Where Gate Installation Projects Succeed and Fail 

We receive thousands of calls a year looking for gate installations, which often result in roughly one out of three being installed.  The reasons for this are simple, many cities have tightened up and expanded their requirements for installing gates.  The net result of this tightening of rules has been the disqualification of gate site locations or altering of plan designs which provide less protection than the property owner was original seeking.  Some communities such as the City of San Jose, have viewed gates as closing in neighborhoods and restricting community flow. However residents counter the open city approach because they experience transient theft and damage by people moving unrestricted through community property.  One project that was reviewed, was an ideal candidate for vehicle access and pedestrian control because the community was accessed only through a single vehicle and pedestrian location and there was no outlet to other communities in the vicinity.  Essentially, the community was self-contained and not open to other communities when built. The San Jose planning office ultimately denied the project, even with a case if increased theft and violence from outside actors.   Some of these actions taken by cities for communities trying to restrict public access has resulted in communities responding with legal action, especially in light of reduced spending for police resources.  Some projects which were initially denied permits have seen reversal in court especially with mitigating circumstances clearly outlined with examples and case studies.  One community in San Jose went head to head with city leaders with a lawsuit to allow gate installation previously denied through city planning and became frustrated enough that they simply installed the gates outside of permitting setting up a legal battle they bet would end up favorably for the community. Since many developments, both residential and commercial, are approved to either include or exclude gates, it is imperative that the city is clear on the critical safety and property protection needs being sought for the project.  Simple vanity projects designed to change the status of a community to “gated community” for added safety, prestige or property value improvement without specific documented examples, are going to meet with significantly more scrutiny and are going to be harder to defend reasoning. 

Things to consider prior to gating a community or single property.

Was the original site development restricted from gate installation?

Often times when projects are approved, they were required to either go through environmental and/or planning department review which considered traffic flow, pedestrian movement and emergency responder access.  With that review, covenants are made between the city, neighbors, agencies and developers to insure the project does not create undue negative influence on the surrounding community and allows unencumbered access by emergency response providers.  Many communities are designed around NOT having a gate and do not have the appropriate entry layout to effectively manage vehicle entry or pedestrian gates necessitating a complete entry redesign.  In some cases where there is a long driveway leading up to a specified gate area, cities may look more favorably due to diminished opportunity for traffic back-up at the gate area.  Additionally, some areas where development occurs or happened prior to updated regional land use sanctions, there are additional requirements that designed specifically to protect land access such as beaches, parkland or open spaces.  The covenants for the these communities abutting properties with specialized access or building requirements are very specific about how access is handled and these covenants are very hard and costly to fight. 

What else is happening the area?

Is your property in an area where other gates or traffic control exists?   Approval for gates tends to be higher in communities which have a fair application of gates already.  Neighbors tend to not be as concerned by the gating of your property when their own has gates, but it still happens, especially where there is a perception that adding a gate will negatively impact traffic.    While these areas typically have a higher approval rating it is important to note that new laws, legal actions or changing neighborhood attitudes might create objection to new gates, so it might be helpful to connect with neighbors to gauge attitudes prior to making permitting investments that might lead to permit denial. 


Some areas don’t lend themselves well to gates because of actively moving ground or obtrusive landscaping or other objects that don’t allow full gate openings.   In situations where ground movement is active, significant underground work and balancing must be accomplished in an attempt to limit gate movement to maintain gate safety and operation.  A reputable gate company will not install a gate on clearly moving property. Neither will a good gate installer attempt a gate project on roads cut into hills because of ground movement unless it is absolutely clear that ground movement with not impact a gates operation or design over time. Another factor that impacts gate installation success is where previously ungated properties simply don’t have enough entrance clearance from the street to get approved.  Typically, but not always, cities want about 25 feet from the street (about two cars length) for “stacking room” to allow vehicles to be off the street while waiting for gate opening clearance.  Most projects without proper stacking room will not be approved without project or site alterations. 


The cost of steel, equipment, insurance, transportation, materials and labor continues to climb, making installing gates expensive as in many areas of construction.   Companies who have a sustained reputation of installing gates which maintain a long performance, typically don’t cut costs on steel quality, equipment or training of installation or service labor.  Contrary to popular belief, it is hard to get good, talented labor for service and repair, putting pressure on gate companies to meet warranty and service objectives that deliver optimal satisfaction and seeing gate companies take a costly leading positioning in developing this talent.   In order to deliver a high level of satisfaction, gates must be installed using top materials, equipment and talent to insure optimal performance and minimal after installation support.  Clients surveyed overwhelming prefer a well-installed project with minimal service calls, over a cheaply installed gate requiring significant after sales support and repair.  Some projects, by the time permits and costs are considered are more than a budget allows making alternatives like cameras or roving guards look more cost effective.  When considering the need for gates in relation to the cost, the factor or security, peace of mind, theft and vandalism costs or liability costs must be considered to determine if:

1) Gates will help solve to problem or reduce the liability,


2) What are the “future factors” that might limit installing a gate later. 

When is the best time to install a gate for success?

The trend has been that cities and neighbors have become more vigilant of the permitting process and overall, obtaining permits has become harder over time.  If a gate is something that is being installed to solve what is a perceived as an increasing problem, the right time to attempt installation is now considering costs have continued to increase in construction as wages, insurance and material costs have increased.  Additionally, increased planning scrutiny put on traffic control and gates, so getting in front of future changes makes sense for cost and time reduction for a future project. 


Call A&D with your project, location and concerns and let our team help you determine what challenges or opportunities are in front of you in securing your property.  Providing clarity helps our clients determine what happens next with their eyes wide open. 




Greg Holsen