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Altadena trust attempts to buy La Crescenta parcel for open space

September 26, 2011
(Raul Roa/Staff…)

An Altadena land trust is trying to build community support for the purchase of a 7.75-acre property in La Crescenta to preserve as open space for wildlife and outdoor recreation activities.

The parcel is located at the top of Rosemont Avenue at the mouth of Goss Canyon, a 250-acre area that is largely privately owned.

The Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy has an exclusive, right-to-buy agreement in place through December, giving it three months to pull together the $450,000 needed to secure the property, Executive Director John Howell told members of the Crescenta Valley Town Council last week.

“If we are not able to acquire it, [the owners] will be forced to put it on the market and that would mean in all likelihood that land builders would be looking to acquire it,” Howell said.

A preliminary biological survey identified extensive plant life, as well as 31 species of birds, Howell said. There is also a small stream on the property.

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A more extensive study would be conducted once the transaction is complete.

“This low elevation land is valuable both as an open space and because it acts a crucial buffer both for the people in the city and the animals in the mountains,” Howell said.

The parcel could also serve as a gateway into the hills, Howell said, adding that it already has a short trail that may be suitable for hikers, joggers and bird watchers.

“La Crescenta is surrounded by wilderness, but you can’t get to that wilderness from the community, and that is something we would like to change,” he said.

Founded in 2000, the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy has executed similar projects in the foothill communities, including preserving Rubio Canyon in Altadena.

Justin Whalin said his family, which owns and operates La Cañada Preparatory and The Learning Castle in La Cañada Flintridge, bought the property in 2005 for $1.5 million with the intent of building a school there. But a lukewarm response from the community prompted them to scrap the idea, he said.

They are willing to sell the property — which is zoned for single-family dwellings — below market price as an acknowledgment of the community’s long-running support for their education-oriented businesses, Whalin said.

“We are not land developers,” Whalin said. “We are not interested in building single-family homes on the property.”

The conservancy plans to fund the $450,000-project with help from government agencies, private foundations and community members, Howell said.

“We will need your ideas and your support to make it into something that will really help the community,” Howell said, asking the Town Council for a letter declaring the project a priority for the community.

Town Council members voted to continue the discussion to a special land-use meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at the La Crescenta Library.

-- Megan O'Neil, Times Community News

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