Lesson for 91103's Linda Vista-Annandale Homeowners: Start A Blog!

site-development-plan.jpgLinda Vista neighbors near Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design voiced major concerns about its proposed $50 million Frank Gehry-designed research center, but it was a student blog post that got results.

Industrial design student and member of the school’s Eco Council Nathan Cooke posted this critique of the Art Center’s sustainability and spending priorities on May 14, 2008. He eventually received close to 1,500 comments, mostly of support, and moved the traffic to a new site for discussion of the Art Center’s future.

According to the LA Times:

Art Center graduates have been weighing in over the Internet from as far away as France and South Korea, adding their names and comments to the Education First! petition that some students posted on the Web. Among the alumni calling for change are executives at Microsoft, the Walt Disney Co., Mercedes-Benz and Johnson Controls Inc., a designer of auto interiors.

According to the LA Weekly,

Days after his site took off, Cooke received a disturbing conference call from school administrators, encouraging him to take down the post. The not-so-subtle suggestion on their part was that if he refused to comply, it could impact his scholarship money.

It was not a pleasant conversation,” Cooke says.

He refused to give in, and though, as of now, his scholarship remains intact, Cooke’s treatment is indicative of what many faculty label a “culture of fear” on campus when dealing with the administration.

On June 24, 2008, the Center’s board of trustees announced 1) it would not renew current President Richard Koshalek’s contract, and 2) the implementation of a zero waste plan. In their announcement the trustees mentioned the center’s existing low-mileage options: bike racks at the ARTS bus stop, and a Rideshare program for students, faculty, and staff.

Koshalek had embarked on a $150 million fundraising campaign and survived faculty and alumni critiques of his expansion plans before the blog post sent trustees back to the drawing board. Homeowners have never been as much of a threat, if this report is any indication:

The Gehry building is not universally supported by neighbors, who have bemoaned the school’s excessive traffic and overcrowded parking lots. Oliver hopes to address the concerns of angry homeowners with more details in the future. “They are afraid of the Gehry building because they see it as the Disney Hall on the hillside,” said Oliver, who once worked in Gehry’s office. “We are trying to assuage their fears and explain that the building isn’t designed yet.”

A past president of the Linda Vista-Annandale Association, Sharon Yonashiro, agreed that the Ellwood building was difficult for neighbors to accept. “Here comes the next generation of people who want to leave an imprint, and suddently there’s a 90-foot building in a single-family residential neighborhood,” said Yonashiro of the proposed design. “Had there been a dialogue that had been meaningful with the neighborhood, they wouldn’t have this building,” she added. “We feel its out of character and an extremely insensitive project.”

One of many strong, voluntary homeowners associations in Pasadena, the Linda Vista-Annandale Association claims about 1,400 members, according to the article above. Memo to all homeowners associations: numbers and organization matter, but an online, snowballing public outcry may matter more. Start a blog.

Homebuyers, this neighborhood is just on the other side of the hill from the Glendale tour I concluded earlier this week. Turning east toward Lida Street from Chevy Chase Drive will take you right past the Art Center and down to Linda Vista Avenue. Bring your blog skills and a significant down payment, because the average home price in this desirable area is still above $1 million.

Scanning Redfin’s listings and eliminating the highest sale price of $4,950,000 leaves 6 sales in the past three months, averaging $1,028,000 or $570 per sq.ft.

Recent sales:

1251 Inverness Drive
$1,051,000
2 bed/3 bath
2,207 sq.ft.
$476 per sq.ft.
Sold June 28

1475 Vista Lane
$660,000
3 bed/2 bath
1,218 sq.ft.
$542 per sq.ft.
Sold June 20 (and originally listed for $699,000)

There are 8 listings in the area, not counting the $9.5 million hilltop estate or the $5.9 million large estate with Brookside Golf Course views. The average home for sale here is listed at $1.5 million and has been on the market for 64 days. Here are 3 of the 8 listings, and 2 are close to the average sale price:

720 Heatherside Road
$1,049,000 (originally $1,198,000)
3 bed/2 bath
2,250 sq.ft.
$466 per sq.ft.
On Redfin 109 days
The listing says this home was built in 1937 but it looks thoroughly modern both inside and out.

717 Heatherside Road
$1,098,000 (originally $1,118,000)
3 bed/1.75 bath
1,782 sq.ft.
$616 per sq.ft.
On Redfin 70 days
This mid-century, single-story home looks like it was built in the mid-twentieth century.

1499 Wellington Avenue
$1,695,000 (originally $1,759,000)
4 bed/2.75 bath
3,150 sq.ft.
$538 per sq.ft.
On Redfin 32 days