can carry items during the Sabbath, which runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Boundaries are also marked by mountains, buildings and other existing structures.
Eruvs have been established in other cities, including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
Oak Park residents voiced various concerns to local officials about the eruv and said it needed to come down.
Tom Hughes, president of the Morrison Estate Homeowners Association, said the eruv along Jacobs Court near Lindero Canyon Road runs in front of houses and does not look good.
“It’s blight to the community,” Hughes said.
In addition, he said, the eruv is a safety issue. The Homeowners Association would be liable if anyone got hurt because of the monofilament line, he said.
Because of the liability issue, Hughes informed Block that the Homeowners Association would remove the eruv along Jacobs Court if steps were not taken quickly to remove it.
“We feel that they’re not being good neighbors and are installing wires without proper permits,” Hughes added.
Block said he has been working on the eruv for three years, raising money and receiving permits. When he started construction, he thought he had the proper permits but realized later that he did not.
Officials from Southern California Edison Co., which owns the light poles used for the eruv, said they granted permission only for the eruv to be constructed in Agoura Hills.
Block said he misinterpreted Edison’s permit and thought he had permission for Oak Park.
Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks said the eruv received a permit from the county that was contingent on Edison’s approval. She said the county will revoke the permit, and Block will have to reapply for one.
An eruv was approved by the Westlake Village City Council in August, and Block has not had problems installing it.
Westlake Village City Engineer John Knipe said he has not received any calls or complaints from residents about portions of the eruv in his city. The eruv follows the guidelines of the permit issued by the City Council.
Agoura Hills Assistant City Manager Nathan Hamburger said he has received a couple of complaints from residents of Oak Park about the eruv, but none from Agoura Hills residents.
Once the eruv is removed from residential areas in Oak Park, Block plans to redesign the eruv and go back to the county and local government for proper permits.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to get proper approvals,” said Block.
He added that he also misunderstood the contractor’s description of where the eruv would appear and how it would be constructed in residential areas.
He agreed with residents and said, “Up near Jacobs Court it doesn’t look pretty.”
Block said he gave instructions to the contractor to remove the eruv as soon as possible in all of Oak Park, which includes Jacobs Court and surrounding streets, Lindero Canyon Road to the county line as well as Doubletree Road.
“We’re looking into other areas so that it is not running through neighborhoods,” said Block. “We will make a better plan in the future that is more satisfactory to the Oak Park MAC (Municipal Advisory Council) and residents.”
Even if Block receives all the proper permits, some residents think the eruv needs an environmental review.
“Anything affecting wildlife has to be taken into consideration,” said Peggy Abate, who lives near the eruv on Doubletree Road.
She said the eruv has already had negative effects on wildlife. She found a red-shouldered hawk earlier this month that appeared to have injuries from the fishing line, she said.
She said the hawk’s wing was broken and the bird had to be euthanized at the Calabasas-based California Wildlife Center. She said she has heard of two other hawks that were injured.
A reporter’s phone calls to the California Wildlife Center seeking comment were not returned.
Block said he has not heard of any eruvs that have caused injuries of that nature, and he said birds tend to stay away from fishing line.
The entire eruv encompasses Oak Park, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village. The eruv on Lindero Canyon Road in Westlake Village and portions of Kanan Road in Agoura Hills will remain in place.
Block said 60 percent to 70 percent of the entire eruv will be marked by existing walls and structures, and the rest will be filled in with fishing line. Block said he hopes this eruv will serve all of the Conejo Valley.
Once the eruv is fully constructed, Block said, it will be checked weekly for broken lines and other problems. Residents plan to discuss the Oak Park eruv during the next Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council meeting, which will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Room G-9 at Oak Park High School, 899 N. Kanan Road.