MINUTES FROM AUGUST 13th 2020
Meeting held via Zoom videoconference
Voting Members in Attendance: David Card, David Kaplan, Richard Cohen, Chris Spitz, Joanna Spak, Sue Kohl, Steve Cron, Steve Boyers, Alan Goldsmith, Brenda Theveny, Barbara Marinacci, Dick Wulliger, Rick McGeagh, Reza Akef, Haldis Toppel, Cathi Ruddy, David Peterson* (*arrived late)
Voting Alternates: Kevin Niles,* Richard Blumenberg, Peter Powell, Marilyn Wexler* [*Non-voting]
Non-voting Advisors and Alternates: Zennon Ulyate-Crow, Mary Mueller, Melanie Bouer, Jason Sklar, [*Kevin Niles, Marilyn Wexler]
1. Call to order and reading of Mission Statement. The Chair David Card called the meeting to order at 5:30pm. Richard G. Cohen 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 23, 2020 were approved. The Chair described the upcoming meetings –August 27, 2020 (Special Meeting): topic: candidates’ forum for candidates running in the Area & At-large Representatives’ election (contested seats); September 10, 2020 (tentative Board Meeting; possible cancellation due to additional special meetings held during June – August; to be determined at the August 27th Meeting); September 24, 2020 (Board Meeting): announcement of election results, Area & At-large Representatives election.
5. Consideration of Agenda. Agenda items may be taken out of order at the discretion of the Chair. The Chair announced that because the owner of the property located at 15539 W. Via De La Paz was unable to attend the meeting on August 13, the matter involving possible Board action regarding replacement of dead trees in the public parkway at that property (see Item 9.3 below) will be postponed to a later date (to be announced).
6. Treasurer’s Report.
The Treasurer Richard G. Cohen reported that PPCC’s cash balance is $39,273.84. There were no significant transactions since the last report.
7. General Public Comment.
7.1. Shayna Samuels (resident) announced that a new Palisades organization, Resilient Palisades, is launching its first online meeting at 7:30pm following the PPCC meeting tonight, August 13. State Senator Ben Allen is the guest speaker. For more information visit the Resilient Palisades website: https://resilientpalisades.org.
8. Reports, Announcements and Concerns.
8.1. From the Chair/Presiding Officer.
8.1.1. Announcement of Candidates running in the election for Area & At-large Representatives; alternative procedure if name of candidate is erroneously left off the list (by Executive Committee decision; ref. Bylaws Attachment A, Sec. 3.D.I). The Chair announced the candidates running for Area and At-large Representative seats in 2020. See Attachment 8.1.1 (b) below for the names of all candidates. No candidate’s name was read for Area 8 since no application had been received. Reza Akef (Area 8 Representative) asked that his application be accepted late as he stated that he had not been able to email the required Candidate Statement on time due to traffic. Chris Spitz (Secretary) read aloud the alternative procedure if the name of a candidate is erroneously left off the list (see Attachment 8.1.1 (a) below). She noted that the rules require that the application be timely submitted, which in this case was no later than 4:30pm this evening; Mr. Akef’s application was not received by 4:30pm and thus was not timely. The Secretary also noted that Mr. Akef will remain the Area 8 Representative until the end of the term (September 30). The Chair explained that PPCC’s Bylaws provide for a process for residents to apply to become Alternate Area representatives; the Area 8 seat can be filled via that process, which begins after the election of primary Area Representatives concludes. Mr. Akef may apply at that time along with other eligible and interested residents of Area 8.
8.1.2. Appointment of Committees & Advisors, 2020-2021 term. See: www.pacpalicc.org/ Leadership tab. The Chair announced the appointment of Committees, Advisors and Liaisons, pursuant to PPCC’s bylaws, as set forth in the 2020 Committees List:
http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/PPCC-Committees-and-Advisors-2020-2021.pdf. He noted that since Cathi Ruddy (PP Woman’s Club), who had served as our Emergency Preparedness Officer / Liaison with the City’s Emergency Management Dept., has moved out of state, he has appointed K.C. Soll (Palisades resident and C.E.R.T. coordinator) as our Emergency Preparedness Officer / Liaison with the City’s Emergency Management Dept. He thanked Ms. Ruddy and Ms. Soll for their service.
8.1.3. Board approval of Legal & Youth Advisors. (A) Legal Advisor: The Chair announced that he wished to re-appoint Rob Weber as PPCC’s Legal Advisor. He requested Board approval as required by PPCC’s Bylaws; the Board unanimously approved this appointment. (B) Youth Advisors: The Chair announced that he wished to re-appoint Zennon Ulyate-Crow, a Palisades High student, as a Youth Advisor, and to appoint Jack Coleman, a Harvard-Westlake student, as an additional Youth Advisor. He requested Board approval as required by PPCC’s Bylaws; the Board unanimously approved the appointments.
8.1.4. Message from LAFD Deputy Chief Armando Hogan re Alert Wildfire cameras. See: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Message-LAFD-Hogan-re-Alert-Wildfire-.pdf. The Chair summarized the message from Chief Hogan regarding placement of the Alert Wildfire cameras. LAFD is looking at three possible locations for set-up cameras: San Vicente, Mandeville Water Tank & UCLA (Santa Monica Medical Center). Additional locations suggested by community members will also be considered. The Chair thanked the many residents who had submitted suggestions for locations.
8.2. From Officers.
8.2.1. Chris Spitz (Secretary). Update on state housing bills. See Letter to Assembly Committee: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Assembly-housing-density-letter-8-5-20.pdf.
The Secretary reported on several housing bills pending in the state legislature that PPCC has been following: 1) SB 474 (Stern): bill that would prohibit all housing development in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (VHFHSZ); Sen. Stern’s staff still doesn’t have an answer as to whether the bill would prevent homeowners from re-building homes after fires or otherwise, but they’ve advised us that the bill now won’t be taken up in this session or in this year. 2) SB 902 (Weiner): bill that would result in more density in our R1 zones and effectively eliminate single-family zoning; passed by a narrow majority vote this week in the Assembly Local Government Committee; Assemblymember Bloom voted Aye, but with Sen. Wiener’s promise to amend the bill before it next goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, to include an unconditional exemption for VHFHSZ parcels; we will monitor to see whether this occurs. 3) SB 1120 (Atkins): bill that would allow for subdivision of all residential lots and an increase in dwelling units on R1 lots, again resulting in elimination of single-family zoning; Assemblymember Bloom’s staff has been attempting to obtain Sen. Atkins’ agreement to amend the bill to protect fire zones more completely, but her staff has not responded; meanwhile the bill also passed by a narrow majority in the Local Government Committee, with Assemblymember Bloom abstaining. He advises that he will continue to press for a bill amendment to provide for an unconditional exemption for the VHFHSZ. Assemblymember Bloom is also on the Appropriations Committee; that Committee is basically the last stop before the bills go to the Assembly floor for a vote before the end of the month. We will continue to monitor.
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. Capt. III Jonathan Tom, LAPD West Division Commanding Officer – See item 11.1 below.
8.5.2. Stephen Du Prey, Supervisor, Urban Forestry Division/StreetsLA – See item 9.3 below.
8.6. From PPCC Advisors – None.
9. Reports from Committees.
[Note: items misnumbered in agenda; no item 9.1]
9.2. Election Committee (David Kaplan, Chair). Update on 2020 Area & At-large Representatives’ election. The Committee Chair thanked all the candidates and stated that the candidates have been advised that they may now begin campaigning consistent with our rules. He also announced that there will be a candidates’ forum on August 27 and the Committee is meeting to determine details about the format, which will be announced shortly. He further reported that the Committee members, in particular Treasurer Richard Cohen and our Technical Advisor Heather Cohen, are working on the ballot interface; voting will begin online on September 4, with information about the ballots and voting process to be distributed in the coming days. Anyone with questions should contact Committee Chair David Kaplan at email@example.com.
9.3. Palisades Forestry Committee (PFC; Cindy Kirven, Chair). Committee update; request for Board action regarding replacement of dead trees in the public parkway at 15539 W. Via De Las Olas [matter postponed to a date to be announced; see item 5 above].
The Committee Chair Cindy Kirven updated the Board on the PFC’s work. The Committee members have been busy during the pandemic, meeting weekly via Zoom and creating a 175-tree data base of street and park trees in the Palisades. The data base includes such information as root-heaving risk, water consumption requirements, canopy provided, branch strength, fire risk and susceptibility to allergies and disease. PFC members are currently working on making recommendations to the PPCC Board for trees to be planted in the parkway for several blocks along Hartzell St. (the PFC’s initial “test street”). They are also obtaining additional information to be used for eventual community outreach regarding tree planting and maintenance.
Stephen Du Prey — a Supervisor with the City’s Urban Forestry Division/StreetsLA and an advisor to the PFC — was also present and provided information on Urban Forestry’s work. He explained that the Division manages street trees and park trees in Los Angeles. They issue permits, provide advice to homeowners and seek to maintain healthy, mature trees.
Reza Akef asked whether Urban Forestry has pamphlets explaining how homeowners should take care of trees in the public right of way and whether they provide these pamphlets to homeowners. Mr. Du Prey replied that yes, the Division has such a pamphlet which it makes available along with many brochures to homeowners. Mr. Akef noted that he wasn’t able to find the pamphlet he was referring to on the Urban Forestry website.
10. Old Business – None.
11. New Business.
11.1. Guest Speaker: Capt. III Jonathan Tom, LAPD West Division Commanding Officer. Presentation and Q&A. Discussion only.
The Chair introduced and welcomed Capt. Tom and invited him to give an introduction to the Board. Capt. Tom thanked the Chair for the invitation and welcome. He explained that he is currently the Commanding Office of LAPD’s West LA Division. He is a Level III Captain with 24 years on the job, and has been serving as Commanding Officer for West LA since January 2020. He served for five years as Commanding Officer of other areas. He started his career in West LA, with his probation year in 1998. Capt. Tom is from a Chinese American family who have been in the U.S. since 1875. His family runs a popular Chinese restaurant in downtown LA. He went to USC and University High and has many friends who still live here. He is happy to be back in the community. The West LA community is very demanding but supportive of the police overall. Capt. Tom stated that the police are here to serve community and that the community deserves answers. He will give his best effort to answer our questions.
Regarding recent crime on the Westside: Capt. Tom took some time off this summer and when he returned to work, the next day (August 4th) there was a homicide. West LA has had three homicides this year, including one that occurred earlier in the year, the one on August 4th and a third homicide that took place on Butler Ave. on August 9th. He described the unfortunate circumstances of that homicide. Homicides are up 200% in West Division YTD. There have been 27 homicides YTD in the entire West area (including Pacific and other Divisions). The police are also struggling with many grand theft auto incidents. He wants to get the word out: at least ½ of cars are stolen with key fobs left in or near car. Generally, the victims won’t admit they left keys in car. In 70% of cases of cars stolen last week, the owners admitted that the keys were left in car. There is a trend of cars being stolen. Fewer people are driving; as a result, more cars are parked on streets and in driveways, suspects are able to go around checking car doors and they are having more success. The suspects push the starter button and the car starts (if the key is in car) and they drive away. Typically, they are now stealing cars for use as transportation rather than to obtain parts.
Regarding the issue of large house parties: LAPD is not responsible for turning off water & power to these houses. Capt. Tom explained that the police will respond to calls about parties. Their preference is to give a warning if it’s a family party. If it’s a short-term rental party and is loud and unruly, officers will issue an administrative citation with a fine of $250. The amount doubles every time the police are called out, up to a maximum of $8,000. The amount then remains the same and the fine is $8,000 each time LAPD is called. This circumstance has been rare. LAPD has deployed extra units on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to respond to loud parties and large gatherings. The officers in these units have training on how to write citations and do required postings on the property. Response times will therefore be much shorter since this is the units’ special assignment. LAPD needs to prioritize calls. Capt. Tom then reiterated the process per the Mayor’s order Safe LA order: LAPD responds to a call for service, issues either a warning or a citation, posts a sign if cited, then if the party continues will come back and issue another citation and post a sign for violation of the Safe LA order. The Mayor’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety receives email notice about the incident and the Deputy Mayor decides along with the City Attorney whether to shut off power to the house; this is usually done for repeat offenders and “party houses.”
Regarding defunding the police and the $150,000,000 LAPD budget cut: Capt. Tom appreciates that the Palisades community wants to know what this will mean for us. Many people have asked whether we will lose our Senior Lead Officer and our beach patrol unit. He does not know the answer for sure as he hasn’t received direction yet on resource allocation. However, he believes we will not lose our SLO who is part of the community policing effort. He also stated that he will fight very strongly to keep the beach patrol unit. He explained the reason why we have the unit after Venice had one for many years. Our beach and bluffs areas are unique and policing in these areas requires special skills, including the ability to drive sand vehicles. He doesn’t think we will lose the unit but if we are depleted of resources our primary delivery mechanism would be patrol. If there were insufficient police personnel to respond due to budget cuts, we could lose the beach patrol. It is estimated that up to 250 police personnel and 100 civilian personnel in LAPD will be lost with the budget cuts. He has no direction as to how this will impact West LA or Pacific Palisades specifically. There is a booster organization that will accept donations on behalf of the community for the West Division. The chair of that organization is Matt Rodman of the Palisades.
Steve Cron (Area 2 Representative) asked Capt. Tom to relate an incident he had described in a recent podcast about his experience as a young Asian man being stopped by police and the impression it left on him.
Capt. Tom related the experience, in which as a young USC student he was pulled over by Anaheim police while driving to Disneyland with other Asian American students in his mother’s car. The car had previously been stolen and returned but not yet recorded as returned. When the police did a plate check they learned only that the car was stolen. Capt. Tom and his friends were handcuffed and placed in squad cards. Due to his training and the culture in which he was raised, Capt. Tom politely followed directions and initially felt the incident would be resolved and that he and his friends had nothing to fear. However, during the incident the police (both the officer who pulled them over and a cadet who was also present) swore at him, did not listen and would not allow him to speak when he attempted to explain that this was his mother’s car and it had been recovered after being previously stolen. He was shocked at the way he and his friends were treated. The incident informed his opinion about how policing can go wrong and how police should be treating the community. He and his friends were in Anaheim, where there were a lot of Asian gangsters, and the police thought they were gangsters. He realized there was a certain culture in that organization; this allowed him to understand how this kind of behavior can occur. He feels it’s incumbent on him to change the culture. The culture at LAPD is now very good, as they have come a long way since the time he joined the police after this incident occurred. The police have become more compassionate and have a better understanding of how to treat the community. Capt. Tom feels they have a responsibility to be sure that they have a culture in which the kind of demeanor displayed during the incident he experienced as a student isn’t acceptable within the Department. There must be conversations to talk about how these bad interactions can impact perceptions of the police.
Dick Wulliger (PP Historical Society) asked Capt. Tom what he thinks about recent proposals calling for civilian agencies rather than police to handle certain incidents.
Capt. Tom: The job of police has become very diverse. That’s because people know that they work 24/7 and will try to solve whatever the problem is. Part of the job has now required them to engage in problem-solving such as marriage counseling, business dispute mediation, homeless problems resolution and the like. In general, there are some situations which can be handled by non-police officers or civilian agencies. But not all civilian agencies will be staffed at night or 24/7 as police are. There are times when it’s better for other agencies to respond. As an example, the police don’t want to be responding to party homes. But in practicality civilian staff won’t be around all the time that they are needed. As to unarmed officers or civilians handling traffic stops: Capt. Tom thinks that’s a bad idea, since these are some of the most dangerous stops a police officer can make. Many dangerous people drive with guns or other weapons in their cars. Unarmed civilians doing traffic stops are put at risk as a result. Domestic violence situations are also potentially extremely volatile. Many times, there is physical violence in these situations. If a civilian staffer shows up who doesn’t have the ability to arrest a violent person or protect themselves, that is a concern. But there are certain types of calls that can be handled by City workers other than police. Application of these proposals will be complicated.
Alan Goldsmith (At-large Representative) asked whether police will respond to complaints about neighbors partying without masks.
Capt. Tom: Yes, if you call and report that 20 people are there without masks, LAPD will respond to provide advice and guidance and seek voluntary compliance. They don’t want to be citing people for not wearing masks as the City has not yet asked the police to do that.
The Chair asked what Capt. Tom recommends that we say to people who aren’t wearing masks or obeying guidelines.
Capt. Tom: These are complicated questions. Many times, it is not what you say but how you say it. The timing and manner of how this is said is important. Shaming people in front of others isn’t helpful. This has resulted in assaults and batteries. He advises to avoid letting the situation escalate. People who are not wearing masks have the same information that everyone else has.
David Peterson (Area 6 Representative) wants Capt. Tom to know that the Palisades community supports and values our police. The community is not unanimously in support of the defund police movement.
Capt. Tom expressed thanks for these comments. The call for defunding and the language used has been a morale killer for the police. He has basically been called on to become a cheerleader for his officers during this time. He tells them not to get distracted from their mission of service and the reasons why they became police officers. Even people who are yelling about defunding still need the police. In his opinion cutting the budget doesn’t help the situation; more training would be beneficial. Capt. Tom will relay to his officers that Pacific Palisades appreciates them.
Matt Quiat (resident): What does he believe the Dept. needs to improve and become better?
Capt. Tom: LAPD used to do a lot more training; there is less training now. He’d like to see more training and more exposure by the police to more people. The more differences we see, we can then know and appreciate that we are all alike, with the same goals. As an example, he described his own experience responding to a protest at the Azerbaijani Embassy in which he learned about issues involving a culture that he was previously unaware of and as a result was better able to understand and appreciate the people and situation involved. We need more exposure so that we can understand other peoples’ experiences and perspectives.
Sharon Kilbride (PPCC Homelessness Advisor): Capt. Tom has been amazing since he’s come on duty as Commanding Officer. Without his help the Homeless Task Force would not be as successful in housing people and getting them off the streets. They discovered 50 camps in our hillsides in July. Our beach patrol officers go into the areas and find people camping and fires being set. We are placed in jeopardy if we lose the beach patrol. One fire in these campsites would be devastating. We need to keep the beach detail.
Capt. Tom: PPTFH is the model of a successful community organization. He recognizes the need for continuity with policing. He will do whatever he can to push for keeping the resource and he praised the work of the Task Force volunteers.
12. Adjournment. The meeting was adjourned at 7:04pm.
Item 8.1 (a) – Alternative procedure if Candidate’s name is erroneously left off the list (by Executive Committee decision; ref. Bylaws Attachment A, Sec. 3.D.I):
Alternative to procedure set forth in Bylaws Attachment A, Sec. 3.D.I: If there is a person whose name has not been announced who it is believed has erroneously been left off the list of candidates, that person or someone designated by that person must be present at the August 13th PPCC Meeting, must immediately announce that his or her name was erroneously left off the list of candidates, and then must immediately send via email to the Chair the Candidate’s Application and Statement, along with proof that such Statement had previously been timely submitted. That person shall be provisionally added to the list of candidates, contingent on the Statement being complete and timely-submitted and the candidate being otherwise qualified.
Item 8.1 (b) – Candidates Running for Area and At-large Representative Seats, 2020
Area 1 – Joanna Spak
Area 2 – Steve Cron
Area 3 – Haldis Toppel
Area 4 – Michael Minky
Area 5 – Sue Kohl
Area 6 – Matthew Quiat
Area 7 – Jenny Li
Area 8 – None
At-large – Alan Goldsmith