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Unoccupied Lake Street

A shopping center on Lake Avenue shows the continued neglect of the best piece of retail real estate in Altadena.

Apparently at the northwest corner of Altadena Drive and Lake. A very few changes.

If you access the property owner’s remodeling plans for these two or three blighted acres – also known as the slum -- it might come as a surprise to find that, though no work has started, the project is scheduled for 2011. The clock, as they say, is ticking.

Surprised, that is, until you see the . I figure the construction crew could start and finish the project on New Year’s Eve and still have time to shave, shower, and hit an afternoon party.

According to the design graphic posted on the remodeling plan, it appears the owner intends to make a few modest additions -- a new sign and a few trees. Again, relying on the graphic, the most dramatic and startling difference between the current and future plaza will be the presence of more than one car in the parking lot. 

It’s unclear what will account for this a sudden influx of traffic -- maybe a pilgrimage to view the new sign. Or maybe the drivers hope to find an auto parts supply store, similar to the one that recently packed up its spark plugs and motor oil and hightailed it down the hill to Pasadena.

Now that Kragens Auto Parts has left the mall, Rite Aid stands alone as the jewel in the crown, and needs a new, and equally impressive companion. I wonder what kind of business will come a courting -- what business will find those ten or twelve new trees utterly irresistable.  Based on recent local retail history, likely candidates include stores selling liquor, used clothes, and religion.

That the two successful residents on the corner Lake and Altadena, and , have been able to thrive in this location is only a testament to the quality of their products. Clearly, if you look at the signage today, the property owner has spared all expense in sending out a warm welcome on behalf of its clientele.

As most of us agree, this corner has so much potential. A breathtaking view of the Mighty San Gabriels, loads of morning and afternoon traffic, easy access, and a town with discretionary income.  Just the place for boutiques, specialty foods, and cafes, with plenty of room for creative, experimental landscaping to complement the shops and the neighborhood.

But that doesn’t appear to be in either the cards or the plan.

Through continued neglect, benign or otherwise, I can only guess the owner doesn’t want this area to succeed.  Oh, but that just leads to conspiracy theories. Besides I could be wrong. Looking again at all the cars in the design graphic, perhaps the owner knows something about business and commerce that’s lost on me. But I doubt it.  By sticking some trees in asphalt holes and getting all the letters in the neon sign to light up on the same day and at the same time, I doubt we’ll see anything unexpected or unprecedented, such as an attractive new business. Or customers.

There are few guarantees in life, but here's one: If you don't build it, they won't come.

ed meyers December 22, 2011 at 11:30 PM
3:02 pm on Thursday, December 22, 2011 @ Karin - "Ask & U shall receive!"-------- I spoke with a guy at TJ's HQ about 5 mins ago. Complicated name to remember/write down but he acknowledged he was in their real estate/site location dep't. He said that TJ's looks for: 1. A location that sites on at least 1.5 acres, 2. A bldg no less than 12,000 sq.ft. 3. They need to consider the likely cannibalization of the 3 other local TJ's. 4. if Ralphs were to close, that would be an location that meets criteria #1 & 2. 5. He said the community has their/our ear closer to the ground than TJ's so if we know of sites opening up, let them know. 6. There is NO promise that a TJ's would open just b/c criteria #1 & 2 were met. We didn't discuss population demographics, household income etc. I just wanted to understand what's needed to put us in a postion to keep talking. I did mention the Chamber's business survey that showed big interest in a TJs.
Sequoya December 23, 2011 at 12:21 AM
So if Rite Aid doesn't fix the lighting in their parking lot (only two lights on last night on the east side of the parking lot - none on at all in front of the RIte Aid) and someone is mugged or worse, then who is responsible? The property owner or Rite Aid? I mean, it's not just ugly, it's also a safety concern.
Lisa Maiorana December 23, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Just like Karin has indicated....they're two customers away from closing down so I guess if people keep getting upset, they'll shut down, and something else will have to go in there eventually. So maybe it's a good thing?
Brian December 23, 2011 at 02:40 AM
A 'blight' is a condition which could have legal ramifications with regard to owner of RiteAid property Bridewell mentions. If enough people in Altadena, (many of whom have paid well in excess of $1 million for their homes nearby), complain, it is likely that something can be done about this problem. I'll add that not only the Lake/Altadena corner looks very shabby but from Mariposa south the area has noticably deteriorated over the past 15 years. The old Thriftys drug store is a crappy looking hodge-podge. The Altadena Bakery area looks run down, as does the Ralphs and the vacant lot where the Altadena Federal Savings building once was. Continuing South, the same thing can be said all the way to Woodbury Rd. How long will high property values in this area hold up? Altadenans have their work cut out for them. Let's all pester the hell out of the County Board of Supervisors about these blights. The squeaky joints get the oil.
Karin Bugge December 23, 2011 at 04:37 AM
Speaking of Altadena's new flag, I'd like to know how the representatives of those census track tract stars weigh in on this issue.
Peter Freeman December 23, 2011 at 05:16 AM
Altadena needs a couple of restaurants. Why do I have to go to Pasadena for a decent place to sit and eat a meal with the family. Although Patrons' is a great place to eat, its pretty tight on seating arrangements.
Steve Lamb January 11, 2012 at 05:16 PM
OK I'm going to say this. I have a small coffee company. For months at shows people said "if you had de caffe I'd buy", or "if you had tea I'd buy.," So I came up witha really excellent de caffe and a robust smoky tea. They didn't buy, they didn't even try. It was just a browsers lie. If someone opens two dining rooms in Altadena will we buy or do we lie? Most investors look at Altadena and don't believe we will overcome our habit of traveling to shop. How do we prove them wrong? Bills Chicken, Fair Oaks burger, Panda Express, and Patron is how we prove them wrong. Make our existing eating businesses FREAKISHLY successful and other investors will come.
Steve Lamb January 11, 2012 at 05:21 PM
@ Karen- I am sure the mangled sign and leaking roof are some kind of code violations someplace. The property owner is a well known litigant. Without any planning permission he installed his winery. He has been litigating against the Coastal Commission and other agencies forever. Doing a cost benefit analysis, the County naturally figures its best to pester little people over little issues where the cost to fight is several hundreds of times higher than the cost to be oppressed and where no one has the money to fightl And it is oppression, and nothing more or less, where the rich walk and everyone else is under the thumb.
lonnie fehr January 11, 2012 at 07:00 PM
i highly doubt a TJ ,S etc would make it here ,in this economy etc a pawn shop is about only store would make it lol
Lisa Maiorana January 11, 2012 at 08:03 PM
I completely disagree w/you Lonnie, I feel as though a Trader Joe's would do wonderful in Altadena as there are many people in our community that would like more healthy choices and different alternatives other than Ralph's. I myself, don't need a pawn shop on my corner do you?
Leslie Aitken January 11, 2012 at 08:31 PM
When I asked Sussy N. at an ACONA meeting about the blighted Rite Aid, abandoned Lincoln and Alt Dr. location and the lot next to Ralphs -- the response was that the owners get fined, and keep paying the fines. The county gets the fees from the fines, the neighborhood gets the UGLY.
Leslie Aitken January 11, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Lonnie -- demographic research done for the redesign plan of the Rite Aid location states that the average income in the area within a mile radius is $101,000 per year. People with money live here, send there kids to private school here, and shop elsewhere.
Karin Bugge January 11, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Leslie, thanks for following up w/ACONA. If the county collects the $$ from the fine, that means the money doesn't go directly towards Altadena improvements, right?
Steve Lamb January 11, 2012 at 10:02 PM
The only people who pretend Trader Joes would do well here are Trader Joes, and thats not quite true. They KNOW it would do well and they would have to close LaCanada and they have a psychological aversion to that that sane people can not understand.The majority of the LaCanada stores business comes from here. More or less to them that is our store, and why not the shopping center was afterall built with Lincoln Avenue redevelopment money that was diverted to there...(Long long story from long ago) But again, the answer to this problem is to stop whining about what we dont have and go loyally shop what we do have to the point that investors look and say "Thats a gold mine, I want some" SO Go EAT AT PATRON, or Fair Oaks burger, Shop at one of the two supermarkets that have INVESTED in our Community. Want a full service super with a bakery and a meat counter and a fish counter? Go to Baja Fresh, they are here, they made the investment, and their Altadena store is their flag ship, or go to King Ranch. Once the majors see a sustained rise in the profits of those stores, they will come to town and attempt to put them under. The ONLY TIME Ralph's was ever interested in improving their store was when they thought HOWS would come and take market share from them. Take it form them now. refuse to shop in a store that will not come to your community and honor the ones that have come here,
Steve Lamb January 11, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Sorry thats the only people who pretend TJ would NOT do well here....
Kelly February 04, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Well, I've long said that they should put a trader joe's on the corner of Lake/Altadena or Altadena/Lincoln, likewise something yummy such as a Peet's, I'm totally with you guys there. Where I'm not with you is on the trashing the Rite Aid and Ralph's. I frequent both and I appreciate both, they're friendly and cater to the working class folks (I'm not one of the million dollar home owners, obviously). Yes, it's ugly but I'm not such an elitist that I wouldn't shop there because it's not aesthetically pleasing. I guess my point is you can't have it both ways, you either shop locally and maybe some day your spent dollar will make a difference and 'better' retailers will start moving in or you drive to Pasadena because it's prettier. That being said, our local retailers could stand some friendly competition, friendly being the key word (I'm looking at you Steve's Pets as you can only get away with poor customer service is because you're the only place in town to buy dog food).
Steve Lamb February 04, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Kelly- I think the only reason people complain about Ralphs and RIte Aid is because they have other stores in other neighborhoods where they do a much better job. You can't say that about Steve's Pet. And sure, some of our local retailers are not perfect. Is the coffee at the Coffee Gallery as good as Pete's? No, DO I shop there anyhow? Yes. Why- because every single dollar I spend there is one Pasadena won't get to discourage people from locating in my community and because if capital sees that Altadena businesses of not so great quality (such as Patron, mediocre at best) are freakishly successful, they will COME HERE. If they see our businesses are not so great and not making much money, they won't. Capital follows trends, it doesn't start them.And I buy even at awful Ralphs, because why would I want to support a store in LaCanada in a development that was financed with money LA County re appropriated from the Lincoln Development (Long story, but it did happen)?
Lori A. Webster February 04, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I agree!
Lori A. Webster February 04, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Kelly, many of us local retailers wish for "friendly competition" because we know successful retail areas cooperate with each other, cross-promote and share advertising costs. Know that, at least for us, we are concentrating on providing an excellent customer experience and are raising the bar for our community's shops and service providers. That said, however, the statement "you can't have it both ways, you either shop locally and maybe someday your spent dollar will make a difference and "better" retailers will start moving in or you drive to Pasadena because it's prettier" is a bit misguided. The dollar you spend here, today, does indeed make a difference, and will help enable our existing retail shops to "get prettier". The following is something I posted on our Facebook page and although the figures apply to a town in West Michigan, a similar impact would be felt here in Altadena: "Remember what choosing local first can do. A mere 10% shift (just $1 in $10!) can create: -1,600 jobs -$40 million in new wages -$140 million in economic impact And that is in Kent County alone. We have power to make our local economy thrive." Remember that - we have the power to make our local economy thrive! Let's all work toward making that happen....
Laura Monteros February 04, 2012 at 05:59 PM
I don't think Altadenans are afraid of change. Like any community, they want change that is positive. Westsiders especially see the need for change in the dilapidated, neglected stores that dot the area. My guess is 100% of Altadenans want change at that corner, and at Lincoln and Altadena as well. The problem is not opposition to change, it's absentee landlords and investors who either have maxed out their money or don't care. That's the problem at Lincoln & Altadena and at Altadena & Lake. Changes have been welcome--Webster's Fancy Food Truck Friday, or instance, or the addition of El Patron. A grocery store on Lincoln, with all its problems of getting off the ground and poor design and (again) absentee developers was welcomed more than I can tell you. When blacks moved into West Altadena the supermarkets and gas stations left, and that was perceived as flat-out racism. It happened 40 years ago, but there is still not one gas station on this major feeder street to the 210 Freeway. Again, most gas stations are owned by corporations who are absent from our community. As for why people don't patronize Altadena businesses--well, as I always say, local is not where live, it's where you work or worship. Also, businesses are not open late enough. When I worked in La Canada and Montrose, there was no reason for me to drive two extra miles to Webster's to catch them in their final minutes when I could go to stores in those communities at lunch or on the way home.
Laura Monteros February 04, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Look at the communities that have TJs and where most of the new TJs are going in--they are much higher income and/or much more densely packed with new residential development than Atladena. I'm not saying a TJs wouldn't do well there and it would probably be a good anchor and would likely hire local workers at decent pay and benefits. Lots of positives. But it isn't for everyone and it isn't a savior. I would like to see an In-N-Out, personally, even with the traffic. It's about the only place I can afford and I love their burgers. It doesn't have to be a drive-through--the one in Glendale Galleria isn't--and it would definitely bring other business to the small shops.
Laura Monteros February 04, 2012 at 06:14 PM
It looks good--do they hire local? That's a big thing on the Westside.
Laura Monteros February 04, 2012 at 06:19 PM
OK, I am going to play the race card. Businesses moved out in droves 40 years ago when blacks moved in to West Altadena. Lincoln Ave. Presbyterian Church died because they didn't want blacks--and that is still a painful remembrance to other churches in our Presbytery. If you think that doesn't still sting, talk to my neighbors on West Marigold. In the 22 years I've lived here, the Latino population has increased, by and large in the lower and lower-middle income brackets. Like it or not, there are still developers who believe black and brown=crime and decay. Do you think they could have gotten away with that shoddy Lincoln Crossings development in, say, La Canada or Montrose? What condition would South Central LA be in today if Magic Johnson hadn't dumped huge amounts of money into developing it after the riots? Altadenans, by and large, celebrate our diversity, but developers don't.
Laura Monteros February 04, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Wouldn't a bookstore--tea/coffee cafe--T-shirt shop combo do great? I think so!!
lonnie fehr February 04, 2012 at 06:37 PM
i to shop at ralphs alot . good prices , saves gas not driving other stores .im not to keen on shopping at these ie international food stores , imported foods . no usda etc inspections and i like to [ try ] keep money in usa to support our farmers .
Steve Lamb February 04, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Laura- Not ALL capital is stupid. Bobs Big Boy wanted a company owned store here, because they gross 15% more in African-American neighborhoods, but our DEVELOPER killed that...
Steve Lamb February 04, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Laura- I can't say who is there today, but a decade ago the guy who managed real estate holdings for Trader Joes told me straight up "That neighborhood is "Too Dark." I didn't understand what he meant, but he was kind enough to clarify in rather pointed language. In N Out was happy to come but Shackleford raised all holy hell and he didnt want to smell In N Out in addition to Jack in the Box and he along with the Arroyo Windsor Neighborhood Association killed that, along with most eating uses for the old Rose Bowl motel site (one BTW that is IDEAL.......
Lori A. Webster February 04, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Here's a lovely article from Washington state that exemplifies the angst the author feels about the current penchant for on-line shopping (think Amazon, etc.) and it's worth a read: http://www.tnr.com/article/washington-diarist/magazine/97260/outcome-experience A quote to go along with the article, highlighting the difference between "search", which is the on-line experience, and "browsing", which is the Main St. experience: "Browsing is the opposite of "search." Search is precise, browsing is imprecise. When you search, you find what you were looking for; when you browse, you find what you were not looking for. Search corrects your knowledge, browsing corrects your ignorance. Search narrows, browsing enlarges. It does so by means of accidents, of unexpected adjacencies and improbable associations. On Amazon, by contrast, there are no accidents. Its adjacencies are expected and its associations are probable, because it is programmed for precedents. It takes you to where you have already been—to what you have already bought or thought of buying, and to similar things. It sells similarities. After all, serendipity is a poor business model. But serendipity is how the spirit is renewed; and a record store, like a bookstore, is nothing less than an institution of spiritual renewal." One could correlate that to any independent shop, boutique or grocery as well.
Lori A. Webster February 04, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Again, our store sells many books, and half of those are by local authors. I also sell Altadena t-shirts, as a fund-raiser for the Altadena Arts Coalition, and we give away complimentary coffee every day.....
Richard February 11, 2012 at 06:41 PM
lmao ms. kelly i would like to know the day you went in to steves pet shop because there have been customers yelling and right out talking trash to the employees and i seen nothing but them doing nothing and remain calm and cool about this. i also would like to know specifically who you dealt with because i know them all there and i would like to know who is causing you all this trouble because i've never had any one bit. AND IN REALITY IF YOU WANTED TO GO SOMEWHERE else you can that's not a problem just don't expect them to know as much about there dog food as steves pet workers.

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