Blog: Where Do We Go From Here?

The Altadena "visioning" meetings are now complete. What do we need to do next and how do we do it?

We're five weeks removed from the last visioning meeting on June 6th and what do we  have to show for it? A confirmed Wal Mart Neighborhood Market at Lincoln & Figueroa and the possibility of the same market on Lake. Surely this can't be the total yield! Where's all the new retail, bike paths, parks, town centers along with everything else attendees were looking for? How about those revised ordinances allowing for more parking, signage & public art. How and when do we "get" all that good stuff?

In reality, our town has just started on the journey to what we hope is a better Altadena. So what did the visioning meetings  accomplish? They helped identify key concerns and interests of  the community. Whether it be a stronger retail base/town district or  preservation of the environment surrounding us, the visioning meetings  allowed attendees and those who called or emailed to communicate what  was important to them. Whether you enjoyed the process or not, the  goal was to gain input from the community. Over three meetings, I believe that goal was accomplished.

Where do we go from  here? The next logical step should be a complete review  of the Altadena Community Standards District (CSD) followed by revisions where necessary to move the community forward. Per the LA County  Regional Planning site, our CSDs are explained as:      

The Altadena Community Standards District is established to provide a means of reasonably protecting the light, air, and privacy of existing  single-family residences from the  negative impacts on these resources  caused by the construction on  adjacent properties of  uncharacteristically large and overwhelming  residences. The District is  also established to ensure that new and  expanded structures are  compatible in size and scale with the  characteristics of existing  residential neighborhoods.
In  addition to residential, the CSD also provides some oversight to retail development (i.e. signage, what can/can't go into the  different commercial zones, parking).

Here's a link to the Altadena CSD http://www.altadenatowncouncil.org/documents/Altadena_CSD.pdf

Now that you know what the CSD is and what it oversees, how should it be  revised to best serve our town? Great question and one for which I don't (yet) have a great answer. LA County (aka Mayor Mike Antonovich's  team) will be looking to Altadena to provide the feedback, suggestions  and carefully debated conclusions that will guide the revision. For  example, what if I'd like to see cute sandwich signs on the sidewalk but  you don't? What if I'm OK with 35% of a store's front window being  covered with an ad but you're not? What if you're OK with allowing drive through restaurants in town but I'm not?     

It's not easy to please all the people all the time. How many  should we aim to please? 100% of the residents? Probably unrealistic.  80% seems better, right? Maybe still too high. You think getting that  infamous "supermajority" number (66.7%) should be the goal? Maybe we  should settle for the simple majority (50% + 1)? We'll have to live with the fact that we can't please all the people all the time.

A CSD revision could  take up to two years to complete and implement. Many LA County  departments will weigh in regarding the legality of our suggestions  and whether something can/cannot be done. As we move forward, we need to understand that we'll have differing opinions on what and how something needs to be  revised.

However, if we don't  WORK TOGETHER, we won't get very far. I'm also advocating that those  civic groups in town who have expertise in certain areas provide  their thoughts on revisions once the final visioning meeting document is released (in a week or so). For example, I'd like to see the Altadena  Chamber of Commerce take a role in the retail/business part of the CSD as it relates to the input received at the visioning meetings. Altadena Heritage & Altadena Historical Society, take a role in the those CSD sections that speak to them. Altadena Town Council/Land Use Committee should  review the residential housing and zoning requirements.
Conversely, having groups with seemingly little interest in a topic (i.e. the  Chamber overseeing trail restoration), may not move the CSD revision  process forward.

By doing this, we allow vested and interested groups, who have expertise and/or deeper knowledge of specific parts of the CSD to provide their input. This allows for maximum participation  by our civic groups. Only then can we accurately state that "the people  have spoken". The goal being to keep Altadena moving forward to make  this a community of people who enjoy living and shopping  here for another generation or more.      

What can  you do to help with the CSD revision? I'd suggest reviewing the  visioning meeting notes & the six "visioning" characteristics here http://tinyurl.com/altadenavisioning (click on workshop 3, draft vision report with comments).

Then,  identify a characteristic or 2 or 3 that's really important to you.  While it hasn't yet been decided which group will work on which  characteristic, check with the Town Council, Chamber of Commerce,  Altadena Heritage, Historical Society , Library etc. to see if you can  work with that group when they begin their review of the CSD (assuming they plan a review).

Remember, while we all hope to move Altadena forward, we'll likely not all going to agree on how to do it.  There's got to be some "give & take". If  we can work together, I'm confident we'll all have our say and get the  job done!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

SteveB July 20, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Ed, the visioning link isn't working for me ....
ed meyers July 20, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Steve, you may want to copy & paste it vs. just clicking on it. I just tried clicking it and was taken directly to the site. I'll repost it here in case that helps http://tinyurl.com/altadenavisioning
Leslie Aitken July 22, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Ed -- thank you for taking the time to write this and include such valuable information.
michele Zack July 23, 2012 at 02:35 PM
The CSD came out of the Heritage Committee (which evolved into Altadena Heriitage, a separate 501-c3) of the Town Council, and the primary impetus was to fight mansionization — thus the language of "light, air, and privacy" in residential neighborhoods. We saw what was happening in Arcadia, where neighborhoods of farmhouses with deep setbacks were being wrecked when people built huge houses right up to property lines. The CSD has performed pretty well in supporting the character and integrity of our residential areas. There was a separate part of the CSD that dealt with commercial areas. I don't think that part had as clear a mission, or has been particularly helpful in guiding commercial development in ways that are making Altadenans happy. Hope we can concentrate on that, and tweak the residential parts to be less onerous on homeowners who want to make some modest additions and changes to their homes


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