WAKE UP BUSINESS!


It’s great to see some serious talk about improving the quality of our food choices in Altadena. Her’es the latest from Patrick Reagan…

The next meeting of the committee to investigate an Altadena food
co-operative is scheduled to meet Thursday April 17th at 8:00pm at the
Coffee Gallery.  Our core group is getting off to a good start but
others are welcome to attend if they are interested.

The original idea for a food co-op got started during an on-line
discussion. There’s been frustration at the closing of the Pasadena Wild
Oats and an interest in a wider selection of products than offered by
existing stores in our area. Plus there are general issues, such as
rising prices, neighborhood access to organic food and the environment,
that don’t seem to be addressed adequately by conventional grocery stores.

There are some wonderful co-ops in neighborhoods just like ours around
the country.  They’re member owned so they’re very responsive to local
needs and contribute back to the community in many ways.  They also play
a proactive role that normal businesses seem to have a hard time with –
helping communities develop demand for sustainable products.  More
information is included below about how co-ops work and how one might
help us.

This next committee meeting is for people who are interested in, and
have the time to help research, what it will take to establish a food
co-op.  No prior co-op forming experience is necessary.  We’ll be
addressing issues of financial management, fund raising, marketing, real
estate and grocery store management.  So if you have experience in any
of these it would be great to have you with us.  The goal of our efforts
will be to prepare for the next step – which is to hold a community
meeting to gauge general interest in our area.

If you are interested then please attend. An RSVP to would be
appreciated. Please send it to…
patricksavesworld@dslextreme.com

If you’re interested but cannot make this meeting, respond with what
hours work for you and we’ll factor this in to your meeting schedule
discussions.  In the last meeting we decided to try alternating between
daytime and evening meetings.

Feel free to pass this information on to others who might be interested
and to post this information to any discussion groups/blogs for our area.
Thanks,
Patrick Reagan
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BACKGROUND

— What is a co-op?
“A co-op is an organization that takes the idea of working together and
puts it into a business structure. A cooperative is a business
voluntarily owned and controlled by the people who use it – its members.
It is operated solely for the benefit of its members, to meet their
mutual needs. When groups of people have similar needs – such as the
need for lower prices, more affordable housing, or access to
telecommunications services – cooperatives offer great potential to meet
those needs.

Although definitions of co-ops vary, they all contain the following
elements:
  – Co-ops are owned and controlled by those who use their services
(the members).
  – Co-ops are democratically governed.
  – Co-ops are businesses, not clubs or associations.
  – Co-ops adhere to internationally recognized principles.
In simplest terms, a food co-op is a co-op that buys food and household
items for its members. The co-op helps members obtain access to products
of desired quality at the best possible price. Food co-ops offer
consumers a retail environment free of coercive sales influences and
with full disclosure of product qualities and value. Food co-ops
typically operate out of retail facilities. Most are open to anyone who
wishes to shop there, though they may provide special services, prices,
or benefits to members only. Food co-ops may also offer a wide range of
products and services aside from groceries, including pharmacies, dry
cleaning, travel services, cooking and nutrition classes, housewares,
food service and catering, gas stations, etc.” (From “How to Start a
Food Co-op”, Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network)
— How would a co-op benefit us here?
A food co-op in Altadena could help us by…
  – saving us money by offering a wide variety of bulk items and
possibly lower prices in general,
  – offering organic/local/natural products in our area so we save
time/fuel by not having to drive as much,
  – keeping our grocery dollars closer to our community so our
successful co-op can foster local small businesses and offer non-grocery
community benefits (classes, etc.),
  – helping nudge our society toward more sustainable
business/consumption habits.
– Where are the nearest co-ops?
Co-opportunity co-op is located in Santa Monica:
http://www.coopportunity.com/co_opComp/home.htm
Isla Vista co-op is located just outside of Santa Barbara:
http://www.islavistafood.coop/ivfc/home.jsp
Ocean Beach is located outside of San Diego:
http://www.obpeoplesfood.coop/
— Could a co-op succeed in Altadena?
This is one of things the investigating committee needs to research and
why we’ll need community meetings. We’ll need to gauge competition and
survey community interest. Yet the prospects look promising based upon
the success of the local farmer’s markets, the prospering of the
Pasadena corporate competition (Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s) and the
rumored success of Isla Vista/Santa Monica co-ops. Also encouraging is
how the Puget Consumer’s Co-op has succeeded so well in a metropolitan
area such as ours. They currently have nine stores with a number of them
located deep in residential neighborhoods:
http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/
— What will it take to get one started?
This is a multiple step process involving the work of a small number of
community members (first the Steering Committee, then the Board of
Directors and sub committees) with the guidance/feedback/investment of
the community and the assistance of outside professionals. First efforts
will be to gauge whether the community could support a co-op, what size
it might need to be and how the membership structure might look.
Assuming all looks good then a membership drive would be undertaken to
raise initial capital. With this capital we’ll be able to secure loans.
With funds in hand we’ll be able to search for a store manager and location.
More startup details may be found at…
http://www.foodcoop500.coop/
http://www.uwcc.wisc.edu/info/i_pages/coopdev.html

— What’s the next step?
The next step is for the committee to do research.  We have to become
knowledgeable in what it takes to get such a business off the ground,
how co-ops compare to normal grocery stores and to begin to get a handle
on financially justifying such a business.  Along the way we need to
clarify our goals and determine if it might be possible to accomplish
them by some other means – working with existing businesses for
instance.  We need to make sure there are no insurmountable obstacles to
an Altadena area co-op and prepare ourselves to present our findings to
a community meeting.

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Here’s a copy of Steve Lamb’s letter to the Star News about the Lincoln Crossing “mis”development. 

Other comments, anyone? 

Speaking the truth

As a member of the public who has been concerned about the development called Lincoln Crossing and its impacts on the Altadena economy for several years, I would like to both publicly commend and thank Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Ester Valdez for her comments regarding the unacceptable conduct of the developer and the existing poor design and build of that development.

Commissioner Valdez was courageous in her comments regarding the county of Los Angeles’ role in the build quality of this project.

The land acquisition for this project was heavily subsidized by the county of Los Angeles for the developer. The land cost $90 a square foot to buy and was sold to the developer for $15 a square foot, according to the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission.

The subsidy was in fact so high that it amounted – according to Greg Galletly himself, who stated that the buildings cost less than $65 a square foot – to more than the cost of the buildings. In other words, the developer has the entire development for less than the fair market value of the land.

Not a bad deal.

I wonder what the local business owners could do with that kind of a deal from the county.

One would think with such a large subsidy given for what one supposes was to be a public benefit, that the developer would have low rents, a high building quality and close supervision by the county of Los Angeles. One would be incorrect to believe this.

The county of Los Angeles has allowed unpermitted sewer main lines and connections; changes in building size, height and shape without resubmitting to plan check; and a laxity of building code enforcement that, frankly, would shock and anger anyone who has ever built anything through the permit process in this county.

In spite of the generous subsidy and outrageous lack of normal enforcement granted this developer, he has the highest commercial rents in Altadena.

The county of Los Angels has the authority, power and responsibility to enforce the building code, the health and safety code and its contracts with this developer.

So far, most of the county agencies have been providing cover and cover up for the developer. Commissioners Valdez and Bellamy have courageously stepped forward and said this is unacceptable, immoral and wrong.

Altadena owes them our thanks for their honesty and courage.

Steve Lamb
Altadena

I’m starting a new category — Businesses that need to WAKE UP!

I’m just appalled by how some of the stores and businesses are being run in Altadena. The first on the list is the filthy pit called the am/pm Arco station on Lake at New York. I’ve gone in to complain about the filth and it’s not being addressed. There was a time when proprietors of “service stations” were proud of their business, and displayed their name in a prominent location for the community to see and know.

That is not the case at am/pm. Does anyone know who owns this station? I’m going to check it out, but if you know, I’d appreciate it. The grounds are covered in spilled gasoline and other schmutz, the station signs, pay stations, and gas pumps are dirty, dented and show no signs of being cared for in any way. I can’t stand to even touch the handles on the gas hoses. How hard is it to rent a steam cleaner once a month and give the place a bath? It’s disgusting and a blight on Altadena. What can be done to instill some pride in these “operators?” I will not be spending my money here until something is done.

Second on the list is the Ralph’s on North Lake. Why on earth has that store been allowed to deteriorate into the blight that it is? This neighborhood deserves better. In fact, why don’t we have a Trader Joe’s? Or an upscale Fresh Fair Ralphs instead of this remnant of the mid-20th century? The parking lot, like the one at the Rite-Aid on Altadena Drive, is a huge black, heat generating ugly blight. Why does Ralphs allow their image to be tainted this way? I’ve asked the staff when it’s going to be redone and they said never. The changing “marketplace” demands quality, cleanliness, variety and innovation with services. There’s a Food4Less down the street, so why do we have to put up with a crappy, neglected Ralph’s? Who’s going to this store? It’s Vons on Allen, Whole Foods, TJ’s or La Canada for me. Even the new Ranch Market on Lincoln is waaaaay up the ladder from this Ralphs. I know the strike a couple of years ago hurt the markets, but they have to have some respect for their customers. And customers should be demanding a better environment.

Appreciate your thoughts and suggestions on how to force some changes here!