Los Angeles Times

Altadena Junction: Community standards need some updating

Last week, the Altadena Town Council set up a committee to revise the zoning and development rules that govern Altadena. The community standards — which are ultimately approved by the county — are the “bible” of local regulations affecting businesses and homeowners.

One thing Altadenans agree on is that today's standards aren't serving anybody.

The current standards were set in the mid-1980s, and are showing their cracks. For starters, they're subject to selective enforcement. Thousands of residences are in violation of fence setback requirements, for one example. For another, the current Community Standards District calls for Spanish-style architecture in the North Lake Avenue business district, which never happened and never will.

On the other hand, the county has acquired a bad reputation from businesses for enforcing outdated codes covering signs, food truck events, and so on. While sidewalk sandwich boards are mainstays in upscale shopping areas, they're verboten in Altadena. Want a drive-up window for your restaurant or pharmacy? Sorry — not in Altadena. In one high-profile case, Patticakes Dessert Co. was dunned for having a mural on its wall depicting cupcakes and coffee cups. The only reason the mural is still there is because widespread public ridicule forced the county to back down.

The county-sponsored Altadena “visioning” process this spring drew attention to the need to square current standards with Altadena's reality.

The new committee has a big job to do in a short time — Town Council Vice-chair Jamie Bissner said he hoped the committee could complete its work and report to the council no later than May 2013, before the next town council elections.

Changes in community standards would have to be approved by the council and then go on to the county for final approval.

The committee includes Ed Meyers, a councilman and Altadena Chamber of Commerce board member; Meredith Miller, co-owner of Webster's Community Pharmacy and chamber board member; Daniel Harlow of Harlow Technologies, also a chamber board member; Mark Goldschmidt, a landscape designer and chairman of Altadena Heritage; nonprofits consultant Marge Nichols; and Jim Osterling, an adjunct professor of real estate at USC and principal of Bridge Realty Advisors.

Library hosts Poetry and Cookies

Every spring, the Altadena Library hosts the Poetry and Cookies festival and publishes an anthology of local poets. The library has set a Jan. 21 deadline for submissions for the 2013 anthology. Poets should also be available to read their work at the Poetry and Cookies celebration on Saturday, April 27, at the Altadena Senior Center. The Friends of the Altadena Library sponsor both the festival and the anthology.

For more information, visit www.altadenalibrary.org or call (626) 798-0833.

Supporting the rescuers

Every year the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team assists about 100 lost or injured hikers and conducts almost 40 search-and-rescue operations. Headquartered at the Altadena Sheriff's Station, the team is staffed by reserve deputies and operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Altadena Mountain Rescue does not charge for searches or rescues, no matter how difficult or dangerous, but it does depend on private donations for more than 50% of its funding for equipment and training.

Donations are tax deductible. To help out, visit amrt.org or send a check to Altadena Mountain Rescue Team, 780 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena, CA 91001.

TIMOTHY RUTT is the publisher and editor of Altadenablog.com.

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