A Threat

On October 11, 2022 it was announced that Nuccio’s Nursery on Chaney Trail will wind down operations in the next two to three years and that Polytechnic School (Poly) will take ‘stewardship’ of the 78-acre property in the northern Altadena foothills. The announcement was made in a joint letter from the Nuccio family and the private Pasadena school, and in a letter issued to the Poly community by the school. After nearly 90 years of operations, the world-famous camellia and azalea nursery will be closed. Polytechnic School is in the process of securing ownership of the Nuccio parcels, comprising 1.44% of the total land area of Altadena.

In early 2023 meetings with neighbors and members of the Altadena Town Council, Poly leadership revealed that their plans for Chaney Trail included (1) a football/soccer/athletics stadium with spectator seating for 500, (2) a baseball stadium, (3) tennis courts, and associated storage and maintenance buildings. The school proposes to install lighting for night events and amplified sound systems, and underground parking. These plans were validated with the April 30, 2024 public relations release from the school announcing the name for their proposed sports complex — PolyFields.  The school has stated that new construction at the Altadena foothills sports complex will be within the same “general footprint” of the current 13-acre nursery.

It is the position of AltadenaWILD that even if development is limited to the nursery footprint, the proposed sports complex will irrevocably change the character of the remaining 65 acres and decrease its value for conservation and enjoyment. Hundreds of additional visitors, coupled with high-intensity lighting and sound systems will negatively impact native wildlife and their migration corridors.

If the proposed Polytechnic School sports complex on Chaney Trail is approved by Los Angeles County, these developments will increase the risks to public safety and dramatically change the character of a semi-rural area adjacent to the Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

The Poly developments will:

Increase the density of people and intensity of activity in a very high-risk fire zone.

The entire development site is part of a State-designated Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (VHFHSZ). Numerous wildfires have occurred recently in the surrounding areas, including the devastating 2009 Station fire. The current nursery employs only a handful of people, and the number of on-site customers is typically in single digits. A Poly sports complex will add hundreds of staff/students/spectators on a typical day – and on weekends. For concurrent sports events and for special events (e.g, graduation ceremonies), the number of added people could number over a thousand, far exceeding the current density of people at the nursery site. (Watch video)

Increase wildfire risks in nearby neighborhoods where residents are accustomed to practicing a culture of wildfire safety.

Polytechnic staff, students, parents and spectators will generally be coming from an urbanized home and school environment, where the imminent threat of brushfires and wildfires is minimal. In contrast, neighbors in the Altadena foothills -- and visiting recreationists -- live with fire threats year-round and are accustomed to practicing safe outdoor behaviors. A large infusion of students and spectators in a VHFHSZ will likely increase the prevalence of unsafe practices, including fireworks, smoking and high-speed vehicles on a narrow and hilly access road.

Increase traffic on Chaney Trail, Loma Alta Drive, and on major north-south routes from Pasadena to northern Altadena.

A Polytechnic sports complex along Chaney Trail will add potentially hundreds of vehicles daily to a narrow and hilly road incapable of supporting the increased traffic. The impacts will extend to the connecting east-west Loma Alta Drive, to major north-south streets in Altadena (including Lincoln, Fair Oaks, Lake and Marengo Avenues) and to connecting east-west streets (including Altadena Drive). In northern Altadena, these roads are two-lanes only, with many stop signs. Traffic back-ups are likely at peak periods, as Poly staff, students, parents and visitors travel to and from the sports complex.

Increase the risk of accidents involving vehicles and hikers/cyclists/equestrian riders on Chaney Trail and Loma Alta Drive.

The only public road to the proposed development site is Chaney Trail, a hilly and winding ‘dead-end’ road that extends from Loma Alta Drive to Millard Campground and National Forest trails. Chaney Trail -- already a dangerous road for hikers, cyclists and equestrians – is only seventeen feet wide at the junction with Loma Alta Drive, with steep embankments forming the road shoulders at this juncture. Moreover, there are blind spots between Loma Alta Drive and the likely entrance to the Poly sports complex. A significant influx of Poly staff, students and athletic event attendees (including those from visiting schools) will dramatically increase the risks of accidents along Chaney Trail and Loma Alta Drive. It is inevitable that serious injuries and fatalities will eventually occur.

Impact wildlife and migration in the surrounding foothills and Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

A Polytechnic School sports complex on Chaney Trail will dramatically impact the native wildlife and associated migration corridors – even if the school restricts new buildings and facilities to the current 13-acre nursery footprint. There can be no doubt that the remaining 65 acres of the affected properties will be impacted by the creation of lighted and sound-amplified athletic facilities in the northern Altadena foothills. Owls, hawks, quail, bobcats, deer, gray foxes and black bears are among the wildlife that will be disrupted in these chaparral wildlands.

Create noise and light pollution in the surrounding neighborhoods, foothills and National Monument.

The Poly plans for construction of a sports complex will add significant noise and light pollution to the surrounding neighborhoods, foothills and the Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The noise pollution will be extensive during the construction phase of the development, and will routinely exist after completion of the facilities, especially for outdoor athletic events such as football, soccer and baseball games. Night illumination will dramatically increase light pollution well beyond any levels associated with the current nursery. The enhanced lighting will occur adjacent to a County-designated Rural Outdoor Lighting District intended to conserve and appreciate dark skies. Since the proposed stadium sites are at higher elevations than neighborhoods to the south, the light and noise from sports events will likely propagate to Altadena Drive – and beyond.

Proposed Development Site

Property in northern Altadena sought by Polytechnic School. Green line denotes border with San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Photo courtesy of L.A. County GIS-NET Public; annotation by AltadenaWILD.

  • Development site is in a State-designated Very High Fire Hazards Severity Zone

  • The property borders the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

  • 80% of the property is within the Altadena Foothills and Arroyos Significant Ecological Area

  • 70% of the property falls within County-designated Hillside Management Areas

  • The property contains five County-designated Significant Ridgelines

  • The property contains seasonal streams that drain into Arroyo Seco

  • The property is home to flora and fauna rich in biodiversity

  • The property is part of vital wildlife migration corridors

Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone

(VHFHSZ)

In 2007, the State of California issued maps defining High/Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (updated in late 2022). The parcels sought by Polytechnic School in the Altadena foothills are entirely located in a VERY HIGH FIRE HAZARD SEVERITY ZONE.

[VHFHSZ map courtesy of L.A. County ARC-GIS]

Altadena Community Standards

Ordinances governing the Altadena Community Standards District (CSD) are integrated as Section 22.306 of the Los Angeles County Code. The Altadena CSD “is established to ensure that new and expanded structures are compatible in size and scale with the characteristics of surrounding residential neighborhoods, protecting the light, air, and privacy of existing single-family residences from negative impacts while providing certain flexibility within residential areas.”

Polytechnic School’s plans to develop a Chaney Trail sports complex featuring: (1) a football/soccer/athletics stadium, (2) a baseball stadium, (3) eight tennis courts, and associated storage and maintenance buildings, and lighting for night events with amplified sound systems. This development is incompatible with the semi-rural characteristics of surrounding neighborhoods and will produce many negative impacts in the surrounding foothills. The Poly sports complex will increase wildfire and public safety risks, introduce significant impacts on wildlife and their migration corridors, and increase noise and light pollution. The plans are clearly incommensurate with the intent and the ordinances relevant to the Altadena CSD.

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