MINUTES FOR JUNE 27th 2019
Voting Members in Attendance: George Wolfberg, Richard G. Cohen, Chris Spitz, Joanna Spak, Steve Cron, Sue Kohl, Haldis Toppel, Rick Mills, Reza Akef, Alan Goldsmith, Richard Blumenberg, Duke Ostendorf, Bill Bruns, Brenda Theveny, Sarah Knauer, Dick Wulliger, Maryam Zar (partial attendance)
Voting Alternates: Cathi Ruddy, David Peterson (partial attendance)
Non-voting Advisors and Alternates: Zennon Ulyate-Crow, Susan Orenstein, Mary Mueller, Melanie Bouer, David Card (partial attendance), Howard Robinson (partial attendance), Bruce Schwartz (partial attendance)
1. Certification of Quorum. The Chair George Wolfberg called the meeting to order at 7:00pm and certified that a quorum was present.
2. Reading of Community Council’s Mission. The Chair read the Council’s Mission.
3. Introduction of the Board and Audience. The board and audience were introduced.
4. Approval of Minutes & Upcoming Meetings. 1) Approval of Minutes – the minutes of 6/13/19 were deemed approved. 2) Upcoming Meetings– July 25, 2019: topics (1) LAX Landside Modernization Plan update; (2) Gladstones Redevelopment Plan briefing. August 22, 2019: New information about recycling from the Bureau of Sanitation. Additional topics to be announced. (One meeting only in the months of July and August.)
5. Consideration of Agenda. The Chair announced that the agenda is as distributed, with the possible exception of adjusting order to accommodate our guest speaker, Councilman Mike Bonin.
6. Treasurer’s Report. Treasurer Richard G. Cohen reported that the Council’s bank balance is $39,739.66. There were no significant transactions since the last report.
7. General Public Comment.
7.1. Sue Pascoe (speaking on behalf of Brian Shea, founder/organizer of the 4th of July 5K-10K Run). The parking lot at the Recreation Center is in terrible condition and there has been a problem with getting Recreation & Parks (RAP) to repave the lot. The run organizers are worried about liability. The Chair responded that we are aware of the situation; he hopes that the new head of RAP Maintenance and Construction (Cathie Santa Domingo) will come through.
8. Reports, Announcements and Concerns.
8.1. From the Chair.
8.1.1. WRAC leadership meeting 6/19 update. The Chair reported that many member councils recently held elections so some board leadership turnover is under way. Leadership is looking for a secretary, so if you are interested, let Maryam Zar or the Chair know. Seven WRAC member councils have signed off on our dockless scooter motion. DWP reminded all of the start of major conduit work on Sunset Blvd. in Bel Air.
8.1.2. PPCC in the News: NBC4 Dockless Scooter Video. The Chair remarked that Steve Boyers and Chris Spitz did the heavy lifting on the scooter motion and he got to stand in front of the cameras for Channel 4’s exposé.
8.1.3. New PPCC meeting time/change in library policy. The Chair announced that we now have to be out of this room before 8pm for future meetings because of a Citywide policy change. Thus, our future meetings will run from 6 pm to just before 8pm, as 8pm is a “hard close.” Since other groups are frequently in this room until just before 6 pm we will need some volunteers to arrive early to be sure we are set up. Sue Kohl and Joanna Spak have been leading the setup all year with no credit given. This has not gone unnoticed and the Chair thanked Sue and Joanna for their consistent help. This work is important and we will need more volunteers going forward.
8.1.4. Committees and advisors term expiration 6/30. The Chair explained that his appointments of advisors and various committee members will expire at month end. Any members or advisors who are impacted and are interested in an appointment, please let the Chair know.
8.2. From Officers.
8.2.1. Chris Spitz (Secretary) electronically distributed a written summary on recent legislation regarding dockless electric scooters, short term rentals, group homes and legislation involving preemption of local land use controls (Home Rule). She invited anyone with questions to contact her. See Spitz Legislation Summary/Follow-up.
8.3. From At-Large and Area Representatives.
8.3.1. Steve Cron (Area 2 Representative). This coming Sunday morning, Highlands volunteers will be doing a semi-annual cleanup of the canyon. Volunteers should meet at the Starbucks on Palisades Dr. at 10am.
8.4. From Organizational Representatives.
8.4.1. Dick Wulliger (PPHS). The Financial Times published a supplement last week which discussed Caruso, included a picture of Palisades Village and described the project. He read an excerpt from the supplement and noted that we are getting world-wide publicity.
8.4.2. Sarah Knauer (Chamber of Commerce). This September, the Chamber will sponsor a “Dine LA” event in the Palisades which will take place over 5 days, probably from September 22-26. There will be tasting menus and the Chamber is working on lining up participating restaurants, sponsors and promotion. Look for more details to come.
8.5. From Government Offices / Representatives.
8.5.1. CD 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin and Palisades Deputy Lisa Cahill. See Item 11.1 below.
8.6. From PPCC Advisors.
8.6.1. Miriam Schulman (Wildfire Safety). In Ms. Schulman’s absence, her written announcement was distributed electronically: Wildfire Safety Update.
8.6.2. Zennon Ulyate-Crow (Youth) thanked the Optimists and the Rotary Club for their help with awards and scholarships for students.
9. Reports from Committees.
9.1. Palisades Street Tree Committee (PSTC; David Card, Chair). Committee meeting update – No report; Committee Chair not in attendance at time the item was called.
9.2. Land Use Committee (LUC; Howard Robinson, Chair). Committee meeting update. Possible board action on project proposed for former Jack-in-the-Box site.
The Committee Chair reported that at its June 27 meeting preceding the PPCC meeting, the PPCC LUC revisited the proposed project at 17346 Sunset Blvd. (former Jack-in-the-Box site; the “Project”). After hearing from the applicant’s representative and community members and discussing the Project, the LUC members voted to recommend that the board oppose the Project at the proposed height and configuration (5 stories with no upper level setbacks). See LUC Recommendation to the PPCC Board (“Recommendation”). [Recommendation.] In response to a question from the Chair, the Committee Chair advised that the deadline for comment on the Mitigated Declaration for the Project is July 10, but that no hearings have yet been set and there will be time at a later date for the PPCC to comment on the Project. Further discussion of Item 9.2 was suspended upon the arrival of Councilmember Bonin and the need to take up Item 11.1. Item 9.2 was later postponed due to time constraints (see Item 12 below).
10. Old Business – None.
11. New Business.
11.1. Councilmember Mike Bonin, CD 11. Presentation and Q&A about community concerns.
Councilmember Mike Bonin attended along with his Palisades Deputy Lisa Cahill. Mr. Bonin began by describing one of the most important issues we face – fire safety. It is one of his top priority issues. Through his efforts the budget for LAFD has been increased each year for CD11. This year they received $63 million in budget resources, which allows for more trucks and other equipment, a new firefighting helicopter and the hiring of more firefighters. Mr. Bonin explained that the new Urban Wildland Interface Task Force will be a means of getting all relevant departments to sit down in a room together to discuss and address all of the challenges we face with wildfires in Los Angeles – evacuation procedures, parking restrictions, development standards and the like. He briefly explained evacuation drills that have taken place recently, including one in Mandeville Canyon. He is working with the Emergency Management Dept. to fix problems with the emergency alert system. The Task Force will also look into setting different standards for hillside development and the issue of substandard, narrow streets.
A dog park for the Palisades also remains a priority. It will be expensive and we may need to look into using multiple pods of funding. RAP will be looking again at Measure A funds. They will have to look at state funds at well. This may require a public private partnership.
The Councilmember stated that he wished to say a few words about the issue of race: He was at Pastor Davis’ last sermon and will be working with the Pastor in the district on his projects. He was touched to see the outpouring of community support for Pastor Davis. If anyone is interested contact the Council office for help with setting up dinners with Embrace LA.
Mr. Bonin also paid tribute to Arnie Wishnick. He has heard suggestions about renaming Antioch St. near the Chamber offices as “Arnie Wishnick Way.” He would like feedback from the board and community.
The Chair then posed questions to CMB that had been submitted in advance by Board members and by audience members tonight via question cards.
Q: Proposed state legislation that would preempt local land use control and erode the principle of “Home Rule” keeps coming; can the City have a fallback position to protect us? A: The main issue is housing and density. The authors of these bills have a genuine public policy objective due to the housing crisis. State officials are frustrated with cities and want to take away local control because they feel that cities are not doing enough, but Los Angeles has been doing a lot more than most other cities. Sen. Wiener’s bill (SB 50) was the height of aggressiveness. It would have changed baseline for all single-family zoning and allowed 4-plexes by right in all residential zones. The City Council unanimously opposed SB 50. The Councilmember opposes the new bill from Sen. Wiener which is a “gut and amend” of a bill about Cosmetology. At the same time these bills will keep coming unless we proactively show the state what we are doing and where we’re doing it. But building more housing won’t necessarily create more affordable housing. We must require more affordable housing in buildings with larger numbers of units. Mr. Bonin also supports rent control and has proposed a vacancy tax for habitable units that aren’t being put on the market.
Q: What is the City’s policy regarding sidewalk repairs and who is responsible? A: Mr. Bonin described the history of sidewalk repair in Los Angeles and the City’s varying policies over the years. The policy now is that the City is compelled to commit funds to sidewalk repairs every year. Disabled persons have priority on fixing sidewalks; sidewalks in front of government facilities also have priority. Otherwise, in residential neighborhoods the City will fix sidewalks but once fixed responsibility resorts back to the adjacent property owner. Liability will be determined in each case individually if someone is injured by a damaged sidewalk, but the City is perceived as having the “deep pockets” in the event of injury. There is now a pilot program to come up with smaller fixes in neighborhoods, using different technologies and processes.
Q: What is the situation with damaged streets that are withdrawn from public use? A: The City has put most of the streets formerly withdrawn back on the list, but they aren’t necessarily at the top of the list for repairs.
Q: Streets are getting beat up with big construction projects near the beach; does the contractor have to fix the damage? A: Generally, no. They are not responsible for routine construction use.
Q: What steps will be taken to ensure citizen participation in the Urban Wildland Interface Task Force? A: There will be public engagement eventually on the scope of the work and also on individual planks such as development standards and brush clearance. Mr. Bonin would like to hold workshops or open houses with different constituencies. The Palisades will be first in line to participate.
Q: Can anything be done to reduce advertising of cannabis and vaping in order to protect teens? A: Mr. Bonin is against digital billboards and advertising. Some of his colleagues are working on this issue and taking the lead and he’ll be supportive.
Q: The Friends of the Library have raised funds for a bookstore inside the library they have long been waiting for the City to sign off; can he jump on someone to sign the necessary contract so that the bookstore can finally go forward? A: Mr. Bonin will jump in; this is the first he has heard about this issue. He supports bookstores and will get involved in order to get this done.
Q: Regarding transit gaps, what efforts are being made to prioritize buses and public transportation in West Los Angeles? A: We are hemorrhaging public transit riders. Part of the problem is dissatisfaction with the service. Mr. Bonin described his efforts and what is going on with Metro. People are happier with bus shuttles than with the Blue Line. They need fast and reliable service. Currently there is a pilot program in Mar Vista, Palms and Del Rey which provides an “on demand” neighborhood shuttle.
Q: What can be done about scofflaw developers who mow down street trees without permission? A: We need to get stricter and tougher with developers. The maximum penalty under the law is loss of the right to develop the adjacent property for five years. Mr. Bonin would like to put in place the strictest penalties in the City for illegal removal of trees. He supports the progress on the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan and is happy to hear about our new Palisades Street Tree Committee.
Q: What is the current status of the Pacific Palisades Design Review Board? A: Maryam Zar is the latest appointee. There are two additional vacancies. A few people have submitted interest in these positions. Staff has asked us to forward additional suggestions. One must be an architect and the other can be an interested citizen.
Q: When is the City going to cut down dead trees and brush along Palisades Dr.? A: CMB [Mr. Bonin] has learned that different agencies are responsible for different locations along Palisades Dr. and will be doing this work in their areas of responsibility.
Q: Why are you supporting the Highlands eldercare project? A: CMB [Mr. Bonin] supports elderly people who need care and a place to live. These facilities should be in residential neighborhoods.
Q: What can be done about enforcing the ban against gas-powered leaf blowers? A: Anyone who is able to write ACE citations can write citations for leaf-blower violations, i.e., not just police, but also building inspectors, etc. Mr. Bonin will talk to managers of departments to remind them of his. He also reminds the community: citations are issued to property owners, not to gardeners!
Q: How can the community work with RAP to write a grant for Measure A funding for our dog park (since private fundraising is a problem because no one wants to donate until we obtain a Coastal Development Permit)? A: The Councilmember can help with this.
Q: What is the status of the overnight beach curfew? A: We are still waiting on the Coastal Commission; there is no news on that front. The Coastal Commission favors open beach access and a case will have to be made that the curfew is necessary for public safety & welfare. Beach Patrol Officer Rusty Redican was recently out on the beach to discuss this matter with staff members of the City Attorney’s office and he has positive news to report. Officer Redican: The City Attorney’s office is working on this issue and are obtaining evidence to support the City’s case that the beach curfew is needed to protect public safety & welfare. Officer Redican provided City Attorney staff members with important first-hand information concerning conditions on the beach. It is still a work in progress but Officer Redican is optimistic. The Coastal Commission may hear this at the beginning of next year.
Q: What can be done to create a community garden and local composting oasis? A: The Council office will help if the community wants and supports such a project. We would first need to find a location.
Q: What can you tell us about Potrero Canyon Park access and the issue of a fence around the park (which some residents oppose and others support)? A: Right now the City is adhering to the guidance from the Potrero Canyon Community Advisory Committee’s (PCCAC) 2008 recommendations. We are listening to everyone, but RAP needs to make a decision soon. There are a number of factors: the opinion of people who live there, what a fence will look like, security, liability and the opinion of the City Attorney. We will listen to all perspectives.
Additional questions from the audience then ensued regarding the issue of a Potrero Canyon Park fence. Lisa Cahill: She has been available and open to all for questions and comments, she has taken meetings, and she is open to emails and phone calls. RAP, the City Attorney and the PCCAC all recommend a fence. A group of residents want a fence, but others don’t want a fence. They are still working on the issue. Residents should contact Lisa to express their opinion. Mr. Bonin will ask RAP to set up a community meeting with the neighborhood. He stressed in conclusion that the City must listen to concerns about liability.
Q: What can be done to solve problems with the lane turns and inadequate signage at the Chautauqua, PCH & W. Channel Rd. intersection? A: Mr. Bonin promised to look at potential redesign of the intersection. This will require an interagency task force, including Caltrans and LADOT.
Q: Please explain the situation regarding adjacent cities (e.g., Culver City) dumping homeless individuals on the Los Angeles side of city boundaries. A: It is a problem but not the primary cause of homelessness. The Councilman described the court decisions, including Jones and the 9th Circuit decision, that require cities to allow people to sleep on sidewalks unless services are available and provided.
Q: When will LADOT present plans to improve safety at the intersection of Temescal Canyon & PCH (the No. 1 intersection in the Vision Zero report)? A: Mr. Bonin is hoping that LADOT will have its suggestions before Labor Day and he will share them with us. He also hopes to have funding for the long-awaited and much-requested signal at Sunset Blvd. & Chautauqua.
Q: Regarding LADWP infrastructure, developers are required to bear the cost of putting in electrical equipment for transformers; could this be a problem in terms of developing affordable housing? Councilman Bonin: The City might look into exceptions.
Q: Regarding problem sidewalks, who is liable in situations when someone falls because a tree has caused the sidewalk to erupt? A: Generally, the injured person can sue the homeowner, depending on the situation and location of the tree and sidewalk. The City has deeper pockets.
Q: Why is there no trash recycling at the park and in the Village; we are told there is no trash recycling at City parks? A: Mr. Bonin will look into this and loves the idea. He will have a legislative proposal this summer.
The PPCC Board thanked Councilmember Bonin for participating and answering the community’s many questions.
12. Adjournment. Upon conclusion of Item 11.1, the Chair announced that due to time constraints the Board’s further consideration of Item 9.2 above was postponed until the July 25th PPCC meeting. The Chair adjourned the meeting at 8:35pm.