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Wednesday, Jul 03 2013 07:00 PM

Residents hire attorney to hasten removal of Amberton-Stockdale Estates wall

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Raymond Russell tip-toes to take a look over the wall that now blocks easy access from the Amberton neighborhood, where he and his family live, to Stockdale Estates.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

A group of residents who live in the adjoining Amberton and Stockdale Estates neighborhoods have hired an attorney in their continuing quest to demolish a wall put up by a homeowner June 14, dividing the areas.

Following a second meeting with the Amberton-Stockdale Alliance Tuesday, Bakersfield attorney Barry Goldner said he has agreed to work on a "pro bono" basis -- i.e., not charging for his services -- representing the members, whose Facebook page has received more than 180 "Likes" since its creation June 16.

For more than 30 years, the two subdivisions were joined by a pedestrian walkway that connected the north end of Outingdale Court in Amberton to the south end of Calle Privada in Stockdale Estates. A generation of elementary school-age children in Amberton used it to walk to Stockdale Elementary in the north, while their older counterparts in Stockdale Estates used it to commute to Actis Junior High in the south.

Today, walkers, joggers, bicyclists and students must travel out onto Ming Avenue or Ashe Road to reach either housing tract.

Recorded in city documents as a public property on the Amberton side, the north half of the walkway in Stockdale Estates nevertheless remained the private property of homeowner Michael Hansen. Hansen, who lives in the 7300 block of Calle Privada, had his half of the walkway torn out and a cinder block wall put up after experiencing three home burglaries, at least one theft, and nearly hitting a motorcyclist who rode his motorcycle into the Estates on the walkway.

Goldner said Wednesday that his first step likely will be sending a demand letter to Hansen next week.

"It really appears that there's been, in essence, a public dedication of that property. And one of the things that I also found out in the course of investigation is that people had been using that passage for several years before there was even a home on Mr. Hansen's side. I think that passageway was probably used for about 10 years before a home was built," Goldner said. "Hopefully next week we'll be able to communicate with Mr. Hansen and see if there's any interest in resolving this."

Hansen did not respond to requests for comment from The Californian.

Amberton resident Bryan Bell, who moderates the Alliance's Facebook page, said that while the wall now divides two neighborhoods that have never been segregated before, doing research for a potential court case is actually bringing neighbors closer.

"I'm getting quite the lesson in civics. I had never -- I actually now can name people, and I could go house to house, 'Oh, that's the Farnsworths and they moved in here in 1978,' all that stuff," Bell said, chuckling at the thought of knowing so many of his neighbors in the two regions. "I found eight families that grew up in our neighborhood and actually bought a house several doors down from where their parents lived. It's actually a testament to its durability."

Lisa Farnsworth, an 18-year Amberton resident with her husband, John, and family, said canvassing the two neighborhoods to circulate questionnaires has connected her to nearby residents in some surprising ways.

"Kids that my children went to school with, that's been really fun," Farnsworth said. "John Dover, I've figured out, his son used to pretend that his bicycle had broken down in our cul-de-sac because he had a crush on our daughter."

"My kids, I can't tell you how much they used that," said Dover, an Amberton resident who called police June 13 in an effort to stop the walkway's removal on the Stockdale Estates side -- and staged a sit-in on the walkway, temporarily halting its removal. "There's been a lot of bantering about cycling, sightseeing, walking dogs, whatever. The main thing is, the kids do not belong traveling to school down Ming Avenue. If a kid was to get hurt in the next year, if I haven't done everything I can to get that wall down, I would just feel remorse."

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