Editor's note: Since 2005 there have been three lawsuits filed over restoring public access to land and trail areas surrounding the La Vina development in northwest Altadena. One of the lawsuits, brought by county officials against the neighborhood association was resolved in favor of the county, though details of the settlement are still being worked out.
We asked Marietta Kruells, one of the other litigants, for an update on her case, and she explains here why she is still going forward with the suit even though the county was successful in its case.
From Marietta: This is my memory of a process that I have actively participated in from the beginning. The long saga of the La Vina development continues to slowly grind along.
Since its inception back in the '80's, many Altadenans participated in the ritual of Environmental Impact Reports. This was part of the CEQA process which was further complicated by the fact that much of the 200 acre+ property was in the National Forest boundaries containing blueline streams, rolling hills, stately oaks and historic public access.
This coupled with other zoning issues allowed this bucolic hillside to build 29 homes. In order to swell the number to 271 homes and a private school, the developer had to address many issues including quality of life for not just the development but the surrounding community and ultimately for the environment. These became part of the conditions of approval and permeated every aspect of the development's history, documents and obligations.
Over time, construction created partial closures for "safety" reasons but for those who participated in this process there has never been any doubt that, when the dust cleared and the development built, the public hiking and equestrian trails would be there as promised, and further, the open space that horseshoes around the development would be safely tucked into the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) or the USFS for the enjoyment of the public.
When it became clear that no amount of community effort would achieve that goal, I decided to seek legal advice and file a lawsuit to address these issues. The County's lawsuit only addressed a truncated version of these trail obligations and, although the County won its lawsuit in court and later through appeal, the actual trail layout continues to be wrangled over.
There is an additional trial scheduled to start in October to resolve the two remaining lawsuits against La Vina, mine and one by the Save the Altadena Trails (STAT) organization. The community and the developer worked a long time on all of these public access issues and this is what Judge Devanon will be addressing in the fall.
Many of my friends in the community will be applauding as they read this, especially those with whom I hiked, rode and stood in the trenches, but I have learned to temper my enjoyment. Time marches on and I, now, have many loved ones and good friends that live in La Vina.
Since they did not participate in the history of this development, they have been thunderstruck by all of this. It has been an uneasy realization as the facts of the development have unfolded. I caution all to tread lightly and only remember the facts as they are. There is no need to inflame this situation any further and I ask my friends from the days of Friends of La Vina, and you know who you are, to respect my request. Stay tuned...