Barring bars: city may limit nonresidential security barriers

The city's Planning Commission has approved a zoning code change to prohibit security barriers -- such as window bars or metal curtains -- on the street sides of non-residential buildings.

According to a Feb. 23 city memo, the barriers "cause visual blight and give the impression that an area is unsafe."

The city does not currently regulate security barriers on building exteriors. City Councilmember Barbara Johnson (4th Ward) proposed the change.

The ordinance initially prohibited street-side barriers on all buildings. The Planning Commission amended it, limiting it to non-residential buildings.

But what about business owners who complain such a prohibition favors style over the substance of crime-prevention?

Jason Wittenberg, the city planner who drafted the language, said the Police Department reviewed the proposal and said property owners with legitimate security needs could address them with internal security barriers.

The Planning Commission has representatives from the City Council, independent boards and citizens at large. The new ordinance needs City Council approval.