Treasures of the Valley
By Mike Lawler
This has been one of the most frustrating weeks I’ve experienced in years. The situation with the “surprise” three-story development on the vacant lot on Foothill across from Ralphs has been exasperating for me and for the community, and potentially life-threatening for the historic tree next door.
To recap, community leaders for many years have felt frustration with the lack of quality of development on Foothill Boulevard, and with the feeling that development was happening “to us” rather than “for us”. They spent several years crafting a carefully worded set of building standards, endorsed not just by community activists, but by business interests and local developers as well. The final product establishes a “Community Standard District (CSD)” along Foothill from Briggs to Pennsylvania that ensures that new building will take the community into consideration (use of local stone in building, or preventing architecture that looks like it dropped in from outer space, for instance). That CSD went into effect in October of last year.
Since then we’ve seen three developments that (surprise, surprise!) “slipped in” just before the new rules went into place: Zen Sushi across from Ralphs, the mini-mall at Sunset and Foothill, and this newest surprise, deemed the “Plumb Crazy” lot because of a former business by that name on the site (although the name fits this development just fine). In each of these cases, the developers have displayed a decidedly indifferent attitude when asked to have some consideration for the community. The County has echoed that indifference. In each of these cases, the County officials, knowing full well how much effort La Crescenta had just put into improving the look of Foothill, didn’t have the courtesy to even give us a heads up on these projects. We found out about them when the bulldozers showed up.
The Crescenta Valley Town Council has had its share of problems managing this onslaught of undisclosed development. I sat in on a meeting they had recently with officials from County Supervisor Antonovich’s office. The Town Council met with them to try to get a handle on these situations. The officials held out Altadena’s Town Council as an example to follow. Altadena holds monthly public meetings on local developments, keeping the community and the developers in touch with one another. Altadena asked for and got the County to alert them to any and all developments way ahead of time, so that no one gets blindsided. I know from my own experience that our neighbors to the west, the Sunland/Tujunga Neighborhood Council, enjoys the same advance notice consideration from Los Angeles, and that they too hold regular public meetings. Antonovich’s representatives further urged the CV Council to be the “eyes and ears for the community” regarding local development.
Despite these officials urging them to grow some eyes and ears, they have remained frustratingly blind and deaf. They’ve done an admirable job on other community issues such as traffic, senior issues, dog parks, and scholarships. But when faced with gross mansionization (Panorama and Briggs), bright green houses (that one actually made the L.A. Times last week!), or surprise developments that threaten our historical landmarks, they perform a beautifully choreographed song-and-dance routine featuring synchronized shoulder shrugging, and a blended chorus of “There’s nothing we can do.”
Well here’s what the Town Council CAN do: First, write a letter of protest. Next, ask the County to do what they do for Altadena and give us advance notice of all pending development. And hold regular public meetings to discuss those developments, like every other community around us does.
But what can you readers do? Let the Town Council know your feelings. They have a website (thecvcouncil.com) and a quick email is a click away. They have a mailing address for letters as well. And go to their meetings. There’s one tonight (Thursday) at 7:00 at the La Crescenta Library.
It saddens me to be this critical of the Town Council, as I consider many of them personal friends. But it saddens me more to think that outside developers are calling the shots for the future of our town.
Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the
Crescenta Valley. Reach him at email@example.com.