I realized I’d become too fixated on this Moreton Bay Fig Tree/Plumb Crazy issue when someone walked by me in Ralphs the other day and said, “Hey Buddy, your tree just fell over!” I also realized my anger over this was taking a personal toll when, for the first time in probably 30 years, I flipped off someone in public who was annoying me. So with that in mind, I promise (sort off) to take a last couple jabs at this tree issue, and get back to writing about the history of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course.
A few more revelations have come to light about this whole Plumb Crazy development, so named for a former plumbing business that occupied the site, but befitting this three-story office building proposed for a stretch of Foothill whose dominant architectural features are “Office for Lease” signs. Who funds projects like this anyway, that have no proposed tenants, and little prospects of getting any? The office building next door, the historic (circa 1915) Executive Realty Building (the property on which this heritage tree is actually growing) has just been foreclosed on. What can this developer be thinking?
CV Town Council President Cheryl Davis and Councilman Frank Beyt used their own personal funds to hire an arborist to give them an assessment of this giant tree’s chances of surviving having a third of its roots cut for the office building’s underground parking. What he told them was grim.
The Moreton Bay Fig Tree is a rainforest tree and features a shallow root system that is sensitive to surface disturbance. Years of drought and a lowering water table have stressed this tree, and many others in the valley. It needs care, not root cutting. The arborist wouldn’t say it, but I will: This tree will die.
The owner of the Plumb Crazy property, a Mr. Voskanian, is no stranger to controversial developments in CV. He is well known for his bland office building at Rosemont and Foothill, and in 2008 his failed condo development on Glenada in Montrose. The stark Rosemont and Foothill office building, which killed a charming old two-story red barn-style retail structure, stands as sad contrast to beautiful St. Luke’s across the intersection. The Glenada project was a condo development on the site of the so-called oldest house in Montrose. When it appeared he would be stymied in his development plans, he demolished the historic structure and walked away, leaving a trash-strewn empty lot. As the CV Town Council dithers and worries about Mr. Voskanian’s property rights, he will, with the death of this beautiful tree, have destroyed his third CV landmark, a triple-crown. I guess we’ll need to work up some kind of trophy.
So why am I so obsessed with issues like this? The answer lies in an interaction I had with a Glendale Parks guy I was dealing with last week. I had him follow me from Deukmejian Park down through Honolulu in Montrose to talk about an upcoming outdoor movie event to be held there. When we got out of our cars he said to me: “Wow, it’s like a different world up here! I live in South Glendale and deal mostly with the parks there. Everything’s too crowded and we have lots of problems.”
South Glendale is an area where development was uncontrolled in years past. It is a different world up here. We like it, and we’ll fight like hell to keep it that way.
Correction to last week’s column: I stated that Altadena gets a full listing of upcoming projects. Not the case, it turns out. They get their info on many upcoming projects by keeping their eyes open, something our Council could do more of. Sunland/Tujunga however does get a full listing of all building permits via a database. When CV Town Council Prez Cheryl Davis heard that, she searched for and has found, buried deep in the bowels of the County’s website, a similar database for our area, showing all upcoming projects. I hope we can use this info to avoid train wrecks like this development in the future!
Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the
Crescenta Valley. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.