I'm Just Sayin': Holding developers to standards

It's often said that a man's home is his castle, but there seem to be some people who take this saying literally. They build hulking monuments to conspicuous consumption and call them homes. These imposing structures dwarf the other homes on the street and often set off a firestorm of controversy within the neighborhood.

One example of this is the cathedral of a house nearing completion on the corner of Panorama Drive and Briggs Avenue in La Crescenta. By removing all of the existing trees on the property, the owner made an already massive structure appear even larger.

Another home that caused a stir a couple of years ago is on Orange Avenue, just west of Monte Vista Elementary School. When construction started, neighbors questioned whether the height exceeded the county limit. While it did not, the size of the home overpowers the single-story homes on the block.

Developments in the Glendale portion of La Crescenta must go to a hearing before a Design Review Board. This gives the neighbors a chance to view the design and make comments either for or against it. The review boards take compatibility into account when reviewing the plans for the project. La Cañada Flintridge has a similar procedure.

Los Angeles County has no such process and has minimal requirements for residential projects: A maximum height of 35 feet, setbacks of 20 feet in front, 10 feet in rear and 5 feet on each side. If the design is within these limits, it is approved without regard to how it fits in with the rest of the neighborhood.

This leaves the residents in the unincorporated part of La Crescenta with no notification of upcoming developments in their neighborhoods, or the opportunity to see the plans and weigh in on them. Most often they learn about a new development or remodel when the construction equipment arrives or trees start being cut down.

The county has a mechanism that allows communities to draft standards that protect the characteristics they value. La Crescenta has a Community Standards District that encompasses the multi-family and Foothill Boulevard commercial zones.

Several other unincorporated areas in the county have drafted Community Standards Districts for their residential zones. Two of the closest to La Crescenta are Altadena and East Pasadena-San Gabriel. They established standards for setbacks, yards, height, maximum lot coverage, parking, etc. Their residents have chosen to take control of development and safeguard their quality of life.

Should we in unincorporated La Crescenta be at a disadvantage to our neighbors to the east and west? Do we want to have a say in how our neighborhoods are changed? Should the Community Standards District be expanded to include single-family residential zones?

The Crescenta Valley Community Assn. will discuss forming a committee to explore a residential Community Standards District for La Crescenta/Montrose at our next meeting on July 28. We meet at 7 p.m. in the Dunsmore Park community room at 4700 Dunsmore Ave. Please come and share your thoughts.

SHARON RAGHAVACHARY is a former Crescenta Valley Town Council member and on the steering committee for Crescenta Valley Community Assn. She may be reached at sharonchary@gmail.com.

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