Walls, Fences, and Eyes-on-the-Street

Albuquerque’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) fosters healthy streetscapes. Streetscape describes the relationship between houses and the public way; what we see as we walk, bike, or drive through a neighborhood.

When Nob Hill was built in the early 20th century architectural designers believed that houses should communicate well with the street. Looking out of our homes we can see nearby houses, neighbors, and passersby. This called eyes-on-the-street, a key component of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

The IDO allows walls up to 6 ft. high on a lot beside and behind a residence after obtaining a WALL PERMIT-MINOR.

In the lot area forward of the house, the front yard, the IDO allows a wall or fence 3 ft. high or less after obtaining a WALL PERMIT-MINOR. 

A wall or fence higher than 3 ft. in the front yard of a residential lot requires a VARIANCE which is considered by the Zoning Hearing Examiner in a public hearing. If the examiner issues a permit the wall must still meet standards with respect to materials and must preserve eyes-on-the-street. Such a VARIANCE is not available in several areas of the city, one of which is Monte Vista and College View Historic District.

Because they diminish streetscape, historic character, and eyes-on-the-street, your Nob Hill Neighborhood Association discourages fences or walls higher than 3 ft. in the front yard. Information about permits can be obtained from a reliable architect or landscape architect or from CABQ Zoning Enforcement at 924-3838. They office on the ground floor at the Planning Department, 600 Second Street NW.

A Nob Hill house from the public way; well-preserved scale, massing, materials, and details contribute to historic streetscape and eyes-on-the-street.

House near Nob Hill from the public way; 6 ft. high wall in the front setback diminishes historic streetscape and eyes-on-the-street

Excerpts of the IDO related to walls and fences in front setbacks of residential neighborhoods

Subsection 5-7: Walls and Fences…..5-7(A)….this section regulates walls, fences…collectively referred to as “walls” in order to enhance the visual appearance of development in the city; establish a consistent attractive streetscape…..and promote neighborhood character. 

5-7(B) A wall shall be erected only after obtaining a permit, pursuant to the provision in Subsection 6-5(J) (WALL OR FENCE PERMIT-MINOR)……max 3 ft. in front yard


6-6(N) (WALL PERMIT-MAJOR, Variance – ZHE) 

5-7(C)(2) Walls may not encroach onto any public right-of-way without the prior written approval from the City Engineer… 

5-7(D)(1)……walls shall comply with the height standards in Table 5-7-1 Maximum Wall Height….Wall in the front yard or street side yard, Residential, 3 ft.…..Footnote [1] A Variance-ZHE for a wall greater than 3 ft. in height on a lot with low-density residential development may be approved pursuant to the criteria in 6-6(N)(3)(c) if it meets the standards in Table 5-7-2. 

5-7(D)(3)(e) Walls greater than 3 ft. in height are not allowed in any front or street side yard on lots…in the following mapped areas. No variance to this provision is allowed in these areas.

  1. Monte Vista and College View Historic District 

Subsection 6-5(J)…The (Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO)  shall…make a decision on the Wall or Fence Permit-Minor 

Subsection 6-6: Decisions Requiring a Public Meeting or Hearing 

6-6(N)(3)(c) WALL PERMIT-MAJOR; Variance for a Taller Front or Side Yard Wall…..An application for a Variance for a wall in the front or street side yard of a lot in a Residential zone district…shall be approved if it meets all the following criteria:

  1. The proposed wall would strengthen or reinforce the architectural character of the surrounding area.
  2. The proposed wall would not be injurious to adjacent properties, the surrounding neighborhood, or the larger community.
  3. The wall is proposed on a lot that meets any of the following criteria:
    1. The lot is a least ½ acre
    2. The lot fronts a street designated as a collector or above in the LRTS Guide.
    3. At least 20% of the properties within 330 ft. of the lot where the wall or fence is being requested have a wall or fence over 3 ft. in the front yard.
  4. The design of the wall complies with any applicable standards in section 5-7 (walls and fences)…..and all of the following:
    1. The wall or fence shall not block the view of any portion of any window on the front façade of the primary building when viewed from 5 ft. above the ground level at the centerline of the street in front of the house.
    2. The design and materials proposed for the wall or fence shall reflect the architectural character of the surrounding area.

Comments are closed.