When the Militant was a kid and his parents would take him on visits to family friends and relatives in unspecified suburban areas located well outside of Los Angeles city limits, the young Militant's initial reaction was of awe, wonder and envy.
Immaculate streets, the lack of graffiti, well-manicured lawns, lots of open space and - oh - all the houses look alike! Was his reaction back then, wondering why his folks had not decided to move to the greener pastures farther north, east and southeast of the city.
Now that the Militant has grown, and has developed his Militant sensibilities, he has since learned to embrace and celebrate the urban landscape. Despite the apparent aesthetic disparities, the city is full of life, diversity, activity and is central to everything. And best of all, Dodger Stadium is a mere 15 minutes away.
On Sunday, the Militant was invited to a house-warming party of an operative of his, who recently relocated his wife and two children from an apartment in the SGV's Duarte out a few miles farther to nearby Azusa.
But a funny thing happened when the Militant inputted the house's address into the MapQuest page:
"MapQuest found a similar location for "[Address Withheld], Azusa, CA". Please select or revise your search."
Hmm, that's weird. Might be an error. So he tried again on Google Maps:
"We were not able to locate the address..."
Uhhh..say what? The Militant knows that this particular operative isn't the practical joker type. So, plotting it on an online map, he used the directions from the 210's Azusa Ave. exit: Left on Azusa, check. Right on 9th St. Check. Left on...hey wait a minute...there's nothing there!
Sure enough, the Google satellite map feature showed a huge-ass expanse of land extending from Foothill Blvd to the actual foothills of the Sierra Madres. How odd...whatever could this have been?
The answer unfurled itself when the Militant took his 35-minute, traffic-free drive down the 210 to the land of "Everything from A to Z in the USA." Along the way, perched on a billboard alongside the dist-dry riverbed of the San Gabriel River, was a sign touting the availability of homes in a new housing development in Azusa called "Rosedale."
When he finally used those directions given to him, it all made sense. After shooting up straight through the village-like setting of Azusa Avenue, and making a right on 9th Street, after half a mile, the 1950s-era residential neighborhoods suddenly shifted into dirt hills and dark-tan stucco structures. So this was it.
After arrival, the operative told the Militant that the still-under-construction planned community of Rosedale was built on 500-acres of land formerly owned by the Monrovia Nursery (still operating nearby in a much smaller parcel), which used the land since 1926 to cultivate its trademark brand of potted plants. Further Militant research discovered that not only was the development named after nursery founder Harry Rosedale, but in 2003 some of the nursery's popular camellia flowers were tested positive with a deadly plant pathogen which scientists feared would cause plant devastation on the scale of Dutch elm disease. As a precaution, hundreds of thousands of camellias were destroyed and the company relocated its main growing operations to central California.
In 2004, the city of Azusa found a unique development opportunity for up to 1,250 homes, a K-8 school, several parks, a commercial zone and - the clincher here - a future (M) Gold Line station for its as-yet-to-be-funded Foothill Extension.
Yes, friends - out here in the 'burbs of the SGV - a transit-oriented development. Granted, it's not at all like this one, nor will there be a major television network operating there, but it's a TOD. Of course, the railroad track that runs just yards from the development lies fallow, and no one knows when construction crews will actually lay new track and sting up electric wire for the supposed light rail line.
Other TODs are springing up down the line, which causes the Militant to think critically here: Are such developments marketed with the transit-oriented label to expedite their approval process? Especially when no line exists or has yet to even be guaranteed to exist? Most importantly, will its residents actually use the rail? Granted, the operatives home (which cost about $600,000), along with others that currently exist, are built on much smaller, row house-style foundations with a common bungalow court-like shared entryway and no front lawns. And the garages only hold two cars each. The community's map boasts enough parks and open space to make this Hollywood-vicinity Militant insanely jealous, but there doesn't seem to be any provision for small pockets of retail like mini-markets, video stores, cafes or the like.
But this seems to be the shape of things to come. Granted, it's not as wastefully sprawling as the carbon-copy subdivisions of Santa Clarita or The Far East, yet this is the 21st century, and what they have is still lacking even something that would benefit from their supposed "small-town-feel" they're supposedly going for.
But what the hey, the Militant's got the city. And he wouldn't wanna be anywhere else.