Palisades Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin organized a Hillside Task Force, which met at Will Rogers State Beach by Lifeguard Headquarters at 7 a.m. on December 18.
Assembled were about 25 people who included rangers from L.A. City Park, California State Park and MRCA. The LAPD Valley Off-Road unit joined LAPD, and members of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness. Also, present were Councilwoman Traci Park’s Field Deputy Michael Amster, and members of the People Concern.
The Palisades was divided into seven areas and law enforcement personnel were paired with volunteers to scour areas where people might be illegally camping in the Very High Five Severity Zone.
The areas explored were behind the wall along PCH below the Huntington Palisades, Potrero, the Via de las Olas bluffs, Temescal Canyon Park, Temescal Canyon Gateway Park, Asilomar, Castellammare area, Sunset at PCH, Palisades Drive and Los Leones.
“If you find anyone interested in services bring them down to the People Concern,” Espin said. The nonprofit was at picnic tables at the base of Temescal waiting to offer services to anyone who might want them.
After the three-hour operation concluded, six abandoned campsites had been found. Four were found in Temescal Canyon Park, one was found behind the Caltrans wall below the Huntington Palisades and the last was found in the Los Liones Park area.
One individual was found and came to the parking lot – he was known by the outreach workers, but so far has resisted services.
Volunteers cleaned up the sites and the trash was bagged and taken out of the brush.
The off-road motorcycle officers can easily transverse the hills below Via de las Olas, where once there were about 60 campsites. They were all cleaned out and anyone trying to camp is cited for being in a very high fire severity zone.
The campsites are cleaned out, not only to restore the habitat and to prevent trash from flowing into the ocean, but also prevent other “campers” from trying to squat in the same area.
The first task force took place after several fires were set by an arsonist in the hills above the Highlands in May 2021, the jurisdictions included City (the Highlands), the County (Topanga) and State Parks (Will Rogers and Topanga).
After the fire was put out and a person arrested, LAPD Captain Jonathan Tom, who was then the commanding officer of the West Los Angeles Area, realized how valuable it would be for officials to work together.
He arranged for the first task force to take place a few weeks later and included LAFD Battalion 9 L.A. City Recreation and Parks Chief Ranger, California State Park Ranger, MRCA/Temescal Gateway Park Ranger, Sheriff’s Department Malibu/Lost Hills Station and the LAPD Valley Motor Off-Road officers.
The goal is to have four annually. This past year agencies were brought together in February and May.
(Editor’s note: The December 20 Santa Monica Lookout Story (“Santa Monica to Boost Homeless Cleanup Efforts”) notes that a clean-up crew contracted by the City to remove waste and debris left behind could become permanent. The three-member team picked up 7.5 tons of trash in October and 30.7 tons of trash in November. Residents of Pacific Palisades, please thank the Homeless Task Force, which over the past seven years have picked up truckloads/tons of trash left behind by the homeless.)