By Julie BUTCHER
After many months of study, dialog, debate and an extensive community survey, on Sept. 7 the Crescenta Valley Town Council’s Land Use Committee voted unanimously to recommend a change to the process of petitioning for a street-lighting district that would keep residential street lighting in La Crescenta-Montrose pretty much as it is. By increasing the percentage of property owners needed to approve a petition for a new lighting district from its current 60% to 75%, the committee believes it has reached a balanced compromise that reflects the desires of the majority of residents while allowing for the processing of new petitions.
Mike Claessens, committee and Town Council member, summarized the results of the survey and deliberations to date: “A majority would prefer no streetlights.”
“Most people enjoy living here the way it is,” noted LUC member James Bodnar during the deliberations. “‘Just right’ sounds good to most of us; the status quo is ‘just right.’” Increasing the signature threshold to 75% “is a reasonable compromise,” Bodnar added.
The committee heard detailed results of the survey from Carmen Sainz from LA County Regional Planning operations and queried Joaquin Herrera from the Dept. of Public Works before hearing public comments and debating the issue.
Local resident Alexandra Hopkins attended the meeting and offered her point of view.
“My husband and I take a walk every night, after dinner, around nine o’clock. There are no streetlights and no sidewalks. Of course, my husband wears his neon vest for safety, but there isn’t much traffic on Prospect at that time,” said Hopkins. “We love the rural feeling, the trees, the smells. At first we noticed the lack of streetlights and thought ‘Oh my! No lights!’ but then we got to really like it. I think the older residents appreciate the lack of streetlights. We feel completely safe as it is.
“I also help administer the local Nextdoor app online, and I believe this is the sentiment of most of the community.”
“I grew up in the dark here,” La Crescenta-Montrose community member Sue Kilpatrick said, “and I want to keep growing up in the dark.”
Another member of the public offered that he is “an amateur astronomer.”
“I love seeing the stars,” he said. “Too much light is bad for the wildlife. We are happy the way it is now.”
Enrique Gámez wrapped up the public comments. “We love it here. That’s why we moved here; that’s why we live here.”
Committee Co-Chair Cheryl Davis explained what happens next.
“There’s a report due back to the Board by Oct. 10. The draft report from Regional Planning and Public Works is due out by Sept. 15. Our recommendation will go to the Town Council for discussion at their meeting on Sept. 21 and their action would be included in the full report to the County Board of Supervisors.”
A moratorium was called on new lighting petitions in April 2016 when concerns were raised by community members after several petitions for new lighting districts were filed with the County. The Town Council instructed the Land Use Committee to fully engage with the community on the issue of residential street lighting and to seek all points of view. At a well-attended meeting in March 2017, academics and county authorities detailed lighting options and “dark-sky” alternatives. Additional data and information was shared at subsequent meetings. To gather further input, the Town Council asked the committee to work with the County to coordinate a comprehensive community survey, now complete. (The results of the survey are posted on the websites of the Town Council and LA County Regional Planning.)
Davis highlighted the bright spots of the proposed solution.
“This means that people can file petitions for new lights and only the lights that make sense to a strong majority of those affected will succeed,” she said. “By the same token, it would require the same super-majority to undo an existing lighting district. It’s a fair resolution.”