Keeping Potrero Canyon Rim Holders Locked Out of Park Angers Many

Potrero Canyon seen from above. The Canyon has been denuded of all plants and wildlife.
Photo: Billy Marrone      Visit:

A nine-foot chain-link fence went up around the rim of Potrero Canyon in early 2019, before grading resumed. On June 9, Circling the News met with rim neighbors who were concerned about the fence.

Many want to ensure it is not permanent. They are concerned because in a February 2008 Potrero Canyon advisory committee report to the City it was stated: “Fencing: Build a fence between the City’s canyon property and the neighboring residences.”

Rim residents feel the City is following the recommendation without consulting them: they say the report does not accurately reflect their opinions.

For years residents have had access to the canyon. Now they worry if they want to use the park, which is their backyard, they will need to enter it from Pacific Coast Highway or by the Recreation Center.

Councilman Mike Bonin’s Field deputy Lisa Cahill was contacted about the fence and responded in June 6 email to several residents and CTN. “When I took on the oversight of this project for our office less than a year ago, I heard from many of you about concerns over the fence.

“I asked the Potrero Canyon Advisory Committee for their report and have worked with Recreation and Parks and Bureau of Engineering to determine what is possible. I have communicated with several neighbors that once we have a better sense of the choices (including but not limited to…fence/no fence, fencing type, type and placement of gates) we would like to have an opportunity for community input. The Councilmember’s goal is to do all we can in our office to make sure your voices are heard.”

Residents collected signatures on a petition to give to the Councilman. It states:

  • For the past 35 years there has been no need for a fence and we strongly feel there is no reason for one now. It has been a safe haven in the Palisades for everyone to roam.
  • Since construction began in 1985, we have been the first and usually only responders to accidents, fires and other mischief that occasionally occurred.
  • The City heavily marketed park access when we purchased the adjoining land and thus, we have paid enormous premiums and property taxes for our homes.
  • An industrial fence along this narrow canyon would be a negative detraction from the park.
  • The City would save substantial funds not building and maintaining this fence.
  • As one of the last unfettered canyons in Los Angeles the little wildlife left on the coast can still roam freely as they have for thousands of years.
  • Of the 90 households inhabiting the park rim a half dozen want to seal themselves off from the park. Most have already effectively done so with private walls and fences. The remaining couple of households still wanting isolation can easily do so with minor public assistance.
  • At a minimum we feel it would be prudent to WAIT until after the nearly four-decades long construction of the park is completed to evaluate whether a fence is now suddenly needed.

The City sent this photo of a fence to one of the rim residents, explaining that this was an example of a possible enclosure that could be used in Potrero.

In a June 11 email, Cahill told resident Finn-Olaf Jones “our office has been actively advocating for fencing options for months, so no petition is needed.

“Again, our office is working to get this project completed on time and within budget . . .We have also advocated to the departments on behalf of the constituents to get a clarity of options for the fence (as well as other issues) so that the best decision can be made for all.”

Finn-Olaf Jones replied that residents think the petition is important, “You say you want the park to come in on time and on budget but those of us who have lived here have 30/30 hindsight—the park is now roughly 30 years too late and $30 million over budget.

“We would like to help the city avoid more costly mistakes.  Some of the people who signed this ‘worthless’ petition have lived here since they could still fish out of the canyon. They, like most of us were never consulted by the city, and when they gave their opinions, were ignored. Now that some of our representatives have made the ridiculous claim that this fence was our idea, we can finally say our opinion has been grossly misrepresented.

“This petition sets the record straight,” Jones wrote.

Another resident quoted Robert Frost:

“Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.”

          The resident suggested that rim dwellers needed to speak to LAPD about security and that wildlife access should also be considered before any final decision is made.

“On March 25, the canyon went silent,” Jones said. “The wildlife was all gone. If they put up a fence, how will the wildlife get back in?”

A nine-foot chain link fence has been placed around the rim of Potrero Canyon, even though there are other fences already in place.

(Editor’s Note: The Potrero Canyon advisory committee that Cahill references, was established in 2004 and chaired by George Wolfberg. The committee included John Anderson, Bob Harter, David Card, Judith Collas, Gil Dembo, Dennis Hackbarth, Leonard Horn, Carl Mellinger, Stuart Muller, Susan Nash, Maria Rosetti, Norma Spak, Chris Spitz, Rob Weber and Stephanie Wilson Blanc.)


Brief Recap of Potrero Canyon Park:

* In the 1950s, houses start slipping into Potrero Canyon. The City begins filling the canyon with combustible rubbish, street sweepings, pavement removals and yard trimmings, but this action is opposed by the Huntington Palisades Property Owners Association.  

* 1964: the City acquires the Canyon from Charles and Martha Patterson, using eminent domain.

* 1964-1984: more houses slide into Potrero and neighbors bring a $75-million lawsuit against the City.

* December 1984: the City purchases 14 residential properties (13 on DePauw and one on Alma Real) for $6.8 million to settle an earlier lawsuit and announces a plan to install a drainage system and create a city park. The park will be completed in five years at a cost of $3 million. (An additional 33 lots were later purchased by the City.)

* 1990: drainage is completed, and sub-drains are installed. Grading and compaction starts.

* 2004: only about 35 percent complete, grading stops because of lack of funding. Project is put on hold. The Potrero Canyon Community Advisory Committee is formed.

* 2005: slope failure occurs at 211 and 231 Alma Real. Another lawsuit is brought against the City. Through Bill Rosendahl’s senior deputy Norman Kulla, the City and the Coastal Commission agree that all lots and houses along the canyon, owned by the City, will be sold and the proceeds dedicated towards completion of the park.

* 2011: a ceremony is held, and City officials vow the park will open in 2017 at a cost of $30.5 million.

* 2016-2017: dirt from Caruso’s parking garage construction on Swarthmore is taken to the Canyon to be used for fill.

* 2018: grading resumes, landscaping will go out to bid.

*2019:  another groundbreaking ceremony is held. Park is now scheduled to open in late 2020 or early 2021. Or??


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4 Responses to Keeping Potrero Canyon Rim Holders Locked Out of Park Angers Many

  1. Francoise says:

    “It has been a safe haven in the Palisades for everyone to roam.”

    Not true. It’s essentially become a private park like the ones in the Highlands and on the bluffs in Huntington Palisades. Access for the rest of us is extremely unreliable. On the rare occasions that the park gates near the tennis courts are open, you risk being locked in. Only those with their own private gates can really use it, the rest of us have been out of luck for a long time.

  2. Finn-Olaf Jones says:

    Not sure what you mean. The Park has been wide open all the way around except for the gate at the tennis courts. Anyone could access it from the Ocean side and from the Friends Street side, and indeed many kids from Pali High have brought bicycles and even dirt bikes into the canyon. Sometimes cars would even drive in to do some racing around in it. Dog walkers from around the Palisades are constantly down there.

  3. Sue says:

    The park was supposedly closed to everyone because it was considered a construction site, so no one legally was supposed to be in the canyon.

    When the park is completed, a fence is set to go up around the entire perimeter, with access only available at the Palisades Rec Center or over PCH.

    Many people who live on the Canyon would like to be able to access it from their backyards, without having to walk to the Rec Center to get in or walking down Temescal or Chautauqua and then along PCH in order to enter the park.

  4. Willie says:

    If you think that the canyon will be your last ditch escape from a fire, keep some bolt cutters handy (Walmart has them for under $20). As a resident on the cusp of the canyon, I favor the fence because it might keep some thieves from climbing the canyon to your home (except for those with bolt cutters).

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