The block walls of HB…a retrospective.

In the 90’s I worked in new residential construction, turning South Orange County into an endless sea of 2 story tract houses with red tile roofs.

I used to joke with my co-workers about the fact that all of the builders seemed to use the same 3 or 4 sets of plans and would simply reverse the elevations and change a few exterior details.

In a nod to Bill Murrays movie “Groundhog Day, we¬†literally seemed to be building the same thing over and over.

One day, while I was poking fun at the recycled architecture, one of my co-workers asked me where I lived.

I proudly popped off that I was from HB….thinking that would shut him up.

He only laughed and said “Yeah…thats a great place to live if you dont mind endless miles of 60’s era ranch houses surrounded by Orco Tan or Orco Pink CMU …and overhead wires….

Construction speak…CMU stands for “Concrete Masonry Unit”. Shorthand for a concrete block.

He had me. He was right. HB is exactly what he described.. There was no retort.

So I began to fixate on it…as I drove thru town, I began to make mental notes on the block walls..and noted the evolution from the Old School Orco Pink and Tan, in a variety of patterns (the Orco plant up on Beach and Katella still cranks out the majority of local block) to the 70’s era slump and split face block used throughout town.

Certainly these layouts each had a name…what that was is relegated to history.

But the funniest thing that struck me was all the crazy ass modifications to these walls that occured over time.

HB maintained a 6 foot hieght restriction on these walls for decades. For all I know it still exists.

Walls 6 feet and under do not require a permit. Perhaps this was the driver….

At any rate, a six foot wall still allows tons of people to peer into your yard. So the crazy mods started. Few if any of them permitted. So the mods run the gamut from asthetically pleasing to downright awful.

The first mods took the form of green and white corrugated fiberglass panels. Cheap and easy, these things popped up everywhere. They were followed by attempts to boost the block hieght and the utilization of Vinyl extensions, that actually looked ok.

This is the first in a series about the awesome block walls of HB. The few pics i have to post reflect but 30 mins of gathering, close to home.

What i am looking for is your best shots of typical HB wall construction (patterns, colors, styles) , the insanely bad mods and the walls that have been detroyed with graffiti and painted with 5000 different colors…

See em and submit a pic to:

On a semi.regular basis, we will document and celebrate the walls that surround us…the walls that make us HB.




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