The Tale of Two Palisades Parks: Temescal Canyon and George Wolfberg at Potrero

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This was a 2011 Potrero Groundbreaking, those assisting were (left to right) Rob Weber, Norman Kulla, Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Stuart Muller, David Card and George Wolfberg.

The mile-long park that stretches to Pacific Coast Highway from Frontera Drive came under serious scrutiny from neighbors at a “SPECIAL POTRERO” meeting sponsored by the Pacific Palisades Community Council on December 1.  (The nearly two-hour meeting can be accessed on YouTube.)

Pressing questions included: Who will clean the bathrooms? How do you stop people from camping illegally? How do you stop illegally lit fires? What is happening to the trash that will accumulate? Where will trash cans be placed and where will the trash from the cans be emptied? How can we prevent people from parking on our street and gathering on our street by the park? How can you call the park a riparian park if there is grass? How do you keep bikes and skateboards out? How do you keep high school kids and the homeless out after hours?

Who do we contact if there are people in the park after hours. What if we see a fire?

The Zoom free-for-all continued with more comments: We were never consulted about the park or a gate on Friend’s Street. We were never asked about a pedestrian crossing on PCH, which will only encourage outsiders to visit the park. There wasn’t enough public scrutiny for this park. Why weren’t there community meetings?

The George Wolfberg Park will be Pacific Palisades second city park built in a Canyon. Temescal,  and Wolfberg will both be cared for by Recreation and Parks Maintenance staff. One is open, one will now open December 10.

GEORGE WOLFBERG PARK:

This was Potrero Canyon at Friends Street before the City started infilling the Canyon.

George Wolfberg Park at Potrero has been in and out of construction for at least 60 years. More than $70 million has been used to stabilize the Potrero canyon slopes, on which multi-million-dollar homes were then built.

In the early 2000s there was a Potrero Canyon Committee, that met regularly and addressed all issues, including keeping this a riparian park (this editor worked for the local newspaper at the time and covered those meetings in depth). A Coastal Commission report in June specified there should be a gate at Frontera. The City had lots surveyed to make sure the development of the park was not done on private property. Non-native vegetation, that might be flammable was removed from the park and defensible space installed around properties.

George Wolfberg Park at Potrero has no picnic tables and no playground. It will be surrounded by a fence and gates and people will not be allowed to do anything,  but hike and potentially walk leashed dogs. The park will be open from dawn to dusk and the gates will automatically lock, to prevent access after hours.

A Potrero Canyon Ground breaking was held in 2019 with help from (left to right) Debby Dyner-Harris (former Bonin District Director),  Bonin Field Deputy Lisa Cahill, Councilman Mike Bonin and Norman Kulla (former Bonin Senior Counsel). Photo: Courtesy Mike Bonin

TEMESCAL CANYON PARK:

Homes line the rim of Temescal Canyon Park.

Temescal Canyon Park stretches from below Bowdoin to Pacific Coast Highway. There are no fences around this park, there are no gates. There are several picnic tables, a playground and bathrooms. This park is bisected by Temescal Canyon Road.

Since 2000, there have been at least two fires in this park that have shot up the hills threatening homes. Signs had to be posted in the park banning open fires and grills. The signs are periodically ignored.

There are food trucks that line the lower canyon, and in the summer, parking is a problem. Accidents are common because of people making illegal turns.

Several fitness camps and youth camps operate along Temescal, many are unpermitted. Some people hit golf balls and others allow dogs to run off-leash.

Every morning the RAP maintenance empties the numerous trash cans along the park. Maintenance staff clean and restock the bathroom.

Volunteers from the homeless task force constantly patrol the park. With the help of the LAPD beach task force, the number of homeless who camp illegally has been limited. This editor has helped clear out numerous abandoned encampments, which discourage other homeless from moving in.

There have been at least two homeless who have been found dead in Temescal. There were also two suicides in Temescal and a gang member’s body, who had been slain, was found.

People who live on the Temescal rim, do not understand why neighbors are so upset about the George Wolfberg Park. Residents along Temescal have been dealing with inconveniences for decades, but the tradeoff is an open space that everyone can enjoy.

At night if a light or flame is seen, Potrero neighbors can do what Temescal neighbors have done, which is either call the Los Angeles Police Department or the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Temescal Canyon was graded, with the high school placed at the top of the canyon, a road was added that connected Sunset Boulevard to Pacific Coast Highway–Photo 1957
Palisades Historical Society

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3 Responses to The Tale of Two Palisades Parks: Temescal Canyon and George Wolfberg at Potrero

  1. Finn-Olaf Jones says:

    As one of the owners of a house on the rim of the canyon, I have alway thought we should have followed the Temescal model of an open village commons which is essentially what it was before politicos who had very little knowledge of our village turned a simple engineering problem of shoring up the canyon walls into a $50 million+ vanity project. People would bike, play baseball, and commute in the weekends from all over LA to fly electric hobby planes for which the canyon had a large city-wide following. Despite two homeless guys who didn’t cause any trouble, it was a very benign and safe space which we didn’t hesitate to let our five small kids play often until long after dark knowing that all our neighbors were looking out at the open canyon, too. Occasional fires and other small troubles were taken care of those of us who could simply saunter off our yards into the canyon at all hours to take care of things. And we had lots of wildlife in there which was delightful. For the first time in probably tens of thousands of years the wildlife soundtrack of coyotes and deer went abruptly silent one day in May, 2021 when the ugly perimeter fence completely isolated the canyon and destroyed its historical role as a village commons. Let’s how many people actually use this new, awkward, narrow space with its Jellystone Park walkways and if it doesn’t work out, perhaps more wise politicos can open up the canyon again and return it to its roll as a village commons that worked so well for most of the first century of the Palisade’s existence.

  2. Finn-Olaf Jones says:

    Message to sue: I see I put $50 million in my letter but I trust your $70 million number. Would you be kind enough to edit if you decide to publish it!

    Thanks!

  3. Sue says:

    Finn,

    I think an accounting of the park, since the first homes slipped off, would be fascinating and should be done. The last time I printed a story, I asked people their guess–and one knowledgeable person, who has been in the Palisades for decades, guesstimated $70 million.

    Sue

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