There have been two brush fires in the past three months that have threatened homes in the Huntington Palisades. The fires, on October 22 and on February 10, were started behind the wall along PCH and were most likely started by Persons Experiencing Homelessness (PEH).
Only four days after the last fire, another encampment was discovered behind the wall, when Palisades Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin assembled a task force to look for people illegally camping. That campsite was cleaned by members of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH).
Then on February 19, the LAPD Beach Detail found a “new” deserted encampment, which was instantly cleaned up by a PPTFH volunteer.
The area behind the 10-foot Caltrans wall, between Chautauqua Boulevard and Potrero Canyon, continues to be a camping place for transients. Those behind the wall are hidden from traffic and impossible to spot from the hillside above.
Along the wall are two gaps with only K-rail in place. Those “holes” in the wall allow access from PCH. People can also illegally gain entrance off Chautauqua by the plant store, and on the far side of the wall, near Potrero Canyon.
This editor has participated in numerous cleanups behind the wall, and unless transients can be prevented from illegally camping, fires remain a threat to the Huntington Palisades. Another safety issue is people darting across six lanes of traffic to reach Will Rogers State Beach, which is directly across from the wall, and its bathrooms.
Resident Lou Kamer, who was appointed as Pacific Palisades Community Council Transportation Advisor, is looking for solutions with Caltrans and City Officials.
Caltrans told Kamer the area behind the wall nearest the plant store is not state property, but originally belonged to Southern Pacific Land Company. That property owner is responsible for land from Chautauqua to the first opening in the wall.
From the opening and including the remainder of the wall (on the northbound side of PCH), is Caltrans property.
Engineers don’t want to put in a full wall, but rather want to keep the K-rail opening to help with flooding, as well as permitting maintenance access.
Kamer wrote a February 10 email to Caltrans Aaron Silverman (Associate Governmental Program Analyst Homelessness Liaison – West, East, and North Regions Caltrans District 7).
“I understand District 7’s Engineering Division’s preferences, but allowing access to this area, especially to People Experiencing Homelessness, continues to maintain an irresponsible and avoidable danger to them, drivers, and all people in the area,” Kamer said. “The SWITRS (statewide integrated traffic records system) fatality data supports this.”
There have been five fatalities, 30 injuries and 62 collisions on that section of the road over the past five years.
Talks are continuing on ways to make the area safer, not only to PEH, but also to drivers on PCH and Huntington Palisades residents.
On February 21, Caltrans maintenance division removed some of the debris from behind the wall. There is still more debris to be removed before an abandoned vault (below) can be sealed.
“This work is truly appreciated,” Kamer said. “The longer discussion involves finding an engineering design that allows them to do their great work while helping in our community’s efforts to save time, money and lives.”