HAYWARD - Do good gates make good neighborhoods?

Some residents of the leafy Hayward hills community of Woodland Knolls think so, and are trying to build a private security gate that would block off their cluster of homes from non-residents.

Others who live in or near Woodland Knolls are fighting against the project, arguing it will be divisive, make residents seem elitist and create a perception that the area is unsafe.

``If this gate goes through it's going to be precedent-setting,'' said gate opponent Bud Eckert, who lives on Oakes Drive, just outside the entrance to Woodland Knolls. ``Do we want our city to become a community where all kinds of areas are gated off from each other?''

On Thursday night, the Hayward Planning Commission will be asked to weigh in on the months-long neighborhood dispute that has, at times, turned nasty.

In September, Eckert posted cardboard signs on the fence outside his house that said ``Stop the Gate'' and ``Stop Elitism.''

Later, someone responded by placing a 16-foot sign on Eckert's property that said, ``I'm a Nazi lover.''

Eckert, a retired educator and ex-Marine, said he was bewildered by the content of the message, which led to a police investigation that was never solved.

v The gate proposal has already won majority approval from the Woodland Knolls Homeowners Association, which is comprised of 17 households that would each have to pay about $5,300 for the construction of a gate and intercom system. Twelve voted in the gate's favor in May and five were opposed.

Michelle Louie, whose family has lived on a secluded 1.7-acre lot on Durham Way since 1977, said her home was burglarized in 2006 and her car has been broken into. She said the dead-end street's magnificent hillside views also attract ``unwanted traffic'' at night.

In letters to city officials, proponents of the gate cite an increase in home burglaries, vehicle vandalism, illegal late-night parking, illegal dumping and the pilfering of mail boxes as reasons to build the gate.

``We've been waiting for it for over 20 years,'' Louie said of the gate. ``Our homes are far apart. ... We don't really have neighbors who can look into our homes for us.''

But resident Gay Osterello, who has also lived at Woodland Knolls since the mid-1970s, believes crime concerns are overstated and wouldn't be fixed by a gate anyway. She said anyone who really wanted to get into the community could still travel on the wooded greenbelt trails that surround it.

``If I wanted a gated community, I would have bought in a gated community,'' Osterello said. ``I think it's really divisive in the community. It cuts it off from neighbors and friends. It makes it a little enclave.''

Osterello is one of the five Woodland Knolls homeowners opposing the gate. But the heaviest opposition has come from residents on nearby Oakes Drive in the Woodland Estates neighborhood.

City officials have intervened in the debate, and the latest proposal for the gate's operations would leave it open in the day, offering unrestricted vehicle access, and closed from late evening through the early morning hours.

A separate, non-gated entrance would provide access to the Ward Creek trail for pedestrians, bicyclists are horses.

The Hayward Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the gate proposal at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Hayward City Hall, Council Chambers, 777 B St.

Matt O'Brien can be reached at 510-293-2473 or mattobrien@bayareanewsgroup.com.