Old Spock vs. New Spock in a round of golf at the Altadena Town & Country Club
by Timothy Rutt
The old year is over, and so long (and maybe good riddance) to it, but there was a lot going on in Altadena in 2013. Here’s a look at some of the most significant happenings last year.
Altadena is home to lots of creative folks doing interesting work, and we were happy to feature a few of them.
Some of our personal favorites included photographer Sarah Allegra, who spins gold on a budget with creative use of materials, an artist’s eye, and deft use of computer technology. Another was Steven T. Seagle, comic book guy extraordinaire, who is affecting the culture through graphic novels for adults and animation for children.
This was a big year for the performing arts as well: a new group, the California Shakespeare Ensemble made Farnsworth Park their home this summer with a production of “Shakespeare’s LOVERS.” Shakespeare-by-the-Sea also brought the Bard to Farnsworth Park with his lesser-known play "King John" in a summer performance.
This year also brought a treat as New York City writer Polly Frost came back home to Altadena in a series of performances of her one-woman show, “Bad Role Models and What I Learned From Them." She first performed it in the very Altadena barn where much of it took place, and followed it up with performances at Webster’s Fine Stationers this summer.
This Halloween brought the fourth year of Wicked Lit to Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum, which was rated by some the best place to go for Halloween 2013, and we won’t dispute it.
Another untraditional venue is the Porticos performance space at St. James United Methodist Church along the border (it has a Pasadena address but an Altadena location). Among the performances was a candy-colored anime-Informed version of The Mikado by the Pacific Opera Project.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art also camped out in Charles White Park for a month with the LACMA Film Lab, showing classic movies and teaching film techniques to anybody who showed up.
Walmart Neighborhood Market opened March 1 on Lincoln Avenue, While it may not be the apocalypse that some warned about (in fact, it doesn’t seem to be that busy most of the time), it still had some ripple effects at local businessess. Leticia Vega refocused her nearby Poncitlan Meat Market into Ponci Burrito Express, featuring home-made Mexican fast food, responding to Walmart and Super King’s effect on her business.
A big change was the sale of the Webster’s complex at 2450 N. Lake Avenue, ending an eight decade Altadena tradition. The new owners, Greenbridge Investment Partners, have promised a facelift of the property in an attempt to attract some new businesses. But that change included the loss of Webster’s Fine Stationers, which had remade itself in the past few years to become a cultural hub featuring locally-made products, local authors’ books, and becoming a place to hold business and cultural events. Lori and Scott Webster have until Jan. 31 to vacate the building, and we hope they’ll find a place, soon and close by. (Webster’s Community Pharmacy passed out of family hands years ago, and has a long-term lease, so it’s staying.)
Other changes include the new ownership and focus for the Park Bench Deli, now the Park Bench Grill; and Sue Black retiring and shutting down the Sue B. Dance Studio.
And ... after many years of planning ... MonteCedro, the planned retirement community, closed the last of the houses it owned on Crawford Avenue and broke ground on the old Scripps Home property. When finished, it promises to become one of the biggest employers in Altadena. That’s one big hole filling in.
The fate of the other big hole-- the Calavaras Crater at Lake Avenue -- remains to be seen. The owners, the Charles Company -- which also owns the lot now occupied by WalMart -- are going though the county process to build a retail store on the site, but aren’t saying much about what kind of retail store. Rumors are still strong that it’s another WalMart Neighborhood Market, but for now we'll wait and see.
Altadena Food Culture
Altadena is growing a reputation as a place where interesting things are happening revolving around food. Our backyard urban farms, small-scale food and beverage purveyors -- and of course our farmers’ market -- have raised Altadena’s profile as a center for Foodie LA life.
There are two centers of gravity for Altadena’s food culture. One of them is the Altadena Farmers’ Market. Market manager Joseph Shuldiner’s vision was named Business of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce, but his unique take on the farmers’ market was already noted by many media outlets, including Bon Apetit. The Wednesday afternoon market not only provides locally-grown produce, and interesting locally-produced food, but serves as a business incubator for those who want to make their passion into a living.
One of those was Pizza of Venice, which started out as one of the market vendors but now has its own shop at 2545 North Fair Oaks Avenue.
The other center of Altadena food gravity is the Zane Grey Estate. Steve Rudicel and Gloria Putnam’s rather large home is also an urban goat farm and a classroom for the Institute of Domestic Technology, whose director is ... Joseph Shuldiner. It’s like the circle of life.
Shuldiner was also tapped to be a consultant to the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, giving a facelift and new purpose to a venerable local institution.
One thing that has been missing from Altadena’s food culture has been a destination restaurant. That drought ended with the opening of Chef Paul Ragan’s AltaEats at 1860 North Allen Avenue near New York Drive. His unique and wide-ranging take on well-prepared, locally-sourced food has garnered fans from around LA County. There’s no sign on the building still, but apparently he doesn’t need one.
And, after several years of planning and work by dedicated volunteers, the Altadena-centric Arroyo Food Co-op finally found a building to call its own on Wilson Avenue in Pasadena and hired a manager. The co-op may start business on a pre-order, pre-pay basis as early as this month.
The Great Outdoors
What is with these people hiking in Eaton Canyon? Despite a lot of work on the county and law enforcement level, the whap-whap-whap of the rescue chopper is a common sound as search and rescue teams go after the lost, trapped, or injured. Most of the time it’s someone who was unprepared for what they were getting into. And yet the forest service says there’s little they can do.
Another emerging issue is the county’s plan to dredge sediment from Hahamongna Watershed. What was designed as a place to trap floodwater has become a natural refuge, thanks to decades of deferred maintenance. How is the county planning to fix it? By deploying thousands of trucks over a period of years, six days a week, 12 hours a day, to move out sediment -- which critics say will cause another environmental disaster in its place. Another flood is inevitable, so something needs to be done -- but spending years and millions of gallons of diesel fuel to turn the area into a barren flatland isn’t an appealing prospect. Expect this issue to drag out for years more.
People dwelling at the edge of the Angeles Forest spent the summer looking at flying men and listening to explosions -- it was Southern California Edison upgrading its lines to provide power from windfarms in the high desert.. Quite a show. But not everyone thought it was a good idea.
Meanwhile, a new danger may lurk in your trees: the shot hole borer beetle has already taken down several trees in Altadena, and it looks like this stubborn pest will continue to endanger trees for the forseeable future.
Your Government at Work
The Altadena Community Center celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The Center acts as headquarters for many local groups and provides office, meeting, and even party space for many more.
The annual Town Council transition was a little rougher than usual this year: accusations flew against councilmembers, followed by blowback against the chair, but in the end the candidate slate was approved and business went on.
The Altadena Sheriff’s Station noted an uptick in residential burglaries, as well as crimes of opportunity (leaving stuff in cars). A combined agency bust closed one Altadena home that was alleged to be a depot for drugs coming in out of Mexico. Altadena Drive at around Glenrose had more than one complaint about shots fired, and two were wounded in one incident.
Capt. John S. Benedict told a meeting of ACONA in November that there was still a gang problem in Altadena. Many shootings are gang-related, and sometimes gangs will form alliances to create burglary crews to enter neighborhoods ripe for the plucking. But overall, the reports of the year seem to show that, while property crime is up slightly, violent crime is down.
A few deaths worth noting this year: Justin Carr, 16, who died of an undiagnosed heart problem during swimming practice (his funeral filled up All Saints Church in Pasadena). Judy Wheeler, a mover and a shaker on the Altadena Community Center and Lincoln Avenue business development, Barbara Pearson, director of the Altadena Libraries. Sue Redman, editor of the Altadena Chronicle. Rosa Johnson, “Mrs. Altadena,” died this year the day after celebrating her 103rd birthday.
These are a few of my favorite things
A nod of the head to two interviews that we particularly enjoyed this year: Elizabeth Claire Lambert wrapped up her Girl Scout career with a Gold Award project: creating a counseling room at Eliot Middle School out of an unused room. Arthur Ronnie spent a lifetime accumulating signed books from great 20th century historical figures, largely in aviation and exploration, but also presidents and celebrities -- and now, at 82, he was putting them up for auction.
After an interminable amount of time, the on-again-off-again building at Lincoln Avenue and Altadena Drive went definitely on-- it was finally finished into a handsome new campus for Aveson Global Leadership Academy for grades 6-12..
It was all about the videos this year. Our favorite was a long Buick ad that took in the Zane Grey Estate, Mother Moo, California Bohemian Leather, and all kinds of fun parts of Altadena life starring Steve Rudicel and Daniel Kent (We’re linking to the story because the video itself runs automatically).
The estate shows up again in this video on Disney Junior, which is pretty darn cute (goats, you know).
And we also liked this matchup: New Spock (Zachary Quinto) vs Spock Classic (Leonard Nimoy) in a golf showdown in Altadena that showed no actual golf.
New Year, New Look ... New Name?
Thank you to all of our community correspondents this year who have shared their stories, pictures, and video with our readers. This has always been Altadena's home-grown news product, and it wouldn't be so without your help!
Thanks to Laura Monteros, our stalwart special correspondent who did yeoman duty this year.
The year ahead here at Altadenablog promises to be very exciting. The corporate suits at AOL in New York are shutting down Patch (bringing news to Altadena isn't worth their time), but that doesn't mean we're going to be complacant here. We are working on some major changes to the website that we'll be talking about and plan to implement this month. (And yes, it will include a name change.) We'll be adding some new bylines to our roster of reporters (a couple may pleasantly surprise you). Sometime soon you'll be able to read this on your phone more easily than you do now, and sort through to the stories that interest you. Just watch this space.
Happy 2014! As Spock would say, Live long and prosper!