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Median project in La Crescenta, decade in the making, wraps up

Median project in La Crescenta, decade in the making, wraps up
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, center, and members of the Crescenta Valley Town Council gather behind a newly constructed monument sign on Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta. The sign is one component of a median project that wrapped up recently. (Lila Seidman)

A median project intended to bring green space and community identity to a stretch of Foothill Boulevard in the unincorporated area of La Crescenta opened on Monday.

Encompassing seven landscaped medians, two monument signs and irrigation between Briggs and Pennsylvania avenues, the $1.8-million project has been in the works for more than a decade, according to representatives from Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Works.

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“[The project] reflects what our community is all about,” said Harry Leon, president of the Crescenta Valley Town Council.

Featured in the medians are drought-resistant plants, including the succulent “Blue Chalk Fingers” and blossoming “Soap Aloe,” as well as repurposed boulders from nearby Dunsmuir Canyon, according to Dave Gallagher, a landscape architect from public works and La Crescenta resident who helmed the project.

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Gallagher personally scoped out and tagged boulders he liked about this time last year to include in the project, he said.

Near the intersection with Briggs Avenue is a monument sign that Gallagher said represents the “nest” between the Verdugo and San Gabriel mountains that flank the area.

Council members brought the median-project concept to then Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich in 2015, current Supervisor Kathryn Barger recalled after the ceremony.

“[The council] had a vision and came to us, and really did put their blood, sweat and tears into making it happen,” said Barger, who now represents the 5th District and was Antonovich’s chief of staff at the time.

Discussion to launch the beautification project began in the early 2000s, after La Cañada Flintridge officials unveiled landscaped medians of their own, “and everyone was so impressed,” Leon said in late September.

It wasn’t until 2015 that it really took off, Los Angeles County spokesman Steven Frasher also said around the same time. That year, Antonovich set aside $1 million for the project, and the design process began in earnest.

Construction started on Sept. 4 of this year, after being pushed back from January to April and then to August by the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, citing delays on unrelated construction work on the 210 Freeway, Leon said. It wrapped up the week of Thanksgiving.

During construction in late September, Foothill Boulevard was reduced to one lane in either direction, triggering increased traffic congestion and complaints from residents.

Some residents and local employees have not warmed up to the project, questioning its value and speculating about its continued impact on traffic.

“It’s pretty, but don’t we have other issues deeper than median beautification?” said La Crescenta resident Connie Miranda, while waiting for the bus on Foothill after the ceremony.

Ahmik Akhverbyan, a Sunland resident who works in La Crescenta, was more blunt, calling the project “a waste of money and a waste of time.”

According to Leon, funding streams for the median project and something such as the school system or affordable housing are unrelated.

Several public forums were held between the project’s inception and groundbreaking to seek input and suggestions from residents, Leon added.

Gallagher said he recalled robust attendance when he gave a design presentation before construction began.

“That was encouraging because it showed people care,” Gallagher said. “And we took that to heart to build something that would respect their efforts to be heard.”

There are some loose ends that need to be tied up with the project, including the under-lighting of the monument sign near Briggs, which is slated to be complete in mid-December, Gallagher said.

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