At the Palisades Park Advisory Board meeting last Wednesday night, Friends Street resident Jeff Spitz read a letter to the board stating that a pathway to George Wolfberg Park at Potrero, now under construction, had never been discussed or approved and that it wasn’t part of the park’s Environmental Impact Review.
Spitz said he had sent a letter to City officials asking for an immediate halt to the work on that Friends Street entrance (at Via de las Olas) and asked that a community meeting be held to discuss the issues and public safety.
He argued that there had never been any discussion about the gate and that several of his neighbors felt similarly.
Former Potrero Citizen Advisory Board members David Card (current Community Council president), Rob Weber and Gil Dembo disputed Spitz’s allegation and said the entrance and gate on Friends Street, which will have a trilogy lock and be satellite controlled, had been discussed extensively.
CTN’s editor wrote three stories about the subject that were published in the Palisadian-Post in 2006, specifically the discussion about the fence: April 27 (“Potrero Parking Plans Draw Fire”), September 28 (“Residents Offer Opposing Positions on Potrero Park”) and on November 22 (“Potrero Park Completion Stalled by City”). My name has been taken off all the stories I wrote for the Post and now the author is listed as “dev.”
More recently, two stories about the gate and perimeter fencing can be found on CTN. On May 25 (“It’s Finally Official: Landscaping to Begin in George Wolfberg Park at Potrero”), I wrote: “One of the Potrero pathways, which will consist of decomposed granite, will lead from a park opening on Friends Street at Via de las Olas. The contractor will also create scenic overlooks that include benches and trash cans.”
In a August 17 story (“Fencing Plans for George Wolfberg Park at Potrero”), I noted: “At the park entrances at Frontera Drive (by the lower tennis courts), on the north side of the baseball field and at the mouth of Potrero, a six-foot fence will be opened and closed on a timer. The length of Friends Street that borders the canyon will also have a six-foot fence and the section of the fence with the gate will be seven-feet high.”
Spitz disputes that the EIR, which was completed in 1985 (Visit: https://www.laparks.org/sites/default/files/pdf/commissioner/2021/jan21/21-016.pdftk) discussed a gate and public safety. The letters and comments from those who attended the meeting at the Palisades Library in February 1985 are included in the report.
“We already have some problems with teenagers hanging around the park with alcohol and drugs,” one letter stated. “It might become a gathering place. Also, there are tramps and drifters that sleep in the canyon.”
Martha Patterson, whose extensive Potrero Canyon property was acquired by eminent domain by the City, wrote: “It is too bad that twenty years have passed, and 6.8 million dollars of taxpayers’ money has been spent before the fill is started . . .When rules and regulations of government interfere with common sense, it would seem to be the time to change said rules so that this much-needed project could proceed.” She concluded: “The above mentioned EIR seems very comprehensive. I believe current public opinion is that the canyon should be filled as soon as possible.”
In the original EIR, the fire department had also been consulted and wrote: “All recreational development shall have two different ingress/egress roads in two different directions which will accommodate major Fire Department apparatus.”
In 2020, the EIR was amended by the City and approved on January 21, 2021.The new document states:
“The landscaping activities listed below were addressed and evaluated in the previously certified EIR; the sections of the EIR where these are discussed are referenced in parentheses.
• Clearing and grubbing (discussed in Sections II and IV.A of the EIR).
• Reconstruction of the Palisades Recreation Center parking lot; including paving, striping of parking stalls, installation of ADA signage and paths, and planting of trees and shrubs in the center parking lot island (Sections II and IV.F).
• Minor grading – cut and fill from existing stockpiles; including buttressing of over-steepened slopes at the mouth of the canyon nearest to Pacific Coast Highway (Sections II, IV.A and
• Installation of irrigation systems throughout the canyon (Sections II and IV.D).
• Installation of landscaping; including plants, decorative boulders and informational signs (Sections II and IV.D).
• Construction of a new Pre-fabricated restroom at the top of the canyon including; construction of restroom foundation pad, installation of restroom model and connection to utilities, and planting along the exterior walls (Section II and IV.I).
• Construction of perimeter fencing around the entire canyon (Section II and IV.I).
• Construction of fencing around riparian zones and paths (Section II and IV.D).
• Construction of soil cement access road (Section II and IV.I).
• Construction of scenic overlooks; including benches, trash cans and DG paths to the overlooks (Section II and IV.I).
• Construction of approximately 700 LF of 12” to 24” storm drain line (Section II and IV.C).
• Construction of a DG path connecting the entrance at Friends Street to park trails (Section II and IV.I).
• Erosion control/SWPPP implementation (Section II and IV.B).
The document also noted:
“The threshold question in evaluating whether the above activities require additional analysis under CEQA is determining whether the proposed activities are such that they would require additions or changes to the EIR (CEQA Guidelines Section 15164(a)). Each of the activities listed above has been discussed and evaluated in the previously certified EIR (in the referenced sections) and therefore, pursuant to Section 15164(a), they do not require any additions or changes to the EIR. Thus, they have been fully evaluated in the certified EIR and no additional CEQA analysis is needed.”
One might ask why a gate on Friends Street would need an EIR, but the Highlands Eldercare facility, which looms five stories and blocks mountain views, did not?
It seems the difference is the location.
Jeff Spitz’s wife, Chris (secretary of the Community Council), wrote in a March 2018 private email to Councilman Mike Bonin in support of the Highlands facility, and then later in a letter to the City Planning Commission: “The Project indisputably complies with all applicable local regulations. It will have no impact on the ‘scenic or visual qualities of coastal areas’ and in my view, it otherwise complies with all relevant provisions of Chapter 3 of the Coastal Act.”