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Fixing a 'Problem" Intersection

The Altadena Town Council, the Altadena Sheriff's and neighbors of the intersection of Lincoln and Figueroa, where All Star Liquor is located, are all working together to help fix what they say is a problem situation.

From time to time when there has been crime in the area around the corner of Lincoln and Figueroa, concerned residents have brought up , located at the corner because of the late night loitering, public drinking, and other issues going on in the area.

Community leaders and neighbors have been complaining about those issues for years, and newly-elected Town Council member Brent Musson discussed the issue of the intersection during his campaign for office. During a phone interview with Patch, Musson laid out his plan, which is still in the works, to tackle this situation.  He said that while the location is a problem, the store's owner is not to blame.

“The area just west of that liquor store seems to be the problem,” said Musson, who has lived in Altadena since 1972 when the store used to be called Miller’s Liquor. “It’s not the liquor store owner’s fault. No one there is a problem, but we have to use a little more imagination in dealing with this problem."

That does not mean the store's owner should continue with business as usual, Musson said.  Ideally, the property should have a different use, a coffee shop for example, he said. 

The county should also be involved, Musson said, by cleaning up and repairing the sidewalks, improving the landscaping, and generally investing in the area.  For more on Musson's plan read his .

Even more attention was brought to All Star Liquor when . One was hit in the back and the other in the arm. They started running towards the liquor store, but they were not hanging out in front of the store when the shooting occurred and there were no fatalities, according to Lt. Joseph Dempsey of the Altadena Sheriff’s Department.

Still, that did not stop people from associating the store with the crime: At last week's Town Council meeting, public speakers mentioned the store and the location and suggested they were all connected.

The day after the June 14 crime, a shooting occurred close to the previous night's shooting. Again there were no fatalities, and the Sheriff's Department is investigating the incident as a possible gang-retaliation shooting.

“The area around the store has been a big problem for a long time,” said Dempsey. “This year we’ve had eight or nine calls for service at the store, but that’s not excessive."

Dempsey described the store's owner as cooperative in handling issues in the area.

"We are working with the owner, and he’s being extremely cooperative and assisting us to try to stop the loitering, the trespassing, the underagers trying to buy alcohol, and gang members loitering in the area," Dempsey said.

The owner of the liquor store who declined to give his last name and identified himself only as "Chyco," told Patch that he doesn’t believe his store is a problem situation anymore.

“There’s no more loitering around here anymore,” he said. “I do my best to keep people from standing outside. As soon as I see them, I go out and tell them to leave. I call the Sheriff’s station to take care of those kinds of things. It’s not a problem anymore.”

Still, Dempsey said a lot of work still needs to be done.

“The Sheriff’s Department is working closely with the store owner and community involvement in terms of the neighbors around the store calling when people are loitering and drinking in public, calling us when they see it, that’s the way we’re going to take care of the situation,” he said. “We’re also working with the owners of the properties around the street from the store to help stop the loitering and drinking and hanging out.”

Editor's note: The original version of this story misrepresented Brent Musson's views by suggesting that he labeled All Star Liquor as a problem, when he actually suggested the problem is a larger issue with the intersection in general.  For more on Musson's views, read his on the subject.

Marietta June 28, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Liquor stores in Altadena have always been a problem for the nearly 30 years that I have lived here and undoubtedly longer. And, even though the article keeps repeating that it is not the stores, the sheriff in the last few sentences mentions public drunkenness and loitering twice. I am not saying that the stores are responsible for everything bad in the neighborhood. The issue here is that Altadena's stores don't face the same regulations as most stores and this needs to change. Over 20 years ago a man was shot and ultimately died in front of the cash register at one of the Fair Oaks liquor stores. At the time, a friend of mine was on town council and she worked feverishly to make intelligent changes.
Marietta June 28, 2011 at 01:47 PM
In Altadena, many, if not all, the liquor stores predate the Alcohol Beverage Control's (ABC) authority. What we found out is that many unregulated opportunities taken by these liquor stores would not be allowed under the ABC. More importantly, there was a simple action to rein them in. The ABC made it clear that they can make requirementstake to improve these establishments if they prove to be a nuisance, ie. public drunkenness, loitering, etc. This could be accomplished if the ABC had ongoing information on the individual stores which in most cases they don't. The ABC suggested a simple solution which was to add a "copy to ABC" box on incident reports. The ABC further requested that ANY problems in and around these stores be sent to the ABC. At a town council meeting, my friend requested the then sheriff, Lt. John Samuels, to implement ABC's suggestion. Instead of considering this, he instead berated the sitting town council rep and the situation continues to haunt the community.
Marietta June 28, 2011 at 01:56 PM
I have not looked at these stores recently. When I spent a lot of time on this issue, the problems included outside advertising of fortified alcoholic beverages, lower prices, gang colored accessories (bandanas, etc), late night hours, insufficient lighting, etc. Pasadena has enforced all liquor store regulations to the point that the stand alone stores are becoming extinct. This has left a void in Pasadena and one that the Altadena liquor stores eagerly fill. I am not trying to run the stores out on a railroad car but there is nothing wrong with encouraging them to be better neighbors and with assisting the ABC's ability to monitor them. If not done already, I request that the Town Council and the community join me in requesting that the Sheriffs Department follow the recommendation of the ABC and start providing them with copies of incident reports. There is a reason the ABC carries so much weight around the bulk of the liquor stores. There is compelling evidence that these establishments can become attractive nuisances, especially, when they are tucked into neighborhoods. There is everything to gain by giving the ABC the tools they need to levy requirements on these stores and assist in protecting the folks in this community. The sheriff should welcome this assistance! Marietta Kruells
Steve Lamb June 28, 2011 at 02:24 PM
Marietta is correct, they can be brought into control, of course the only way to do this is for the local community to go out and FORCE the ABC to do its job, to actively document conditions and so on. As Councilman Musson correctly points out, however, the bigger problem is not the liquor store, but the huge crime riddled apartment building at 403 Figeroa. It's too bad the Eric Lloyd Wright/Ray Carlisle plan for Lincoln Crossing was so effectively derailed by the LAC CDC and Greg Galletley and his Town Council pets. A significant , but not trumpeted, part of that plan was to purchase with profits from the development 403 Figeroa rehab it, still rent it out as affordable housing (and it qualifies as that) and regulate the residents for criminal conduct so that it would no longer be a vortex of degradation. Its hard to tell what comes first the centers of community degradation or the liquor stores. I know that in walking Census Tract 4603.02 that homes near concentrations of liquor stores on lincoln are often poorly kept and have a "spooky" aspect to them and that when I would get five or six homes away it was as if a Spiritual, Psychological and social cloud lifted.
Steve Lamb June 28, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Marietta- I thought that the Altadena Sheriff's under Capt. Roosevelt Blow had already promised the community that they would provide the ABC with all incident reports related to all Altadena Liquor stores. Honestly, why thsi isn't automatic throughout Los Angeles County is really really really difficult to understand. I do remember however, testemony in a public hearing on revocation of a permit(for a different store in Altadena) the claim by ABC that the Altadena Sheriffs did NOT send them any incident reports. Is this lack of simple duty and communication continuing after repeated assureances it would change?
Steve Lamb June 28, 2011 at 02:48 PM
The real solution is not to be found in closing every liquor outlet in town. The solution is in improving the Pasadena Unified School District AND in building a sustainable local economy that will employ our young people at a level where they can exist in the town they grew up in. These improvements will take the dedication of armies of community volunteers for a multiple decade effort. The community will have to get involved stay involved, even through many defeats of their efforts by government. The school District is a government body. The redevelopment district is a government body and there is one other government body whose historic actions have devastated our economy and who will have to change policy in order for Altadena to thrive, that is the U.S. Forest Service. The only way this community can build a sustainable local economy is to not be a dead end. The only way for taht to be is to be a transition point into the Angeles National Forest. The only way that is going to happen will be for the US Forest service to partner up with this community and build dedicated mountain bike trails, dedicated equestrian trails, and to encourage and allow tourist and eco tourist camping facilitated by private contractors (Like the Curry company or Xanterra). This will also mean LAC will have to help and change. Government is both a major part of the problem and a major part of the solution.
mister altadena June 28, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Here's hoping that Marietta will contact her ATC Census Tract rep &/or Sheriff dep't. Hopefully, logical/common sense report shouldn't take a plethora of community meetings.....just do it!
mister altadena June 28, 2011 at 02:56 PM
There are plenty of kids/people that overcome PUSD, have local jobs and DON'T get into trouble. I can agree w/ your statement above.....to a point. PARENTS need to be the group that's MOST involved in changing behavior. As long as parents don't step in and push their children towards more constructive use of their free time, the cycle of hanging out at liquor stores will continue as the child grows up. There are other liquor stores in town (i.e. Allen/New York, Websters) that seem to never have negative reports levied against them....always the Fair Oaks &/or Lincoln stores.
Marietta June 28, 2011 at 03:01 PM
I appreciate Steve's knowledge on the subject. Mister Altadena's suggestion is a good one. I trust that my census tract reps, the whole town council, and the sheriffs read the patch. And as for logic and common sense not taking a plethora of community meetings - I did not know there was another way in Altadena! I have a full time job in going to volunteer meetings swirling around our local government, the county of Los Angeles! Someone else did think that the sheriffs already pass the incident reports onto the ABC. If this is true, then Steve is right. The ABC should be pushed to act.
Steve Lamb June 28, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Mr. Manning (and who appointed you Mr. Altadena as if you are the very embodyment of the town? why not use your name, since we know its you?) Yes we can all argue who is responsible for the failure of local education, its fun to blame the impoverished overworked semi literate parents, and easy too because that requires nothing of US.. Then we meet Yvonne Chang from Pocoima and it it becomes clear. I'm sure, Mike, based on my experience, that Marietta is busily making many contacts. And Mike, OTHER Altadena Liquor stores away from Fair Oaks and Lincoln also have complaints and even enforcement actions against them.
mister altadena June 28, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Might you be confusing Mr. Altadena w/ Mister Altadena? Back to the topic at hand....I don't think it's fun to blame anyone. I don't think having impoverished, overworked or semi literate parents should be a crutch, unless every single parent in the affected neighborhoods is such. Otherwise, I'd hope parents would be doing what's necessary to keep their kids out of harms way by offering other "diversions". I'm sure I'm missing something, that it's just "not that easy". Regarding other liquor stores....good to know that all liquor stores in town are being watched & reported on. Hopefully, taking action will be the next step.
Dickinson June 28, 2011 at 03:56 PM
After reading this chain, it seems as if rather than Mr Musson trying to get the liquor store proprietor to give up his liquor license for a Latte license (which doesn't seem to be too realistic) he should get in touch with the ABC and make sure that they have all of the info necessary for that group to enforce their rules. It seems as if, from what I've seen, it's easier to get existing entities to help than to try to change a liquor store to change its stripes voluntarily. And I agree that it's not the liquor store's fault if there are other locations close by that are actually where the "thugs" hang out. Work actively with the Antonovich to get some help. After all HE'S the elected official that gets paid to take care of his area. Altadena Town Council is not the "government" for Altadena they help get Altadena represented in the vast area that is LA county. There is alot that they can do, but Antonovich is the "mayor". Just my two cents.
Dale Trader June 28, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Steve, Your comments about Altadena should no longer remain a dead end, but rather the gateway to the forest with forest related businesses and enterprises fueling the Altadena economy, is absolutely correct. Look to the past to see the possibilities of the future. Altadena doesn't need to remain a casualty of Angeles Crest Highway opening in La Canada in 1936.
Steve Lamb June 28, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Dale- Yes you can plot the decline of the Altadena business community to the closure of the Mt. Lowe railway and the opening in LaCanada of the Angeles Crest Highway. This destroyed our local tourist economy and transferred it to La Canada. A lot of people mistakenly plot the decline to the Post Watts Riot integration of West Altadena, but this is an error. Most of the businesses that left town at that point had been holding on for years and were at the retirement age generationally and had no one to sell their businesses with no growth potential to. How do we get growth potential? The same way everyone else does, by FLOW OF PEOPLE THROUGH. It will take us thirty years to make it happen, because government is slow, stubborn and self absorbed, but there is no time like the present to start. There are canyon openings in these mountains that rival anything in a national park. There are places of peace and quiet more soothing that even Yosemite. We could build accommodations in this forest near Altadena for the wheelchair bound accessible on existing fire roads by bus. We could employ scads of our citizens in local labor intense tourist jobs and in so doing take money into our local economy from all over the world. The Liquor store "problem" is just another symptom of the failure of our community and government to vision itself forward.
Lori A. Webster June 28, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Agreed, Steve. We could all be capturing the business that hiking and tourism brings....
Brent Musson June 28, 2011 at 11:35 PM
I'm always careful to remind those who would point a finger at the liquor store that the proprietors of All-Star didn’t bring a liquor store to our area, nor did they bring the loiterers, gang members and truants; those are our neighbors, sons and grandsons, and they were here long before the the store changed owners. In fact, that corner has been blighted and plagued with problems since I was a youngster riding my bicycle to what was then Miller’s Liquor, to buy Pop-rocks, Susie Qs and Orange Crush. And so, I’d like to clarify my position, as quoted above, on one critical point: I identify the corner of Lincoln and Figueroa as a problem, rather than All-Star Liquor. For a more detailed explanation of my position, please read my post, "A plan for Lincoln and Figueroa - Actions, not accusations," here: http://altadena.patch.com/blog_posts/a-plan-for-lincoln-and-figueroa-actions-not-accusations-2
Altamom June 28, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Brent, the link did not work.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) June 29, 2011 at 12:34 AM
Altamom, it should work now
Steve Lamb June 29, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Councilman Musson- Millers had the BEST assortment of odd candy when I was a kid! Even then, say 1963-68 there were loiterers of a undesirable enough type (and mostly white in those days) that my parents expressed concern that I rode my bicycle to there. But, since they had great candy, being a kid, I snuck my way to there.....

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