MINUTES FROM JUNE 9th 2022
Voting Members in Attendance: David Card, Chris Spitz, David Kaplan, Jenny Li, Joanna Spak, Sue Kohl, Haldis Toppel, Steve Cron, Reza Akef, Maryam Zar, Brenda Theveny, Cliff Roberts, Ryan Craig, Beth-Holden Garland, Andy Frew, Janet Anderson
Voting Alternates: Bob Benton, Mary Mueller, Rick Mills
Non-voting Advisors and Alternates: Sharon Kilbride, Jackson Walter, Rick McGeagh, Kimberly Bloom, Lee Anne Sanderson, Nancy Niles, Michael Edlen, Melanie Bouer
1. Call to order and reading of Mission Statement. The Chair called the meeting to order at 6:01pm. The Chair read the Mission Statement.
2. Introduction of Zoom engineer. Zoom engineer Alex Ponting was introduced.
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 May 26, 2022 were approved. Upcoming meetings: June 23, 2022: 1) Appointment of Election Committee for the PPCC Area & At-large Representatives Election; 2) Chair to announce incumbent Area & At-large Representatives running for re-election; 3) Introduction to new LAFD West Bureau command (Asst. Chief Dean Zipperman and Deputy Chief/West Bureau Commander Richard Fields IV). July 28, 2022: 1) First meeting of new officers’ term; 2) Chair to announce membership of PPCC committees, liaisons & advisors; 3) Chair to announce names of candidates in the election of Area & At-large Representatives. August 11, 2022: Area & At-large Representative Candidates Forum (if needed); other topics to be announced. There is one PPCC meeting only in each of the months of July and August.
5. Consideration of Agenda. Agenda items may be taken out of order at the discretion of the Chair.
6. Treasurer’s Report. The Chair explained that Treasurer Richard Cohen was unable to attend the meeting. The Chair then gave the Treasurer’s report: PPCC’s balance is $56,048.00. The only transactions since the last report involve routine monthly payments to Mailchimp and Zoom as well as a small donation received through PayPal. The Treasurer will provide an extended year-end Treasurer’s Report at the June 23rd meeting, as required by PPCC bylaws.
7. General Public Comment – None.
8. Reports, Announcements and Concerns.
8.1. From the Chair/Presiding Officer.
8.1.1. PPCC Area & At-large Representatives Election. Deadline for incumbents’ written notification to Chair of intent to run for re-election: one hour before the scheduled start of the June 23rd meeting; incumbents who do not timely submit written notification are deemed conclusively not to be running (see Attachment A to Bylaws, Sec. 3.D.2).
The Chair reiterated the deadline for Area and At-large incumbents to notify the Chair in writing of their intention to run for re-election: they must do so no later than one hour before the scheduled start of the meeting on June 23rd, i.e., by 5pm (the scheduled meeting start will be 6pm). Otherwise, incumbents who do not meet the deadline will be deemed conclusively not to be running.
8.1.2. Topanga Canyon Fire Safe Council webinar update. YouTube video available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgV6t6yWjXk. The Chair noted that a link to the webinar is available on the PPCC website.
8.2. From Officers.
8.2.1. Chris Spitz (Secretary). STAP and LAMC revisions update. Letter re scenic highway advertising prohibition, 5/31/22:
The Secretary confirmed that the letter linked in the agenda was sent to City officials and has been distributed to the Board and the PPCC email list. The letter reflects new information that we’ve learned about, specifically, that the Mobility Element of the General Plan prohibits all off-site advertising in the public-right-of-way within 500 ft. of the center line of all Scenic Highways. In the Palisades that includes Sunset Blvd., Temescal Canyon Blvd., Palisades Dr. and PCH. We argue in the letter that the proposed amendment to the Los Angeles Municipal Code – which would broadly allow any advertising that is approved by the Board of Public Works – conflicts with the General Plan as it contains no exemption for Scenic Highways. Under controlling case law, a local ordinance that conflicts with the General Plan is invalid. So far, we haven’t had any response and the matter hasn’t been taken up yet by either the City Planning Commission or any of the City Committees. As far as we know the Mayor and CAO are still reviewing. We will continue to monitor.
Haldis Toppel (Area 3 Representative) asked how this affects banners on poles such as those along Temescal Canyon Blvd. The Secretary: The current banners contain public information messages from institutions such as schools and museums and as such are allowed; banners containing commercial advertising in the public-right-of-way of Scenic Highways would be disallowed under the Mobility Element of the General Plan. Our concern is that the broad language of the proposed Code amendments might allow such commercial advertising, which would be in conflict with the General Plan.
Rick Mills (Area 4 First Alternate) commended the Secretary for the letter and asked whether the commercial ads inside bus shelters, which we now have, are actually prohibited. The Secretary: She does not know what the law was or what arrangements may have been made in negotiations with the City ten years ago as to the PRIDE street furniture, i.e., if advertising in bus shelters was ever agreed to as a compromise or was allowed at the time, but going forward with new replacement shelters it appears that off-site advertising (including digital) along Scenic Highways in the Palisades would not be allowed under the current General Plan provisions. As noted in PPCC’s letter, StreetsLA representatives advised us at our last meeting that the contractor will be required to abide by all zoning requirements. The General Plan restrictions should be kept in mind in any future discussions with the City about street furniture, bus shelters or plans for off-site advertising in the public-right-of-way along our Scenic Highways.
8.3. From Area and At-large Representatives.
8.3.1. Sue Kohl (Area 5 Representative): She was recently with PPTFH Co-President Sharon Kilbride when Ms. Kilbride received a call from Beach Detail officers who had in turn been informed by a resident about a tent with homeless persons located on Temescal Canyon Blvd. in between PCH and Sunset Blvd. Ms. Kohl and Ms. Kilbride went to the scene where Officers Margin and Bermudez had found a man, his wife and four daughters living in a tent. The man had previously been living in a tunnel and had called for his family to join him. The individuals were told they could not camp there and had to leave, but they had nowhere to go. Officer Margin then booked the family a motel room out of his own pocket so that they would have a place to stay while waiting for help. Ms. Kilbride was able to get them help the following day from outreach workers. Ms. Kohl noted that Officers Margin and Bermudez showed empathy for the family and she was very impressed with the way they handled the situation. She commended the officers and Ms. Kilbride for their compassion and dedication to helping the homeless and the entire community.
8.3.2. Haldis Toppel (Area 3 Representative): A rattlesnake on residential property in Area 3 was recently captured by an Animal Control officer, who responded within ½ an hour of being called. After capturing the snake, the officer spent time giving residents valuable information about rattlesnakes and how to avoid them. Ms. Toppel commended the officer. She noted that the information he provided was very interesting and educational. She does not have the officer’s name but would be willing to assist should PPCC or other organizations wish to invite Animal Control to speak at a meeting on this subject.
8.4. From Organizational Representatives – None.
8.5. From Government Offices / Representatives – Contact information available at: https://pacpalicc.org/index.php/government-contacts/
8.5.1. Veronica de la Cruz-Robles (Deputy City Attorney/Neighborhood Prosecutor).
The Chair introduced Ms. de la Cruz. He explained that residents have expressed concerns about a homeless person in the Palisades who was arrested for suspected felony criminal activity and booked, but the District Attorney reduced the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor; the individual was then released on his “own recognizance” (OR) and he returned to the community. Ms. de la Cruz cannot go into the details of that case but has been invited to explain the criminal justice process in general.
Ms. de la Cruz advised that she has been working as an assigned Neighborhood Prosecutor at the LAPD West LA station for twenty years. She is one of many prosecutors assigned to the station and works with the whole team at West LA Division. She is the community’s liaison when there are special circumstances and she brings community concerns to her office when they prosecute cases. She spoke generally about how criminal cases are handled. The County District Attorney (D.A.) handles felonies and juvenile matters. The City Attorney’s office prosecutes misdemeanors. The D.A. has the option to file a case as a felony, or reject it outright, or refer it to the City Attorney’s office – in the latter case, City prosecutors can then review and determine whether to file charges as a misdemeanor. If charges are filed, the judge then decides whether to grant bail and/or release the defendant on OR. The City Attorney argues as to what the appropriate bail should be, considering factors such as prior criminal history and whether there is continuing danger to the public. In the Palisades case mentioned earlier, the City Attorney did receive a misdemeanor referral from the D.A. While the defendant was in custody and was being arraigned, his attorney asked for an OR release. City prosecutors objected strenuously. The judge decided to grant OR release over the City Attorney’s objection and the defendant has another court date. Throughout all of this process, Capt. Tom (West LA Division Commander) and SLO Espin filled-in prosecutors in West LA and they in turn relayed community concerns to the prosecutors in court. As this is an ongoing case, Ms. de la Cruz cannot comment further.
Steve Cron (Area 2 Representative): He understands that the community is upset about the homeless individual being released on OR, but as a long-time criminal defense attorney he notes that our system works with the judge making the decision as to whether there should be an OR release based on factors considered by the judge. If the person is released and then commits a crime while out on OR, this increases the penalties he will face in the subsequent case; there will be consequences. Ms. de la Cruz: The judge can grant OR with or without conditions. This happens every day in criminal courts. In West LA, we have the advantage of a connection between the prosecutors, the community and the police; the prosecutors know what the judge’s conditions are and can relay and discuss them with our law enforcement partners.
Reza Akef (Area 8 Representative): He related an incident he experienced with a transient who broke into a construction site and threatened to kill Mr. Akef and burn the house down. It took police three hours to show up; the police refused to arrest the transient and then escorted him off the property. Mr. Akef was told he would have to press charges on his own, and even if he did, the person would be fingerprinted and then released. How is the system working to keep us safe? How can this be handled better if it happens again? Ms. de la Cruz: In order to make an arrest the officers have to observe the crime occurring in their presence and then do a misdemeanor filing. Otherwise, it would have to be a private person’s arrest. There is a difference between a criminal threat and a civil threat. In this case a civil restraining order could be requested, or a private person’s arrest could be made. If that happened, evidence would be submitted and there would be follow up. This can be discussed with the sergeant at West LA Division.
The Chair: Our Senior Lead Officers have always told us that we need to file complaints if we want to see more officers in our area. He also explained that SLO Espin had a scheduled vacation and was called up for duty at the Summit of the Americas event this week, so he could not be at tonight’s meeting.
Kimberly Bloom (Area 5 First Alternate): When a person is released on OR and has a future court appearance, what percentage don’t show up at their court hearing and what is the procedure if they don’t appear; is there a follow-up and how are they tracked down? Ms. de la Cruz: Courts have been setting low or no bail and more people are not returning for their court hearings. More leverage is needed in order to keep people in custody. If a person doesn’t show for a hearing a warrant for their arrest will issue. The prosecutors relay that information to local police officers to make sure the warrant is in their system. Officers can then try and pick that person up based on the warrant.
Mr. Cron: One other factor is that the defendant is required to fill out an OR release form with personal information as to how they can be located. Law enforcement is directed to pick up the defendant if a warrant is issued; the information in the OR release form can be used to try and locate the individual. This is more difficult with the homeless who do not have a street address. Ms. de la Cruz: A priority is placed on warrant arrests depending on the type of crime initially charged.
The Chair thanked Ms. de la Cruz for speaking with us and for her service. Ms. de la Cruz explained that she follows our community and has attended many PPCC meetings listening in as an audience member in order to hear what our concerns are. She also stressed the importance of voting and urged us to vote for candidates who in our individual estimation will do the right thing in terms of criminal enforcement. She noted that as a City Attorney who prosecutes misdemeanors, enforcement of misdemeanor crimes is important to her. Maryam Zar (Chair Emeritus) also noted that Ms. de la Cruz helped launch PPTFH. The Secretary explained that she knows that Ms. de la Cruz is interested in the community as she always opens PPCC emails, reads our agendas and frequently attends our meetings. She also thanked Ms. de la Cruz for her service to the community.
8.5.2. Janet Turner (District Director – Outreach, Congressman Ted Lieu).
Ms. Turner reported that Congress has been busy. The House of Representatives has passed the “Protecting our Children” Act – the first of several bills countering the gun violence epidemic. She discussed this and other legislation that the Congressman is working on, addressing issues such as inflation, fuel price gouging and anticompetitive practices by meat packing companies. A bill that has passed both houses and is on the President’s desk for signature is the “America Competes” Act, which invests in chip production, addresses supply chain issues and bolsters research to ensure more items are built in America. The Secretary: What is the status of Congressman Lieu’s bill that would extend the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) south of Will Rogers State Beach and Pacific Palisades along the coast? Ms. Turner: This was a bill to study the issue of extending the Area; it has been stalled in Congress. Another bill that would extend the SMMNRA to the “Rim of the Valley” corridor in Los Angeles is pending.
8.6. From PPCC Advisors.
8.6.1. Sharon Kilbride (Homelessness). With regard to the motion on the agenda [Item 11.1 below], Ms. Kilbride emphasized that we need additional officers to be assigned this summer to the LAPD Beach Detail. There are many reasons why, as detailed in the proposed letter which the Secretary has written. She thanked the Secretary for drafting the letter and bringing this motion. She explained that the Palisades has two Beach Detail officers, currently Officers Margin and Bermudez. Normally in the summer months we are assigned more officers; last summer four additional officers were assigned to the Beach Detail, for a total of six officers. This summer we also need additional officers – at least two but hopefully four more officers – to be assigned to the Beach Detail, in addition to Officers Margin and Bermudez. We have been told, however, that due to budget issues only the two current Beach Detail officers will be assigned to the Palisades.
Ms. Kilbride explained that during summer months, we have an influx of homeless individuals coming into our beach, bluff and hillside areas. It is too dangerous for volunteers to go into the hillsides to check on encampments; the key to maintaining fire safety is for the community to have a sufficient number of officers checking the hillsides for campfires and other illegal activities. There are also multiple children’s beach camps in the summer. The Beach Detail goes out early in the morning each day and clears the beaches of homeless persons sleeping on the beach. Regarding the uptick in homeless in our area: People are being driven into our beach community from other areas where encampments are being removed. Today, seven new homeless individuals were encountered in our beach area; normally, there are only two or three a day. Our current Beach Detail officers usually provide coverage for only four days a week as each has two or three days off; that is insufficient coverage for our community during the summer. Ms. Kilbride noted that Councilmember Koretz recently authorized the use of CD 5 discretionary funds to pay for overtime for additional officers to be assigned to certain areas of that District. She hopes and prays that Councilmember Bonin will also provide necessary funding from the CD 11 discretionary fund so that much-needed additional LAPD officers can be assigned to the Palisades this summer.
9. Reports from Committees – None.
10. Old Business – None.
11. New Business
11.1. Election of Officers (2022-23 term beginning July 1, 2022). Nominees: (a) Chair – Maryam Zar; (b) Vice-Chair – Jenny Li; (c) Secretary – Beth Holden-Garland; (d) Treasurer – Randy Young.
The Chair thanked the Nominating Committee for their hard work and the officer nominees for agreeing to serve. He announced that since the nominations were all uncontested, the officer nominees should be elected by acclamation and they were so elected. The outgoing officers will be thanked at the next meeting. Ms. Turner: Congressman Lieu congratulates the newly elected officers.
11.2. LAPD Palisades Beach Detail Funding — Motion for Board approval of letter requesting CD 11 discretionary funds to support overtime to allow assignment of additional LAPD officers this summer (motion sponsored by Secretary Chris Spitz). See Attachment below for proposed letter. Background/prior PPCC position supporting Beach Detail funding: https://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/PPCC-Beach-Detail-Funding-Letter.pdf.
The Secretary introduced the motion and explained that the motion seeks the Board’s approval of language for a letter to CD 11, as set forth in the agenda attachment. Second by Steve Cron (Area 2 Representative). The Secretary noted that in the Advisor’s Report [Item 8.6.1 above], Sharon Kilbride had given an excellent explanation of the motion’s background and the reasons why it was being made. The Chair provided further explanation. Ms. Zar suggested that other organizations also submit letters to CD 11 requesting additional funding for more officers. There were no further comments.
A vote was then taken: Result: Unanimous in favor of the motion.
12. Adjournment. The meeting was adjourned at 6:59 pm.
ATTACHMENT – Item 11.2: Proposed letter re Beach Detail Funding
Dear Councilmember Bonin:
Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC) has been advised that due to LAPD staffing
issues, no additional officers will be assigned to the Palisades Beach Detail this summer. This is a matter of immediate and grave concern.
As you know, an influx of visitors to our beach and hillside areas regularly occurs during the summer months. Families flock to the beaches and many children and young adults participate in summer camps and the Junior Lifeguards program at Will Rogers State Beach. At the same time, the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH) informs us that many more persons experiencing homelessness (PEH) traditionally come here in the summer and are already beginning to arrive in greater numbers this year.
The Palisades consists of 26 square miles, much of the area made up of rugged hillside terrain where PEH often set up illegal encampments. Moreover, PPTFH volunteers and outreach workers see increased evidence of severe mental illness and drug addiction among the PEH who are attracted to our beach, bluffs and canyons. Dangerous, violent conduct directed against volunteers and outreach workers by PEH is becoming a frequent occurrence. The risk of fire in our hillsides is always present (fires are frequently started by PEH and/or arsonists) and there is a greatly increased risk with the conditions that PPTFH volunteers, outreach workers and our current Beach Detail officers (Officers Margin and Bermudez) are now regularly observing and experiencing. All of these conditions put the safety of our entire community at heightened risk.
The efforts of our Beach Detail are critical to maintaining public safety, but will be stretched thin with the increased numbers of PEH and other visitors expected during the coming months. Last summer, we were fortunate to have four additional officers assigned to the Beach Detail – for a total of six officers. We need the same number of officers assigned this summer. Their efforts are critical to ensure and maintain public safety for everyone – community members, beach visitors, PPTFH volunteers, outreach workers and PEH alike.
We understand that CD11 has discretionary funds which may be used to fund overtime for additional officers to be assigned to the Palisades Beach Detail. We’re also told that Councilmember Koretz has authorized the use of CD 5 discretionary funds for overtime for additional LAPD West Division patrol officers in Westwood and other areas of that District. We urge you to: 1) confer immediately with West Division Commander Captain Jonathan Tom and other LAPD leadership to ascertain the level of funding needed to allow for as many additional officers as possible to be assigned to the Beach Detail this summer (ideally at least four but no fewer than two more officers, in addition to Officers Margin and Bermudez); and 2) authorize the transfer of a sufficient amount from CD 11 discretionary funds for this purpose without delay.
Thank you for your consideration and anticipated cooperation with this request.
Please note: The text of this letter was [unanimously] approved by the PPCC Board at the June 9, 2022 public Board meeting.