Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Altadena rules

Altadena has myths by the shovelful. For example, legend has it, just a few years ago some real estate developers airlifted a few blocks of residential stucco and accidentally lost their load on the way to Orange County. So today we have a little bit of suburban heaven that squats and sweats at the top of Lincoln Avenue in Altadena, smashed into a hillside that once held court to bridle paths and hiking trails.

In the parlance of the suburbia of my youth, this is called a “sub-division,” large houses on small lots, celebrating a barren landscape where trees will grow eventually, but not in our lifetime.
La Vina simmers in the summer at a crest of the San Gabriel hillside, too worried about coyotes, not worried enough about wildfires. The place is gated, so only residents can complain they’ve been once around the block too often.

Another myth that’s been circulating forever says the Altadanish are too independent and proud to allow annexation by Pasadena, or even more obscurely, to allow incorporation. If we’re a proud and independent people, I’d also lay wager we’re lazy and cheap. So we remain, part of the county of Los Angeles, at the mercy of an assemblyman who doesn’t even live here.

South Pasadena incorporated near the turn of the last century, with a grand total of 500 residents. It has grown some but not much, relative to other SoCal cities, and has been able to stop freeway construction that would cut the little city in half.

I fear, in our current state, Altadena nature will lose all the big fights. On the upside, we can vote to decide whether a cell phone tower should resemble a plastic pine or a plastic palm.


  1. Fuck Altadena. You should all be part of the Pasadanish.

  2. I love the collective terms ...

  3. My wv says it best: ousunk, unless you take the kind of action your essay calls for.

  4. Just can't decide on the proper response:

    - Ich bin ein Altadeners

    - Altadena über alles

    - Altadena por Vida!

  5. Altadanish. Can I get that at the Coffee Gallery?

    wv: chloo

  6. I think Miss Haversham summed it up succinctly, but I want to cast my vote from the great state of Alabama,for the PLASTIC PALM!


    My wv is TOMATI, got any ripe ones yet?

  7. It is exactly the kind of soulless development you describe that causes me to pronounce the word suburban as "sub-urban"--as in less than or inferior to urban. And if I weren't so lazy, I would some day research the origin of the word; I suspect my pronunciation isn't far from the original intent of the word.

  8. Sorry, I was venting. Ran past this sweet hillside retreat yesterday and always makes my blood boil. And there are still lawsuits going on re: rights to the trail.

    Good lord, Terry, can this be right?

    "From Latin suburbanus, from prefix sub-, under, + urbs, city, + adjective suffix -anus." -- Wiktionary

    K, I love that last one!

    Ok, I feel better now.

  9. Go with the pine, there are enough damn palm trees around this place.

  10. a barren landscape where trees will grow eventually, but not in our lifetime -- yea, nature takes it all back eventually...

  11. Miss H I am shocked! Altadena is a wonderful place. Linda

  12. I vote for the pine. You already have a plastic palm. It's in the parking lot of the smaller Ranch market up on Lincoln. I know these things. It's my job too.

  13. This made me laugh "The place is gated, so only residents can complain they’ve been once around the block too often."

    Aside from the residents that have been driving around their gated community searching for their homes isn't Altadena home to many artists, writers, actors and other creative individuals?

    Correct me if I'm wrong; but If Altadena becomes part of Pasadena won't the creative people eventually be priced out of the possibility of living there?

    WV retaiming (fitting)

  14. Love Altadanish, altho' I always think of us as Altadenoids.

    And who needs to be part of Pasadena, anyway? Altadena has historically been the place for people who weren't "good enough" for the Pasadanes -- poor people, artists and bohos, blacks ...

    I go for plastic pine, because I hate palm trees.

  15. Those gated communities really freak me out. The last time I was in Mission Viejo it seemed the entire place was a gated community.

    I like K's slogans.

  16. Gated communities remind me of Netflicking "Weeds". It's funny!

    WV mooddem like in mood-um... where was I?

  17. Ditto MH, as amended by TR de AD "Blogmaster" (see how those AD's can be!!)

  18. Mid-Town G, it depends. We rented a nice little house in Altadena, but when it came time to buy we couldn't afford a the neighborhood. We were forced to live in Pasadena, not that we mind.
    I like the cliche that Altadena is "fiercely independent." But we really shouldn't talk about it here. It's still one of soCal's best kept secrets.

  19. It's so fiercely independent it's dependent on de county. Ok, I guess they're in good hands.

  20. I bonded with Altadena some years ago when I discovered Farnsworth Park at the top of Lake Street. It was, to become my away from home library or stack where I could simply sit for a while. I hit a few tennis balls on the courts, and discovered the benches. There was always an empty one. For over ten years I have gone there on the weekends, throughout the seasons, and watched parades of pit bulls, kids and adults playing baseball, soccer. Then on some really great days, I have been the only one in the park with a book and a couple of hours of total peace. You can get in a quiet state of mind in a place where you have been for years, and you know no one. I have a personal Altadena docent who introduced me to some places of interest.
    I adopted this ersatz homeland. It became a hub around which I drove through the area, took a few pics, and reveled in being anonymous. I like this little closet of a city; a coffee house about a mile from the park; an ARCO station where the gas is cheaper than anywhere in my “hood.” There are houses that I have photographed that have stories that I can create based on changes and no changes over time. Perhaps there is something to be said about being the untouched lower lip of a face that is being cosmetically restructured with the passage of time. A little tuck here, enlargement there, an occasional implant over yonder. There are no ugly places here, but histories, lives and stories to be told or imagined. This is my library.