It was the first live meeting in three years for the Santa Monica Canyon Civic Association, founded 1947. The Rustic Canyon auditorium was packed with residents for a meeting of one of California oldest civic associations.
Prior to the May 9 meeting, representatives from the Palisades Urban Forestry Committee, which recently became a rotational member on the Pacific Palisades community Council, were on hand to describe the committee and seek members.
A L.A. Sanitation representative was on hand to give out free kitchen pails, to encourage people to put food waste into the buckets and then green bins, keeping the trash out of landfill.
The Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness had a table and were soliciting volunteers to keep the community-based organization staffed.
Resilient Palisades, a community nonprofit, was led by Janice Crystal and Gail Wirth, in urging people to help gardeners switch from gas-powered leaf blowers to electric. Crystal has led an effort to encourage everyone on their block of Chautauqua not to use gas blowers because of the harmful emissions that are put in the air, such as benzene, butadiene and formaldehyde, which are among the leading cancer-causing compounds.
SMCCA President Marilyn Wexler started the meeting promptly at 7 p.m., as she introduced District 11 Councilmember Traci Park.
Park encouraged everyone to sign up for her newsletter by going to councildistrict11.lacity.gov. She spoke about the L.A. City committees she’s serving on, and then added, “I’ve been in office 143 days. It’s the longest and fastest time in my entire life.”
She praised her CD 11 team and said, “We’re really just getting started. At times it seems overwhelming, but my team is up for it.”
She spoke about partnering with Mayor Karen Bass and her “Inside Safe” program and added, “My team and I work in homelessness every day of the week.”
Park also acknowledged the threat of wildfire that this area faces. “I’m most concerned about wildfires. It’s not a question of if, but a question of when.”
Residents, when they entered the auditorium, were allowed to fill out papers with questions on them, which were given to Park.
The first question was about the effectiveness of the different homeless measures. Park responded that there needs to be accountability and that the lack of performance metrics in the City is troubling. “I have no heartburn about cancelling contracts that aren’t working,” she said.
A second question was about dangerous potholes, particularly on Sunset. The councilmember said that with the heavy rains this past winter, the office has dealt with landslides, fallen trees and potholes. She urged everyone to go on 311 to report potholes so the City has a record of them.
Then the question was asked, “What can we do about off-leash dogs in parks?”
It is a city ordinance that all dogs in parks be on leash.
Park punted the question to the LAPD officers who were in attendance, and the officers responded, “We are allowed to write tickets, even though it is under animal control.”
Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin said that he has asked people to put their dogs on leash in Potrero. They do, but the moment he’s no longer watching, people take their dogs off leash again.
Park was unable to answer all of the questions before she left, but took the unanswered questions with her and said her staff would send answers to the association for dissemination.
Espin gave a brief crime report, and according to statistics, “We are the safest area in the City.” He also said that if someone rings a doorbell, a resident should at least shout out, so that a criminal thinks someone is at home. “Just be visible,” he said, noting that most of the crime in this area is property crime.
He also warned that some criminals have stacked patio furniture to access a second-floor window or patio door that might not be locked.
Before leaving Park gave two certificates of recognition to LAPD Beach Detail Officers Margin and Bermudez.
The officers had discovered a homeless family living in Temescal Canyon. One called St. Joseph’s, which is a nonprofit dedicated to helping families on the Westside, which includes Pacific Palisades. (Prior CD 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin had given $2.5 million to St. Joseph’s, which went to salaries.)
“They gave us the runaround,” the officer said. The group was told by St. Joseph’s that there was nothing they could give the family that night. “That was the hardest part, they couldn’t help them like they needed to.”
The officer paid for a Motel 6 room for the family out of his own pocket.
There continued to be no openings for the family and others helped pay for the motel room. The family eventually received $1,000 voucher and went back to New Mexico.
Also receiving a certificate was Kenny, a formerly homeless individual, who is now housed. While living in the Canyon, he had worked tirelessly to keep the two pedestrian tunnels under PCH cleaned, as well as maintaining the Marquez Cemetery. He also worked on the beautification of two island medians in Santa Monica Canyon: one located on Entrada and Ocean Way and the other on Channel and Mesa.
Sonoma VanBrunt, the SMCCA treasurer presented Sharon Kilbride, a tk year resident, who has spearheaded enforcement for the PPTFH and is now the co-president, a check for $1,000 for the task force.
Randy Young, the town’s historian received a certificate, too. He was the keynote speaker and his topic “The Uplifters” was well received.
He described his life in the Canyon, where he has been since 1954 as a cross between a Norman Rockwell painting and the Twilight Zone.
“This building is the heart of the community,” Young said about the Rustic Canyon Rec Center and detailed the history of the park and how the building came about.
He said initially when the land was put up for sale, the Methodists came to look at it, but decided it wasn’t big enough and elected to go with the area by Simon Meadow and the Pierson Playhouse in Pacific Palisades.
The next group to look at the land were the Uplifters, who were in direct contrast to the well-behaved tee-totaling Methodists. The group, an offshoot of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, were against prohibition and needed an area to party. The name, The Uplifters, came from L. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz books.
On May 30, 1923, there was a laying of the cornerstone to build a new clubhouse. The box that was placed by the Uplifters has recently been found. On May 30, that box will be opened for the public at 9:30 a.m. “They say there was a surprise for the future in the box,” Young said.
About the Rec Center and his childhood, Young said, “This was kid heaven. Everything was extraordinary.”