Saving Altadena

Saving Altadena

Group hopes to help grow businesses while collecting signatures to stop Wal-Mart

By Justin Chapman 09/12/2012

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Not all members of Save Altadena, a small army of individuals opposed to Wal-Mart opening in the unincorporated community in the mountains above Pasadena, agree on every detail involved in the campaign to stop the corporate giant from coming to town.

In less than a month, the group gained 270 members — more than three times the number of people who voted in the last election for the Altadena Town Council, an advisory board that has no real power but advises Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich on major issues, including the building of a Wal-Mart.

With so many new people coming together in such a short amount of time, it would be a stretch to say they agree unanimously on many, if any, issues. One thing that members of this growing political force all seem to agree on, however, is the need to keep Wal-Mart out of Altadena and promote businesses that are already there, businesses that have long been struggling and may not survive if forced to compete against Wal-Mart.

So far, neither the Town Council nor Antonovich have taken positions on proposals to allow two new Wal-Mart outlets — one, a Neighborhood Market at Lincoln Avenue and Figueroa Drive, and the other a store at Lake Avenue and Calaveras Street.

In response to those proposals, the group started a signature petition drive to have the LA County Board of Supervisors impose a moratorium on construction of retail stores 15,000 square feet or larger. So far, the group has collected more than 1,300 signatures, which it plans to present to the Board of Supervisors. A date for the presentation has not yet been set.

“Remember, until Wal-Mart has an occupancy permit, they cannot open,” said Jeanette Lamb, co-founder of Save Altadena.

“If we get the moratorium passed, at the very least they will have to wait, do traffic studies and obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) before they can open the store on Lincoln, and before they can start building on Lake Avenue,” said Lamb, wife of local activist and former Town Council member Steve Lamb.

Last month, members of the Postal Workers Union began gathering signatures for the moratorium alongside members of Save Altadena.

“Mike Evans, the union’s local president, really understands the concept of solidarity and that an injury to one is an injury to all,” said Steve Lamb.

The moratorium proposal was presented to the Town Council at a packed July 17 meeting, where 35 residents expressed support for the idea. But despite the turnout, the Town Council took no action.

At that meeting, Wal-Mart spokesperson Javier Angulo explained that the proposed Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on Lincoln Avenue would be utilizing a “site-to-store” service, where a customer could order any item in Wal-Mart’s catalogue and have it delivered to the Lincoln store, making the site a “parcel delivery terminal.” According to the Altadena Community Standards District Code, such a terminal would require a CUP to operate.

“Although the county won’t pursue this, because they say it is not the main thrust of the business, nowhere in the code is there any mention of any percentage of a business that is required for those services to be valid criteria for a CUP,” said Altadena resident James Knight. “Wal-Mart generally has separate parking for ‘site-to-store’ customers, so I imagine it’s not minimal.”

According to Edel Vizcarra, a representative from Antonovich’s office, county counsel determined that, because items ordered via the “site-to-store” method would be included with regular deliveries and would not require any additional trucks, it does not make the site a “parcel delivery terminal,” indicating they would not pursue a CUP on this matter.
The Town Council has not taken a stand on the two proposed Wal-Mart stores, but a few members have spoken out, as individuals, in support of Wal-Mart.

As for the existing local shops and grocery stores in West Altadena and on Lake Avenue, Town Council member Brent Musson believes business owners need to catch up to the digital age.

“My hope is that our local businesses will learn to adapt and to thrive in a digital age, but, unfortunately, many of our local shops were struggling long before Wal-Mart decided to come to town,” Musson wrote in an open forum he created online. “With or without Wal-Mart, if many Altadena business owners don’t fundamentally adapt the way they do business to the pervasive threat of online competition, they will not survive. I don’t want my local businesses to go away. I do want to see them more determined to thrive in a digital age rather than to expend all of their energies protesting.”

Musson went on to write that if he could have voted on the matter, he would not have voted for a Wal-Mart, but added that he does not support a moratorium.

“I’ve tried to get Trader Joe’s, Fresh & Easy, Whole Foods and a host of others to come to that corner. By the way, I don’t see any local businesses trying to develop Lincoln and Figueroa.”

That’s where some of Save Altadena’s more productive tactics come into play. Members have been actively “cash mobbing” locally owned businesses in Altadena by choosing a store each weekend and getting the word out to residents to shop at that store in order to support it in a unique and meaningful way.

The next cash mob is from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Poncitlan Meat Market and Restaurant, 2291 Lincoln Ave, Altadena, just north of Woodbury Road.

The group is also actively seeking desirable businesses that could fill all the vacant lots and empty buildings littering Altadena.

“There are lots of businesses Altadena does not have and needs,” said Steve Lamb, “such as women’s clothing, men’s clothing and shoe stores, ice cream shops, restaurants, bookstores, day spas, art galleries, equestrian tack shops, furniture stores, soap shops, sporting goods (stores), a movie theater; we need that stuff. We already have enough pharmacies and grocery stores.

“A Beverly Hills landlord shoving more of that down our throats and imperiling our existing businesses isn’t an answer to blight and unemployment,” he said, speaking of developer Arman Gabay, who owns both properties in question. “It is a creator of those conditions.”

One suggestion that has come forth during the Save Altadena meetings is encouraging the Altadena Library Board of Trustees to consider using the Lincoln Avenue location as an expanded site, where the literacy program could be greatly increased to focus on programs that make adults more employable and well-informed citizens.

As for the Lake Avenue site, Save Altadena has suggested to Gabay’s leasing agent that three or four restaurants could be developed there.

“Those are just a couple ideas,” said Jeanette Lamb. “We are looking for more and are open to more. We are looking for businesses to inhabit the Blockbuster, Altadena Nursery, Ronnie’s Automotive and other empty sites around town. Both the Altadena Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce have been AWOL on these issues, and we aim to really save Altadena from commercial death and community death by chains, so we are working on those efforts to bring local sustainable businesses into town.”

The group’s next meeting is set for 7 p.m. Friday at the Friends Retirement Center, 2691 N. Lincoln Ave., Altadena.


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Some clarity here.
The 270 members refers to Facebook friends, right?
The author of this article is a Facebook friend of this group.
Why do Save Altadena & Altadena Cash Mobs both do cash mobs? Answer, they don't. Altadena Cash Mobs has decided to give up it's efforts. Why? Who knows....... Not sure why SaveAltadena assumed that responsibility.
Buried in the middle of this article is the first mention that Walmart is building a neighborhood grocery store. NOT a supersize Walmart. IMO, this should've been mentioned much sooner in the article.
How many of the 1,300 sigs are from Altadena? The moratorium is for what areas? Unincorporated or all of LA County? Clarify please.

What I agree with is that I don't want Altadena to be a two Walmart grocery store town.
What we have are 1 super market (Super King), 1 grossly underperforming store (Ralphs) and a bunch of bodega, corner markets (i.e Armen Mkt, Bo's etc.). How is it we have enough grocery stores? The answer is it's enough b/c so many drive out of town to shop.

Soap shops, really?

posted by savealtadena on 9/14/12 @ 11:54 a.m.

the altadena anti walmart cause may be just, but they employ dishonest tactics. the folk song video was beautiful but leaves the disinformed with the impression that a supercenter will be going in. its hard to see how a couple 15000 square ft grocery stores will be a threat to coffee and tobacco shops, hardware and liquor stores. keep it real Steve if you want respect.

posted by the truth on 9/15/12 @ 02:20 p.m.

The two proposed Walmart Neighborhood Stores will be just under 30,000 sq. feet, not 15,000. They will carry 60% grocery and 40% "other, including a pharmacy, pet food & care, stationery, greeting cards, and school & office supply. All of these categories compete with nearby businesses.

posted by lorinscott on 9/15/12 @ 06:37 p.m.

got the numbers wrong, but far from a supercenter.

posted by the truth on 9/15/12 @ 08:57 p.m.

Fact being, they would both be WalMart, which is a supercenter conglomerate. Being the sharp end of a supercenter "everything" retailer, in order to effectively destroy its competition (for later expansion agendas), it will undercut all prices, EVEN if it means selling products at a loss. Because those losses are absorbed by the most profitable locations of a national corporation, no local business could ever hope to compete.

Even the SuperKing could never hope to go bank-account against bank-account with a Walmart opponent, and Walmart will happily waltz right in and expansively "absorb" that SK location after it's unprofitably been forced into insolvency. THEN the retail space really starts opening up all around the Northwest for an "everything-store" takeover.

This is the Walmart business model, where no local entrepreneur is even allowed to compete as an alternative retail provider, and the only other competition possible may come from a different transnational superstore corporation.

Okay now, for all you Walmart junkies. So currently, you have to go all the way out to Duarte to get your Walmart fix. But go ahead, just let'em get their foot in the door here ... it will turn Alta/Pasadena into a "Company Town," kinda' like (at best?) Duarte.


posted by DanD on 9/16/12 @ 06:16 p.m.

Altadena is an Old, Little Sleepy, unincorporated part of the Greater Los Angeles Area. And, as is the case with her more Proprietress, more Flamboyant, sister to the south- ( Pasadena ) there are lots of People who would like to keep it that way. What People fear about Wal-Mart, is not their threat to Small Town, Traditional American, mores and values. What they fear, is the Tell Tale spectre of their own ( Count them), covetous, self centered, insolence.
Fact of the Matter is, Wal-Mart makes its living off of scavenging little indolent decrepit towns like Altadena. Wal-Mart is simply everything Altadena is not. Wal-Mart generates Business, Equal Opportunity, Customer Service, Convenience, Variety, Economy Value, in turn Community, that Altadena seems unable to provide, even as it’s branch “Bank of America” depends upon it.
Wal-Mart, Denny’s, Olive Garden, the only reason their aren’t any 711, or McDonald’s, Mall Theme Kiosks on Colorado Blvd. is the thought of there World Renown products, being associated with Day Old Rice and 101 ways to serve Dry Beans and Corn.

posted by Aloistmartin on 9/18/12 @ 12:16 p.m.

Walmart generates "Equal Opportunity?" Well, THAT part of Walmart's business model also caused the following:

Oooh, that famous business model:

Ultimately? Well, let's look at the geography of it all. Walmart in Duarte is right on the 210 Freeway, just a quick on-an-off with no collateral "overuse" damage of the local roadways. But on Lincoln (and Lake)? that bottleneck strip of street is already overly abused by the excess street traffic created by Lincoln Crossing (which continues to also be severely exacerbated by La-Vin(y)a's criminal expansion several years beforehand).

But that's really all okay, so why don't you little, indolent, decrepit townsfolk of Altadena become just another cog in a Walmart world, because Walmart really does have the cash and political influence to absorb all of you.

Meanwhile, to Walmart at least, Altadena becomes just another conquered monkey-kingdom cash-source.


posted by DanD on 9/19/12 @ 08:22 a.m.
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