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La Crescenta Motel becomes battleground for development debate

The La Crescenta Motel
Tentative plans to turn the retro La Crescenta Motel into a mixed-use condo project have stirred up opposition from area residents. During a recent meeting concerning the potential project, the 1940s-built motel became a stand-in for a larger conversation about how much density community members want in their backyard.
(Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer)

Guests of the La Crescenta Motel, built in the 1940s and set amid a deep-green lawn, flowers and trees, “like the serenity and peacefulness of it,” according to longtime manager O.J. Rodriguez.

Now, as tentative plans have been floated to transform the retro motel into condominiums — only its latest existential threat — some residents are already planning to fight to keep what Rodriguez called “a little slice of paradise” from being flattened.

A total of 68 residential units, two subterranean parking garages and some ground-floor retail space would replace the 11-room motel located at Foothill Boulevard and Briggs Avenue under the proposed plans, according to Sharon Raghavachary, who led a packed Crescenta Valley Community Assn. meeting on Thursday, which primarily addressed the project.

Plans for the reported development haven’t been submitted to Los Angeles County planning department; Raghavachary said she obtained them independently.

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Most of the approximately 50 people who attended the association meeting held at the La Crescenta Library opposed what they see as an oversized development for the area.

At the gathering, discussion about the motel’s fate evolved into a broader conversation about how much density community members want in their backyard.

Since moving to the area in the 1960s, “I have seen Glendale turn into a mini-Los Angeles,” Kathie Hagen said during the meeting.

“If we let this happen, it’s going to be devastating to this place,” she added.

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Nearby resident Frank Colcord, bucked the majority and argued that the area along Foothill is an ideal place to increase density, citing a need for more housing close to work centers like downtown L.A.

“I just don’t see it as a detriment to bring people in,” said Colcord, a 37-year resident who lives near a single-family lot that has since blossomed into a multifamily property.

If the plans are submitted to the county, the Crescenta Valley Town Council, or CVTC, will be given an opportunity to look at them and gather community feedback before weighing in, according to CVTC president Harry Leon, who attended the meeting on Thursday.

According to Ines Chessum, who is on CVTC’s land-use committee, more development is coming “whether we like it or not,” as per the state’s mandate for more housing.

“We just need to try to give it some kind of shape that really benefits us or minimizes impact, however you want to look at it,” she said during the meeting.

Rodriguez, who has been managing the motel at the heart of the discussion for 10 years, said he only heard about the reported plans through neighbors.

“I’d hate to see it go, for sure,” he said.

Originally called the May-Lane, the motel has for decades weathered sales and scuttled plans to turn it into a strip mall, and senior facility, according to Raghavachary.

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Often it welcomes family and friends visiting local residents for holidays and special events, Rodriguez said. Some people come from around the world just to stay in the quaint, quiet digs.

Its vintage aesthetic has also made it a go-to filming location. Most recently, it was used for the HBO series “Sharp Objects,” but has also made appearances in hit shows such as “Mad Men” and “True Blood,” Rodriguez said.

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