Community Meeting Highlights Crime, Homelessness, Brush Clearance

The panelists included (left to right) Neighborhood Prosecutor Claudia Martin; L.A. City Park Ranger
Officer Joseph Fuentes; LAPD Officer Matt Kirk (Brentwood); LAPD Commander Captain Crag Heredia; LAPD Sergeant Scott Alpert;  Palisades SLO Brian Espin; Homeless Task Force Co-President Sharon Kilbride; Potrero Project Manager Kristen Ly; CD 11 Field Deputy Michael Amster;
LAFD Captain Bryan Nassour; and  Apollo Security Officer Jimmy Kim.

By ALISON BURMEISTER

The Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC) hosted a public safety meeting at the newly renovated American Legion Hall on April 6.

In collaboration with Ronald Reagan American Legion Post 283, Commander Jim Cragg, who received PPCC Sparkplug Award for his work in public safety, welcomed everyone and said, “communication is key.”

PPCC’s President Maryam Zar served as moderator for the 11-member panel.

Senior Lead Officer Espin said despite residents increasing concerns over homelessness, theft and vandalism, “Pacific Palisades still has the lowest crime rate in all of Los Angeles City.”

One audience member expressed her concern with safety in the Palisades, stating she has been a witness to more than one retail theft. LAPD West LA Commander Captain Craig Heredia noted the recent need for law enforcement may be less about policing and arresting, but more about convictions and sentencing. Heredia said, “be careful how we vote.”

Proposition 47, The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, a ballot measure that passed in November 2014 lowered criminal penalties for various property and drug offenses as means to ease the state’s prison overcrowding problem. Although successful in some areas, it also decriminalized a lot of crimes, such as stealing something under $950, which makes it a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.

Those criminals commit a crime and are turned out on the street, where they are likely to commit a similar crime again, with no repercussion.

LAPD has been criticized for response time by some residents, but Captain Heredia takes pride in saying that despite fewer officers they are reporting faster to calls.

“We want to have someone (LAPD) here (Pacific Palisades) all the time,” said Heredia, who explained some days Espin, gets pulled to other areas of West Los Angeles. When Officer Espin gets called away, Officer Jose Bermudez, of the LAPD Beach steps in. The number of police assigned to an area is based purely on crime statistics.

Zar thinks that email lists and social media might serve as a tool to alert residents when the police physically get called away.

“It is important to get safety information to the community and to keep our officer here,” said Zar who also proposes a LAPD “stopping” station here, since the closest police station is in West LA.

Sharon Kilbride, Co-President of the Pacific Palisades Homeless Task Force (PPHTF) heads an outreach team that tackles the homeless situation.

Kilbride said, “we need more compassionate volunteers to engage our homeless people and help cleanup encampments.”

Kilbride assured the audience that the PPTFH, an all-volunteer organization is restructuring, not disbanding and is funded through 2024. “We appreciate those in the community who support us and donate to our cause.”

With generous donations and supportive volunteers, the PPTFH has successfully housed hundreds of homeless and cleared over 300 abandoned encampments in Pacific Palisades.

PARK RANGERS:

Of concern to many residents are the homeless encampments in parks, including Temescal Canyon Park, the park below the Via de las Olas Bluffs  and George Wolfberg Park at Potrero.

Residents were told that there are only 30 park rangers to cover the 458 parks in Los Angeles. Officer Joseph Fuentes, LA City Park Rangers said it is a difficult process to remove the homeless from LA City parks.

Some residents, whose properties border on Wolfberg Park, expressed concern about the height of the fencing (6 ft. at the gate, 4 feet by resident’s yard). Specifically, residents feel that people can climb over the gate near the Frontera entrance, or into nearby yards.

Kristen Ly, the project manager for the park said she would take the community’s concerns back to her committee, however the fence height around the park was determined based off the feedback from the residents in the neighborhood. Residents were told they were welcome to plant cacti and rose bushes along a property line to add additional physical deterrents.

BRUSH CLEARANCE – FIRE DANGER:

Captain Bryan Nassour spoke about brush clearance.

Captain Brian Nassour, with Los Angeles Brush Clearance presented a comprehensive timeline and the process his team of inspectors performs to make sure all properties identified in the very high fire hazard severity zone are cleared.

  • Beginning in March property owners identified in the high fire zone receive notice of compliance. (Most people in Pacific Palisades received that letter.)
  • By May and June, properties are inspected.
  • In July and August all failed inspections are re-inspected for compliance. Each time a non-compliance is reported, a fine is issued, and the owner is given 30 days to comply.
  • All private parcels found in non-compliance by August, September and October will be packaged and contracted for hazardous abatement.

Nassour held up a flyer, NOTICE TO ABATE A PUBLIC NUISANCE AND FIRE HAZARD.

“If you see one of these on a property near you, know that your neighbor is not in compliance and as a result you could be at risk also,” he said and noted, “The most important thing to remember is clear early and clear often.”

Nassour said that in the unfortunate instance of an evacuation, it is important to have a plan.

This reporter stopped by Station 69 to ask more about evacuation plans and was told that if you have elderly or loved ones with limited mobility living in a fire zone, you should let your local fire station or a neighbor know about them.

If a resident has to evacuate, consider ahead of time what essential items one will take, and to  get out early.

CTN was advised, “With only a few roads in and out of Pacific Palisades it is important to avoid exiting down narrow streets like Chautauqua and pay attention to which direction the fire is coming from. If you have a choice, be sure to head in the opposite direction of the fire as you exit.”

To view the inspection status of your property (compliance or non-compliance) you can visit https://vms3.lafd.org

The American Legion sent this card to residents to inform them about how to report areas of concern.

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