Proposed Construction Ban during Fire Season in Very High Fire Severity Zones Is Questioned

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The day after the flames were out along Palisades Drive, only one lane of traffic was still open. There is only one way in and out of Palisades Drive and Councilmember David Ryu’s motion addresses those living in Hillsides and  Very High Fire Severity Zones .

An L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu made a motion (20-1170) September 1 to suspend construction in hillside and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones. The motion is currently in the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

The motion states: “To suspend all ongoing construction which is not necessary for provision of utilities or water supply, and prohibit the issuance of demolition, building, grading, hauling and any other applicable permits for properties located inclusively within both the Hillside and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones until November 30, 2020, where the properties are located on streets with a single point of ingress and egress, streets serving as collector streets for multiple streets with single points of ingress and egress, substandard streets, and any property inside the Hillside and Very High Fire Severity Zones with an average LAFD emergency response time of 7 minutes of more.”

Pacific Palisades Community Council President David Card asked PPCC members on Zoom last Thursday night if the board should take a position on Ryu’s motion.

Last year, when a mandatory evacuation was ordered for much of the town, there was massive gridlock on Sunset as residents drove down that narrow streets that feed into the boulevard. The gridlock continued on Chautauqua and Temescal Canyon Road, down to PCH.

During the Palisades Fire in October, the closure of Palisades Drive (from the Highlands) resulted in gridlock for residents trying to leave the Highlands and upper Marquez Knolls.

Woman’s Club member Cathi Ruddy, who represents Service Clubs on the PPCC, said the motion was overbroad and not focused, although “I support the general idea.”

Treasurer Richard Cohen said, “There is little risk of fires from construction. We’re trying to prevent the clogging of streets. This motion will put a lot of people out of work.”

Residential developer Reza Akef, who represents Area 8, said, “This is a Bel-Air problem, not a Palisades problem.”

Haldis Toppel, the Area 3 representative, said the “focus needs to be on the congestion.” She noted that where she lives (upper Marquez), “We only have one way in and out.”

Beth Holden Garland, the alternate representative for the Pacific Palisades Residents Association, said the motion, “should be more about congestion.”

Secretary Chris Spitz noted that the Bel Air Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council had passed a motion (That the Board submit a Community Impact Statement expressing support for Councilmember Ryu’s motion, in Council File 20-1170, introducing legislation to pause construction in fire-prone hillsides. Congestion related to construction on our narrow hilly roads can severely impede access for and to many of our residents, leaving these residents dangerously far from help in the event of a fire or other emergency. We therefore support Councilmember Ryu’s motion that would suspend construction on certain streets in high fire hazard severity zones for the duration of fire season as that would assure the safety of our residents and their ability to access emergency services).

After a straw poll was taken among the PPCC members present, the Board authorized the Executive Committee “to express concerns that the motion should be more tightly worded to focus not on construction pe se but on the issue of congestion during wildfire evacuation, specifically to address measures to protect public safety on our substandard streets with only one-way routes of ingress & egress.”


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2 Responses to Proposed Construction Ban during Fire Season in Very High Fire Severity Zones Is Questioned

  1. John Wilson says:

    Some place in this discussion we need to recognize that most of the congestion that occurs in major incidents occurs when people stop to survey what is happening behind them with no thought that they are blocking the egress for others.

    May I suggest that maybe an evacuation plan be established with your beginning point ( your home, etc.) and a destination point (An evacuation center: like the beach parking lots or maybe a hotel in Ventura) with some sort of enforcement that encourages people to move on and not stop and look back until it is safe to do so.

  2. Helen Bellow says:

    Thank you, Sue! As always, yours is a voice of true journalism.
    Regarding PPCC response you quoted here – I’d like to suggest that PPCC rework their Mission Statement. Current one states totally opposite of what they really are:
    The mission of the PPCC is to protect and improve the quality of life in Pacific Palisades, also known as the “Community.” The PPCC is a forum for the consideration of Community issues; is an advocate for Pacific Palisades to government and private agencies upon issues where there is broad Community agreement “.

    Just look at the all their previous super firm actions of support of the Mr. Shram construction in Highlands vs the Community of Highlands.
    Even now, when some of the council members point directly to the case of 1525 Pali Dr. constriction for 96 disabled people plus staff being build in hillside and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones and with only one canyon road, prone to rocks falling – even now PPCC is working hard to help Mr. Shram.
    Never mind putting all 3,000 Highlands residents in the terrible danger when next fire strikes. And it’s not a question of “If”.
    So, Dear PPCC, rewrite your Mission statement.

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