MINUTES FROM MAY 27th 2021
Voting Members in Attendance: David Card, David Kaplan, Richard Cohen, Chris Spitz, Sue Kohl, Steve Cron, Joanna Spak, Jenny Li, Reza Akef, Beth Holden-Garland, Peter Powell, Craig Natvig, Eric Dugdale, Richard Blumenberg, Brenda Theveny, Trish Bowe, Jim Kirtley
Voting Alternates: Mary Mueller, Rick Mills, Cindy Kirven, Nancy Niles
Non-voting Advisors and Alternates: Miriam Schulman, John Padden, Marilyn Wexler
1. Call to order and reading of Mission Statement. The Chair David Card called the meeting to order at 6:00 pm. Sue Kohl 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. At the Chair’s direction the Secretary called the roll of voting members; the Chair certified that there was a quorum.
4. Approval of Minutes. The minutes of May 13, 2021 were approved. Upcoming meetings: June 10, 2021: Candidates forum (if needed) and Board election of PPCC officers, 2021-2022 term. June 24, 2021: Update on Gladstones redevelopment project (by Thomas Tellefsen, representative of the concessionaire). There will be one meeting only in each of the months of July and August, likely on the first Thursday of the month. The dates will be announced at the next meeting
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 $39,581.60. We have received many donations since the last report, totaling about $3,800. Two donations were for $1,000 with the rest between $25 and $250. We are expecting additional larger donations.
7. General Public Comment.
7.1. Nina Madok (resident) reported on a possible water main leakage on Bashford St. LADWP has been notified. The Chair thanked Ms. Madok for letting us know.
8. Reports, Announcements and Concerns.
8.1. From the Chair/Presiding Officer.
8.1.1. Update on Bonin motion/homeless housing on state beach parking lots and in parks. Letters to public officials:
The Chair reported that all of the above letters have been sent to addressees and/or officials and filed with the City as appropriate. He also noted that the LA Times will be publishing his Letter to the Editor on Saturday. This will be an edited version of the longer letter sent to the LA Times Editorial Board on May 23 (see link above).
He also reported on the disappointing results of the City Council hearing on May 26: the Bonin motion passed in Council over extensive public opposition, with the only No vote being Councilmember Buscaino. The proposed sites for homeless housing will now be studied for “feasibility” by the City Administrative Officer (CAO). We will monitor.
8.1.2. Palisades Fire update: Thank you to first responders; brush clearance reminder. The Chair reiterated our thanks to all who assisted in fighting the Palisades Fire as well as the recent fire below the Via de las Olas bluffs, and in apprehending the suspected arsonist in the Palisades Fire, including LAFD, LA County Fire, CalFire and LAPD. He also reminded everyone to clear any brush on their property per LAFD requirements.
8.1.3. Formation of PPCC Communications Committee. The Chair has appointed a new Communications Committee for PPCC. The members are: Dennis Higgins, resident and public relations executive; Peggy Holter, resident and Emmy winning TV news reporter & producer; Sue Kohl, Area 5 Representative; Mary Mueller, At-large 1st Alternate; and John Padden, PRIDE’s representative. The Committee will be meeting soon.
8.1.4. In Memoriam: Col. Dick Littlestone. The Chair explained that Col. Littlestone, a longtime resident and friend of Pacific Palisades, has sadly passed away. He was in his 90s. The Colonel was an activist with many achievements, including obtaining approval for construction of the columbarium at the Los Angeles Veterans Cemetery, where he will be laid to rest. He spent 22 years in unrelenting, active work on this important issue, urging officials to build the much-needed columbarium for our veterans. We salute Col. Littlestone. The Palisades community will miss him.
8.1.5. Board nomination of officer candidates – open until 15 minutes before scheduled close of the meeting. The Chair invited nominations. There were none. He stated that per PPCC’s Bylaws he would ask again at 7:15pm, 15 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to end.
8.2. From Officers
8.2.1. Chris Spitz (Secretary).
The Secretary reported that we learned today that the City Council Transportation Committee, chaired by CM Bonin, will be hearing a report on June 1 from LADOT on regulation of personal delivery devices (PDDs). In March 2021, Eric Bruins of CD11 reported on this matter to PPCC and answered questions and concerns about how PDDs would be regulated. The officers haven’t had time to read the report in detail, but the Secretary saw from a quick glance that LADOT is recommending that the devices be allowed everywhere in the City, with certain regulations including so-called saturation limits. She didn’t see any op-in or opt-out provisions for neighborhoods, which is something we might want the ordinance to include. Action by the board can’t be taken because this isn’t on the agenda for action, but the Executive Committee may take action and comment on the board’s behalf. We’d like to take a straw poll to guide the Committee in deciding whether to submit comments by June 1. Does the board feel that any ordinance should include opt-in or opt-out provisions? The Treasurer added that there were many questions and concerns at the March meeting when this was brought up. He suggested that the board may also want the Executive Committee to raise these questions and concerns with the Transportation Committee. The Chair then asked, as a straw poll, if any board members objected to the Executive Committee requesting that the ordinance include an opt-in or opt-out provision and that the board’s questions and concerns be raised with the Committee. Response to the straw poll: There were no objections to the Committee making this request and raising these questions and concerns.
The Secretary also reported that she learned just before the meeting that the City Council PLUM Committee will hear a matter on June 1 that may be of concern to some board members or residents: the Planning and Cannabis Depts. are recommending certain revisions to the Cannabis ordinance that was originally enacted in 2018. Again, she quickly looked at this and saw that the revisions mainly have to do with existing Medical Marijuana dispensaries, which we don’t have in the Palisades, but there are a few revisions of some of the definitions of “sensitive uses.” One of the revisions suggested adding federal parkland as a sensitive use. If anyone is interested in delving into this further, contact the Secretary and she will provide a link to the Council File.
Lastly, the Secretary reported that she again learned shortly before the meeting that SB 9, one of the housing density bills that PPCC and WRAC oppose, passed in the Senate yesterday. Our Senator Allen was a “no vote recorded,” as were Senators Stern and Kamlager from the general LA region. There were six No votes, mainly from Republicans. SB 10, which PPCC and WRAC also oppose, will soon be voted on in the Senate and will likely pass as well. The bills will go on to the Assembly. As always, we’ll continue to monitor.
8.3. From Area and At-large 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. The Chair stated that he received a written report from acting LAPD SLO Brian Espin which he summarized. LAPD will be conducting an encampment check with an enforcement task force, including volunteers from PPTFH and outreach workers, in conjunction with the recent fires. They will be searching for camps and enforcing and removing materials if time and resources allow. There will be a command post at the Will Rogers State Beach parking lot. The Chair reported that LAPD Captain Tom also states that the key takeaways from the recent fires are: 1) brush clearance is required; 2) fire evacuation warnings (“get ready to evacuate”) must be heeded; residents should have their “go” bags ready at their front doors; 3) collaboration with the community has never been more important; this was evident in the capture of the arsonist.
Sue Kohl (Area 5 Representative): There is a new requirement for all residential home closings after July 1: Sellers must let buyers know what has to be done in terms of brush clearance.
LAPD Officer Espin: He was able to attend briefly to give a short crime update. Conditions in the Palisades have been fairly good for the last two weeks. There is still a concern about auto burglaries; people continue to leave items in cars. Criminals are opportunists; they do a door check and lots of times the doors are unlocked. There was one break-in since his last report when keys were left in the car. He reminded everyone not to leave keys in the car. He also briefly discussed the capture of the suspected arsonist in connection with the recent Palisades Fire.
8.6. From PPCC Advisors – None.
9. Reports from Committees.
9.2. Executive Committee. Motion by the Executive Committee:
Request for Board authorization for the Executive Committee to proceed with the following: 1) raising funds for legal expenses and 2) retaining counsel to represent PPCC with respect to the matter of opposing the use of public state beaches, state beach parking lots and parks for homeless housing, including but not limited to research, policy formation, advocacy and potential action to oppose such use. Such authorization by the Board to include granting the Executive Committee discretion to determine the sufficiency of funds for this purpose, the counsel to be retained, and the nature and extent of the action/s to be taken in this regard; the Executive Committee to report to the Board regularly on all actions taken. Board approval to be sought prior to filing any lawsuit.
The Chair read the motion. No second was needed as the motion was made by a committee of more than one voting board member. He noted that the officers would be speaking to a lawyer tomorrow and will report back to the board. He also explained that this motion is important to pass, as there is a need for the Executive Committee to react and act quickly. Discussion then ensued.
Nancy Niles (Area 3 1st Alternate): PPRA has also retained counsel. Are we being efficient here? The Chair: We are hiring our own council to advise us on what the law is and we are asking for advice and counsel for PPCC. This is not just for litigation; we need our own attorney to give us the best advice for PPCC.
Steve Cron (Area 2 Representative): He still doesn’t understand why the Executive Committee isn’t talking with PPRA and is considering hiring a different attorney. Mr. Cron is also on the PPRA board. The Chair: He and Mr. Cron have previously spoken about this; the Chair has explained the reasons why PPCC needs its own attorney. If the concern is donations for legal fees, there are sufficient resources in this community for donations to more than one organization. The Secretary: PPRA and PPCC have different processes. We both have the same goal and want the same outcome but PPRA is not subject to the same rules as PPCC. PPCC is more transparent, holds public meetings and reports on how it arrives at its actions, which PPRA does not. PPRA is a member of PPCC. PPCC is the overall umbrella organization and we have heard from other community members who are asking PPCC to be the lead in any legal effort. PPCC must retain its own legal counsel for advice.
Beth Holden-Garland (PPRA): She has donated to both legal funds. We need to support both PPCC and PPRA. The respective lawyers may make different legal points which may be helpful to achieving our goal. We all have the same concerns and want the same result; we should get behind both organizations.
A vote was then taken. Result: Unanimous in support of the motion.
10. Old Business – None.
11. New Business.
11.1. Guest Speaker: Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin. Presentation and Q&A.
The Chair introduced and welcomed LA City Controller Ron Galperin. Controller Galperin stated that he would be speaking about his office, what his work is, where the City stands fiscally and where we are with the pandemic. He explained what he has attempted to accomplish, which started with the Open Data Initiative. He has been guided by the three “T’s”: transparency, trust and transformation. Regarding the City’s finances: Last year revenue sources came under stress. The City did see revenues from property taxes. The City is running shortfalls since it can’t run deficits, which only applies to the federal government. They have been making up shortfalls in certain ways such as salary cuts. The City has also had an influx of federal dollars, such as CARES Act funding. There were some reductions in LAPD, which in large part are being restored in the new budget starting on July 1.
All of this is laid out on the Controller’s website. He showed a slideshow of City spending, focusing on COVID-19 spending over the year. He also showed a slide of the COVID-19 resource hub, as well as various maps related to different topics impacting taxpayers, such as 311 calls, food insecurity and illegal dumping. He discussed his ideas for reducing illegal dumping, and also mentioned LGBTQ and equity services.
Regarding the crisis of homelessness: Controller Galperin has been a critic of how the City and County have handled this matter. Although billions of dollars have been spent, have we gotten our money’s worth when three people a day are dying on the streets and it’s impacting everyone’s quality of life? He has issued several reports and recommendations, including one about LAHSA, recommending many needed changes. He has also looked at Prop. HHH and his office is doing annual audits on this and believes it’s a huge priority. The City has issued $362,000,000 in bonds and has created only about 500 supportive housing units so far. The cost per unit is $550,000-$750,000. He has mapped out all of the projects and detailed all the costs. Even if 10,000 units were built right now, which isn’t possible, this would still not solve the crisis. Only New York has more homeless persons than we do, but we have vastly more people living in tents on the streets. The tents have become a problem in and of themselves. There are many problems in terms of mental illness, sanitation and more. He believes we should use utilize properties that the City owns, but he doesn’t think all properties are suitable. There are many properties that we can use, but not every property is appropriate. This is testimony that he gave today in the hearing in the federal case before Judge Carter. The Controller noted that he must be careful about what he says since the City is a defendant. He believes we need more urgency, more clarity of purpose and thoughtful enforcement. He hopes there will be more targeted opportunities for transitional housing, reasonable enforcement of sidewalk camping and getting people into healthy situations.
The Controller stated that he has very serious questions about the beach being an appropriate location. It’s a place where there are high winds and things blowing onto PCH, which is not the most thoughtful place for an encampment. He does believe there are a number of other places that can be used to get people off the sidewalk.
The Chair: We have been actively fighting this motion to place homeless housing on Will Rogers State Beach. PPCC’s numerous letters are posted on our website. We are not NIMBYs. We have done much to address homelessness for at least five years. When homeless tents started to grow on the beach, we started a PPCC committee to implement best practices to deal with the homeless. That committee spun off to become its own 501(c)3, named the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness – PPTFH. PPTFH is a well-known and highly-respected organization that has had much success with their efforts. With the help of substantial donations from the community, PPTFH volunteers work with outreach workers and LAPD, they offer services and they lend a helping hand to the homeless. Some individuals resist and some are in violation of the rules. But this has been successful. Over ninety individuals have been brought into housing and given services. That is a great homegrown effort. We don’t want to see an increase in the numbers caused by more camping at the beach, which is what started PPTFH in the first place. Overnight dwelling is not allowed on the beach or the beach parking lot. The beach and the lot are one. PCH has six lanes of traffic with speeding vehicles. Homeless individuals now jaywalk across PCH, causing people to be hit and even killed. Allowing homeless to dwell here will cause more accidents and impede the free flow of traffic for thousands of commuters. The beach is for everyone in the whole City, County and beyond. Tourists from all over the world come to this beautiful beach. The bike path parallels right next to the parking lot and goes into the lot at the headquarters of the County Lifeguards. According to CM Bonin this is the proposed site for homeless housing. There is a confluence of people and activities at that location. This is where the Junior Lifeguards, summer camps and volleyball groups gather. There were two wildfires in the Palisades in the last couple of weeks, the last one right across the street from this lot. The Will Rogers State Beach parking lot is the default staging, command and evacuation area during wildfire events for all of the communities in the Santa Monica Mountains. We are opposed to using any public park and any public beach or beach parking lot for homeless housing.
Jenny Li (Area 7 Representative): Please talk about some places that you view as better alternatives for temporary housing; how can the public get involved in making suggestions or about learning what is being considered? Mr. Galperin: He created the “property panel” on his website, which he then discussed. His auditors are going through the list of properties and trying to determine which are the most thoughtful and suitable. They will be doing site visits to see what may be appropriate or not. An example may be parking lots which the City may already be using to park City trucks. Considerations they will take into account include proximity to transportation and other resources, fire and pollution issues, FAA compliance, Coastal Commission permitting requirements and the like. His office is trying to come up with a list of what properties the City has, and whether they can be used for homeless housing, which may be provided to Judge Carter.
Reza Akef (Area 8 Representative): Reports have mentioned that the City Attorney has included the Will Rogers parking lot as part of the total housing count for this year presented to Judge Carter, even though it’s supposed to be part of a feasibility study now being done by the CAO and we don’t know if it will be found to be feasible. Mr. Galperin: He is not involved with the CAO’s feasibility study and hasn’t seen what’s been filed in the federal lawsuit. The Controller’s study will be an independent report that looks more broadly at all of the City’s properties. The study will not include beaches. Mr. Akef: He has offered land in CD 5 to be used for 100% affordable housing and has received no response. Soft costs are very high and he would like the Controller’s help. Mr. Galperin: The building costs are outrageous and unacceptable. It is correct that the system has extensive bureaucratic rules which require developers to hire consultants and that has raised the cost. Due to these rules and costs, only a limited number of developers can build these types of projects. The result becomes very incestuous. He thinks it’s key for that system to be changed. He has advocated for a municipal development corporation to provide advice to developers who want to build these types of projects.
Eric Dugdale (PP Historical Society): He is concerned about small fires quickly burning thousands of acres. Fires have recently been caused by arsonists or by those creating fires in our bluffs and hillside areas to warm themselves or for cooking. This is very dangerous. The beach parking lot across from fire-prone bluffs is an inappropriate and unsafe place for anyone to live and possibly set fires.
The Chair: This would be a good time to show a few historical photos. He then showed screen shots of photos of Will Rogers State Beach from the 1940s, when the beach was first opened to public access after being given to the State of California following Will Rogers’ and his widow’s deaths. Some of the photos depict individuals happily taking down and rolling away the previous fencing that had prevented public access to the beach when it was the private property of Will Rogers. One photo showed the Chair’s mother on the beach with her baby son, the Chair!
Joe Halper (resident and Commissioner, City Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners): He explained that the Board of Commissioners is responsible for approving development of any kind for the use of park property. There is an exception in the rules that may allow the use of City parks for homeless housing for a three-year period, if approved by the Board of Commissioners.
LAPD Officer Rusty Redican: He explained that he is attending the meeting as a private citizen. He thanked the Controller for his pragmatism and transparency. Officer Redican offered to help the effort by providing some of the information that he has about mitigating these issues. Mr. Galperin: Thank you for your service. Our officers are put into a very difficult situation with homelessness. They play an important role in keeping us safe.
John Padden (PRIDE): He is concerned about the cost per unit to build homeless housing. Can the Controller address the recent report that came out about the cost being $2,600 per unit for pilot program tents? Mr. Galperin: He agrees it’s an expense that doesn’t make sense. He would like to see if we can slice the cost considerably by doing something other than a pilot project. There was a famous New Yorker piece several years ago, called “Million Dollar Murray,” about the costs associated with helping the homeless. The cost was found in that case to be almost $1,000,000, yet the subject of the story, Murray, ended up tragically dying on the street.
Sue Kohl (Area 5 Representative): She wanted to give a shout out to Officer Redican for all his good work. Her question for the Controller: How exactly will the City’s feasibility study be done and what will it cost? Mr. Galperin: That study is being done internally by the City. It is a different study than the one his office is conducting that may go to Judge Carter. He isn’t involved with the City’s feasibility study which is being conducted pursuant to the motion by CM Bonin. Ms. Kohl: Will we be able to see what is being done with the City’s feasibility study? Mr. Galperin: You will need to speak with the Councilmember about this.
Krishna Thangavelu (resident): There is a need for regional collaboration between the County and all the cities in Los Angeles. She referenced the scale of the problem and asked: Can the Controller pull together a task force that can address how to get us out of the gridlock? Mr. Galperin: That’s the essential question. He sees a real disconnect. The cities and the County operate in their own worlds. Each can’t solve the problem by themselves. They need to collaborate for solutions. This needs to be more formalized and centralized. Some entities may have to give up some of their power. There is no solution that will make everyone happy. We need to get on the same page in order to move forward. We need to find a pragmatic set of solutions that will work for as many people as possible.
Controller Galperin then thanked his staff for all their work on these issues and in preparing his office’s reports. The Chair thanked Controller Galperin for his interesting presentation and for answering our questions.
Officer Candidate Nominations – Last Call: During the Q&A with the Controller, at 7:15pm, the Chair asked if there were any additional nominations of officer candidates from the board. There were none. He stated that as a result, the sole candidates for officer positions are the current officers, as nominated by the Nominating Committee. The officers’ election will occur at the next meeting on June 10, 2021.
12. Adjournment. The meeting was adjourned at 7:52pm.