The guest speaker at the March 7 Optimist Club meeting was former Palisadian-Post editor Bill Bruns, who spoke on “Pacific Palisades: The Past, the Present and the Future.”
As a current board member of the Historical Society, the Friends of the Palisades Library and the Palisades Forestry Committee, Bruns certainly knows the town after living here with his wife Pam since 1972.
Bruns, historian Randy Young, graphics designer Tom Hofer and a staff of former Post writers compiled and produced a special 60-page Centennial publication last year for the town’s 100-year celebration.
He told the Optimists a “likely true” story about how the town received its name. Led by Dr. Charles Holmes Scott, the Methodists purchased the land to establish a Chautauqua site in Temescal Canyon and a resident community on the surrounding mesas in 1921. This was after World War I, and the founders wanted a community based on Christian ideals and dedicated to peace.
When the scouting party visited the property and stood at the edge of the bluffs (palisades) overlooking the Pacific Ocean, one of them is purported to have said, “This is indeed Pacific Palisades.”
Bruns praised the ongoing fellowship and philanthropy offered by the service organizations in town, notably the Optimists, the Rotarians and the Woman’s Club. He is concerned about the decline in club memberships, but encouraged by the emergence of active, specialized groups.
He singled out the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, a nonprofit that must raise close to $300,000 every year to pay for two social workers and a clinical case manager. Bruns praised the group for striving to guide the homeless who enter this community to accept services and move off the streets and out of the canyons.
“Resilient Palisades has attracted a large group of younger volunteers who are focused on important environmental issues, such as working with homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs,” Bruns said.
The Palisades Forestry Committee, created by the Community Council, is working to plant appropriate trees in vacant parkway spaces across the town. “We’ve completed Hartzell (from Bestor to Sunset) and we’re working on Via de la Paz, El Medio and several streets in Santa Monica Canyon,” Bruns said.
Noting that starter homes in Pacific Palisades started at about $50,000 fifty years ago, and are now worth $3 million as teardown, Bruns speculated at how this might play out over the next 50 years.
“Let’s say that, conservatively, home prices rise an average of 4% over time. That means a $3 million teardown today would be valued at $6 million in 18 years, and $12 million in 36 years, and $24 million in 54 years. It’s difficult to comprehend this possibility, but it’s not unrealistic, given how many people will always want to move to Pacific Palisades.”
Bruns took out his crystal ball to predict what else might happen in the next 50 years.
First prediction: The notorious intersection at Chautauqua and PCH will still be a frustrating challenge.
Second prediction: Maybe the town will finally have an off-leash dog park.
Third prediction: We finally have a second power station at the only likely location, on DWP property west of Marquez Elementary.
Fourth prediction: Virtually every home in the Palisades will be two stories and everybody will be driving electric cars – which means a second power station (in addition to thousands of homes powered by solar energy).
Fifth prediction: Driving east out of the Palisades (along Sunset or the 10 Freeway) after 2 p.m. when all the schools let out and workers begin leaving Santa Monica, will still be a headache. The schools will still be thriving, and Sunset can’t be widened.
Bruns concluded, “Ever since the town was founded, but especially starting in the 1960s, local activists have been dedicated to preserving what we have here in Pacific Palisades–from the oceanfront (no oil drilling and no development) to the Santa Monica Mountains, which are now protected as state and national parkland. Activists also stopped the proposed Reseda to the Sea highway that would have cut through the heart of town.
“Activists preserved the town, the mountains and the coastline,” Bruns emphasized. “It will be up to the next generation to preserve them.”