Monday, March 28, 2011

Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy Celebrates Rubio Canyon Acquisition

The sky may have been overcast, but the mood was anything but gloomy as more than 200 nature lovers gathered on Sunday afternoon, March 27th, to help celebrate the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy's acquisition of the final parcels in historic Rubio Canyon which now brings 41 acres under land conservation 'forever,' as AFC President Nancy Steele put it.

The festivities took place on the property of long-time AFC supporter Heinz Ellersieck on Camp Huntington Drive, directly adjacent to the eastside of Rubio Canyon.

AFC Executive Director John Howell served as ceremony emcee and spoke both about his personal passion for land conservation and how attendees could support AFC as docents and members of the Foothills Society, a multi-year financial support community dedicated to preserving the open space projects of the Conservancy.

The effort to purchase the final acreage to keep Rubio Canyon intact brought together AFC donors, the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, and the Mountains and Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA).
Final major support from the California Wildlife Conservation Fund, championed by State Assemblymember Carol Liu (seen here with John Howell) and State Assemblymember Anthony Portantino, who was represented at the event by his environmental deputy, Bill Hackett, sealed the deal.

Also attending and addressing the crowd was Congressman Adam Schiff, whose district covers most of the Altadena area, including Rubio Canyon.

Congressman Schiff spoke of the importance of this conservation effort within the context of the current National Park Service's Rim of the Valley Study to assess and potentially expand recreational opportunties on federal lands adjacent to the San Gabriel Valley, which he described as 'our collective backyard.'

Why is the conservation of Rubio Canyon so important? Development encroachment in the Altadena Foothills remains a threat to
the area's unique biodiversity. In addition, these Rubio Canyon parcels contain historic trails and remnants of the Mount Lowe Railway Resort Area, including the very popular hiking trail to the Rubio Canyon waterfalls. Now, everyone will be able to enjoy this natural, pristine canyon, whose sounds of rushing water from Rubio Creek could be heard in the background during the afternoon event.

Before the festivities began, guests enjoyed a variety of refreshments, including micro-crafted ales and lagers from Mark Jilg's Pasadena-based Craftsman Brewing Company. Seen in the crowd were AFC board members Tim Wendler, Laura Garrett, Michelle Markman, Marc Stirdivant, and Lawren Markle. Altadenans attending included long-time hiker and AFC patron Ninarose Mayer, area historian and AFC docent Michele Zack, Mark Goldschmidt, Sue Dodd, James Griffith, and Debbie Heap.  Other native lovers in attendance included Teresa Lamb Simpson, Tom Seifert, Dianne Philabosian, John Ronnette, Laurie Barlow, and Emily Stork.

For more information on the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy, including how you can support their vital land conservation efforts, please visit

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Arroyo Property of the Week - San Rafael Hills

Here's a peek at a smashing Spanish Mission-Revival in the San Rafael Hills above the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena that will debut on the market for sale next week.

This 2 bedroom retreat boasts original charm with hardwood flooring throughout, coved ceilings, built-ins, and a wood-burning fireplace. The authentic tile detailing throughout the home is colorful and unique.

An updated kitchen features a cozy breakfast nook and there is a formal dining room as well to welcome guests for intimate dinner parties.

The den, which could be easily be used as a third bedroom, opens with French Doors to the private garden-like backyard with drought-tolerant native plants, a soothing saltwater pool and relaxing spa. The yard, with its picnic table alcove, offers both serene relaxation and a great outdoor party atmosphere.

The converted 2-car garage offers a finished bonus space perfect for use as an office or studio.

Offered at $849,000, this totally updated and upgraded treasure is minutes to Old Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Downtown Los Angeles, and the Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park, home to the Roving Archers Archery Club, the Pasadena Casting Club, and walkable trails in nature along the Arroyo Seco stream.

Interested in seeing this beauty? Give me a call at 323-230-9749.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Ode to Mr. Witkin

One of the sad passages of life is losing a long-time companion. Three weeks ago, I lost my best buddy of 10 years (at the ripe age of 13 - he was a rescue dog): Mr. Witkin. (He finally earned the title 'Mr.' and as you read, you'll discover why.)

Why I am writing about him here? Because he was my adventure river main man during the transformative years when I came to focus upon water, rivers, and their effect on human beings.

Witkin and I had a special bond. He had been at the RR Rescue Ranch for almost a year when I fell in love with him (so did my now-deceased yellow lab Ophelia, who needed a companion dog). He was handsome, smart, athletic, and responded well on leash and to commands.

I was warned, though, that he was considered almost unadoptable, since two separate parties had taken him home and then brought him back. Unfazed, I took on the challenge.

Once we got home to my small bungalow near the Los Angeles River in Valley Village, I began to understand their warning. Within the first week of having Witkin (whose original name was T. Rex, so that should give you an idea right away what I was dealing with, especially those extra large jaws) home, he had bitten Ophelia in a fight over a bone (she had it, he wanted it), had pinched a nerve in his left rear leg trying to jump over my wall, and had killed two squirrels in my backyard.

Undaunted, I was determined to turn this hound dog into a gentleman. One reason I had gotten him was so I'd had a larger protection dog (he weighted about 70 puonds, all muscle), so I'd feel safe when I was out walking at night or home alone.

By the time I got Witkin (whom I named after Bernard Witkin, the father of California law, in homage to my law school experience), my husband had died and I was making monthly trips to the small hamlet of Kernville, California, to work on the family cabin there and take a break from the stress of big city living in Los Angeles.

Kernville was soon the place where Witkin and I were both happiest: he had 2 and 1/2 acres of fenced paradise to roam in and I had mountain air and the melody of the river's roar to calm me. Did I mention that he was the best car dog ever?

We had lots of fun during our mountain adventures (we moved there in 2002 and had the two best years playing in the water). We hiked miles of nature trails, stirred up the natives with new ideas, and drove on unbelievable adventures into the Sequoia National Monument where no cellphones or GPS devices worked. He and Ophelia were even 'officials' of the 2003 International Wildwater World Cup Championships along the Upper Kern River.

All good things must come to an end, so soon we were leaving the mountains for the ocean, settling into a beach house steps from the sand in Ventura, California. Witkin loved the beach as much as he loved the mountains. In fact, he became adept at unlatching my yard gate and toodling down the lane to the sand for a run, with Ophelia in tow. More than once, when my cellphone would ring, the voice on the other end would say, 'I've got your dog.' Once he escaped all the way to the Ventura Pier, 2 1/2 miles from home. Those were the good old days, when dogs could roam on the beach in Ventura. Sadly, that is no more. Witkin also loved to go bicycle running with me on the beach bike path - me on the bike, him running beside me. We took many road trips up the Ventura River and Matilija Creek to Ojai and once explored the entire length of the Santa Clara River, which flows over 84 miles from Acton to the sea. Ironically, even though Witkin loved being near the water he did not like being in the water!

Four years ago, dear Ophelia went to heaven and Witkin and I returned from our mountain-ocean adventures to Los Angeles. Now our river explorations turned urban, as we explored all along the Arroyo Seco, walked both the Arroyo Seco and Los Angeles River Bicycle Paths, and used our outings to remind fellow dog owners to pick up their poo and trash to help stop pollution in our natural waterways.

Once we returned to the Greater LA area and settled in Pasadena, it became evident that the tests of time were catching up with my once 'brat boy.' The dog who once was 100% hound dog had become 100% gentleman. He was loved and adored by my river friends, my landlord, and my real estate office colleagues. In fact, my landlord and I would joke that he ran the household - we were just the hired help.

A few months ago, Witkin began losing weight and slowing down significantly, especially for a once very athletic dog. No longer could he jump into and out of my Jeep as he had done for so many years. Often, I would come home and find him shivering. Blood tests revealed the dreaded: he had Cushing's Disease and a cancerous tumor.

All dog lovers sooner or later face that awful moment of decision to put down their pet. It was painful but easier that I thought because I knew Witkin hated not being able to run around and rule the roost the way he always had. On March 2nd, Mr. Witkin went to the Rainbow Bridge.

So why an ode to this dog? Because Witkin was more than just a river dog - he was my exploring companion and faithful pal during my early years of watershed protection and river restoration. We 'ran' rivers all over California, though I could never get him into whitewater rafting. We drove along beaches and lakeshores and once almost got my 4x4 Jeep stuck in the sand. We'd sit and watch the full moon reflection on the Kern River together, illuminating the night sky as though it were day. 

What Witkin taught me more than anything else is that the only thing that matters in this world is love - for me, that love is about rivers and how they nourish us. For Witkin, it was the love of running free in nature, chasing birds and squirrels whenever he could and his love for me. I always knew that after a long day of work, he would be sitting by the gate, greeting me with a howl as I got home.

Thank you, Mr. Witkin, for your unconditoinal love and for leading me to the river.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Renewable Energy Along Rivers? Tell the USACE What You Think

As all of us who work in river restoration know, we cannot complete our projects without obtaining a plethora of permits from various governmental agencies. On average, a typical project will require between 10 and 18 permits.

One of the most important permits is the ubiquitous US Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 of the Clean Water Act permit and, in some cases, the Section 10 Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899 permit.

According to the USACE press release of February 16, 2011 (which I've just read thanks to fellow blogger Trouthead at Club EcoBlue Blog), the Corps is seeking comments on its proposal to renew and revise nationwide permits for work in wetlands and other waters. In addition, AND THIS IS THE BIGGIE,  USACE is proposing to issue two new nationwide permits that pertain to authorizing renewable energy generation projects.

These nationwide Section 404 and Section 10 permits authorize activities that are similar in nature and cause only minimal adverse environmental impacts to aquatic resources separately or on a cumulative basis. Activities range from work associated with aids to navigation and utility lines to residential developments and maintenance activities. Many of the nationwide permits being proposed remain unchanged from 2007, according to the USACE press release, the last time the nationwide permits were authorized.
USACE division engineers may add, after public review and consultation, regional conditions to nationwide permits in order to protect local aquatic ecosystems such as fens or bottomland hardwoods or to minimize adverse effects on fish or shellfish spawning, wildlife nesting or other ecologically critical areas.

A public notice to solicit comments on the proposed set of revised nationwide permits was published in the February 16, 2011 Federal Register at USACE will accept written comments for a 60-day period that ends on April 18, 2011. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to or through the Federal eRulemaking portal at at docket number COE-2010-0035. The current set of nationwide permits expires March 18, 2012. The nationwide permits being proposed will replace the existing set.

Additional information about the Corps’ regulatory program can be found at

April 18th is a hard deadline for comments, so don't delay in adding your voice.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council Needs a Few Good Men & Women

Now that the March 8th elections are over, it's time to get back to the hard work of making our local communities better and safer.

Ever thought about where a lot of the real decisions are made in Los Angeles?

If you answered the local neighborhood council, you are correct. With 81 NCs cerified by the City of Los Angeles Dept of Neigborhood Empowerment, virtually every community has its local governing board that reports community issues to LA City Councilmembers while disbursing funds for worthwhile local community projects.

Here in the Arroyo Seco area of Los Angeles, there are several NCs, including the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, and the Cypress Park Neighborhood Council.

Today, though, I want to focus on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council which serves the communities of Hermon, Monterey Hills, Mount Washington, Sycamore Grove, and Montecito Heights. (Disclaimer: I serve as secretary on this board.)  ASNC has a long history of community outreach (our amazing CERT and animal rescue programs), advocacy (strong resolve to end the bulky item fee for condo owners), and local grant making (Audubon @ Debs Park nature activities, Mount Washington trail repair, sponsorship of Lummis Day Festival and Hermon Christmas Tree Lighting).

Despite a dedicated board, ASNC still needs a few good men (or women) to fill current vacancies, including:

Sycamore Grove Regional Representative
Montecito Heights Regional Representative
Faith-Based At Large Representative

The minimum qualification is to be an ASNC stakeholder, defined as "individuals who live, work, own property, or are parents or guardians of students attending school within ASNC boundaries, or who declare a stake in any one of its five communities and affirm the factual basis. . . ." 

The ASNC board plans to fill these positions from the qualified candidates who come forward by the next scheduled monthly meeting, Monday, March 21 at Ramona Hall, 4580 North Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065 starting at 7:00 p.m.

Isn't it time for you to be more active in local Arroyo Seco decision-making?

To apply, fill out and mail a candidate's form and provide a 100-word statement of interest to ASNC, PO Box 42254 Los Angeles, CA 90042.
For the form to apply to be the Sycamore Grove representative go here:

For the form to apply to be the Montecito Heights representative go here:

For the form to apply to be the Faith-Based Organizations representative go here:

For more details on all these openings, please contact ASNC Vice President Martha Benedict

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Arroyo Property of the Week - Highland Park Exclusive!

Nestled in the foothills of Highland Park, with amazing unobstructed views of the San Gabriel Mountains, this darling 3 bedroom, 1.75 bath home on a terraced lot makes it public debut on Thursday, March 10, 2011.

Built in 1923, the property heating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing and foundation retrofitting were all updated within the past three years. The home features 1128 square feet of living space on a 5280 square foot lot with a detached two car garage.

The warm, cozy feel of this home is augmented with expansive views from both the living room picture windows and the upper terrace backyard.

The property also features a bonus space - basement under the house that could be finished for an office or rec room.

Best of all, this is a standard sale (meaning: not a lender owned property or short sale) at an amazing list price of $379,000.

Located just a few blocks south of York Blvd, this property boasts a 75 walkability score, close to all the trendy shops and galleries that NELA denizens love, including The York, MorYork Gallery, and Cafe de Leche with LA's first bicycle corral!

Come on by, check out this charmer, and say hello to me and Keller Williams co-agent James Pitcher on Thursday, March 10th, 10am to 2pm, 5106 Hub Street, Highland Park or call for a private showing at 323-230-9749.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why Aren't LA River Advocates Screaming About CRA-LA's Demise?

Why should river advocates care about whether or not the new state budget framework eliminates local community redevelopment agencies (CRAs)?

Take the CRA-LA scenario. There's always a lot of  'noise' about how CRA-LA takes 'poor' neighborhoods, calls them 'blighted' and then redevelops them, causing 'gentrification.'  But the facts tell a different story:

.CRA-LA is the leader in providing affordable housing in the City of Los Angeles (homes!)
.CRA-LA provides financial assistance to small businesses with low cost loans and grants tied to employment generation (jobs!)
.CRA-LA's $1 investment leverages $3-5 in private investment (economic development!)

While it's true that all government monies need to be monitored and spent with greater care, the elimination of CRAs will have tremendous negative urban renewal impact because the CRA structure is the only tool cities in California have to 'jumpstart' local economic activity and construction projects.

Which brings me to the Los Angeles River. Currently, CRA-LA is involved in at least 3 key LA River-oriented activities:

1. CRA-LA has provided the 'seed' money and institutional support to move Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation efforts forward, including the hiring of staff.

2. CRA-LA is working on a new redevelopment zone along the Los Angeles River at the Arroyo Seco Confluence southwards through the California State Historic Park using the Cornfields-Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (CASP) as its blueprint. CASP is an innovative plan to create a complete 'green' sustainable community just north of  Downtown Los Angeles.

3. CRA-LA received federal funding to evaluate the Northeast Los Angeles River Study Zone (see photo above) as a potential redevelopment area. This area covers communities on both the east and west banks of the Los Angeles River, including the communities of Cypress Park, Atwater Village and Elysian Valley. The study will generate invaluable inventorying of community resources and stakeholder input within the River Zone Area.

If these projects are permanently suspended, Los Angeles River Revitalization efforts could be set back for years.

That's why tomorrow's CRA-LA/Los Angeles City Council Joint Meeting is so vital. Public comment is especially critical to persuade the Governor and State Legislature that Los Angeles River Revitalization through CRA-LA means jobs and a healthier community.

If you care about the Los Angeles River's future, come express yourself tomorrow, March 8th, 10:00am, Los Angeles City Hall Council Chambers.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Arroyo Property of the Week - NEW Construction under $400,000

Can you believe it?! Brand new construction with 3 bedrooms and 3 baths in view of the Arroyo Seco for under $400,000?

Believe it! This new listing, located in up and coming Montecito Heights, boasts 1880 square feet of living in a spacious and open floor plan. Located walking distance to Heritage Square Museum and bikeable to the Arroyo Gold Line Station, this terrific property is perfectly located so you can enjoy all that Arroyo Culture has to offer: Debs Park, Lummis House, Southwest Museum, and the Figueroa Business Corridor. In addition, it's freeway close and very commutable to Downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Glendale.

This light and bright two-story Cape Cod, built in 2011, offers incredible value. In addition to a modern kitchen with granite counter tops, this home features a great second floor layout with sitting area. Just listed at $399,999, it's certain to find a new owner quickly.

So run, don't walk, to 3922 Homer Street before it's gone. Open this Sunday, March 6th from 1-4 pm. Tell them the Arroyo Lover sent you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Walk About the Hahamongna This Saturday

It's been quite a week for Pasadena's Hahamongna Watershed Park.  Long a nature getaway for hikers, walkers, dog lovers, equestrians and birders far and wide, Hahamongna has recently been at the center of controversy relative to Los Angeles County's plan to remove 1.6 million cubic feet of sediment from behind Devil's Gate Dam at the south end of the natureland, which would cause irreparable damage to sensitive willow habitat.

Earlier this week, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich sponsored a motion, approved by the Board of Supervisors, to conduct a full environmental impact report on the sediment management program at Devil's Gate Dam and Hahamongna in the Arroyo Seco. The motion included a provision that Public Works staff report back to the Supervisors within 30 days on short-term measures that might be needed to ensure the functioning and safety of the Devil's Gate Dam.

Now you can personally see what the fuss is all about.

Tomorrow, March 5th, The Save Hahamongna Coalition and the Arroyo Seco Foundation are hosting a FREE 3 hour 'walkabout' of the Hahamongna Watershed Park where visitors can stop at a number of 'learning stations' and discover more about the habitat, wildlife, birds and water resources in this unique flood basin at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

You will also learn about new threats to the natural character of Hahamongna and what you can do to help protect this precious spot. Tours will leave each half hour from 9:00 am to 10:30 am, so reserve your place by going to