I'm Just Sayin': Envisioning Foothill Boulevard

I served on the Crescenta Valley Town Council for seven years through 2008. In 2001, local resident Richard Toyon came to the council with a slide presentation asking us to envision Foothill Boulevard in the future. Did we want Foothill to be filled with cookie-cutter fast food and retail chain stores, or did we want to have a commercial district that was unique and in character with our neighborhoods?

The council was overwhelmingly in favor of the latter, and the Foothill Design Committee was formed, with myself and Toyon as the co-chairs.

Our task was daunting: drafting development standards for the unincorporated portion of Foothill. We didn't know then that we were embarking on an eight-year project to which our committee would devote countless hours.

The vehicle that the county of Los Angeles provides for customizing ordinances to an area is called a Community Standards District .

The CSD that we wrote was fully supported by the Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce, as well as members of the. It was approved and implemented by the Board of Supervisors in 2009.

As our purpose reads, the CSD is established to, "improve the appearance of the Foothill Boulevard commercial corridor through the thoughtful design of pedestrian-friendly structures integrated with extensive landscaping." We firmly believe that good design is good business.

There are two new developments that were approved before the CSD went into effect last fall and are exempt from the standards. One of these projects is now under construction, and another will soon follow.

The first will be across from the Ralphs shopping center. It will consist of a three-story building with retail on the first floor and offices on the upper floors with one level of subterranean parking.

The second is a commercial center located at the corner of Sunset and Foothill, which will have two two-story buildings and one single-story building over two levels of parking garage.

Several major differences exist between the county code, to which these projects will be built, and the new requirements under the CSD. The most notable of these is the rear setback for properties on the south side of Foothill.

While these two projects are allowed to build right up to the property line on the down-slope side, the CSD will require that structures be stepped back so that the adjacent neighbors do not have to live right next to a 35-foot-high wall. The developers must also plant sizeable trees along the rear to act as a buffer.

Another change is in the amount of landscaping. Under the CSD, a minimum of 15% of the lot must be landscaped, instead of the 10% mandated by the county. Additionally, all above-ground parking lots must have one tree for every four cars to provide shade.

We also encouraged the use of native stone on retaining walls and as decorative accent on building facades. La Crescenta is often referred to as "Rock Crescenta," exemplified by our wonderful St. Luke's of the Mountains church.

We will have to wait to see how these new developments fit into the boulevard, but if they fall short of our expectations, at least they should be the last of their kind.

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