Change Is Inevitable

… but I don’t have to like it.

As many of you know, I have been involved in local community activism for some time now. What started with a curiosity about the plans to build the 710 Freeway tunnel back in 2009, it developed into a full commitment to fight for the Crescenta Valley to try to keep it the way it is. Even as a young child growing up in Sunland, I knew where I lived was special and I never wanted to see it change. Now as an adult and parent living in La Crescenta, I see the true value of the foothill communities and the need to preserve our lifestyle for future generations.

I often reminisce about my early life and the freedom we had to explore and just be kids. I remember we rode our bikes to Hober’s Pharmacy to buy penny candy or to the record store by Sunland Park to pick up the newest 45 or music poster. We stopped at Peppy’s pet shop to see the puppies then popped over to Jessup’s Dairy for popsicles. Sometimes at night we would pile in the back of one of the neighbor family’s station wagons and go to Edward’s Drive-in. Before the movie, we would swing on the swings below the big screen then make a mad dash to our cars in our pajamas when the lights flashed, signaling the show was ready to begin. That property became a K-Mart in 1977 and nothing else after K-Mart closed. The empty lot is a sad reminder of what once was. Ultimately, we lost the other businesses, too.

I understand that the growth of a community will mean there is ebb and flow in how things look and feel. Businesses will change and new houses will spring up but I had always hoped that the single-storied buildings on Foothill Boulevard would be the norm and housing growth wouldn’t happen too quickly.

My first experience with stark change came when a very large housing development was built at the top of Cardamine Court above Wentworth Street in Tujunga. You could see it from every view in south Sunland. It looked as if they carved out the mountain and took all the trees. I was aghast that my beautiful mountain view had changed forever. You can still see it prominently perched below the Camel’s Back ridgeline from the 210 Freeway.

It seems that today every entity within our state is pushing for large-scale change. Housing legislation and mandates are calling for more units on single-family lots or multi-family buildings that are taller and denser with less parking, concentrated in areas where our businesses used to thrive. It is now common to see housing proposals for Foothill Boulevard include up to five stories where one to two stories have reigned for the last 100 years. If this keeps up, I fear the Crescenta Valley will look like downtown Glendale with no mountain views at all.

We used to be able to point to our local community plans to keep growth in check and remind planners of the rural-suburban lifestyle that we all want; but lately we are being dismissed. Big and boxy has become the norm and “compatible” is but a dream. Often the state laws supersede local zoning restrictions, leaving the municipalities throwing up their hands in compliance instead of fighting back. Just this week, the City of Glendale introduced its scheme to make sweeping changes to multi-family projects based on feedback from developers and architects, not resident stakeholders. They plan to increase “by right” building heights, decrease setbacks and open space, and increase appeal fees for anyone opposing a project. They call them “objective design standards,” which they explained will make it easier for builders. I say, city planners should remember who they work for and do a better job of protecting our communities from rapid overbuild.

Susan Bolan