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Cooking Foothill Boulevard — Well-done or “median-rare”? by Mike Lawler

Posted by on May 23rd, 2010 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

CV residents once again find themselves at a difficult crossroads in crafting the future of our valley. The completion of a list of recommendations for a new community plan for the Glendale portion of CV was recently published on the city’s website. The recommendations were well put together by a committee of business owners, property owners, local residents and community activists. When it came to the subject of Foothill Boulevard, the committee’s recommendations included the predictable assortment of street trees, landscaping and bike lanes, but pulled in the reins when the subject of landscaped medians came up. Medians of course are the treed, raised-curb islands that one finds in the middle of Foothill Boulevard  in La Cañada. The committee recommended against medians for a variety of reasons.
Man, did that open up some old wounds, as seen by a letter to the editor in last week’s paper! I predict we’ll be seeing some more on this, as this is a long-running blood feud dating back 15 years.
Here’s my usual history lesson: In the mid-90s, Glendale applied for and received a grant from Caltrans to build a landscaped median on Foothill Boulevard from Lowell to Pennsylvania. “Not so fast!” said a group of business owners. “What about left turns into our driveways?” The city cut a few turn bays into the proposed median, but the issue had already turned into a no-compromise street brawl (pun intended). The City, faced with angry residents favoring a median and angry businesses wanting no median at all, finally threw up its hands in disgust and handed the money back to Caltrans.
Obviously since then the money for any such project has dried up, but sharp-eyed locals have noted the “no median” wording of the community plan committee’s recommendation and are crying foul. Even though in this economy the median issue is a moot point, some residents, still smarting from the median’s defeat 15 years ago don’t want the wording of the committee’s recommendation to rule out medians when the economy improves, and are making noise about it. The business owners are more than willing to take up the fight again, and have already fired a few warning shots.
So what’s your view on the future of Foothill? Do you see it as a transportation corridor, whose function is to move cars as quickly as possible? Or do you see it as a potential shopping area and community center, such as Montrose? Do you look with longing at La Cañada’s medians that have shade trees and roses saying why can’t CV look that good? Or do you see Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada as a traffic choke-point?
I’ll not offer a solution to the median fight, but I will offer my opinion on the future of Foothill, if only to stir up further dialog.
I’m a “stop and smell the roses” guy, and for me the journey is as important as the destination. Every day on my commute home from work, I jump off the freeway well ahead of my offramp, just so I can drive through the Montrose Shopping Park, specifically to enjoy the park-like atmosphere.
I think Foothill Boulevard is currently unattractive and is lacking in the aesthetics that can make it an effective community center. I think branding it a “transportation corridor” dooms it to more of the current hodge-podge of auto repair places and mini-malls it currently suffers from. I’d like to move the boulevard towards a more attractive look, be it medians or just better landscaping.
If you live in the unincorporated section of CV, you’ve got a dog in this fight too! Glendale and L.A. county are somewhat allied on the future of Foothill, and if the Glendale section received medians, it probably wouldn’t be long before Foothill from Pennsylvania to Briggs got them, too.
Remember, this is your town and your boulevard and you decide its future. Got an opinion on Foothill? Now’s the time to let Glendale know! Shoot an email to City Planner Laura Stotler at Lstotler@ci.glendale.ca.us.

Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley. Reach him at lawlerdad@yahoo.com

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