While many in Pacific Palisades were receiving candy or flowers on Valentine’s Day, Los Angele Police Department Captain Craig Heredia, the commanding officer of the West Los Angeles Area, was providing a different gift, one of public safety.
A task force of Senior Lead Officers, the LAPD Valley Motor Off-Road officers, L.A. City Recreation and Parks Rangers, the LAPD Beach Detail, Councilmember Traci Park and her staff, and members of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH) met at Will Rogers State Beach at Lifeguard headquarters at 7 a.m.
After a debriefing and being assigned to different areas, teams canvassed hillsides looking for illegal encampments.
SLO Brian Espin had organized this event in January, and Heredia said going forward, LAPD plans to hold safety events, such as this one on a more regular basis.
Councilmember Traci Parks was on hand to thank everyone for the work they do here to keep the area safe.
This editor accompanied PPTFH’s co-president Sharon Kilbride, Lou Kamer, CD 11 Field Deputy Michael Amster and two LAPD officers in the area behind the wall along PCH, below the Huntington Palisades.
The LAPD Beach Detail had patrolled the area in the early a.m. Thursday, February 9, and had found no evidence of anyone camping.
Then, the next day, Friday, February 10, a fire started around 6 p.m. and burned 1.5 acres of the steep hill.
Today, evidence of an encampment was found behind the wall. Additionally, a large mound of dead and dried brush, trees and fronds, which are combustible, were found next to the wall, which is part of the Caltrans easement.
A cement box, which was located in the hillside, had been dug out—allowing for either a fire pit or a place to sleep.
Additionally, on the far end of the wall at Chautauqua and PCH, the plant store products have encroached on Caltrans land. This space provides a walkway for transients to access the land underneath the bluffs and along the wall.
Four bags of blankets, plastics, garbage, bottles were filled by Kilbride, Field Deputy Amstar and this editor as the area behind the wall was traversed. The back of the wall is a site for graffiti.
Other areas canvassed by teams including the area behind Starbucks, along Palisades Drive, and Temescal Canyon and Los Leones. One additional encampment was found and will be cleaned. (PPTFH volunteers have learned that if the area is cleaned, it makes it less likely that someone will “move in.”)
The number of homeless in Pacific Palisades is down now, according to a PPTFH member, but CTN was told that is typical for January and February. As the weather gets warmer, more homeless come into this area, often camping illegally in the hills.
Heredia pointed out that the hills are green now, but that it is important that this work continues to stave off any future fires. Pacific Palisades is surrounded by land described as a Very High Fire Severity Zone.
The first task force was organized June 1, 2021, by LAPD Captain Jonathan Tom, the former commanding officer of the West Los Angeles area, after an arsonist had set a fire in the Palisades Highlands in May 2021.
That fire involved several jurisdictions that included City (the Highlands), the County (Topanga) and State parks (Will Rogers and Topanga).
“These fires don’t impact just your jurisdiction,” Tom told Circling the News then. “You can’t operate in a silo. When we have relationships and professional contacts, we make it safer for the public. It makes the facilitation that much easier if you know the right person to call.”