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MINUTES FROM FEBRUARY 11th 2021

Voting Members in Attendance:  David Card, David Kaplan, Richard Cohen, Chris Spitz, Matthew Quiat, Karen Ridgley, Joanna Spak, Sue Kohl, Reza Akef, Craig Natvig, Beth Holden-Garland, Alan Goldsmith, Steve Cron, Haldis Toppel, Fay Vahdani, Richard Blumenberg, Eric Dugdale, Jim Kirtley, Peter Powell, Trish Bowe

Voting Alternates:  Rick McGeagh, Susan Orenstein

Non-voting Advisors and Alternates:  Jack Coleman, Miriam Schulman, Melanie Bouer, Mary Mueller, Cathy Russell

1.   Call to order and reading of Mission Statement.  The Chair David Card called the meeting to order at 6pm.  Richard 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 January 28, 2021 were approved. Upcoming meetings: February 25, 2021 – (1) Public Safety/Disaster Readiness Forum #2 (CERT, ACS/ amateur radio & RYLAN/MYN); (2) Update on low water pressure problem in Area 5 (Deborah Hong/LADWP).

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 $37,003.51. Since the last report he has paid the renewal premium for PPCC’s Directors and Officers liability insurance in the amount of $619.00, a modest increase from last year’s premium.

7.    General Public Comment.

7.1.   Marge Gold (resident).  The Palisades-Malibu YMCA is sponsoring a Grab & Go grocery program one day a week on Thursdays in front of the Y.  Groceries are given out to those in need.  She asked everyone to spread the word.

8.    Reports, Announcements and Concerns.

8.1.    From the Chair/Presiding Officer.

8.1.1.    New Zoom meeting start time 6pm.   The Chair explained that with the concurrence of the Executive Committee, the officers have made an administrative decision that the new start time of PPCC meetings, while being held in the Zoom format, will be 6pm instead of 5:30pm.  The start time may return to 7pm or another time, depending on conditions and meeting location, when we are able to return to in-person meetings in the future.

8.1.2.    PCH Task Force update.  No Task Force meeting was held this month; the next meeting will probably take place in March.

8.1.3.    Chautauqua/PCH intersection update.

The Chair reported that LADOT and Caltrans have advised that in the next few weeks or months they’ll be making some changes to the complex intersections of PCH with Chautauqua, West Channel and with Entrada.  This is considered a pilot program. The agencies will monitor the intersection for some period of months to determine the efficacy of the improvements and may make adjustments as needed in the future.

Changes to southbound Chautauqua include: installing new lane markings, plastic lane separators and possible new signage to deter illegal and unsafe turns onto PCH.  LADOT will create a small, narrow island between the left and right lanes on which they will install delineators to deter people from using the left lane to turn onto PCH southbound. These efforts are meant to encourage and educate motorists that the left lane is only for U-turns onto W. Channel Rd. The right lane of Chautauqua will continue to be the only lane to be able to turn onto PCH, north or south.

The biggest proposed change will be for vehicles heading northbound on PCH between Entrada and Chautauqua, where there are four lanes.  Three lanes will be for through traffic only, north on PCH.  Only the one right lane will allow right turns.  Cars in that lane can turn right onto either W. Channel Rd. or Chautauqua. New signage and lane markings will be installed to alert motorists to the changes.

8.1.4.    Motion in City Council re possible use of non-dedicated City parkland for homeless housing – CF 21-0063 (de Leon); Palisades area parks status.

The Chair explained that Councilmember Kevin de Leon has brought a motion regarding the possible use of City property, including non-dedicated City parks, for use for homeless housing.  All of the Palisades area City parks are dedicated City parkland.  We have verified through the City Attorney’s office that the Palisades and Rustic Canyon parks are in fact City parkland.  From experience, the Chair knows that Potrero Canyon is also dedicated City parkland.  He also explained that there are some emergency exceptions when temporary housing has been allowed on dedicated City parkland, such as emergency housing for soldiers during WWII and temporary homeless housing at recreation centers during the pandemic.

8.1.5.    PLUM rehearing of the JIB site project.  This will take place on Tuesday, February 16.  The rehearing was scheduled because of technical audio difficulties at the last hearing when some people couldn’t get into or hear the virtual meeting to make comments. PPCC previously submitted written and oral comments in opposition to the project, including oral comments in opposition made by the Chair at the last hearing.

8.2.    From Officers.

8.2.1.    Chris Spitz (Secretary). WRAC and legislation updates.

a) PPCC letters (re SB 9 and 10):
Council File: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Letter-re-CF-21-0002-S18.pdf
Council File: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Letter-re-CF-21-0002-S21.pdf
Sen. Cmtee: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/PPCC-Letter-Senate-Housing-SB-9-10.pdf
Sen. Cmtee: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/PPCC-Letter-Senate-GovFinance-SB9-10.pdf

b) Updates:  http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/WRAC-and-legislation-update2-11-21.pdf

The Secretary announced that letters regarding SB 9 and 10 had been submitted to officials as linked in the agenda.  She also stated that she hoped everyone had read the Update document linked in the agenda and she had a few additional updates.  First, the motions to oppose SB 9 and 10 have now been adopted by a majority of WRAC members and will become official WRAC positions. We will continue to monitor the bills in the Senate and the resolutions in City Council.  She also noted that the WRAC Land Use & Planning Committee had passed the motion she has sponsored calling for support for positive affordable housing bills such as SB 15 and SCA 2.  This motion will be taken up at the WRAC meeting this coming Monday and may be recommended out to the member councils.  Stay tuned for more information about this proposed motion.

Regarding SB 115:  We were recently assured by Assemblymember Bloom’s team, Lenh Voong (Legislative Deputy) and Josh Kurpies (District Director), that the Assemblymember will be amending the bill to include an unconditional exemption for the VHFHSZ.  We have thanked them and Asm. Bloom and we will of course monitor the bill to make sure the bill is amended to include the exemption.

The Secretary also announced that Councilmember Bonin’s motion calling for a report on the parameters of the STAP program (installation of bus benches with digital signs) passed in the Council Public Works Committee yesterday.  The WRAC position (which is the same as PPCC’s position – support for the Bonin motion, with additional requests) was presented at the hearing by WRAC Secretary and BABCNC Chair Robin Greenberg.  The motion will need to go next to the full Council for adoption.  Meanwhile, proposals from contractors are being sought and StreetsLA is continuing to conduct outreach.  StreetsLA has also posted an interactive map of all bus shelter and bench sites in the City, along with user data, which may be used to determine shelter/bench and digital sign locations. PRIDE will be taking a look at the map and we’ll continue to monitor.

8.3.    From Area and At-large Representatives.

8.3.1.    Sue Kohl (Area 5 Representative).  What is happening with the planned left turn signal at the intersection of Sunset westbound onto Chautauqua southbound?  The Chair:  He has been to the site and has talked with the workers who are busy with all the improvements. This is still in the process of being installed.

8.4.    From Organizational Representatives.

8.4.1.    Trish Bowe (Rotary Club).  The Palisades Rotary has donated $10,000 to the Westside Food Bank.  This will result in 55,000 lbs. of food.  It is the largest donation ever to go to the Food Bank. The Chair commended the Rotary for this effort.

8.4.2.    Jim Kirtley (YMCA).  The Y is hosting a Grab & Go grocery program in front of the Y on Thursdays from 12-2pm, for anyone in need of food.  The Y is also starting a Zoom learning support group.  On February 22, the organization will host twelve children who will be supervised on Zoom so that their parents can go to work.  The Chair thanked the Y for these programs.

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

8.5.1.    LAPD Acting SLO James Allen; LAFD Battalion Chief Joe Everett, Captain II Mike Johnson & Captain II Mike Flynn (Palisades Fire Station 69). See Item 11.1 below.

8.5.2.    Janet Turner, Field Representative, Congressman Ted Lieu.

Congressman Lieu and Senator Feinstein have introduced the “West LA VA Campus Improvement Act,” to allow the VA to use proceeds from leaseholders toward building more housing for homeless veterans on the campus.  The Congressman also participated in a Congressional letter to President Biden asking for more federal aid for COVID care and vaccines. The Congressman’s office learned today that the federal government is sending workers to hospitals in Torrance.  They are hopeful more aid will be coming.  Upcoming events for students: The deadline to submit entries in the Congressional Art Competition is February 26 at 5pm. Service Academy Day will take place on February 20; it is a virtual event this year for those interested in attending one of the service academies.  More information about both events is on www.lieu.house.gov (visit resources on the Help tab).

Reza Akef (Area 8 Representative) remarked that when he recently took his mother to be vaccinated at CSUN, he learned that 200 bottles of vaccine were thrown away; he would like Ms. Turner to let the Congressman know about this incident.  Ms. Turner replied that her office is in constant talks with LA County about these vaccine issues.

8.6.    From PPCC AdvisorsNone.

9.    Reports from Committees

9.1.    Community Plan Update Committee (CPUC; David Card, Committee Chair).  Citywide Housing Element 2021-2029 Update/NOP-Initial Study; motion for board approval of EIR comment letter.

Proposed letter: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Housing-Element-Comment-Letter.pdf
NOP links: https://planning.lacity.org/development-services/eir/housing-element-2021-2029-update-safety-element-update
CEQA/EIR steps: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MrStWLgpB-ohJ-Kx8Lb4AIUfz-RbbxaE/view (information recently prepared to assist the BCC board in connection with the EIR process for a Brentwood development project).

The Chair introduced the matter and explained that this involves the Housing Element Update.  At some point in the process, we’ll be given the increased number of houses that will be required in our Community Plan area and we’ll learn whether or not some of our R-1 areas will have to be rezoned to accommodate more housing.  Right now, we are in the initial study phase of the environmental review process and the Secretary has drafted a comment letter on the Housing Element Update draft EIR.  The Secretary then explained that the Community Plan Update Committee (CPUC) is recommending that the board approve the draft comment letter which is linked in the meeting agenda.  Information about the EIR and CEQA process is also linked in the agenda, and Alex Ponting (PPCC’s technical engineer) has added a link to the letter in the Zoom Chat as well.  The Secretary explained briefly for background that the Housing Element is a section of the City’s General Plan; it is updated every eight years to reflect new housing “RHNA” (Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers) required by state housing law.  Right now, the Housing Element Update is going through the environmental review process.  An initial study has been prepared and comments are due by February 15.  In a nutshell, the draft letter describes our concerns, which center on wildfire hazards and the impact on public safety from increased housing density in the VHFHSZ, and it asks for the EIR to address these potentially significant impacts.  The Secretary also reported that Councilmember Bonin has written a strong EIR comment letter regarding the Housing Element Update, requesting a study of fire risks in the hillside and canyon areas of CD 11.   [See CM Bonin’s letter at: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/CD11-Comment-Letter_02.09.2021_Housing-Element-CEQA-and-Wildfires.pdf].

The Secretary then moved on behalf of the CPUC for board approval of the proposed comment letter as linked in the agenda.  No second was needed since the motion was made by a committee of more than one voting board member.

Discussion:  Reza Akef asked about the phrasing of the last sentence of the letter and wanted to know how we know what the impacts will be.  The Secretary and the Chair both explained that, as mentioned in the letter, we haven’t been given the housing number for our area so we don’t know the extent of any required rezoning or what the exact impacts will be at this point, but it is possible, again as explained in the comment letter, that more housing and rezoning may be required which would have a potentially significant impact on public safety in the Palisades. We are therefore asking that the EIR address these potential impacts from a range of realistic rezoning possibilities or required housing numbers that may be assigned to the Palisades in the future.

A vote was then taken.  Result:  Unanimous approval of the proposed letter linked in the agenda [http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Housing-Element-Comment-Letter.pdf].

10.   Old Business None.

11.   New Business. 

11.1.   Public Safety/Disaster Readiness Forum #1. Guest speakers: Acting LAPD Palisades SLO James Allen; LAFD Battalion Chief Joe Everett, Captain II Mike Johnson & Captain II Mike Flynn (Palisades Fire Station 69).  Discussion only.

Acting SLO Allen:  He has been with LAPD for 13 years and in West LA since 2009. Unfortunately, we will have a new Acting SLO as of February 12th because Officer Allen is leaving the next day to work on the beach patrol and the Palisades will be assigned rotating SLOs.  He will ensure that we won’t have any service interruptions.  Regarding recent tents with homeless people camping on the beach:  Officer Allen has learned about what the beach patrol does in these cases from working with Officer Rusty Redican. The City has a Shelter in Place order and the police can’t tell people that they must leave the sidewalks, but the officers can enforce the hours on the beaches.  During hours that the beach is operational tents can be placed there, but at night until 5am there is no camping on the beach.  He and the beach patrol start watch hours at 4am and catch people who had slept on the beach overnight.  PPTFH members also come and offer resources and services. If the homeless won’t take services they are given a ticket and have to pack up and leave.  Officer Allen praised PPTFH for their efforts.

The Chair asked what LAPD’s role is during fire emergencies.  Officer Allen explained that LAPD assists LAFD; since police drive the streets every day, they can ensure security in the area and they can also knock on doors and make announcements.  He noted that tomorrow he will be on the beach detail with Officer Espin.  He also reported that crime in our area has been low; the main issues involve burglary and theft from cars parked on Los Leones. The Chair thanked Officer Allen for his presentation and service.

Battalion Chief Joe Everett:  He has been with LAFD for 28 years and in the Battalion for two years.  He announced that in attendance with him were Captains Mike Johnson and Mike Flynn of Palisades Station 69.  He praised all the firefighters at our Palisades stations and noted that Capt. Robert Williams is at Station 23.

Chief Everett explained that he lives in Malibu Canyon and is familiar with the Palisades and our topography and fire risks.  In 1937, his grandfather took a job as a firefighter with LAFD, was assigned to Station 69, bought a house on Bestor and raised his family in the Palisades.  Pacific Palisades is near and dear to Chief Everett’s heart.  He is aware that the potential for experiencing a large wildfire is always here.  He was involved most recently with LAFD operations on the Palisades Fire in October 2019.  He then presented a slide show with historical photos, including very old photos showing the Long Wharf and the Methodist founders, as well as several photos of the huge 1978 Palisades fire, which he remembers. Chief Everett assured us that LAFD will do everything it can, when conditions for wildfires are present, to move resources here as a precaution in advance of fires starting.  He then provided more details about the 2019 Palisades Fire operations.  LAFD was able to respond with air resources and they saved every house. He showed an aerial photograph of the fire approaching homes in the area of upper Lachman Lane and noted that the picture depicted defensible space behind the houses, which was important in preventing flames from reaching the structures.  LAFD’s tactics included pinching off the fire at the base of Palisades Dr. and surrounding nearby houses with manpower and water.

Regarding evacuation procedures, Chief Everett explained that LAFD partners with LAPD in evacuations.  He stressed the importance of brush clearance and home hardening, and advised everyone to visit the LAFD website, www.LAFD.org (fire prevention/brush), or email LAFDBrush@lacity.org.  He also noted the importance of the Ready, Set, Go initiative, which has four basic safety premises: make an evacuation plan; have an emergency supply kit; arrange a meeting spot for family members; and stay informed with Notify LA and other fire alerts.

Chief Everett then introduced Capt. Flynn as a leading expert in technology and communications with LAFD.  Capt. Flynn discussed the ALERTWildfire system, which is supported by CalFire.  LAFD uses weather stations to be advised of basic wind directions.  Cameras have been added to the system.  He showed a map with large viewsheds from the cameras which included parts of canyons in the Palisades.  San Vicente Peak is a new camera addition.  Through this system LAFD can see in advance which canyons are threatened by wildfires and which canyons need to be evacuated.

Karen Ridgley (Area 4 Representative) asked how people can sign up for fire alerts.  Chief Everett suggested getting the Notify LA or CalFire (Get Ready for Wildfire) apps, which can be accessed on cell phones.  The Secretary noted that the PPCC website has extensive information on the Disaster Readiness page under Resources, including information on how to sign up for the Notify LA and CalFire apps.

Alan Goldsmith (At-large Representative) related an incident that occurred after firefighters had responded to a recent fire at a residence in his complex.  None of the firefighters wore a mask.  A person in charge told him that they don’t wear masks when responding to an emergency, but by the time this was no longer an emergency the firefighters were still gathered not wearing masks.  Chief Everett apologized and stated that he will address this with the companies that responded to this fire.  He acknowledged that masks are needed for public safety; LAFD’s policy is that while fighting a fire the firefighters don’t need to wear masks, but they need to put masks on after their work on the fire has stopped.

Rick McGeagh (Area 7 First Alternate) asked if any ALERTWildfire cameras are planned for sites closer to the Palisades.  Chief Everett:  They are working on getting more cameras  but will have to jump through certain hoops, including the fact that many of the possible camera locations are on private property or in state responsibility areas.  He hopes that they will have more cameras up prior to the next brush season.

Miriam Schulman (Wildfire Safety Advisor) stated that she is concerned about evacuations on our narrow streets that are not red-flagged.  Some people don’t want to lose their parking so they oppose the red flag designation for their streets.  Ms. Schulman suggested that residents on these streets should instead support the designation and she asked how residents can apply to have streets red-flagged.  Chief Everett: Address this question to him at joseph.everett@lacity.org.

The Chair asked about evacuation orders and suggestions; if we are given an evacuation order or suggestion, is remaining in our home an alternative?  Chief Everett explained that there have been changes in the orders.

K.C. Soll (resident and CERT trainer):  In cases of major earthquakes, when 911 may not be available, what is the first thing that should be done?  Chief Everett:  We could use advanced technology such as Notify LA and wildfire alert apps, as well as radio & TV. LAFD handles emergencies in the same way – they use a system of situational awareness and will work to abate the situation.  Ms. Soll:  She has coordinated CERT training in the Palisades and has heard of windshield assessments.  Chief Everett:  All the fire stations have a route that they follow to check on critical infrastructure.  Their response is contingent on the magnitude of the problem. They do look at windshield assessments, and LAFD has an extensive emergency plan.

The Chair then introduced the next guest speaker, PPCC’s Wildfire Safety Advisor Miriam Schulman, to remind everyone of the basic things people need to do to make their homes fire resistant.

Ms. Schulman explained that there are a number of things people should do for fire prevention — brush clearance being the most important.  She related numerous other measures that should be taken, starting from the top of the house down:

Install the right fire-resistant roofing material (i.e., no wood shingles).
Keep roofs and gutters clean (to prevent embers from sparking dead leaves/pine needles).
Enclose eaves around the house.
Properly screen vents; install ember-proof screens across all vents/openings.
Remove piles of wood, debris or other items piled up next to the house.
Install hardscape or gravel around the house.
Remove trellises against walls and ensure that no vines are growing up around the house
Keep landscaping watered and healthy.
Remove dead trees, piles of leaves or other dead landscaping around the house.
During red flag days move patio furniture away from deck and remove outdoor cushions.
If leaving town, make sure the deck and patio furniture are fireproofed.
Don’t store things underneath mobile homes.

Ms. Schulman emphasized that embers can travel a very long way during wildfires and can spark fires at homes even if actual flames are not nearby.  She also reminded everyone that she is certified to do wildfire safety evaluations at homes and is available to do walk-arounds.

The Chair thanked Ms. Schulman, Battalion Chief Everett and the fire captains in attendance for their presentations.

12.    Adjournment.   The meeting was adjourned at 7:35pm.

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