MINUTES FOR JANUARY 10th 2019
Voting Members in Attendance: George Wolfberg, Peter Culhane, Richard Cohen, Chris Spitz, Sue Kohl, David Kaplan, Rick Mills, Haldis Toppel, Joanna Spak, Steve Cron, Steve Boyers, Richard Blumenberg, Dick Wulliger, Bill Bruns, Duke Ostendorf, Jean Sharp, Ellie Jenkins, Brenda Theveny
Voting Alternates: David Card, Barbara Kohn
Non-voting Advisors and Alternates: Cathi Ruddy, Mary Mueller, Barbara Marinacci, John Padden, David Peterson, Melanie Bouer, Susan Orenstein, Bruce Schwartz, Cathy Russell, Jason Sklar, Miriam Schulman
1. Certification of Quorum. Chair George Wolfberg called the meeting to order at 7:00pm and certified that a quorum was present.
2. Reading of Community Council’s Mission. David Kaplan read the Council’s Mission.
3. Introduction of the Board and Audience. The board and audience were introduced.
4. Approval of Minutes & Upcoming Meetings. 1) Approval of Minutes – the minutes of 11/08/18 were approved and 12/13/18 were approved as corrected. 2) Upcoming Meetings – January 24, 2019: 1) LAFD Deputy Chief Armando Hogan (fire safety and lessons learned from the Woolsey fire); 2) LAPD Capt. III Vic Davalos (introduction to the community). February 14, 2019: 1) PRIDE President and rep to PPCC John Padden (Village beautification/harmonization plans); other topics to be announced.
5. Consideration of Agenda. The Chair announced that item 11.1 will be considered no later than 7:30pm in consideration of the long distances some of the postal representatives have come.
6. Treasurer’s Report. Treasurer Richard Cohen reported that the Council’s bank balance is $41,290.61. The most significant transaction since the last report was renewal of our Directors and Officers Liability Insurance, which renews in March; the cost was $575.
With respect to the Gala finances, Richard reported that the Gala was a financial success. The event was sold out and the program/tribute book was very successful. Numbers are preliminary but it appears that as in previous years the dinner itself was approximately a financial break-even. However, the tribute book ads and auction sales brought our preliminary result to an approximate $7,300 excess of revenue over expenses. We still have approximately $2,100 of additional ad revenue receivable. Expenses of the event were closely controlled and managed. We successfully used Ticket Tailor for reservations and ticket sales. Thanks are due to Heather Cohen for her assistance. Amazingly the Ticket Tailor program only cost $25.50 for each of two months plus there were unavoidable PayPal fees. Kudos to PPCC Chair George Wolfberg, Event Committee Chair Peter Culhane, Secretary Chris Spitz and Awards Selection Committee Chair Sue Kohl, who were involved in myriad aspects of making this a financial success. Richard will report at a subsequent meeting on the final numbers once we receive payment for outstanding tribute ads.
7. General Public Comment– None.
8. Reports, Announcements and Concerns.
8.1. From the Chair.
8.1.1. PPCC Awards. The Chair restated his thanks to all the volunteers who made the PPCC Awards Gala such a great success. Amazing teamwork and effort by all involved. The awardees all have expressed their thanks and the Chair read from a thank you note to the Council received from Dede Vlietstra. The live auction was highly successful, resulting in two dinners for bidders at Fire Station 69, one dinner having already taken place.
8.1.2. Wildfire Safety Advisor. The Chair announced the appointment of a Wildfire Safety Advisor, Miriam Schulman, who has hit the ground running and is doing a great deal of research into fire issues that should be of concern to Palisades residents. And, we expect a robust discussion. The Chair has also requested a meeting with Mike Bonin, the Chair and our Wildfire Safety Advisor to discuss the Councilmember’s recent motion to form a wildfire emergency response Task Force.
8.1.3. Rollover Accident. There was a rollover accident from PCH onto the Temescal Beach Parking Lot on Tuesday evening, seriously injuring a bicycle rider. The Chair asked Caltrans to look into installing robust barriers in places where they do not exist between the Bel Air Bay Club and the Entrada Parking Lot entrance. The Chief of Caltrans Corridor Management immediately replied that they will take a look.
8.1.4. Homeless Count. The Chair reminded all of the annual Homeless Count which this year will be held on Wednesday, January 23 from 8pm to midnight with headquarters at the Corpus Christi Church. Signup at www.theycountwillyou.org.
8.1.5. Station 69 Landscape. The Chair noted that the Station 69 landscape is looking great and the two pine trees and three sequoias have been nicely trimmed — well done by Tracy Price, and thanks to Kelly Comras and Lisa Cahill for their support on this.
8.1.6. Zoning Code Workshop. The City’s re-write of its Zoning Code is moving apace and Secretary Chris Spitz has partnered with our sister Council in Brentwood to sponsor a briefing and workshop for the board and interested community members on Saturday, March 30, in the Gilbert Hall auditorium at Palisades High School, subject to board concurrence. More details to be provided by Chris Spitz. We are pleased that the Re:codeLA Zoning Advisory Committee Co-Chair Sharon Commins along with Principal City Planner Tom Rothmann will be speakers.
8.2. From Officers.
8.2.1. Chris Spitz (Secretary). Chris summarized her report (previously distributed to the board) on the recent Westside Regional Alliance of Councils Land Use & Planning Committee (WRAC-LUPC) meeting, with updates on ordinances & planning measures we have been following. See:details here. She also announced that PPCC proposes to partner with Brentwood Community Council (BCC) to co-host an educational workshop on navigating the revised Los Angeles Zoning Code, to take place on March 30, 2019 at 10:30am in Gilbert Hall at Palisades Charter High School. Sharon Commins (Co-Chair, WRAC-LUPC and Co-Chair, Re:codeLA Zoning Advisory Committee) will explain how to use the new Code, and Tom Rothmann (Principal Planner, Dept. of City Planning) will be present to answer questions. The board concurred with the plan to hold this workshop.
8.3. From At-Large and Area Representatives.
8.3.1. David Card (At Large First Alternate). David explained that he is in charge of the upcoming American Legion student Oratorical Contest. The deadline for students to submit applications is Monday. The local contest is on January 27 at Post 283 in the Palisades. The winner locally will go on to compete in the District contest, and then potentially in the Area, the State and the National Finals. The National Finals winner receives an $18,000 scholarship. Each participant will receive $150. The contest is open to students in grades 9-12.
8.3.2. Steve Cron (Area Two Representative). Steve reported that he communicated in November with Heather Johnson of the Coastal Commission regarding the Highlands trailhead restroom problem. The PPCC Executive Committee wrote a letter to Ms. Johnson supporting her efforts to address the problem; the Chair announced that the letter will be in the next agenda. Steve also stated that he, Lisa Cahill and Joe Halper have met with fire chiefs to discuss wildfire safety and they will be going out to the Highlands later this month to speak about the fire situation.
8.4. From Organizational Representatives.
8.4.1. Bill Bruns (Friends of the Library). Bill announced that the Friends made $8,200 from the sale of books at the last parking lot sale. This will be used for new books which go throughout the library system. They will be building a book store, approximately the size of the former Village Books store, in an empty space in the library. It has taken two years to get the required permits.
8.4.2. Duke Ostendorf (YMCA). Duke stated that the YMCA appreciates everyone for shopping for holiday trees at the Y’s tree lot. The tree sale was very successful, with only five trees left at the end. He also announced that they will send 130 high school youth to the annual statewide Youth in Government program in Sacramento. The YMCA finished the year in the black, and thanks everyone in the community for their support.
8.5. From Government Offices / Representatives.
8.5.1. Council District 11 (Mike Bonin) District Director Krista Phipps – Not in attendance; presentation postponed to January 24 (see item 11.2 below).
8.5.2. Janet Turner (District Representative, U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu). Janet announced that Congressman Lieu’s West LA VA Community Roundtable will take place on Wednesday, January 16 from 7-8:30pm at the Brentwood library. The event is open to the public. The annual open house for students interested in attending one of the service academies – Service Academy Day — will take place on February 16 from 1-4pm; more information to come. Janet also reported that the Congressman has introduced an aggressive greenhouse gases bill, and explained that he is a member of the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees.
8.5.3. Ami Fields-Meyer (West LA Representative, Mayor Garcetti). Ami introduced himself as the Mayor’s new West LA Representative and explained that his job entails all of CD11 and CD5. It is important for him to be in touch with the community as often as possible. He has spoken with the Chair, the Secretary and PPTFH President Doug McCormick and appreciates learning about community issues. He praised the Palisades for its work on homelessness. A new Deputy Mayor, Christina Miller, will work on homeless issues. Ami also announced that Mayor Garcetti encourages everyone to use the new Shake Alert cellphone app.
8.6. From PPCC Advisors– None.
9. Reports from Committees.
9.1. Awards Event Committee(Peter Culhane, Chair). Peter reported that the Awards Gala was a big success. He thanked all of the Event Committee members individually by name and spoke about their contributions. He also thanked Sam Lagana for expertly serving as our MC and conducting the successful auction, Heather Cohen for her invaluable assistance, Jimmy Dunne for his original video presentation, the Awards Selection Committee, all the honorees and the 135 attendees who were integral in the success of the event.
10. Old Business – None.
11. New Business.
11.1. US Mail Delivery and Security. Briefing by Special Agents Adrian Valdez and Shani Lee, USPS Office of the Inspector General (OIG); Uco Johnson, Pacific Palisades Postmaster; and Stacia Crane, USPS Inspection Service.
Ms. Crane explained that the USPS representatives were there to talk about protection of our mail. She distributed a: handoutfrom Postal Inspectors on ways to protect mail. She discussed the tips in the handout, which include: give all outgoing mail to a carrier or place it in the slot inside the post office rather than in a mail deposit box; do not put cash in the mail. Ms. Crane advised that residents should report all mail theft immediately to the police and then to the Postal Inspectors at (877) 876-2455. She then introduced Pacific Palisades Postmaster Uco Johnson. Mr. Johnson has been with the Postal Service for 20 years. He is eager to make sure mail service is done correctly and mail is delivered as early as possible. He is working on improving staffing and service. If anyone has any problems with mail service, ask to speak with him in the Palisades Post Office. If he isn’t there his supervisors will take complaints. Mr. Johnson stressed that USPS takes all issues and mail theft reports seriously. Complaints about missing deliveries and postal employee misconduct are turned over to Postal Inspectors or to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Mr. Johnson also explained that he is at the Post Office late, until the last carrier gets back. He has fifty-five employees.
Q&A ensued. There was discussion about criminals putting sticky substances such as fly traps in mail deposit boxes as part of “fishing” schemes to steal mail out of boxes. The speakers explained that this is why it is best to hand mail to a carrier or put in the slot inside the Post Office. USPS tries to deal with this problem and is working on developing devices to prevent workarounds, but it’s not 100% foolproof. Criminals go out and get drug users to steal mail out of mailboxes and swap for drugs; they will steal checks and wash the ink off. Ms. Crane recommended using gel point ink which can’t be washed off on checks being sent in the mail. Some audience members described problems with their mail delivery and expressed concern about suspected postal personnel misconduct. The speakers reassured meeting attendees that postal employees go through background checks and are vetted and trained, but USPS does want to bring employees to justice if it’s ascertained they are acting improperly. Investigations take time. Putting a lock on your home mailbox is important, but make sure you don’t prevent the mail carrier from putting mail inside your mailbox. An issue was raised about problems with carriers incorrectly inserting mail in home mailboxes. Mr. Johnson advised that residents contact him about specific instances and he will fix the problem. He can be reached at email@example.com, (310) 464-3475. As to why mail sometimes is delivered at different times, Mr. Johnson explained that if a carrier has called in sick, his or her route has to be split up and the other carriers deliver the split after first serving his/her usual customers. The post office makes Sunday deliveries of Amazon packages only. The last mail pick-up in the Palisades is 5pm. Haldis Toppel and Peter Culhane expressed thanks for the good work of USPS carriers and Post Office personnel.
Janet Turner (District Representative, Congressman Lieu) stated that her office was forwarded a Nextdoor chain with 100 people in the Palisades talking about receiving envelopes or cards that are slit open, with checks, gift cards and/or cash being taken out. The initiator of the Nextdoor chain stated that he was present and described the problem he experienced with cash being stolen from mail that had been sent to him and the reasons why he suspected this was the work of postal personnel.
Adrian Valdez, Special Agent with the OIG, next spoke. He explained that he was there with Agent Shani Lee to address residents’ concerns about possible misconduct by USPS employees. Mr. Valdez advised that the OIG is the oversight agency for the U.S. Postal Service. He emphasized that the OIG’s number one priority is protecting the “sanctity and integrity of the seal.” Two criminal codes (18 U.S. Code §§1701 and 1709) are used to charge postal employees who mishandle mail in any way. The Postal Inspectors identify matters related to misconduct such as “fishing” schemes involving mail deposit boxes, but the OIG focuses on postal employee misconduct alone. They use investigative techniques to identify postal employees who compromise the mail. The OIG is a federal agency that investigates and presents cases to the U.S. attorney for prosecution; it also works with local police departments. If you believe your mail is being compromised, call 888-USPS OIG. Residents in the audience then gave examples of mail being received that was ripped open. Many people have complained about these problems. Mr. Valdez stated that the OIG is aware, has already made one arrest and is still working on the issue. There were also complaints about customer service issues, which Mr. Valdez explained are referred to postal management. As to what items can be placed in a mailbox, Mr. Valdez stated that this is governed by federal statute: only U.S. mail can go in mailboxes (not Fed Ex or other deliveries). Agent Lee then provided complaint forms, which she advised should be sent to Special Agent Alyse Shelton: firstname.lastname@example.org, (562) 343-9892. Mr. Valdez also advised that residents who suspect misconduct should preserve evidence such as video footage (e.g., RING, etc.) and receipts for gift cards missing or stolen from mail, and make this material available to the agents to assist in their investigation.
11.2. Council District 11 (Mike Bonin) District Director Krista Phipps. Briefing on new proposed City Task Force to improve ways to keep people safe before and during wildfires and other emergencies; Q&A on matters of community concern.
The Chair explained that Ms. Phipps was unable to attend tonight due to a personal matter; her presentation about the proposed emergency response Task Force will be postponed to the January 24th meeting, when we will have a general discussion about wildfire safety.An abbreviated discussion ensued with residents who had attended the meeting in order to inform Ms. Phipps of their concerns about improper lane turns and traffic problems at the Chautauqua and Temescal Canyon intersections with PCH. The Chair apologized for not announcing Ms. Phipps’ absence earlier in the meeting. The Chair and Treasurer Richard Cohen briefly provided information about these intersections, explained that PPCC and the Council District 11 office have long been aware of these traffic issues, and assured residents that PPCC has been working and will continue to work with government officials to address the problems and obtain enforcement.
11.3. Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) Emergency Response Program. Presentation by past Pacific Palisades Woman’s Club President and current rep to PPCC Cathi Ruddy.
Ms. Ruddy stated that she was presenting along with Julie Thomas, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Chapter of the American Red Cross. They would like to spearhead a partnership between the Red Cross and PPCC to promote awareness and participation in the Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) disaster readiness program in the Palisades. She explained that this is a nine-point program for residents of individual neighborhoods to get together and share information for use in an eventual emergency or disaster situation. Cathi passed out written materials on MYN, noting that this is a community-building activity. She is asking for everyone to commit to hosting an event at their home for their block, with 15-20 neighbors. She and Julie Thomas can walk everyone through the program if they wish to participate. Discussion ensued about the best way to get the information to the community. Suggestions included Area Representatives and board members reaching out to organized Neighborhood Watches, homeowner associations and other groups. Secretary Chris Spitz suggested that PPCC can help with spreading the word on the PPCC website, on social media and in email messages. In response to questions, Cathi explained that the MYN program is complimentary to Neighborhood Watches and CERT training. She urged all board and community members to participate in setting up MYN neighborhood groups. Anyone with questions about MYN can contact Cathi at email@example.com/or Julie Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org, 424-203-1102.
12. Adjournment. The Chair adjourned the meeting at 8:57pm.