• GUEST OPINION

      Canyon Crest Road

      Canyon Crest Road (Photo – CCC).

      An unusual project has quietly been developing along a two-lane road on the west side of Altadena.

      By Canyon Crest Conservancy

      Canyon Crest Road is a former horse trail with no sidewalks that overlooks quiet Millard Canyon near the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and has a very rich history. It is the only road that leads to the Meadows, a historic neighborhood of 200+ homes, where Owen Brown, son of John, settled after the raid on Harpers’ Ferry in 1859. Canyon Crest residents have included actor Dennis Haysbert, Caltech physicist Murray Gell-Mann, and Yosh Kuromiya, a survivor of the WW II internment camps, outspoken draft resister and author.

      A sliver of land

      Recently, a couple bought a sliver of land on Canyon Crest Road and plan to build their dream home just after a sharp curve in the road. Their four-level building will be built both high and deep into a canyon in a designated high-risk fire zone. As designed, it will be over three times the height of its closest neighbor, be approximately 48 feet from top to bottom and require the removal of mature oak trees, along with encroachment into the canopy and root zone of a designated oak woodlands. The homes along the west side of this road were all built between 1910 and 1949 and none are above 16 feet.

      The Canyon Crest Conservancy believes that this project is an affront and paves the way for more development that could seriously alter Altadena’s natural landscape. The L.A. County regional planning dept.’s approval of this project is a blatant disregard of the wording and the intent of the Altadena Community Standards District Hillside Ordinance. This ordinance was adopted by the County in 2010 with intent of discouraging hillside development in the San Gabriel Mountains by restricting residences to two stories. We believe that Regional Planning approval of a four-level design is violation of the intent of this ordinance.

      This project has been couched in the sheep’s clothing of being nestled within the existing oak trees, yet has been approved to cut deeply into the mature root zones of several of these and remove several large limbs from their canopy. The project’s architect has touted his skill in being able to build close to mature trees but his track record has been impacted by foundations or retaining walls. The county’s Oak Woodlands Conservation Plan was written to help protect mature trees from unnecessary encroachment, yet has been abrogated by the minor mitigation procedure of planting 15 gallon saplings should any mature tree die because of construction.

      The property in question on the left (Photo - CCC).

      The property in question on the left (Photo – CCC).

      Altadena’s under-served areas

      If the intent of the County’s conservation Plan is to conserve then its wording should be tightened and enforced. If the intent is to merely approve construction and plant 15 gallon saplings after the fact, then it needs to be re-written to be enforceable. Mature trees affected by small scale projects deserved the same protections as those affected by large scale developments. It is also apparent that the County is not currently enforcing the statewide enacted Oak Woodlands management plan or CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) in those under-served areas like Altadena.

      Hundreds of neighbors have opposed this project ever since it was first proposed and have signed a petition in support of stopping it. Longtime Altadenans, who live immediate to the vacant property, have also fought back with door-to-door petitions, “Speak for the trees” signs, and multiple appeals to public agencies. Despite this, the Los Angeles County Regional Hearing Commission approved the project. Neighbors have banded together and are now appealing to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

      The Canyon Crest Conservancy will soon launch a fundraising campaign to buy the remaining undeveloped land in the neighborhood in order to preserve wild life corridors and Riparian/Oak woodlands in perpetuity.

      The Canyon Crest Conservancy is a non-profit corporation to protect open space, natural preservation areas, natural character & a high quality of life in the Canyon Crest area. Every Saturday is the regular “Trash Picking Day” at the Canyon Crest area.

       
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      Contributor

      Comments

      1. Kazi says:

        Making this fight sound like the skewed views of one neighbor is a very small slice of the neighborhood objections. Quoting small bits out of context also makes the above response sound like a supermarket rag. Please people, do your research thoroughly before you take a stand.

      2. Livilla says:

        We who live here do not care what these entitled beat owners want. They can’t do thing like normal people but have to save their bank account around to prove they are bigger special snowflakes than their neighbor’s and ruin our mountain home. Go find somewhere else to destroy.

        • John Lynch says:

          ASAD, It is very obvious that you are Stephen Kuhn the Developer. If you are so proud of your proposed project and wish to maintain any credibility you should not need hide behind an alias. Hundreds of people in the area all have different valid reasons for opposing your project.

          • Stephen Kuhn says:

            We are saddened that our neighbor has brought the same lack of rigor to this claim as he has to so many others. Asad appears to be that Altadena resident who wrote a well-considered letter included on page 238 of our Regional Planning Commission hearing package, here: http://planning.lacounty.gov/assets/upl/case/r2014-02411_rpc-package.pdf. We have attributed dozens of misunderstandings from some neighbors in opposition, their lawyer and paid consultants, most recently in this document: http://file.lacounty.gov/SDSInter/bos/supdocs/109406.pdf.

            We are a family, building a responsibly designed, net-zero home, hoping to walk into work every day and set down roots deeper in the community we’ve lived in for years.

          • Asad says:

            Sorry, nope. I am not Stephen Kuhn. I’m just a guy that lives in Altadena who recognizes bullying when I see it. I’m the same guy that posted a response critical to you when you posted on Nextdoor back before the hearing in April — after which you summarily deleted your post. Remember?

      3. Asad says:

        From what I see, the proposed project is actually incredibly modest in scope, extends minimally down the hillside, and gets nowhere NEAR the areas near the bottom of the canyon that may actually need environmental protection. And it is surrounded by other homes. If this home is an environmental or ecological problem, then all those other homes are too — yet Mr. Lynch, the owner of the adjoining property and main objector to this project (and founder of the Canyon Crest Conservancy) is not himself “walking the walk”, by returning his property to a natural state and encouraging his other neighbors to do the same. It makes no sense to object to THIS one on those grounds.

        In my view as an outside observer (I have no connection to either the owners or the neighbors), the owners have gone far above and beyond what is necessary to ensure their home has minimal impact on the surrounding area, including making several design changes to their project to reduce its visual impact and working around as many of the existing trees as possible. Yes, they are removing ONE oak tree (not multiple trees, as this propaganda article falsely claims and that the CCC has continued to falsely claim for probably the past year) and encroaching on the root zones of several others — but, as required by California and LA County law, they have done an oak tree assessment and the County has done their own environmental assessment — and everyone except for Mr. Lynch agrees that the impact is not significant. Mr. Lynch HIMSELF parks his full-size pickup on the root zones of one of the trees — on property that he does not own but that the owners are willing to let him continue to use.

        Similarly the propaganda piece also misleadingly compares the proposed project’s 48 foot overall height to the neighboring houses maximum of 16 feet, making it sound like the new home will tower over its neighbors at three times their height — which, if you look at the plans, is clearly not the case.

        I suspect the real issue here isn’t protecting the hillside from development — it’s Mr. and Mrs. Lynch protecting the view from their house. Mrs. Lynch even admitted as much in the hearing on April 19, 2016, where she stated, “So, personally, I’m right next to the subject and I’m really enjoying the nature, open space. We purchased a small house with 180 degree of our view and it’s going to be the end if the subject has been developed, so that is my concern…”

        If Mr. Lynch was really interested in preserving this area, he would have found a way to purchase the property in question when it was on the market (and, as I understand it, they were given the opportunity to prior to the current owners’ purchase), or he would have worked to provide a protected status for the area in question BEFORE someone created a plan for it. I suspect, based on a now-deleted comment on Nextdoor from this Spring, that Mr. Lynch thought the property was ‘safe’ from development due to the challenging terrain.

        The property owners have cleared every hurdle and jumped through every legal hoop required for building a residence on their residential-zoned property, and they should be free to do so. Otherwise, what is the point of having clear rules and a legal process if one can throw a wrench in it if they don’t like the outcome of the process simply by requesting hearing after hearing after hearing?

        The objection to this project is not environmental, in my view, nor is it about the threat of hillside development. It is NIMBYism, pure and simple.

        You can get the owner’s side of the story here:
        https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1354273/och/index.html

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