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:

Updated as of April 2017

FICTION: “The County recently distributed this Notice of Violation flyer to properties within Altadena.”
  • This flyer is NOT a County notice nor was it in any way authorized by the County. The flyer was distributed by an organization not affiliated with the County.
FICTION: “Your front yard fence wall, [or] shrub, [etc.] violate a 1926 Los Angeles County code that has never been uniformly enforced”.
  • The County did not produce nor distribute this flyer, and therefore does not contend that any property that received the flyer is allegedly in violation.
  • There has been a moratorium on any alleged fence and hedge height violation since 2000.
  • Enforcement of zoning code violations before the moratorium, have been on a complaint basis.
  • The fence and hedge moratorium was to allow time for updated standards to be developed as part of this Altadena CSD update.
  • Once adopted by the Board, the updated standards will continue to be enforced on a complaint basis.
FICTION: “The County has not yet published as of April 6, 2017 the final language of the new proposed regulations.”
  • “New proposed regulations” refers to alternative fence and hedge standards that the Board has shared for community comment and feedback.
  • More information on these alternative standards was posted on the Altadena Town Council website as part of their discussions. The information was also posted on this Altadena CSD project page as a courtesy for the Altadena Town Council discussions. In both cases, the information was made available on or before April 4, 2017.
  • The alternative standards are part of the information the Board will be considering when they hold a public hearing for the Altadena CSD update. The Board public hearing will be May 23, 2017.
  • The official County recommendation is that which was recommended for approval by the Regional Planning Commission on October 26, 2016.
  • There is no “final language” until the Board takes action. As part of the Board’s public hearing, the Board has the ability to consider all information provided, including public input on these alternative standards, and make any changes as they see appropriate as part of their decision.
FICTION: All existing front yard structures and plantings can be grandfathered or accepted.
  • The term “grandfathering” refers to allowing existing structures or uses, which were LEGALLY established and made non-conforming by a zoning code change, to continue or remain.
  • Grandfathering CANNOT apply to structures that were never legal or conforming to the applicable zoning standards.
  • In some cases, the fences or walls in question are on County property, or in the public street right of way!
  • The RPC-recommended fence and hedge standards are a loosening of regulations than what applies today. The fence and hedge alternative standards would be a further loosening of regulations.
  • There are no regulations anywhere in the County, including any CSD, that allows fences and hedges within the public street right-of-way.
FICTION: The fees and costs listed on the flyer apply to every property owner who wants to keep an existing fence or hedge.
  • The RPC-recommended standards are a loosening of regulations than what applies today, but do not allow fences and hedges within the public right-ofway.
  • The listed fees and/or costs are applicable with the alternative standards, which allows fences and hedges to stay within the public right-of-way based on certain standards.
  • Not all of the listed fees and/or costs apply to every property owner. Process and fees depend on various factors, including whether the fence or hedge complies with the updated standards, and where the fence or hedge is located.
  • Under the alternative standards, fees would apply as follows:
    Permit/Type Process Location When Necessary Fee
    CSD Modification Private Property To modify a fence, wall or hedge beyond updated standards, or build a new fence or wall beyond updated standards $1,565
    DPW Encroachment Permit Public Right of Way (i.e. County Property) To keep an existing fence, wall or hedge that complies, or to modify one to comply with updated standards $1,190
    Covenant Public Right of Way (i.e. County Property) or Private Property (within 10 feet of Highway Line) To address liability, and future removal or relocation costs and maintenance by the owner $300
    Recordation Public Right of Way or Private Property (within 10 feet of Highway Line) When a covenant is also required $65
    Demolition Permit Private Property To remove a 6+ foot high fence or wall that was first constructed with Building & Safety (B&S) permits. Does not apply to fences or walls within the public right-of-way or were constructed without B&S permits $163
    No Permit Necessary Private Property So long as the fence, wall or hedge complies with the standards $0
FICTION: No one knows where the highway line is located.
  • This information has always been made available to the public through the Department of Public Works.
  • Please contact Public Works at (626) 458-4921 and ask to speak to someone in the Road Section.
  • You can also visit in person at 900 South Fremont Avenue, Alhambra, CA 91803, 3rd Floor, Land Development Public Counter, 7:00am-5:00pm, Monday through Thursday.


Existing CSD

  • The existing fence and hedge standard in the Altadena CSD and countywide in the Zoning Code within a required front yard is maximum 3.5 feet.
  • No fences or hedges are permitted through the Zoning Code within the public street right-of-way. Any structure in the public right-of-way requires an encroachment permit issued by Public Works.

Regional Planning Commission Approved CSD

The fence and hedge standards in the required front yards recommended for approval by the RPC are: RPC

Public Right of Way
  1. Any encroachment, including a fence, wall hedges or landscaping, within the right-of-way requires a permit issued by the Department of Public Works, as set forth in Section 16.06.010 of the County Code.

Alternative Fence and Hedge Standards

  • The alternative fence, wall and hedge standards, shared by the Board and discussed by the Altadena Town Council, would be a further loosening of regulations. No other proposal allows fences and hedges within the public street (i.e. right-of-way). Please click here to view documents related to this proposal.
  • The alternative standards allows certain fences, walls and hedges that are not legal today, to remain if certain conditions are met, including:
    • Within any driveway zone, the maximum height is 42 inches;
    • Within the road right-of-way, a new or current fence, wall or hedge has an encroachment permit from Public Works; and
    • Within the road right-of-way or within 10 feet of a highway line, a covenant reviewed and recorded to address any future removal costs and liability.


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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