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Polytechnic School Unveils Plans for Nuccio Nursery Property in Altadena

Proposal includes athletic and outdoor education uses, land preservation, trail improvements and fire safety measures

Published on Thursday, May 2, 2024 | 6:08 am
 

Pasadena Poly filed an application on Tuesday with Los Angeles County for a new athletic and outdoor education facility, Polyfields, on the Nuccio’s Nurseries property off Chaney Trail in Altadena.

According to a statement released by the school on Tuesday, 80% of the 80-acre property will be conserved permanently.

The school said the move comes following more than a year of study, design, and engagement with Altadena community members.

Poly is about 7.5 miles away from Chaney Trail.

The controversial project began after the Nuccio family agreed to sell the 80-acre property, including the 13-acre nursery site, to the Pasadena-based independent school.

Altadena residents have expressed concerns over the project. One group called AltadenaWild has reportedly collected thousands of signatures from Altadena residents opposing the project.

“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,” the group posted on its website. “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.”

Poly’s application calls for the permanent conservation of approximately 67 acres of the site off Chaney Trail.

The application next faces a public review and approval process led by L.A. County. The process will include an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and detailed studies of Poly’s proposal. There will be many opportunities for public review, comment, and participation. 

Nuccio’s Nurseries will continue to operate during that period.

According to the school’s release, in addition to permanently protecting more than 80% of the property as open space, Poly has committed to guaranteeing public access to hiking and equestrian trails on the property, which Poly will improve and maintain, creating separate parking and restroom facilities for community members using area trails, requiring all visitors to park on-site, adhering to strict use restrictions and regulations to protect community interests, continuing a proactive, inclusive and transparent engagement process with Altadena residents.

PolyFields would be located on approximately 13 acres that would be used for athletics, including tennis, soccer, football, and baseball. It would also include residentially scaled support spaces, including locker rooms, student gathering spaces, and a classroom for experiential learning focused on ecology and sustainability.

“We have met with over 100 community members and listened intently since raising the prospect of bringing new uses to the site,” said Poly Head of School John Bracker. “The PolyFields plan will create important new athletic and environmental learning spaces for Poly students, while protecting and enhancing the natural environment and habitat on this remarkable property. Our plan includes fire prevention and suppression measures that are designed to make the land safer than it is today.”

The school claims the filing of the application creates the opportunity to continue the conversations the school has had in Altadena. Poly representatives said the school has participated in many constructive conversations with members of the Altadena Town Council and consulted with community members, government representatives and others to create its proposal for the residentially-zoned property.

Joe Nuccio, co-owner of Nuccio’s Nurseries, said the future of the property and the community are incredibly important to his family.

“We considered a variety of interested buyers, including developers with visions of subdividing the site and building dozens of homes on it,” he said. “To me, Poly was far and away the best choice due to their commitment to serving as stewards of the land for future generations.”

According to the press release, Poly has consulted with leading fire safety experts who have helped develop a multi-faceted fire safety program with proposed features such as early detection and warning systems, staging areas for emergency responders, enhanced water infrastructure and storage to aid in fire suppression, and areas dedicated to staging and storing emergency supplies for the benefit of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Non-native plant species on the property, some of which are highly flammable, would be removed. Chaney Trail would be updated to enable better access for emergency vehicles.

Educational and recreational uses are conditionally permitted in residentially-zoned areas and would be carefully managed and controlled by a Conditional Use Permit.

Before identifying this property, Poly spent years working to locate a potential site to support its high school athletics program. The school considers athletics to be an essential piece of a well-rounded education. Yet Poly’s current athletic facilities are undersized and inadequate, limiting the student experience.

“We are a K-12 school that currently has one athletic field shared by nearly all of our students,” said Lisa Wu, Poly’s Assistant Head of School. “As a result, we currently rent or have sharing agreements with owners of various sports facilities throughout the area, and many of those spaces are no longer available to us. We are confident we can create a wonderful place that will bring benefits to the Altadena community as well as our student-athletes.”

The plan is for student-athletes to be shuttled to PolyFields for after-school practice and games.

Beyond athletics, the site would provide a remarkable opportunity for Poly to advance its environmental education offerings, enabling hands-on learning experiences in environmental science, ecology and sustainability. In essence, the school views this site as an extraordinary “outdoor classroom” for students to deepen their connection to the natural world and learn more about native plants and wildlife.

Poly is also eager to explore local partnerships with schools, nonprofits and other organizations to ensure the project’s benefits extend as widely as possible within the Altadena community.

“We are eager to continue hearing perspectives and priorities from the community to make sure this is a resource that serves as many people as possible in harmony with the surrounding community,” Bracker said. “We have heard a lot of encouragement from neighbors. We have also heard from neighbors about their concerns. Our door is always open, and we look forward to continuing this important conversation.”

For more information about PolyFields, visit polyfields.polytechnic.org.

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