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MINUTES FROM JULY 23rd 2020

Special Meeting held via Zoom videoconference

Voting Members in Attendance:  David Card, David Kaplan, Richard Cohen, Chris Spitz, Maryam Zar, Joanna Spak, Sue Kohl, Steve Cron, Steve Boyers, Alan Goldsmith, Brenda Theveny, Barbara Marinacci, Dick Wulliger, Amy Baker, Reza Akef,*  Haldis Toppel,*  Rick Mills*  (*arrived late)

Voting Alternates:  Janet Anderson, Kevin Niles

Non-voting Advisors and Alternates:  Zennon Ulyate-Crow, Mary Mueller, Cathy Russell, Quentin Fleming

1.    Call to order and reading of Mission Statement.  The Chair David Card called the meeting to order at 5:32pm.  Barbara Kohn read the Mission Statement.

2.    Introduction of Zoom engineer.  The Chair welcomed everyone and introduced the technical engineer Alex Ponting.  Introductions of the Board and audience were deferred.

3.     Roll call of voting members and certification of quorum.  The Chair called the roll of voting members and certified that there was a quorum.

4.    Approval of Minutes.  The minutes of July 9, 2020 were approved as corrected. The Chair described the upcoming meetings – August 13, 2020 (Board meeting): topics: (1) announcement of candidates running for Area & At-large Representatives’ election; (2) guest speaker Capt. Jonathan Tom, Commanding Officer, LAPD West Division; and August 27, 2020 (tentative Special Meeting): topic: candidates’ forum for candidates running in the Area & At-large Representatives’ election, if required due to contested elections.

5.    Consideration of Agenda.  Agenda items may be taken out of order at the discretion of the Chair.

6.    Treasurer’s Report.  The Treasurer Richard G. Cohen reported that PPCC’s cash balance is $39,370.09.  There were no significant transactions since the last report.

7.     General Public Comment.

7.1.    Gordon Gerson (resident) asked how to become a candidate for a PPCC elected Representative position.  David Kaplan (Vice-Chair & Election Committee Chair) provided his Committee report in response.  See item 9.1 below.

8.    Reports, Announcements and Concerns.

8.1.    From the Chair/Presiding Officer.

8.1.1.    Executive Committee determination of exigent circumstances/in-person meetings infeasible for at least two regular Board meetings (Bylaws, Art. IX.1.A).  The Executive Committee has found that exigent circumstances (as defined by the Bylaws) continue to exist, requiring the meeting to be held virtually rather than in-person.  The Committee has also unanimously found that in-person Board meetings will be infeasible due to exigent circumstances at least until September 30; all PPCC meetings through September 30 will therefore be held via Zoom videoconference.

8.1.2.    Announcement of incumbent Area & At-large Representatives running for re-election.  The Chair announced that the following incumbents have given timely written notice that they are running for re-election:  Area 1: Norma Spak; Area 2: Steve Cron; Area 3: Haldis Toppel; Area 4: Rick Mills; Area 5: Sue Kohl; Area 8: Reza Akef; At-Large: Alan Goldsmith.  Not running for re-election:  David Peterson (Area 6) and Steve Boyers (Area 7).  The Chair thanked them for their service to PPCC.

8.1.3.    Appointment of Election Committee, Area & At-large Representatives’ election, 2020.  The Chair announced that pursuant to the Bylaws, he has appointed the following members of the Election Committee to oversee the upcoming election of Area and At-large Representatives: David Kaplan, Committee Chair; Richard G. Cohen, Nancy Niles (PP Woman’s Club President), John Padden and Chris Spitz.  The Chair will serve in his ex officio capacity (non-voting) and Heather Cohen will serve as the Committee’s technical advisor (non-voting).

8.2.    From Officers.

8.2.1.    Chris Spitz (Secretary).  The Secretary advised that if anyone is interested, her Letter to the Editor published today in the Palisadian-Post contains an update on some of the housing bills that we have been monitoring.  Contact her with any questions.

8.3.    From At-Large and Area Representatives – None.

8.4.    From Organizational Representatives – None.

8.5.    From Government Offices / Representatives.   Contact information available at: http://pacpalicc.org/index.php/government-contacts/.

8.5.1.    Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, CD 11 – See item 11.1 below.

8.6.    From PPCC Advisors.

8.6.1.  Zennon Ulyate-Crow (Youth Advisor) reported that this fall, Palisades High students will be going into virtual learning due to the pandemic.  Amy Baker (Palisades Elementary/Education Representative) explained that school sports have been pushed to start in December; each sport’s season will be shortened.

9.    Reports from Committees.

9.1.    Election Committee (David Kaplan, Chair).  Update on 2020 Area & At-large Representatives’ election:  Notice of Election Nominations (instructions on how to become a candidate) to be publicly distributed 7/24.   The Committee Chair reported that the Notice of Election Nominations, required by PPCC’s Bylaws, will be publicly distributed tomorrow, July 24  [http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Notice-of-Election-Nominations-2020.pdf].  The Notice provides information about eligibility and submission requirements for persons interested in becoming candidates for Area or At-large Representative. All candidates, including incumbents, must submit Candidate Statements no later than one hour before the scheduled start of the next PPCC meeting on August 13, 2020. All seats are open, whether or not the incumbent is running, and the Committee urges all eligible and interested Palisadians to apply to become candidates by submitting their Candidate Statements by the deadline.  Who is eligible?  All candidates must be at least 18 years old by the time voting commences in early September. Candidates for Area Rep must be residents of the area they seek to represent.  Candidates for At-large Rep must either live, own real property or operate a business in Pacific Palisades. The candidates will be announced at the August 13th meeting and may begin campaigning after the meeting.  Stay tuned for more information about the election in the coming weeks.  Anyone with questions should contact Committee Chair David Kaplan at dkaplan6@gmail.com.

9.3.    Community Plan Update Committee (CPUC) (David Card, Chair).  Update on Committee and addition of new members.  The Chair announced that he has appointed two additional members of the CPUC, representing younger Palisadians with school-age children:  1) Amy Baker (Palisades Elementary /Education Representative, past member of the school’s Governing Board and parent of a child who attended Palisades Elementary and will be attending Paul Revere in the fall); and 2) Christin Cho (resident, litigation attorney and parent of young children, including a one-year-old and two children who attend Marquez Elementary).  The CPUC members will also be meeting tomorrow, July 24, via Zoom with our companion Brentwood committee members for introductions and initial discussions about the scope of the committees’ work going forward.

10.    Old Business – None.

11.    New Business. 

11.1.    Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, CD11. Presentation & Q&A.

The Chair welcomed Councilmember Bonin, who made brief opening remarks. He acknowledged the moment of uncertainty we are experiencing and spoke of the demands of the pandemic as well as the fact that we are undergoing an unprecedented period of reckoning over racism.  He can’t speak with certainty about the budget.  Revenues will not materialize and we’ll have to make additional cuts throughout the year as events transpire.  He can’t say whether there will be additional closures or when schools will open.  Regarding policing: he can’t tell us specifics of what the Department will look like because of the uncertain conditions.  However, he explained that with uncertainty comes the opportunity to create something new and better.  He praised the many people who are aiding others during the pandemic and who want to create something better.

The Chair then asked Councilmember Bonin several questions that had been submitted by Board members:

Q:  What do you say to people who declare that they shouldn’t have to wear a face covering or socially distance?  How do you promote safe habits among people?

A:  The Councilmember appeals to science and common sense.  Science has become politicized.  He wants to encourage people to wear masks as an act of courtesy to others to help them stay healthy and alive.  This is the same as covering your mouth when you cough.  People can be asymptomatic and spread the disease without knowing it.  He suggests that people think about their situation in terms of others who may be infected if masks are not worn, such as their grandmother or essential workers who provide them with services.

Q:   How is the police budget going to affect our existing level of service in the Palisades?  We want to keep our dedicated police patrol car, our beach patrol, our Senior Lead Officer and our fire resources.  Can we keep those?

A:   The Councilmember is pretty confident that we’ll be able to keep our fire and police resources. LAPD Chief Moore has publicly stated that he wants to try and increase neighborhood patrols; as a result, programs that center cops in the community will be expanding. He wants to concentrate on community outreach while trimming other specialized units, such as LA Metro. Councilmember Bonin has been pushing this rationale for the past five years:  less focus on specialized units and more on community patrols.   He also explained the budget process.  The initial budget called for more civilian furloughs, which would have resulted in cuts and decreased neighborhood patrols.   He proposed deferring raises but other Councilmembers did not favor this.  As a result, the only thing they can do is to make cuts in the budget.  The LAPD cut is smaller than in most other departments.  The City Council has discretion over 54% of the budget.  They are trying to figure out different, better and more cost-effective ways to police.

Q:  How successful has the City been in finding shelter for the homeless during the crisis?  What is the status of the various ideas for shelters?

A:  Councilmember Bonin feels strongly about homelessness.  He does not feel the way the City has been handling the issue is appropriate.  He has been pushing other ideas for a number of years.  A couple of his ideas – shared housing, master leasing and hotels – are now being proposed and/or adopted by LAHSA.  He feels that the problem can’t effectively be addressed with only one strategy at a time since there are many types of homelessness that require different solutions.  The Councilmember is not happy with Project Room Key; he doesn’t think it was ambitious or successful enough.  Under Judge Carter (who is overseeing the recent federal litigation about homelessness in Los Angeles), there’s an opportunity to ramp up the efforts.  The Judge is forcing the City & County to work together to come up with solutions.  Judge Carter is in favor of establishing safe campgrounds, using tiny homes or tents, with services being provided at each encampment.  Councilmember Bonin will help with encampments if implemented, but he is worried that the City will rely only on this and not on other solutions.  Campgrounds are temporary solutions during emergencies.  We need longer term solutions to save people from chronic homelessness; the campgrounds must be part of a broader menu.

Additional questioning and comments from the audience then ensued:

Reza Akef (Area 8 Representative):  What can be done about people not wearing masks?

A:  The Councilmember agrees this is a problem; however, the enforcement mechanism is up to the Mayor. No one really wants to ask LAPD to monitor mask usage.  This would not be a good use of police resources.  The City Council may consider whether we want to employ code enforcement officers.

Joanna Spak (Area 1 Representative):  Other cities have implemented fines for not wearing masks; is the City considering that option?

A:  The City will probably be reconsidering it.  However, there is sentiment in the City against imposing fines due to the economic situation.  An officer would have to offer a mask before citing a person for not wearing one.

Patrick Hart (resident):  More homeless individuals are coming to the Palisades’ bluff and beach areas due to free bus rides during the pandemic; the new arrivals refuse to engage with outreach workers and the LAPD beach patrol thus must manage the homeless situation; could the City buy the former Jack-in-the Box from the current owner and turn it into a police substation to make more hours available for community policing and provide more help for citizens?

A:  Metro, not the City, makes decisions about bus-riding and fares, but the Councilmember will look more into the situation. He and LAPD believe that social or mental health workers are generally better able than police officers to manage homeless issues. Police aren’t trained as are social workers to do this work. There must be a balance and right now we are not providing enough social workers to help with the homeless situation.  As to the substation:  there is almost zero chance that the City will use public funds or eminent domain to acquire private property for this type of use.  If public funds are used it will be to buy hotels/motels and other forms of housing.

Steve Cron (Area 2 Representative):  How can Councilmember Bonin support the large Highlands eldercare project in a high fire risk area while also speaking out against putting more housing in high fire risk areas?

A:  The Councilmember generally doesn’t favor putting additional housing in high fire risk areas.  However, we also need more places for seniors to be housed closer to relatives in the community. There are competing needs and he doesn’t make decisions like this lightly.  Taking care of seniors is a strong public policy objective of his.  We don’t have a plethora of proposals and we need places to take care of seniors.

Harris Leven (resident):  Could the Councilmember promote downsizing of the eldercare facility to ameliorate some of the problems, due to his close relationship with the developer?

A:  The City has already approved the project.  Councilmember Bonin is not interested in revisiting the matter.  He does not have a close relationship with the developer, whom he has only met three or four times at Chamber events. He has never taken any money from the developer.  Mr. Leven disputed this and claimed that Mr. Bonin had received money from the developer’s lobbyists.

Alan Goldsmith (At-large Representative): What can the Councilmember tell us about protecting the community from possible harm caused by the flood of criminals who are being released from County jails due to the pandemic?

A:  Councilmember Bonin has been trying to get answers himself.  He has been unable to get information on how things are going and there has been no information flow to the City.  He will follow up on possible sources for information.

Robert Flick (resident):  How does the Councilmember feel about construction of a large concrete retaining wall facing Santa Inez Park in connection with the eldercare project?

A:  The Councilmember hasn’t heard about this and will ask his staff to look into it.

Edith Kinloch (resident):  Is the Councilmember aware that there appear to have been violations since construction started on the site of the eldercare project?

A:  In cases where there have been shoddy construction practices at other projects, his office has sometimes sent inspectors out to monitor.  The inspectors need to know specifics of when the practices are occurring so that they can come out at the right time to observe what is going on before taking action. Please let his office know if there are specific times when possible violations occur so that his staff can try to get inspectors out at the right time of day.

Joann Barry (resident):  If the eldercare project developer decides in the future, based on economics, to repurpose the facility for some other use, would the Councilmember commit to precluding other uses for the facility?

A: It would be an entirely different ball game if the developer wanted to do something else with the facility. Councilmember Bonin would not support other uses. His support was dependent on the project being an eldercare facility.

Haldis Toppel (Area 3 Representative):  What can be done about enforcement of the problem during the pandemic of people (generally kids) gathering outdoors in our scenic areas, sometimes to take part in activities on our bluffs, in parks or in other areas that may be dangerous, inappropriate and/or illegal?

A:  The Councilmember is familiar with these problems and his staff is working on the matter.  LAPD may be doing some extra patrols in the area. They are also working on coming up with additional enforcement steps, including new parking restrictions and additional signage to enable LAPD enforcement.  The City doesn’t have the ability to weigh in on problems in the state parks. Part of the problem for enforcement is the confusing maze of parks and jurisdictions in the Palisades (i.e., state, county and city). There are inconsistent standards for parks and parking.  He is trying to encourage other opportunities for people to get outdoors.  Nine or ten restaurants in the Palisades are operating under the new Al Fresco dining program.  There is also the Slow Traffic program administered by LADOT. The Councilmember is trying to push for ways for fitness classes to be held outdoors since people are eager to be fit.

Zennon Ulyate-Crow (Youth Advisor): The Youth Advisor called the Councilmember’s attention to certain anonymous Instagram postings alleging disturbing, abusive and discriminatory incidents by high school students.

A:  Councilmember Bonin asked the Youth Advisor to provide him with more information and he will in turn share this with LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin.

The Chair thanked Councilmember Bonin for speaking with us for almost an hour and frankly addressing the community’s concerns.

11.2.   Election of PPCC officers, 2020-2021 Term (all offices uncontested).  Candidates:  Chair – David Card; Vice-Chair – David Kaplan; Treasurer – Richard G. Cohen; Secretary – Chris Spitz.  Election Procedure: The election may be by Board acclamation or, in lieu of acclamation, the Board will vote by roll-call (voice) vote (alternative procedure to secret ballot, authorized by the Executive Committee due to exigent circumstances/in-person meeting infeasible).  Bylaws, Art. VII.4.A; Art. IX.1.C.   Sue Kohl (Area 5 Representative) moved to elect the nominated officers by acclamation. Second: Steve Boyers (Area 7 Representative).  The Chair asked if there were any objections to the motion or if any Board members wished to have discussion.  There were no objections and no one asked for discussion.  He asked for a voice vote and all members stated “Aye” in unison; the Chair therefore announced that the officers were unanimously elected.

12.   Adjournment.   The meeting was adjourned at 6:55pm.

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