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!