When visitors approach the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, they are greeted not by a fertile example of the famed horticulturist's handiwork.
Rather, what welcomes them is a 740-foot long monument to rot.
The historic home's white wooden picket fence, more than 60 years old, is in sad shape. Its paint is peeling. The rails are sagging. The pickets are stained, and their tops in many places are missing entirely.
The nonprofit that runs the property for the city has taken to putting up signs apologizing for the state of the embarrassing boundary. "Please forgive our falling apart fence," they read.
"It's just dismaying," said Dee Blackman, who sits on the board of the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens Association. "It looks snaggletoothed in one section and positively awful along Charles Street."
The nonprofit group runs the property, but the city is responsible for its upkeep.
Now, after years of fundraising, the association this week presented the City Council with a check for $51,000 to fund replacement of the fence. The city will kick in the remaining $59,000, for a total replacement cost of $110,280.
Work is expected to get underway this summer. A Riverside-based contractor, FenceCorp Inc., won the bidding for the contract, beating out two local fence companies.
The work is so expensive because the fence has to be built to the same design as the existing one, which is believed to have been installed in the 1950s, Blackman said. The existing fence is itself a replica of the one that surrounded the home when Burbank lived and worked there from 1884 to 1906.
"This is not something you can buy off the shelf," said Nanette Smejkal, the city's director of recreation and parks. "We want it to look exactly like what's there, except not falling apart."
The 4-foot high fence is anchored by 6-inch-square posts painted white except for the pyramid-shaped caps, which are black. The two-by-two pickets, also pyramid shaped at the top, are white and evenly spaced along two-by-four rails. The whole affair, which runs from Tupper Street, along Santa Rosa Avenue, and down Charles Street, sits atop a short concrete wall.