The following Editorial originally appeared in the August 15, 2013 print edition of the Pasadena Star-News
The newspaper advertisements say that the new planned community is “Minutes from Downtown Los Angeles & moments from nature.”
The foothills of Azusa, in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, just minutes from Downtown?
Sure, allowing for the poetic license of advertising. The Google Maps app says that the 25-mile route from Rosedale in Azusa to 3rd and Spring can indeed be driven on the freeways in minutes: 28 of them. That’s at mid-day. Allow for a certain squishiness in that estimate at both of the peak-commute times on a weekday.
But the point that the developers of the suddenly rejuvenated Rosedale development in the hills are making doesn’t have to do with freeways. What they are excited about is an Azusa that, with the coming of the Gold Line light rail extension, will finally be connected to Downtown and beyond by a rapid transit system middle-class Southern Californians actually want to use.
It doesn’t matter if the Bus Riders’ Union and hard-core fans of the Metro buses want professionals to get out of their cars and into buses. The plain fact is that they won’t, for a variety of sociological reasons. They’d rather sit in the simply terrifying gridlock of the 210 and 10 freeways every morning than deign to board a bus.
Rail is a different matter. And the Foothill Extension of the Gold Line — along with the slowly recovering economy — is what is making the long-stalled Rosedale development of five different neighborhoods with 1,250 houses and townhomes possible again.
Rosedale was conceived during the go-go residential real-estate years of the 1990s and early 2000s. Huge housing developments were being built in far more remote corners of Southern California, from the Inland Empire to the high desert. If middle-class buyers would go that far out, why not Azusa? New Urbanist Rick Cole, then the city manager of Azusa, now the deputy mayor of Los Angeles, was changing the image, and the feel, of the blue-collar town. Rosedale wouldn’t be just a tract — it would include its own school, open space, rec centers, trails into the Angeles National Forest.
Then the housing market crashed with the economy, and Rosedale construction stopped.
Now it’s cranking up again, and people are moving in. But sales in the upscale portions — especially “Wisteria, from the $700,000s” — simply wouldn’t have been possible without the coming of the Gold Line in 2015.
This is part of the welcome news for the San Gabriel Valley about light rail finally being extended east from Pasadena. Mayor Mary Ann Lusk in neighboring Monrovia says the impact on the foothills is resulting in “Gold Towns,” a play on her city’s economically and culturally successful Old Town. In Monrovia it will be an 80-acre commercial and residential area known as the Station Square Transit Village, south of the 210, north of Duarte Road and bordered by Magnolia Avenue to the east and Shamrock Avenue to the west. A micro-brewery, surest sign of downtown life, has already leased space from the city there — just as a micro-brewery has already opened in downtown Azusa.
With California’s redevelopment dollars gone, transit-oriented development can attract people and business. If only the unfairly Los Angeles-oriented Metro board would extend the Gold Line to Claremont, as county voters approved, the San Gabriel Valley could really be going somewhere.