“City of La Crescenta” Voted Down in 1964
La Crescenta had talked about becoming its own city from its very inception in the late 1800s, but had never seriously given it a shot. In 1951 that issue was clouded when half the valley, including the business district of Montrose, annexed itself to Glendale to take advantage of organized city services like municipal water and sewers.
This split in the valley left the portion of La Crescenta not part of Glendale (east of Pennsylvania and north of Honolulu) in county hands. Any decisions about the growth and development of unincorporated La Crescenta-Montrose and allocations of fire and police would be decided in downtown L.A. Development of schools for La Crescenta would be decided in downtown Glendale. This made some self-determined citizens of La Crescenta uncomfortable. They felt that our future should be in our own hands. They also worried that future annexation by Glendale was inevitable, which would only shift control of La Crescenta from one distant government body to another. They felt strongly that La Crescenta should be its own city, and in 1963 they formed the “La Crescenta Incorporation Committee.”
But it was tough to sell an intangible vision for the future, particularly when things seemed just fine in the present. Skeptics abounded, and it wasn’t long before an anti-cityhood group formed claiming that increased bureaucracy and higher fees for services would come with cityhood. They felt there wasn’t enough tax base in La Crescenta to support a city. Adding urgency to the issue, there was a clock ticking, as state-level rules for incorporation were being tightened in the early ‘60s, and it was expected that this would be the last chance for La Crescenta to form its own city.
The pro-cityhood faction had to collect signatures from 25% of the property owners (about 1,500 signatures), which they were able to do, ensuring an election. As well, a score of candidates stepped forward to run for five spots on a city council (if the election was successful). A few of the names you might recognize – Tom Dunigan, Norm Avril and Vito Cannella.
As the election on May 7, 1964 drew near, both sides in the fight became more strident, but the main arguments boiled down to local control versus the threat of higher taxes.
Sadly, CV residents as a whole were more interested in their daily lives than who their local government was to be. A town hall meeting bringing together the city council candidates and outside experts on the realities of incorporation attracted only 150 residents out of the 19,000 living in the affected area. Three of the council candidates didn’t even show up.
When the election came, the status quo won out. The final vote was 813 for cityhood and 4,149 against. A dream of cityhood for La Crescenta that had started with Dr. Briggs in the late 1800s, and had popped up several times in the ensuing decades, was now essentially dead. Interestingly, La Cañada went through a cityhood bid at exactly the same time – 1964. They too turned down cityhood, although not by as large a margin. La Cañada-Flintridge, with their more robust tax base and affluent population, was able to revisit the issue and achieve cityhood in 1976.
We’ve been more fortunate than some other communities that remained unincorporated. We have a good working relationship with our county Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who lives in the area and cares deeply about the Crescenta Valley. We’ve achieved some local governance with the formation of the Crescenta Valley Town Council in 1989. We have continued to have a relatively small-town atmosphere. But on the downside, our area has been a target by some developers, not always scrupulous, that are attracted by the county’s less stringent zoning and lax oversight of development.
After cityhood’s loss in ’64, some predicted we’d soon be gobbled up by Glendale. It didn’t happen. However, those in the know about civic issues feel that in the future, unincorporated areas like CV will inevitably be absorbed by larger cities, and in our case, it will probably be Glendale.