Thursday, May 20, 2010

Home, Hearth, and the Almansor Center in Altadena

It’s easy to accuse others of NIMBY’ism when it’s not your own backyard at issue.

An organization wants to establish a school, serving 250 children with autism, on a sparsely populated, rustic street in the northern reaches of Altadena.

Many of the homeowners openly oppose the idea. As a consequence, some folks are accusing the opposition of bigotry -- as if the neighborhood would be fine with a ten-fold increase in daily traffic, noise, and exhaust fumes provided no one in the cars had a disability.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, or maybe just a small one, because I do know several children with autism, lovely and smart children, and realize a good school is hard to find.

Still, I don’t like bullies. And a bully in this case would be one who levels insults at another when his own comfort is not at risk.

We’re all asked from time to time to sacrifice on a personal level for the greater good. And maybe this is such a case, especially given the fact there's an existing compound on the street. But when the sacrifice involves prized elements of one’s own home and intimate life -- privacy, air quality, early morning peace -- I can see how this school looms like a bitter pill. And were I in their shoes, in all honesty, I don't know that I'd swallow it either.


  1. I don't know that neighborhood, so I don't have a cat in that fight either. I'll just put my full trust in your words per the norm.

    But, I wunder how our generation rates on the self-centered scale compared to the greatest generation, or any other?

  2. In this age we do tend to quickly affix labels to people. Hence, anyone who supports the Arizona legislation must be a racist, anyone who opposes this school must be uncaring and prejudiced. It makes us feel better about ourselves when we can label others.

    It's hard to know where we stand on the self-centered scale, Cafe, but I think it's been going up annually. I do have some views on the Greatest Generation, but they generally seem less self centered than the generations that followed.

    WV: hotsabs "These people are just a bunch of hotsabs."

  3. If not in their backyard, then whose? I don't have any answers. Just questions.

  4. Hoooo boy. Well I'll tell you that I taught school for 20 years have some wonderful memories of working with quite a number of autistic children. Autism covers vast vast spectrum. 250 autistic children in one place. Well my hat's off to the teachers and staff. I hope it provides these children with a wonderful learning environment with caring personnel. As far as the neighbors.....I don't have an answer for that one. But walk a mile in the shoes of the families of those 250 children and then maybe a little early morning traffic and noise won't seem all that earth shattering.

  5. I have a friend who lives near there, so I know the street, if it can be called that. Country lane might be a better term. I appreciate that autistic children need a special school, but if you saw the location, I'm sure you'd agree that this isn't the right place for one.

  6. Is it a residential neighborhood? If so, I have to agree with the residents.

    I once lived a block from a school and I will never do so again. It was a nightmare. Not because of the students but because of the traffic, the parents and the school itself, all of which thought they took precedence over us and our neighbors. We couldn't move out of there fast enough.

    A quiet, residential street is no place for a school. I'm with Bellis on this one.

  7. That's the trouble with generica, er, I mean suburbia; when something new and different is planned in the sterile homogeneity of suburban cookie cutter residential areas - especially starter castle subdivisions, teeth will be gnashed and wine will be spilled.

    However, there must be zoning laws to separate residential housing from institutions of learning and other non residential buildings.

    Yet, schools are typically built close to or surrounded by residential areas. The nerve ruining the homogeneous atmosphere of the McNeighborhood.

  8. I don't (can't, really) have an opinion on this, but a couple of relevant facts are: there is an institutional/school compound there, and folks moved into the neighborhood knowing that; we had to shut down the comments on the website because the neighbors were losing their manners vis/a/vis supporters of the school.

  9. I had to laugh when I saw your description of Altadena, Rob. But I do realize it's a little hard to see us from Minnesota.

    I've often wondered what the purpose of the compound was -- was it originally a sanitorium? Some of the outbuilding appear to be quite old.

  10. This entry reminds me of the discussion I had with you (and Mary) about taking a good look around you before you buy.
    That old nursery/school/hillside/orange grove won't stay that way forever. And as to Mary (formally from St Cloud Minn) as we were headed out of Kagel Canyon, she turned to me and said "there's so much diversity here, you cannot imagine" and I believe her.

    huh, whose that author again?

  11. Yes, I guess. It's not enough to make reasonable assumptions about a place based on its history of use, etc.

    I just hope we never get sidewalks up here. Given the size of my front yard, they'd have to run it through my kitchen.

  12. I too lack enough info and dog ownership to weigh in, but I second AH's and Earl's points that finger wagging at NIMBYers is often more reflex than the result of thoughtful, detached info-gathering and honestly trying to imagine both sides.

    More than once I've wagged too soon at NIMBYers, but a healthy skepticism about the motives for NIMBY is, well, healthy. I assume the neighborhood's coolness (hostility?) would be the same about ANY kind of school? Or is the issue of congestion and noise some kind of smokescreen?

    I found it helpful to check Sage of Altadena's site, May 19, "Palm St." Sounds as if that neighborhood has already been through a similar situation and has cause to resist.

    But Terri's also right, the school has to go somewhere (apparently), and an existing building and campus probably mean saving dollars.

  13. It's nice to hear the sound of children's voices in a neighborhood, especially when they're playing, but the traffic for schools is always a problem. If it's near a major artery, maybe, but if it's deep in a residential section it would be difficult for everyone and since it looks like it's part of a chain of private schools it wouldn't truly be a neighborhood school either.

    wv premo

  14. I don't have a dog in this fight but I did follow through on Tims blog and discovered that the La Vinanites raised the white flag. YaaaaY! One of the members of an art committee I worked, with was the dog in that fight for the LA County side. A shout out to Mr J

    wv: outbarc

  15. I almost feel sorry for the La Vina residents - almost. But I didn't like the way they were so unneighborly, and those No Trespassing signs deep down in Millard Canyon, nowhere near their precious houses, were like a declaration of war. There are some nice people living there, I've heard, and it seems unfair that they will have to shell out the money as well, but they should have talked sense into the Homeowners Association before it got to this.

  16. Re La Vina: I know at least one resident who was dead against the actions taken by the HOA, so I'm sure there were others. Just not enough to swing a vote.

    Another resident told me they have some sort of insurance policy that will cover legal fees. Didn't know there was such a thing.

  17. Sorry, I didn't mean to rip on Altadena exclusively, just all suburbs in general.

    I grew up in generica and still live in yet another generica (suburb). I have a love/hate relationship with the 'burbs. Love the larger yards and more open spaces, the quietness of it all. But I hate that everything is cookie cutter, no imagination. Dining out is dull in generica. All the chain restaurants look identical from 'burb to 'burb serving mediocre warmed up 'food'. I can't figure out why suburbanites fawn over chain restaurants.

  18. Rob, come visit. There's nothing generic about Altadena. No cookie cutter, no chain restaurants.

  19. You always share something different with us !

  20. Howdy, Rob,

    A St. Paul boy here-I live on the lower east side. Come visit-you'd love it-not a speck of generica but for the people who wish to tout it as so.
    I can't speak for Mpls., but St. Paul has upwards of 100 CRF s (community residential facilities)in the run down parts of town. Why there?
    Because absentee landlords and dodgy renters don't really care about the neighborhoods, while most of the homeowners are burnt out from urban blight.
    Actually, I will speak to Mpls.:
    Some of the county's "Human Service" execs have established little dynastys of their own-they know how to manuever the Federal red tape. The income potential is enormous, per diem payments through welfare or other CDBG (community development block grants): one example is $1400 a month per head, give 'em a bologna sandwhich each day, and exhort the "client" to go out and find support and /or counseling in exchange for sharing a room in a 100 year old building with 20 or 30others broken up cookie cutter style-do the math.
    Of course, Alhansor must be different; after all, it's "for the children", right? 250 or so children?
    i have a lot of questions about the proposed developers abilities, applicable State and Federal laws,
    and maybe, most importantly, the variances that will probably be needed to effect zoning changes, most likely requiring special conditions, as approved through local planning council's votes.
    if i were an opponent, I'd avoid the emotion and look to the local statutes for relief.
    Go easy on that $8 Guinness from Kiernan's.

  21. Miss J has lived on the same street as a school... granted it was a high school, so she figures that's worse than this would be BUT... between the loud, littering teens, the buses and cars and sporting events on weekends, there was rarely peace. Or fresh air. She'd fight it, too, were it coming to her 'hood.

  22. Very good points Mr. E...

    Well, I don't have a stake in this, but I do have a past career working in non public special education schools....which I am assuming this one is. Non public schools exist to serve the students that public schools cannot serve. Generally the reason they cannot stay in the public school is because they are a significant behavior problem or their difficulties are so severe they require far more attention than a public school can provide. I fully believe in the necessity of these programs, but I can tell you honestly that if one was proposed for my neighborhood, I would not be very neighborly and I would be leading the protest...