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How County's Public Process to Change Altadena Codes Will Work

The three public input sessions will each be different as the county collects public input, and begins to focus in on what kind of changes would be likely.

At Tuesday's Altadena Town Council meeting, a consultant hired by the county laid out how the public input process for updating Altadena's residential and commercial zoning codes would work.

Mina Brown, a planner for RBF Consulting, which was hired by the county, said that over the course of three meetings from April to June the RBF will get ideas from the public on how to update codes, focus down on ideas that will work in the second meeting, and then present the framework for the complete changes at the final meeting.

The body of codes that would be updated is the Altadena Community Standards (they can be viewed in full on the right) which are regulations on commercial and residential properties, some of which pertain to specific neighborhoods, some of which apply to the entire town.

The three workshops will be held on April 4, April 25, and June at the gym at from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

What Kind of Changes Could Altadena See?

Mark Goldschmidt, of the Town Council's Land Use Committee, which has been working on possible changes to the CSD, presented some ideas at Tuesday's meeting.

Many of the suggestions applied to changes to residential zoning, allowing for more flexibility in building on residential lots, easing setback requirements and restrictions on building into side yards.

Goldschmidt also mentioned restrictions on the height of fencing, rules which the county has estimated that 10 percent of Altadena properties are violating.  He said, however, that the committee did not come to an agreement on recommending on changes on those rules.

As for possible changes to commercial codes, the committee did not make specific recommendations, but Goldschmidt noted that the committee discussed a lack of parking, as well as restrictive parking requirements in commercial zones.

In addition, he said, many committee members are concerned about blighted shopping areas, and the shopping center with the Rite Aid at the corner of Lake and Altadena was specifically discussed by the committee.

He said that some committee members feel Altadena's commercial areas need some sort of zoning improvements to make their look more uniform, while others felt having a diverse set of standards specific to different neighborhoods is a good idea.

Outreach Issues

Two Council members from East Altadena criticized RBF for scheduling all the meetings so far on the westside of town.

Council member Gino Sund requested that the meetings be changed to have one in the West, one in Central Altadena, and one in the East.

However, as the county has already printed out fliers with the location of the meeting, and has already sent out a postcard to all the homes in town, changing the meeting locations at this point is not feasible, Brown said.

Sund also criticized RBF for not having some sort of online process or online survey where people who will not be at the meetings can give input.

Brown said there are some discussions about having an online component, but for right now, anyone with input can email Matt Lust of the county's Community Development Commission at mlust@lacdc.org.

Sund called the locations of the meeting "not acceptable for this community" and said he was "very, very disappointed" about the lack of an online process.

However, Council member Brent Musson chimed in and told Brown that he felt the location of the meetings is perfectly acceptable, and suggested that driving from East Altadena to Loma Alta Park would not be overly burdensome for anyone wanting to participate.

Brown said the Loma Alta location was chosen because it is the largest facility in Altadena and can best accomodate a large group of participants.

Defining What Can be Changed

One challenge which could arise during the process is that many residents may not be familiar with the Altadena Community Standards -what they are and what can be accomplished by changing them.

The county's flyer, which can be viewed at right, suggests that the process will address not just planning, but also open space, land use, streetscape improvements and economic development.

In a conversation with Altadena Patch following the meeting, RBF Consulting's Brown acknowledged that community member's suggestions will be likely to go beyond the scope of what can be changed by amending the Community Standards.

However, Brown said, when hiring RBF, the county said that they wanted to also use the outreach opportunity as a way to compile a report on what other changes or what other visions Altadena members might have for the town's future.

That means that ideas that cannot be accomplished by amending the Community Standards will at least make it into a report that the county could use in making other future planning or policy decisions.

Steve Lamb April 25, 2012 at 06:02 PM
But after going to the first meeting the one thing that seemed clear was that the consultants were interested in sounbites, not substance. The room was FULL of people who had dealt with and thought about these issues for decades and all of that was reduced to a few words written on a post it and stuck on a wall. THIS IS NOT A REAL PROCESS for ACTUALLY DEALING WITH COMPLEX ISSUES.

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