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Workshop Ideas for Altadena's Future (Video)

Participants at the second county workshop on Altadena's future evaluated priorities for future county policy. Here are some of them.

County consultants held their second 'Altadena Community Visioning' Workshop on Wednesday, allowing community participants to review input from the first workshop and make suggestions for a draft report that will be released next month.

Turnout at the event was lower than the with around 70 to 80 people showing up Wednesday to discuss issues.

Participants divided into five groups to review community issues: People and Community, Town/District Centers, Mobility and Recreation, Neighborhoods, and Business Environment.

Each group had ideas identified in those categories from participants in the first workshop to review.  The full list of ideas, along with other documents from the process, will be made available on a new website set up by the county.

The draft report on community priorities will be released by consultants in May, and the community will have a chance to weigh in on the contents of the report on June 6.

After discussions, each group chose someone to tell the full meeting what they had come up with.  The above video shows some of the excerpts of those discussions.

Besides the ideas mentioned in the video, the following ideas were also mentioned as priorities for the county to look into:

  • Coordinating the county bike plan for Altadena with Pasadena's bike plan and with other adjacent communities
  • Completing the Altadena Crest Trail
  • Allowing night access to the trail
  • Better traffic enforcement on north-south streets
  • Limiting overnight parking in some residential areas
  • Possible regulations on leafblower noise
  • Reducing regulations on sidewalk signs
  • Convert vacant lots to dog parks or neighborhood hang-out spots
  • Ease parking restrictions in commercial areas to bring in new businesses
  • Updating signage styles on Lake Avenue
  • Look into increasing light industrial zoning to bring in new jobs to Altadena
  • Make safe walking areas
  • Update Lincoln Avenue 
  • Expand Charles White Park
  • Eliminate styles standards to allow for originality for individual owners
  • Preserve the Altadena Library
  • Allow use of storefront church parking lots for business parking, since many are occupied only on weekends.

The purpose of the ' is to gather public input on what potential changes should be made to update Altadena codes, as well as take a broader look at what priorities county planners should have for Altadena's future.  That will include "future land use, economic developments, streetscape improvements, open space, safety, and preservation of local character."

The public input will be used to amend the Altadena Community Standards, which governs business and residential codes that are specific to Altadena.  But the input will also be used to look at bigger picture plans for Altadena in the future.

Ericka April 26, 2012 at 07:08 PM
we thought there were a lot of great ideas last night - i especially liked the idea of having diagonal, head-in parking on some streets like lake and shared parking for businesses, as well as the rooftop dining idea! the only idea i really disagreed with was the one about restricting the color of people's homes - if we wanted that kind of regulation of our properties, we would have bought in a planned community or purchased a town home. we even heard that businesses wanted more latitude in the styles and colors for their buildings! all in all, another good meeting. let's see if we can increase turn-out for the next one.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Ericka, that one in particular seems to have people on both sides: one other person (Michele Zack I think) said her group wanted to loosen up restrictions to allow more flexibility design styles, though I believe she was talking about commercial properties while the other person was talking residential.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Two other ideas raised in the video that I think that some in the community might not like (though they appeared to be very popular at the meeting): the idea of removing the 35-feet height standard on buildings and rezoning some areas as residential to try to bring in multifamily housing close to commercial areas. Based on comments I've seen here and elsewhere I think some people may not like those.
Nico April 26, 2012 at 11:33 PM
I am against removing height limits (our beautiful mountain views are much more valuable than three story shops) and against increasing density anywhere in Altadena. The county has been eager to try and stuff more people up here, and the naive "visionaries" that think we will get a charming village with shops will open up a Pandora's box of multi story apartments on LIncoln, adding to blight and traffic. I tried to voice my concerns at the meeting but was shot down by the originators of these proposals. In my opinion this is a potentially disastrous idea. Shopping, yes. Higher density and high rises - no!
Sacramento Street Homeowner April 27, 2012 at 04:39 AM
I wish I could have attended. I would like to have brought up the topic of having commercial property owners be more responsible for their vacant properties. Case in point, the former Blockbuster Video store on the corner lot of Lake and Sacramento. It has become a dumping ground and the weeds and brush are taking over the lot. This is not good for any Altadena neighborhood but especially for an area that has struggled in the past.
Roberta Martínez April 27, 2012 at 10:39 AM
As this visioning is taking place it would be a good idea to look at the ideas that are being suggested and the way some similar ideas have played out in Pasadena. There was an emphasis on live/work space and increased density in the 90s in the center of the city. As a result, there was a push to have this central area have its own district rather than be a part of several districts. Next redistricting there will likely be some push and pull between those who view themselves as more urban dwellers and those who view themselves as living in single family households. As far as the village/Pandora box, I think that Nico has made a good point. One of the comments I often hear Altadena residents share is that they have a council whose powers are more informational than legal: they don't feel they have a strong political voice. Having significantly greater numbers of people would likely increase concerns along this line. Altadena is a treasure. I hope it keeps its unique character.
michele Zack April 27, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Yes, Altadena is a treasure; everyone loves the mountain views so no need to create false divisions over that! We have consensus that we'd like to have more shops and services, a more walkable community, more places to hang out and spend money — and to somehow end the slow steady death of business and investment manifested by yearly increasing numbers of empty buildings and moribund businesses that create a sense of decay. But how do we get to a more vibrant and sustainable economy so we don't have to make a 10-mile return trip down to Pasadena or some other town every time we want to eat out, go to the doctor, or take care of service needs? If we keep doing what we have been doing with our current regulations that make opening a new small business practically impossible, we know what the result will be. Rethinking Altadena's spatial design a little, creating very specific and limited areas where greater density and some mixed used would be allowed and encouraged (not in the middle of residential areas, but only along major transportation corridors) is a fairly tried and true way to spur the critical mass required for economic revival. There is lots of empty/underused space in Altadena that could be judiciously designed to create a few lively commercial areas/nodes with more people living close-by to expand the customer base. In the recent past, we had 3-5 thousand more people living here, and there was still plenty of room for all of us.
Nico April 27, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Analyses of home values point to declines wherever multi-family (apartment) or rentals are rezoned next to SFRs. The homes on the edge of the higher density zoning will fall in value. Renters will outnumber owners and blight will set in as soon as the shine wears off the new buildings. Increasing density is a big mistake -- one made in the 1970s in Glendale, and on urban fringe areas on the East Coast, and it resulted in a big mess. This is not the city, not even close. Why on earth move to Altadena and then live in a box above a store. It doesn't make sense. There are plenty of empty condo buildings built by Pasadena along Colorado and Walnut..mixed use is overdone, badly done in many cases, and will be destructive to the quality of life we enjoy here. A Starbucks or a local cafe can be achieved without increasing density. It just takes some intelligent planning and dedication.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) April 27, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Nico, I'm not sure I would agree that Altadena does not qualify as a city. I don't know what the acceptable definition is, but Altadena has a 4,900 person per mile population density. That's higher than San Diego and Santa Barbara. Still much lower than places with serious high rise development like Santa Monica, Long Beach, and it is still lower than Pasadena, but it is a pretty high level of density. For comparison, I looked at San Luis Obispo (my Mom lives there) and it is a place I would describe as a small city, a regional population center for the larger area. San Luis Obispo has 3,500 people per square mile. Perhaps city is not the right word, but Altadena has a higher population density than your average suburb or small town. It does not feel like a city exactly (probably because of the nearby mountain open space), but if it is not a city, what is it?
michele Zack April 27, 2012 at 10:23 PM
There are many town and cities with just a few thousand people that have many more shops and services than we do. Sierra Madre has perhaps 12,000, LaCanada maybe 24,000 (ballpark) and we have 43,000 people. Our median household income is over $70K and about 70 percent of Altadenans live in their own homes. The last two stats compare favorably with Pasadena. Our pop. has fluctuated little mainly remaining under 45K, but at times has reached closer to 50K and remained above 45K for several years in the 1950s, when there were 5 or 6 commercial districts or significant nodes. If it quacks like a duck. . .(it's a city!)
Roberta Martínez April 28, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I think Michele brings up a really good point. Is part of the solution having services that are closer to Altadena? How have businesses changed in the past generation? Were there more mom and pop stores that folks were using? Having more folks in the area will not automatically increase their use of local shops. If they're not coming for what is in Altadena, they'll still zoom down to Pasadena. Part of the key to this is having places that folks already in Pasadena will come up the hill to visit. I think that's one of the things that Sierra Madre has been successful at doing is bringing folks to their shops. How that takes place is for Altadenans and the Town Council to decide. But I think it's fair to share that those of us living in N and NW Pasadena are affected by or could be supportive of changes that can happen in Altadena. Some of the comments I've read about folks who have moved in recently are in the area because it's affordable - not because they embrace the character and history of the area. There was a lot of post exchanging about this topic not too long ago. Who knows the "right" answer? I don't. But I think that folks need to think about these sorts of things as they are working on their vision.
Chris April 28, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Lament we couldn't be at this one. We went to the first one. This time around food poisoning got us the night before. Looking forward to the next one, though.
Nico April 28, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I appreciate everyone's hard work to date on the Altadena scoping meetings..But, the ideas thus far miss the mark. Rather than trying to change what Altadena is and forever alter its character, we should focus on how to profit of of that very character. We already have a large customer base. There are literally hundreds of visitors that flock to Altadena during the week and more on weekends because of the mountains, trails etc. We should encourage businesses that cater to that crowd, rather than crowd in people trying to imitate "shopn'livemalls". We need to change regulations, encourage positive growth and prevent senseless building and increased traffic/density that will ruin the town (or city). Use the empty lot next to Ralphs as a town center parking, with trees, where people can leave their cars and walk. Enlarge sidewalks, narrow down Lake. Plant shade trees, create a contest to encourage creative, attractive and green design of buildings (rather than creating backwards ordinances to "regulate" them. Transform the blighted Rite Aid lot/area into the Arroyo Coop...(the county should help with costs on this) and use the large lot as a publicly owned space where celebrations, exhibits and artists vendors booths can alternate use. Keeping a lower height limit will prevent blocking the wonderful mountain views visible driving up Lake. Few other neighborhood have this. Lets not throw this away by increasing building height.
Altadena Cycling Gal May 22, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I think one way we can get attention for Altadena and its businesses is to promote our most amazing neighbor and our backyard... the SG Mountains, the Arroyo Seco for its recreational aspects. Organize more walks, rides, tours, runs can attract outdoor enthusiasts to our amazing treasures! Let's have a festival in coordination with these events and with local businesses to have visitors stay a while and enjoy the town. Of course, we need to have an enjoyable place for visitors to dine, etc which I think needs to be developed and promoted... as cities like Sierra Madre, Montrose, and Kenneth Village in Glendale have made popular. All of these areas have traffic calming measures in place or in development. Altadena's business streets: Lake, Lincoln, Fair Oaks and Woodbury speeds are 35+ mph... get the hell in and out philosophy. Not much of a chance to catch anyone's attention to businesses in our town. Also, traffic on Mariposa at Lake and Altadena is diverted away from traffic... good yet bad for business.
H Delu May 29, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I totally agree with earlier comments on keeping the height restriction. There's a home on Woodbury that got their approvals right before the height limit began and they built a three story green box. And I agree with Roberta. Sierra Madre has done a great job with a small business district that hosts events and has great shops and dining that is a draw to other communities. I wholeheartedly support the idea of the Lake/Mariposa area of town being diagonally striped and for small business to be encouraged with lower fees and less parking restrictions by the County.
ed meyers August 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Interesting article regarding the easing of parking requirements in parts of LA that the LA City Council is considering. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0815-parking-ordinance- 20120815,0,2276469.story This is what Altadena needs to be part of the discussion when we sit down to revise our CSDs.

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