An old-fashioned sign on Foothill Boulevard welcomes visitors to La Crescenta, "The Balcony of Southern California." It's true: High in the San Gabriel Mountain foothills, with the Angeles National Forest for its backyard, La Crescenta provides a perfect seat for the L.A. basin's nightly light show. And when Santa Anas scour the air, even Catalina is visible.
With charm, canyons and a rustic feeling in many areas, it's difficult to believe La Crescenta is only 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles and close to the attractions of Pasadena and Glendale.
That short ride is part of the town's lure, as are the variety and the cost of housing. Homes in the Upper Briggs Terrace area range from small wood-and-stone hunting or vacation cabins to palatial mansions.
Bounded by the forest, La Cañada Flintridge and Glendale, the unincorporated community (some of La Crescenta is within Glendale city limits) has no room to expand. Many buyers either remodel or tear down and build anew. People who move to La Crescenta, said Pat Frey of Re/Max TriCity Realtors, tend to be moving up from Glendale or buying because La Crescenta is more affordable than La Cañada. She said she often takes prospective buyers to the Pinecrest area to see the 180-degree views many of the homes have.
Living adjacent to a national forest means an abundance of wildlife. Apart from the usual skunks, raccoons and coyotes, deer often wander along streets and through yards. Signs have been posted warning of mountain lions.
The name game
La Crescenta was named when Dr. Benjamin Briggs bought 120 acres of land west of Pickens Canyon in 1881. Briggs, a Union Army Civil War veteran who had moved to the area for health reasons, coined the word "crescenta" from the shape of the valley where his land lay. "La" was added later.
A small-town atmosphere is pervasive. Fitness buffs gather at the Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA to stay in shape. Dominick's Italian Restaurant, which serves up New York-style pizza, is a community gathering spot.
The six elementary schools, one middle and two high schools are part of the Glendale Unified School District. The 2002 Academic Performance Index scores at the elementary schools, with 1,000 as the maximum, ranged from a low of 820 at La Crescenta to a high of 882 at Mountain Avenue. Rosemont Middle School scored 840. Clark Magnet, grades 9-12, scored 779, and Crescenta Valley High, grades 9-12, scored 784.
On the market
In late January there were 72 homes for sale in La Crescenta's 5.5 square miles, according to Frey. They ranged from $239,000 for an 864-square-foot townhouse to $1.25 million for a house that was once part of a hunting lodge.
Good news, bad news
Foothill Boulevard, the main drag through La Crescenta, is lined mainly with drab strip malls and office buildings. La Crescenta Town Council, an elected body that functions as an advisory board to county Supervisor Mike Antonovich, recently named a design committee to look into the area's appearance. Last year, the council faced controversy after Korean-language business signs were installed in response to an influx of Korean-speaking residents. Some people pushed for an English-language requirement, but the council had no authority to act.
Single-family detached home prices:
- Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce, www.lacrescenta.org;
- "Sources of History: La Crescenta," compiled by June Dougherty;
- La Crescenta Town Council, www.yourtowncouncil.org;
- DataQuick Information Services;
- Crescenta Valley Historical Society, groups.yahoo.com/group/hscv.