Pacific Palisades Community Council President Maryam Zar’s home abuts on State Park land.
Plants were overgrown and Zar was worried about brush clearance. She contacted Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin and State Senator Ben Allen and asked about the state clearing the brush.
She was put in touch with Richard Fink, California State Parks District Superintendent II, who attended the Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting on August 24.
It was clarified that the state requires brush clearance up to 100 feet from a structure on all sides of a residence.
The City requires brush clearance to a property line or up to 200 feet on all sides of a structure.
But, Fink explains that the state does not do brush clearance on park land, because “We’re here to protect the natural habitat.”
By law, State Parks cannot create fuel breaks on behalf of private landowners. If a homeowner desires to create an additional or larger fire barrier beyond their property line, State Parks offers a permitting process.
“The state has fuel modification plan,” Fink said, noting that parks is not in business to clear land, but rather to maintain a natural habitat.
In an August 30 email to CTN, it was explained that “The department works closely with the Newsom Administration and other state departments to improve and expand forest management on state-owned lands to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and improve forest and wildland ecosystem health.”
He said that people who are worried about overgrown state land that abuts their property, can apply for a permit and after paying a small fee, can clear the area.
In the case of Zar, Fink came to the Marquez area and found there was a city easement on the parcel. That meant that Los Angeles City will perform brush clearance on the state land.
One resident pointed out that Evans Road, which is surrounded by State Park Land (Will Rogers Historic Park), “has never been cleared and the brush is dense.”
Fink said, “the government codes are very specific.”
Castellammare residents have paid for brush clearance on state park lands in 2019, 2020 and 2021, but did not know if they could raise funds again. One asked, “Could the state do clearance if it were an invasive species?”
“That is a possibility,” Fink said.
Fink also said that if other homeowners, who are next to state land, such as those in Castellammare, Paseo Miramar, the Highlands, Will Rogers and Mandeville have questions they can contact him.
In an August 30 email to CTN specifically asked Fink about Paseo Miramar, whose homes are surrounded by state parks on three sides. The only access to the houses is a two-lane road that dead ends at the top of the hill.
Fink wrote “I am familiar with Paseo Miramar and the road’s relationship to Topanga State Park.
“The road is located within a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone,” he said. “Homeowners along Paseo Miramar who are interested in conducting fuel modification adjacent to their property can do so by obtaining a work permit from California State Parks. We are happy to help connect any interested parties with our permits team to initiate the process and arrange for an onsite consultation with staff.”
CTN asked Fink, “How do you protect people if the state doesn’t clear the land–or should homes be built next to parkland?”
He said that “developers who build within a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (VHFHSZ) typically provide an approved fuel modification plan to new homeowners at the time of construction. This plan designates landscaped areas adjacent to new buildings for permanent vegetation management activities. Homeowners Associations will generally oversee the fuel modification plans and ensure that maintenance is performed in accordance with the approved plan.”
But that doesn’t address homes that were built prior to those laws.
Also at the Community Council meeting was Captain Bryan Nassour of the LAFD Brush Clearance unit. Nassour explained that the City asks for 200 feet of clearance (or the property line if it is less than that distance.)
“With the recent storm [and rain], you’ll have to clear brush again in about a month,” he said and noted that the brush inspection unit will be back out and people will be cited. Nassour explained that a dry season is expected and with an impending El Nino there is a chance that Santa Ana winds will be bad again this year.
He was in Hawaii when Lahaina burned and said, “It was a wind-driven fire. When that happens there is no way to stop mother nature.” The winds were reported at 60 mph.
About citing those who are not keeping up with brush clearance, “We will hold everyone accountable to make sure residents are safe.”