Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Altadena Crest Trail: It's a Long Story

By the late 1980’s, the area directly north of Altadena’s Lincoln Avenue known as La Vina had seen better days. La Vina Sanitorium, an upscale tuberculosis rehabilitation facility founded in 1911, had closed its doors more than a decade earlier. Now there were no doors left to close. Or windows for that matter. Not much remained that hadn't been ripped from a wall, torn off a hinge, axed, broken, or burned.

Walking the grounds meant picking your way through vestiges of indeterminate medical leftovers -- cracked glass, hoses, broken dishes, test tubes, concrete pillars -- ruins so ruined one couldn’t tell if the remnants of this room or that had been used for examinations, operations, living quarters, or something mysterious an elegant convalescent hospital may have entertained, back in the day.

In other words, by the late 80’s, La Vina’s attractions were only evident to vandals and those who liked to stub a toe on the remains of recent history. Oh yes, and real estate developers.

Ultimately, the property was purchased for a housing subdivision. And in the early 1990’s, the new owner fenced off La Vina as construction got underway.

The fence, however, much to the surprise of those of us who weren't really paying attention, didn't just enclose what was left of the hospital, but considerable acreage around and above it as well. The fencing even severed a portion of an historic trail, one used daily by hikers and horseback riders – the Altadena Crest Trail.

No worries, said the developer. Once the subdivision is complete, we’ll reconnect the trail and make it better than ever, plus provide some open space recreational acreage. Everybody wins! Hooray, said the county officials.

That was almost 20 years ago.

There's more on Patch. But like I said, it's a long story.


  1. oh lord, that fight is STILL going on?!?!?

    I used to hang out around La Vina in hs.

    CanNOT believe the HOA took the stance they did. CanNOT believe Mike sold out to the developer.

  2. One reason 'developer' is a dirty word all over North America.

  3. When government gets messed up in things, they always end up FUBAR. Around here, where there's been lots of stuff for 200+ years, private conservation groups are buying up land and creating trails. You guys have a few decades to go before you reach that point.

  4. Wow. What a story, and I guess the forgetfulness of the county and developers shouldn't surprise me, but is it pretty disgusting.

  5. 29 houses to 270 houses? Are you kidding? The power of numbers and other specifics . . . wow.

    A tale well told. As always, I want to know what cannot be known: what was the character of the conversations behind closed doors? Were the empty suits sneering toward or merely oblivious to issues like the importance of open spaces, the disruption of species' habits and movements, the pattern of building away, away, from the city's core instead of renovating and revitalizing toward it. Above all, maybe, were they sneering and mocking or merely ignorant and indifferent to the arguments of green "do-gooders"?

    I'm very comfort-oriented; I am no monk. But I've never understood the desires of people who are so into money, property, and manipulation of other humans that they feel no natural moral boundary corraling their greed.

    And from there, it's a short step to my own and anyone's local and national politics. Looks like you pushed a button, AH.

  6. So many hurdles over so many years. I have a friend and former coworker who moved to La Vina last year. I'll have to ask her which side, if any, the residents are on (she better say the right thing!).

  7. Interesting. The HOA response actually seems fairly predictable. I am actually a little surprised that they didn't try to make it for members-only.

    I am glad that the trail has supporters and advocates who remember and pursue.

  8. It never ceases to amaze me how some people think we are living on the planet of years ago. Their thinking comes from pre-population boom, pre-drought, pre-recession, etc. It's like Eisenhower is president all over again.

  9. Horrid. I think Desiree's "Boo hisss!" says it in a nutshell.

  10. I've managed to walk my dog through there, I just pushed past the man at the gate and told him it was a free country, but the confrontation spoilt the walk, and I didn't enjoy going past those identical pastel-colored houses with their manicured lawns and lack of trees, where no-one was outside and no kids played. Some people that live there are nice, but the ones on the HOA really seem to dislike the rabble living below them in Altadena, it seems. I hope they're the ones who have to cough up the money to pay for the court costs, and not the nice people as well.

    The people you name who have doggedly pursued this for countless years, using their own money, are heroes.

  11. It is a long story and I'm familiar with it. A friend of a friend was caretaker between closure and McMansionism. Later, the same fellow who was instrumental in getting us the LLA commission was the one who told me about the fight he had personally been engaged in through LA County with La Vina. A pro-equestrian himself, who hailed from Wyoming, had lived in Altadena as a kid and now then acquired a ranch out in the Santa Clarita Valley. I'm afraid by the date given here, he may have been ill and unable to continue the fight.

  12. I'm late to this story but incensed to learn it. It makes me want to scream! Wish I had more time to join the battle.

  13. I thought this was part of the Pacific Crest Trail. If it is, it's a national thing and nobody can deny people access, even if it's on their property...

    It must have been awesome to be able to walk into the ruins of that medical facility...

  14. Alas, that trail crosses further north of town, along the Angeles Crest. The Altadena Crest trail is closer to civilization.