MINUTES FOR SEPTEMBER 12th 2019
Voting Members in Attendance: David Card, Richard G. Cohen, Chris Spitz, Joanna Spak, David Kaplan, Sue Kohl, Steve Cron, Rick Mills, Alan Goldsmith, Brenda Theveny, Bill Bruns, Sarah Knauer, Jean Sharp
Voting Alternates: Eric Dugdale, Barbara Kohn, Cathy Russell
Non-voting Advisors and Alternates: Sharla Steinman, Zennon Ulyate-Crow, Cathi Ruddy, Melanie Bouer, Susan Orenstein, Barbara Marinacci, Kelly Comras, Marilyn Wexler, David Peterson.
1. Certification of Quorum. Vice-Chair David Card (Presiding Officer in the absence of the Chair George Wolfberg) called the meeting to order at 6:00pm and certified that a quorum was present. He explained that the Chair could not be present as he is undergoing treatment for recently-arisen medical issues; we continue to wish for the Chair’s speedy and full recovery.
2. Reading of Community Council’s Mission. David Kaplan 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 8/22/19 were deemed approved. 2) Upcoming Meetings– September 26, 2019: (1) Guest speaker: Los Angeles Board of Public Works Commission President Kevin James; (2) new information about recycling from the Bureau of Sanitation. October 10, 2019: (1) Gladstones Redevelopment Project briefing; (2) Presentation on LA County voting changes; (3) Welcome new PPCC organizational members.October 24, 2019: Board consideration of possible Land Use Committee (LUC) recommendation regarding Calvary Christian School Conditional Use Permit (CUP) / Coastal Development Permit (CDP) Application. November 14, 2019: Guest speaker – Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin.
5. Consideration of Agenda. The agenda was as distributed.
6. Treasurer’s Report. Treasurer Richard G. Cohen reported that the Council’s bank balance is $40,101. There have been no significant transactions since the last report.
7. General Public Comment.
7.1. Monique Lafia (resident) stated that she lives on Mt. Holyoke near Via de las Olas, where there are five large homes under construction and Eucalyptus trees were removed apparently without permits. She is concerned about the trees and about noise, dust, starting work too early, etc. She was advised that we are aware of the tree-cutting incident and we will answer questions after the meeting should she want more information.
7.2. Phillis Dudick (Friends of the Parry House) gave an update on potential Historic Cultural Monument status for the Parry House – an old Monterey-style residence on Camarosa Dr. The Cultural Heritage Commission recommended the designation and the matter is now going to a vote in the City Council PLUM Committee. She is asking people to write letters in support of the designation. She will give contact information to anyone interested after the meeting. She also briefly discussed the benefits to owners of applying for Historic Cultural Monument status.
8. Reports, Announcements and Concerns.
8.1. From the Chair (Presiding Officer).
8.1.1. Appointment of Land Use Committee (LUC). The Chair George Wolfberg has appointed the following members of the LUC: Howard Robinson, Committee Chair; Richard Blumenberg, Steve Cron, Rick Mills, Patti Post, Joanna Spak, Chris Spitz. The LUC will next meet on October 17, 2019; more details to be announced during Committee reports.
8.1.5. PPCC position letter re 17346 Sunset Blvd. mixed-use project (former Jack-in-the-Box). PPCC’s position letter was submitted to the City on August 25, 2019 and is posted on our website. See: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/PPCC-Letter-re-JIB-Site-Project.pdf.
8.1.3. Recent PPCC Board vacancy. Peter F. Culhane has resigned from the position of At-large 2nd Alternate for personal reasons. We will begin the process of inviting applications for the position in due course.
8.1.4. Reminder: Congress of Neighborhoods, 9/28/19. See: https://www.nccongressla.com. Board members are encouraged to register for this worthwhile event for community leaders.
8.2. From Officers.
8.2.1. Richard Cohen (Treasurer) reported on the recent West LA Community-Police Advisory Board (C-PAB) meeting. He announced that a few weeks ago he attended one of the C-PAB monthly meetings which he has been regularly attending for 12 years. Attendees liaise with the LAPD at these meetings. The Treasurer routinely attempts to explain to the West LA Captain at C-PAB meetings that the Palisades is isolated and we need to have a patrol car assigned 24/7 in order to have better response times. We now do have a car, but LAPD is always under pressure for resources and the car can be and is called away many times to respond to incidents in other parts of the city. At the recent C-PAB meeting, WLA Captain Davalos was not present and the Patrol Capt. chaired the meeting. He is the officer who dispatches cars every day, establishes priorities and decides which cars go out and where. The Treasurer was able to convey directly to him that the Palisades’ number one issue is keeping a patrol car 24/7. The Patrol Capt. made it clear that he knew of the importance to the Palisades and that this was very important to him as well. The Treasurer indicated that although there are times that the car must be dispatched elsewhere, hopefully we will be able to keep the patrol car in Pacific Palisades more often.
8.2.2. Chris Spitz (Secretary) announced that in the interest of time she would not repeat the information in her written summary of legislation, which can be accessed at: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Legislation-Summary-9-6-19.pdf. She updated the board on developments since she completed the summary regarding the land use preemption bills: SB 330 (Skinner) has now passed both houses and will become law absent a Governor’s veto (which is not expected); SB 592 (Wiener) was amended last Friday and returned to the Assembly Rules committee yesterday for further consideration; she expects the bill to pass in floor session tomorrow, otherwise it can’t be taken up again until January. Sen. Wiener’s other controversial bill, SB 50 (which was not taken up in this session), may also return for a vote in 2020. We will of course continue to monitor.
8.3. From At-Large and Area Representatives.
8.3.1. Alan Goldsmith (At-large) announced that Calvary Church is in the process of updating its Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to increase students slightly and reduce parking by 25 spaces in order to build a new 10,000 square ft. school structure. The school wants to have a presentation about their plans with residents. He will coordinate if anyone is interested in a meeting at Calvary to hear their presentation. The Chair stated that there will also be a LUC meeting to address this issue on October 17. Barbara Kohn (PPRA) expressed concern about whether the structure will encroach on the urban limit line, which she stated was encroached upon by the school years ago. This was an issue that PPRA had with the original CUP for the school. The Secretary stated that she and the LUC Chair have requested the original CUP and all relevant documents from the school in connection with the October 17 LUC meeting and this can be addressed at that time.
8.3.2. Rick Mills (Area 5) stated that he has signed up for a trip to the Owens Valley Aqueduct with LADWP. He will be going on the trip soon and will report back.
8.4. From Organizational Representatives.
8.4.1. Sarah Knauer (Chamber of Commerce) reported that the Chamber is excited about the upcoming Taste of the Palisades event, similar to Dine LA, which will take place from September 22 – September 26 with participating Palisades restaurants. For more information visit www.palisadeschamber.com.
8.4.2. Bill Bruns (Friends of the Library) advised that we are one step away from getting a vote at City Council for the indoor bookstore at the Library. Tomorrow & Saturday there will be a pop-up Book Sale in the Library community room from 9:30-4:30pm. The Friends are also debuting a new annual event in October called “Palisades Reads.” The community will participate in reading one book, “Shelter Me,” by Palisadian Laura Diamond. There will be a community book club discussion. The first meeting will be on October 23.
8.4.3. Brenda Theveny (TCA) announced that September 28 is National Public Land Day. TCA will be working with the Sierra Club on trail maintenance in Temescal Canyon and volunteers are welcome. She will provide information to the Secretary for the PPCC calendar.
8.5. From Government Offices / Representatives.
8.5.2. SLO Michael Moore, LAPD. Officer Moore reported on incidents involving knife-brandishing and threats to safety and security near local Palisades schools. He explained that a man named Aaron Meyer has been driving around in a Prius and allegedly threatening people. At the end of the last school year, he was driving around Palisades Elementary and allegedly doing threatening things like punching someone in another vehicle and yelling threats. He is believed to have mental issues. He was placed on a 72-hour hold which turned into a longer hold, but ultimately was released. Later, while with his grandmother in the Palisades, he was told that he could not use the Prius so he was angry and allegedly slashed the tires of his grandparents’ vehicle. A vandalism charge was brought but his grandparents decided not to press charges. This school year, he’s been back to the area of Marquez Elementary. He allegedly pulled out a knife and threatened people at Ronny’s Market. This was not enough for a felony, but enough for a misdemeanor crime. Detectives are in the process of filing the case. He was ID’d in a photo-array. The matter is in the hands of the City Attorney. He was told he needs to come to an appearance so that they can resolve the matter. If he doesn’t show up for the appearance, a warrant will then be issued for his arrest. The legal process takes a long time. LAPD is looking for him but officers have not found him. There is camera footage of Meyer going up to the top of Lachman and allegedly smashing a car window with a hammer. The owner of that vehicle has not made a report. SLO Moore has other reports of him allegedly trying to entice young children with candy into his car – no reports were filed on these incidents by the victims. The police need reports from victims so that they can make a case to prevent him from being released any time soon. SLO Moore asks for anyone with information about Meyer or his whereabouts to contact SLO Moore and/or LAPD. Meyer is no longer welcome at his grandparents’ home; there are open charges of elder abuse against him.
Audience members asked questions about other incidents and whether there were reports. SLO Moore stated that he hasn’t seen them. Meyer is 30ish, with close cropped hair, a tear drop tattoo on the left side of his face, a mole and a close-shaven goatee. It was noted that a photo was posted on Nextdoor. LAPD doesn’t release photos unless they can’t find the suspect after a great deal of effort or if a warrant has been issued. LAPD hasn’t issued a community alert yet but this might happen. Meyer is believed to be still driving the Prius. A court date has not been set and the filing is just going in. SLO Moore emphasized the need for victims to report crimes to the police.
Officer Ryan Basaker, LAPD West Traffic: A few motorcycle officers are assigned to an LAPD task force to deal with motorcycles Bureau-wide. It’s a huge area and only a couple of officers are assigned to deal with the issue. The task force officers come out to the Palisades as often as they can. Traffic accidents in West LA are down. Regarding the recent PCH & Chautauqua crash: six vehicles were involved and there was one minor injury (not a fatality). Regarding speed reports on Sunset: Speed surveys have been updated on Sunset and also on Palisades Dr. Speed surveys conducted by LADOT are required for radar enforcement. All of Sunset Blvd. and Palisades Dr. are now subject to radar enforcement.
8.5.1. Janet Turner, District Representative, Congressman Ted Lieu. Ms. Turner distributed flyers about the Congressional App Contest [see: https://lieu.house.gov/helping-you/congressional-app-challenge] and Congressional efforts to address homelessness [see: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Lieu-Press-Release-September-11-2019-Pres-Trump-LA-Homelessness-.pdf]. The Congressman was a supporter and/or co-sponsor of bills by Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Waters to end homelessness. The West LA VA will have a new medical director and there will be a meeting on October 1 to introduce the new director, which the public may attend. Sunday, November 10, is Veterans Appreciation Day; the Congressman will host an event with veterans in the Rose Garden at the Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood. Ms. Turner is reaching out to Palisades veterans to attend and describe their experiences to other vets at the event.
8.6. From PPCC Advisors.
8.6.1. Sharla Steinman (Youth) reported that Back to School Night at Pali High was a big success. There will be a College Fair Night on Oct. 7. The first Teen Council meeting took place on Tuesday and went really well. The Pali Ambassadors would be happy to help with any groups in the Palisades that need assistance with events.
9. Reports from Committees.
9.1. Land Use Committee (LUC; Howard Robinson, Chair). In the absence of the Committee Chair, David Card announced that the LUC will be meeting on October 17, 2019 at 6pm in the Library to consider an application by Calvary Christian School for a revised CUP and CDP. The meeting will be open to the public. Treasurer Richard Cohen briefly explained his concerns, based on experience with the St. Matthews School’s CUP, about the Calvary Christian School’s short and long-term plans to remove 25 parking spaces in order to build a proposed 10,000 square ft. new structure which may eventually require 100 new parking spaces.
9.2. Palisades Forestry Committee (PFC; David Card, Chair). Presentation of PFC report on a possible urban forestry policy for Pacific Palisades, including street tree planting and removals; possible action by the Board regarding the PFC recommendations. See PFC report at: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/PFC-Mission-Objectives-Appendices-straight-190901.pdf. (for discussion / consideration by the PPCC Board).
The Presiding Officer explained that as PFC Chair, he would be making the PFC presentation and for this reason, he “handed the gavel” to Treasurer Richard Cohen to serve as Presiding Officer for Item 9.2.
The PFC Chair introduced all the PFC members present: Bill Bruns (Friends of the Library), Kelly Comras (Area 1 2nd Alternate & landscape architect), Jo Ann Bright (PP Garden Club & landscape designer), Cindy Kirven (PP Garden Club), Michael G. Kelly (Palisades Beautiful & landscape designer), Marilyn Wexler (Area 7 2nd Alternate) and himself (PPCC Vice-Chair & landscape designer). Also present were nonvoting participants Mary Schulz (PP Garden Club) and Lisa V. (tree activist), as well as liaison to the PFC Stephen Du Prey (City of Los Angeles, Urban Forestry Division) and observer Nancy Freedman (Brentwood CC).
The PFC Chair gave an extensive Power Point presentation which contained numerous photographs and facts concerning the PFC’s make-up, its work, Palisades history and the history of Palisades trees in particular. Some of the highlights: a slide showing Sunset Blvd. with Torrey Pines dating from the 1940s; a description of who makes up the PFC — landscape professionals, committed organizations, local government and tree advocates; slides showing the abundance of trees in the community, with 30% consisting of street trees or trees on public land; aerial shots of the Palisades from 1920s, 50s, 70s and today; slides showing “single species” and “multiple species” streets; a slide showing Sunset Blvd. in the 60s, before signage limitations were in place; and slides of trees on Hartzell St., which the PFC is using as a pilot project.
During the presentation, the PFC Chair explained that the members did an in-person count of all street trees in Pacific Palisades. We have almost 8,000 trees in the right of way and parkways (not including trees in parks). The PFC’s vision is overarching – nurturing trees in the Palisades. He described the PFC’s Mission Statement and why the PFC was originally created – mainly to resolve issues with street tree designation policy in order to start planting more trees in the Palisades. They are looking at Hartzell St. as a pilot project for the street tree designation policy.
Kelly Comras (PFC member) did an inventory of all five blocks of Hartzell. She unscrolled a long roll she had created, depicting all existing trees and vacancies on Hartzell. Mr. Du Prey went with PFC members for a very long walk along Hartzell. There are many opportunities for planting on the street.
The PFC Chair also described the situation on Via de las Olas & Mt. Holyoke and showed slides of the removal of large Eucalyptus street trees in the parkway. The owner had no permission to remove any trees. As a result, the City withdrew his construction permit for a period of time; he must replace the removed trees with more trees, in large box size, and post a bond.
The PFC Chair repeated the Committee’s Mission Statement. The Committee members all agreed on the Mission Statement & Objectives, except for one objective. With regard to the street tree designation policy: the members voted by a vote of 4-2 to adopt the Santa Monica street tree designation policy. He explained that under that policy, if the existing tree in a segment of a street is the “right tree in the right place,” the existing tree will remain the designated tree; if not, a different tree is selected using various criteria as outlined in the report. He also described the designation list and how it is compiled. He explained that the PFC believes that public education and outreach about tree preservation is important. An example of a possible type of outreach is when a for-sale sign goes up on a house, someone should go up to the house, hand out a flyer and talk to the owner and realtor and persuade them not to remove the street tree.
The Presiding Officer thanked the PFC Chair and the entire Committee for the presentation and invited questions first from the Board and then the audience. Steve Cron (Area 2): What are the consequences for removing a tree? Mr. Du Prey (Urban Forestry): Depends on the individual case. Private property is controlled by the City Planning Dept. There are different levels of permits. He does not agree with the “as built” policy. He encourages people to use 3-1-1 to report trees being removed. The Palisades community is fortunate to have so many trees but tree planting has been stalled and we need aggressive tree planting. Cathi Ruddy (PP Woman’s Club): Is one of the factors in planting trees “flammability”? PFC Chair: Yes, they are looking at that, but all trees can burn.
Chris Spitz (Secretary): Regarding the “right tree in the right place” policy: Who decides in the first instance what is the right tree? The City, Urban Forestry, the Committee, PPCC, Palisades Beautiful? PFC Chair: Santa Monica has a task force which does that with its Urban Forestry staff. He thinks PFC and L.A. Urban Forestry Division would start to work on this. Kelly Comras (PFC member): The PFC has decided on the concept and wants to go ahead and work on how the concept will work. Presiding Officer: The Secretary’s question went to the question of who has authority to make these decisions; PPCC doesn’t have that authority and the PFC as a committee which is advisory to the PPCC doesn’t have that authority. Mr. Du Prey: If the City plants a street tree pursuant to a resident’s request, then Urban Forestry will water the tree for a certain cycle. It will remove a street tree if it is newly planted and someone objects to the tree after it is planted. PFC Chair: The PFC will work on designating trees working with the City, just as Palisades Beautiful had done for decades here.
Jean Smart (Optimists Club): She is worried about street tree branches falling on cars and killing someone. Safety must be considered. Melanie Bouer (Area 2 1st Alternate): She is concerned about trees planted too close to property, in violation of LAFD rules. PFC Chair: That’s a private property issue and we’re not dealing with that right now. Sue Kohl (Area 5): What is the policy with overgrown street trees and the danger in a storm from branches coming down? It typically takes a long time to get City staff to come out and trim trees. Mr. Du Prey: Residents should call 3-1-1 to report the condition. Urban Forestry has hired almost 100 people in the last year and a half, and will be hiring 30-40 more to work full time; as a result, they have gotten better with response times.
Cathy Russell (Area 7 1st Alternate): Regarding counting of street trees: What if there was no sidewalk where the tree was planted? PFC Chair: If the tree was obviously in the right of way close to the street, we counted that as a street tree even if there were no parkways or sidewalks. Kelly Comras (PFC member): The City has a proposal to inventory all trees in parkways throughout the City, using GPS.
Resident: Why did the PFC choose Hartzell for the pilot? PFC Chair: It’s a straight street, only five blocks long and has a variety of trees. Eric Dugdale (PPHS): PPHS owns Founders Oak and maintains the oaks for the community; these are decades-old significant trees. Such trees are protected by the state even on private property. He praised the street tree inventory.
Michael G. Terry (PFC member) then passed out a sheet with comments on street tree designations [see:http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Street-Tree-Designation-FactsQuestions-PPCC-190912.pdf]; the Presiding Officer asked if he wished to speak and he declined. Monique Lafia (resident): She reiterated her concerns about the developer on Mt. Holyoke. Response: Take pictures and send to 3-1-1.
PFC Chair: The PFC wants input on the report from the Board and the community. Please submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the next meeting on September 26; the PFC will be meeting on October 1 and will consider the input received. The PFC may return for further presentation to the Board at a later date this fall. Bill Bruns (PFC member): The Committee may go independent but that remains to be decided. The Presiding Officer explained PPCC’s policy regarding all committees being advisory only to the Board and that action cannot be taken unless approved by a 2/3 vote of PPCC Board members. Mr. Du Prey urged attendees to pick up brochures that he had put out on the counter.
10. Old Business – None.
11. New Business – None.
12. Adjournment. The Presiding Officer adjourned the meeting at 7:45pm.