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Friday, February 10, 2017

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger Voices Concerns, Listens to Altadena Residents at Chamber Breakfast

Newly elected L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger opened up to Altadena residents and business owners Thursday morning about her concerns, hopes and plans of action to help Altadena thrive.

The early morning “Power Breakfast” hosted by the Altadena Chamber was an opportunity not only for Barger to let residents get to know her better as a person and politician, but also for her to listen to what business owners had to say about what needs improvement and what’s working for the people of Altadena.

“It’s been a challenging couple of months,” Barger said. “With the new (Presidential) Administration coming in, there’s been a lot of reaction as it relates to the County and how we operate.”

Barger oversees a district that is more than two thousand square miles in area and includes portions of the San Gabriel, Pomona, San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys.

“I, and we, have challenges because I am an extension of everyone in this room. I’m only as good as the information you bring forward to the Chamber and I can promise you that I do listen,” Barger said. “I may not always give you the answer you want, but I have an open door policy. I am committed. This is my community, too.”

While Barger touched on some big picture issues for the County, her real focus targeted Altadena.

“When I hear the people today asking questions and talking, the common thread is love for Altadena and the fact that they want to keep Altadena the way it is — and I get that,” Barger said.

“To be here today and meet with the businesses that are really generating a lot of the revenue for the area is an honor. This gives me hope of what is to come for Altadena.”

Homelessness is a looming problem, a top priority issue. Barger said. It requires collaboration between residents and the government.

“One of the first things we worked on was the homeless issue. We need to empower our cities and work with them. Government alone can’t fix this problem and I would argue that government shouldn’t be expected to fix this problem,” said Barger.

“When I talk to you about the number of homeless living on the streets, I blame Prop 47,” Barger added. “I believe that has exacerbated what is already a situation that we were struggling with as it relates to housing. I would encourage you all to please, please read every proposition from this day forward to make sure you understand what you are voting for.” said Barger about the proposition passed two years ago that decriminalized drug use and changed felonies to misdemeanors of certain kinds of theft.

Another hot topic was Altadena’s Community Standards District, which is a set of supplemental district zoning regulations that will ensure new and expanded structures and uses are compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods within the unincorporated Altadena community.

“We talked about the fact that we have a Community Standards District that’s coming forward and businesses need to engage because what’s decided with the Community Standards District is really what is going to be the footprint moving forward as it relates to overall architecture and also the standards of what businesses are going in,” said Barger.

The existing CSD was established in 1998, and is based on the 1986 Altadena Community Plan. The current update to the Altadena CSD is in progress in collaboration with the Altadena CSD Committee, a subcommittee of the Altadena Town Council.

A Board hearing for this ordinance has been scheduled by the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning for February 28.

“We’re on the cusp of voting in the the Community Standard Districts which is very important to our community because we are not a city, we are literally a township, so we report to L.A. County,” said Altadena Chamber Vice President Meredith Miller.

According to Miller, there are old rules and regulations in place for building in the residential and commercial areas of Altadena that are about to be updated in the coming month. A volunteer group has been working on the update for the past three years, Miller said.

“We’ve very anxious to update our standards so we bring in more people in the business community that want to get involved by opening businesses here as well as residents,” Miller explained.

Barger urged the people of Altadena to get involved with community organizations and committees that serve to work with the County to help businesses stay and grow in Altadena.

“My goal is to strengthen the Town Council and give them the resources necessary to engage the community and the community includes the businesses. The businesses are the meat and potatoes of Altadena,” said Barger.

Residents also expressed their growing concerns about what they described as Hollywood’s growing presence in Altadena — a presence that some describe as a nuisance from frequent film shoots taking place in residential areas.

At least a few television pilot shows that were shot in Altadena were ultimately picked up by networks. That’s good news for the shows, but their success has resulted in weekly recurring shoots in neighborhoods, according to Barger, who said she has received hundreds of calls from residents.

“We want to encourage filming because that is the bread and butter of L.A. County as it relates to the film industry. We don’t want to chase them out, but at the same time we want them to be good neighbors and be appropriate when they come in to film. We are working on that now. It’s going to be a struggle, but I believe we can come up with a compromise and come up with something that will allow the film industry to benefit the community as well,” said Barger.

The Altadena Chamber hosts its Power Breakfast once a month at the Altadena Town and Country Club located at 2290 Country Club Drive and is an opportunity for the Altadena business community to network and learn together.

“The Chamber is a fluid project, I find, because as the community changes so does the Chamber,” said Miller. “We work hard to let people know why it’s great to have a business up here, we’re involved in things with the community and with the school districts and with networking and getting people to know what’s important about Altadena if you’re going to become a business owner in this community.”

Miller, who owns the 91 year old Webster’s Pharmacy on Lake Ave., voiced her support for local businesses and the positive impact these businesses have within the community.

“Local business has always been a cornerstone. I’m a living example of what can happen when a business can thrive in a local community and we’re seeing more independent businesses coming up here that want to get involved in a community that gives back and appreciates that as we see big developments forming in the bigger cities,” said Miller.

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