Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning

Altadena CSD

There has been a great deal of information shared about what is proposed in the Altadena CSD Amendment. Read here to find out what is fiction and what is fact:

FICTION: “The CSD proposes nothing over 42” tall in the first 22 feet of the front yards for fences, walls and hedges.”
  • 42 inches or 3 ½ feet is the existing maximum height for all front yard fences, walls and hedges in Altadena (and most other unincorporated communities) for R-1 properties. Regulations for fences and hedges have been in place since 1927 when the county zoning code was first adopted.
  • All fences, walls and hedges which are over 3 ½ feet tall in R-1 zoned front yards are not legal and have never been legal unless specifically approved by the Department of Regional Planning.
  • The revised proposal for fences, walls and hedges in the Altadena CSD is a significant liberalization of the current 3 ½ foot height standard in R-1 front yards to maintain the residential character without compromising traffic safety requirements for motor vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Interior Lots

  • For interior lots, the maximum height of the fence or wall depends on its location:
    • Within the driveway zone as shown in the illustration below, the height of the fence or wall can be up 42” (3.5’). (Note: “ultimate right of way” is the same as the “highway line” and “property line” as it is now referenced in the updated CSD). Driveway
    • Outside the driveway zone, the height of the fence or wall is described on the following table.
      Interior Front Yard
  • For interior lots, the maximum height of landscaping such as hedges depends on its location: Interior Front Yard 2

Corner Lots

  • For corner lots, the maximum height of the fences or walls depends on its location:
    • Within the driveway zone as shown in the illustration on the following page, the height of the fence or wall can be up 42” (3.5’) (Note: the “ultimate right of way” is the same as “highway line and “property line” as it is now referenced in the updated CSD). Driveway
    • Outside the driveway zone, the height of the fence or wall is described on the following table. Corner Front Yard
  • For corner lots, the maximum height of landscaping such as hedges depends on its location: Corner Front Yard
  • The required front yard is not a uniform size throughout Altadena. In the existing CSD, the front yard is determined based on the average depth of yards on the same side of the street and block. The proposed CSD makes this front yard calculation easier, but still considers the location of homes on the same side of the street and block as the neighborhood pattern.
  • If the Altadena CSD Amendment is not adopted, the code enforcement moratorium on illegal fences, walls and hedges in front yards in Altadena will end. Any complaints received on over-height fences, walls or hedges will be received and investigated for compliance for anything taller than 42” within the required front yard (3 ½ feet).
FICTION: The County will come to tear down your fence/wall or cut down your hedge.

Enforcement, as it has been in the past, will be on a complaint-basis. When a complaint is received for an over-height fence, wall or hedge, it will be received and investigated for compliance. Zoning enforcement will take time to work with property owners to help them come into compliance. Where a property owner applies for a permit for their fence or hedge as a result of enforcement action due to a complaint, the enforcement process is put on hold until the resolution of the permit process. If a permit is denied, enforcement would proceed as before.

The CSD Update also includes an easier permitting process for homeowners to request keeping their over-height fence or hedge. The process is shorter and reduces fees from $8,966 to $1,535.

FICTION: Front yard setbacks have been reduced from 30 feet to 22 feet.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all front yard size in Altadena. Today, the front yard size depends on the average front yard setback rule for R-1 zoned properties. This means in order to find out the size of your front yard, you have to survey all the other properties on the same side of the street within the same block, identify their setbacks, and then calculate the average. This average is your front yard requirement.
  • The Altadena CSD updates the calculation of the required front yard setback such that the required front yard is calculated as the smallest front yard of established properties (as opposed to the average) on the same side of street and block, or a minimum of 20 feet. Exceptions in existing Setback Districts do apply.
  • The residence which has the shortest front yard setback, but not less than 20 feet, becomes the minimum front yard setback.
  • This illustration provided as an example in the June 2016 Altadena CSD draft is an example for how the front yard is calculated. Front Yard
FICTION: Garages, studios and other one story outbuildings cannot be within the “huge” rear yard setbacks without paying a $1500 “demi CUP” and if that fails, an $8,800 CUP fee to the County. In surrounding cities, the fee is between $300 and $600.

There are no proposed changes that affect where garages and other accessory structures can be built. Today’s rear yard requirement is 25 feet in Altadena and is not changing. Building a garage or similar building within Altadena currently has a $982 fee.

When a homeowner cannot comply with the CSD requirements, today the CUP and $8,933 fee applies. The CSD Update is reducing this to $1,535 through a CSD Modification, which refers to the Minor CUP. There is no such process as a “demi CUP.”

FICTION: The Altadena CSD is proposing to build condos and increase the population of Altadena to 100,000. The Altadena CSD is proposing mixed use condo development on Lake Avenue which will create a “Condo Canyon on Lake Avenue”.

The CSD is not changing any requirements related to condos or mixed use development. Mixed use development has been allowed in commercial zones countywide including Altadena, since the 1920’s. The Altadena CSD Amendment is not a development project and does not propose any physical construction, building projects or increases in density. Also, condominiums require a subdivision map and every condominium project would be required to go through a public hearing. These are discretionary projects so they must be individually approved with appropriate conditions, before any construction could occur.

FICTION: The Altadena CSD proposes to increase commercial heights from 35 to 48 feet.

The Altadena CSD initially proposed 48 feet as the maximum height for Lake Avenue Mixed-Use ‘Center’ Area. The existing July 10, 1986 Altadena Community Plan also lists 48 feet as the maximum height for the Lake Avenue Mixed-Use ‘Center’ Area. However based on community feedback, that proposed CSD revision was eliminated. Height limits in commercial zones throughout Altadena will remain at 35 feet, with a small portion (20 percent) of the building up to 48 feet for architectural interest. This architectural interest height allowance is existing within the West Altadena area, and would apply to commercial areas throughout Altadena EXCEPT the Lake Avenue Mixed-Use ‘Center’ Area, which is north of Calaveras Avenue. Because Lake Avenue slopes upward and mountain views may be compromised, the maximum height there remains 35 feet without any additional height allowance.

FICTION: (For Altadena CSD Private Homes) requires no unbroken roof planes longer than thirty feet forcing costly and useless dormers, eyebrows and doo-dads.
  • The unbroken roof planes language was adopted in 1998 as part of the original Altadena CSD and is not being revised.
  • This language applies only to the multiple family R-3 zones and the R-2 zone; not the single family R-1 zones.
  • This provision resulted from community input at that time to prevent boxy apartments and duplexes with no architectural features to be constructed and does include dormers, gables, eyebrows, parapets, mansards or other design features, but no “doo-dads”.
FICTION: The revised CSD cannot prevent another Charles Company (“Aldi”) type building from being built in Altadena.

The Altadena CSD Amendment contains numerous additional development and pedestrian oriented design standards compared to the existing CSD, including:

  • The requirement for a public entrance on the commercial corridor;
  • Additional specific development standards for street facing windows;
  • Additional setbacks;
  • Additional requirements for a CSD Modification, including the inclusion of public space with amenities such as landscaping, outdoor seating, walkways and others.
  • The Charles Company currently under construction on Lake Avenue is being held to the development standards in the existing Altadena CSD. If the updated CSD is not adopted, these existing development standards would continue to apply.
FICTION: The CSD is pushing drive-through businesses.

Today drive through business are allowed by right throughout Altadena, except on Lake Avenue. On Lake Avenue, drive through businesses are prohibited. The Altadena CSD Amendment changes these requirements as follows:

  • All drive through businesses require a full Conditional Use Permit (CUP) in all commercial zones in Altadena.
  • The CUP requires a public hearing with notice to property owners within 1,000 feet and the Altadena Town Council. The CUP also requires a full environmental analysis, including traffic, air and noise impacts.
  • Development standards for all drive through businesses include a minimum separation of 20 feet between any speakers or microphones and any residential property.
  • For restaurant or food-related drive throughs, no more than one can be built within 500 feet of another.

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