Veteran Community Activist Barbara Kohn Leads the Palisades Historical Society

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Barbara Kohn is the new Palisades Historical Society President.

Barbara Kohn, who moved to Pacific Palisades in 1965, became president of the Pacific Palisades Historical Society on July 1, succeeding the long-serving Eric Dugdale.

Kohn said she looks forward to overseeing the town’s 100th birthday celebration next January 14-15 and the organization’s 50th anniversary, also in 2022.

Her long-time advocacy work in the Palisades, supporting and fighting various campaigns with equal fervor and commitment, started with a street sign.

When Kohn moved here with her husband Ben and two-year-old son, there were no street signs in their new residential neighborhood adjacent to what is now the Getty Villa. Barbara told Circling the News, “When our family and friends wanted to visit we had to explain how to get here. My then neighbor told me we had a City Councilperson, Marvin Braude, and suggested I contact him to get a street sign.” She did and signs were installed.

The Kohns were the 13th family to move into Pacific View Estates, with many homes still under construction on the hillside above PCH.

“We started the Pacific View Estates HOA with some neighbors in order to oppose a road at the top of our hill,” Barbara said. “It would have removed Blue Sail Drive, a new street, with new homes.”

In 1973, she started her long association with the Pacific Palisades Residents Association, when “Jim Solomon, a board member of PPRA, helped me and showed me the way around City Hall, and invited me to a board meeting.”

As the mother of two boys, Russ and Ken, Barbara not only was actively involved in their schools (Marquez Elementary, Paul Revere and Palisades High), but in 1974 became the chief financial officer for “No Oil and Save the Coast.”

She was a board member of the long, arduous and ultimately successful “No Oil” campaign from 1974 through 2010.

Many residents who have moved to Pacific Palisades in recent years do not know that the reason there are not oil rigs offshore Will Rogers Beach, as well as below the Via de las Olas bluffs, is because of a citizen-mounted campaign that eventually blocked Occidental’s drilling effort.

A no oil protest was held on Will Rogers State Beach.
Photo: Mike Sergieff – Herald Examiner Collection

A 1988 L.A. Times story (“Digging for Facts in the Palisades Oil Dispute”) summed up the final challenge in a vote by Los Angeles voters. “Facing the voters are two ballot measures. Proposition O would stop Occidental’s project. Proposition P would strongly and specifically affirm the project, which has already been approved by Mayor Tom Bradley, the Los Angeles City Council and the California Coastal Commission.”

During the No Oil battle, Kohn joined another fight, holding Headland Properties to its California Coastal Commission requirement to build 100 units of affordable housing in conjunction with the Palisades Highlands development. This victory came in 1986.

After serving on the Pacific Palisades Community Council as a board member from 2000 to 2012, Barbara became the president for two years. She also was the Palisades Design Review Board chair in 2014 and still serves an appointed position on that board.

Watching Barbara in meetings knitting quietly, one might underestimate her intelligence, her city/government acumen and her decades of experience. That would be a mistake. Although soft spoken, she has a determination and a tenacity to always do the right thing.

As a child, Kohn said, she lived in a custom-built trailer and traveled around the country with her family three to four months a year. They generally stayed in Los Angeles the remainder of the time.

Kohn, who is a life member of Hadassah and Jewish Women’s International, said that when she was living in the trailer, “I learned to color Easter eggs, decorate Christmas trees, and my mother shared her ‘chicken soup and matzo balls’ and other foods with all our neighbors in the trailer park.”

She received her bachelor’s degree from UCLA in business, and was named the outstanding graduating senior.

After serving as the office manager in UCLA’s economics department, Barbara earned a teaching credential and became a teacher at University High School. She also taught at Louis Pasteur Middle School (now known as Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies – LACES).

In 1997, she received an appraisal degree from the College of Appraisers and for the next 20 years was the owner/operator of an antiques and collectibles retail business in Santa Monica.

When Getty Villa wanted to expand and build adjacent to Pacific View Estates, Kohn was one of the early members of the Getty Villa Community Relations Committee. Neighbors worked with museum personnel to ensure traffic, after-hour celebrations and noise would be kept at a minimum.

Kohn was appointed to the Prop K (Parks for Kids) Regional Volunteer Neighborhood Oversight Committee  (RVNOC) by the late Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

After reading a recent CTN story (“Questions Go Unanswered, But RAP Approves Tiny Homes for Homeless in Eagle Rock”), Barbara wrote to the editor: “As a former 15-year (maybe more) member of Prop K RVNOC dealing with city parks, I can’t believe the questions posed by Joe Halper went unanswered.

“Residents pay property taxes, millions of dollars, specifically for public parks in their neighborhood…the millions of dollars we all contribute via our property tax line item for city parks is staggering and to not get answers to their questions is unconscionable,” she wrote. “Residents have a right to get answers to their reasonable questions.”

In May, Kohn wrote to Mayor Eric Garcetti and to City Council members opposing Motion 21-0350 (sponsored by Mike Bonin and Mark Ridley-Thomas) to evaluate various locations for temporary emergency shelters for the homeless including the parking lots at Will Rogers State Beach and Dockweiler, and Recreation Centers in Westchester and Mar Vista.

She wrote: “Los Angeles City does not own the beach land. Los Angeles City does not have jurisdiction over the beach land. Ownership of the land belongs to the State of California for public access, recreation and beach purposes and for the convenience of the general public in the use and enjoyment of the property.

“The unique circumstances of Will Rogers State Beach and Dockweiler State Beach have been protected by and for the public since the early 1930’s as documented in news clippings (available upon request). I urge you to amend Motion 21—0350 by removing from consideration the two state beach parking lots and Los Angeles City Parks within CD11.”

Kohn knows her history. “Dockweiler State Beach was referred to as Moonstone Beach up until the 1930’s,” she said. “It was leased to the City of Los Angeles by the State of California in 1946. The official name was Venice-Hyperion Beach State Park and was renamed Isidore B. Dockweiler State Beach in January 1955 in honor of the prominent lawyer and civic leader.”

She also noted that Will Rogers State Historic Park was created in 1944 when his widow, Betty, donated the family ranch house, stables, and land in Santa Monica to the State of California. Will Rogers State Beach was also donated by Betty from family-owned land. The state land has been operated by Los Angeles County since 1975.

She told CTN “As President of the Historical Society, I would like very much to enlist 100 new members during this centennial year. We have such a rich and interesting backstory to our community.”

The Pacific Palisades Historical Society welcomes new members and is already making plans for the town’s centennial year. Visit: www.pacificpalisadeshistory.org.

This coming January, the town will celebrate its 100th birthday.

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4 Responses to Veteran Community Activist Barbara Kohn Leads the Palisades Historical Society

  1. Jessica Rogers says:

    I can’t wait to be one of the 100 new members of the Historical Society!

  2. Mary Cole says:

    The historical society is so lucky to have Barbara at the helm. I have always been
    impressed at her many accomplishments since we were neighbors back in 1966.
    Let’s all become members if the PP Historical Society!

  3. Marge Gold says:

    The Historical Society is in good hands!! I agree with Mary Cole. If you aren’t a member, now is the time to join.

  4. Lee Calvert says:

    I love this town and when things are “back to normal”, I’d love to join – I remember taking a petition to Paramount Studios for signatures when the “No Oil” was such a controversy ..(I did work for TV there)…wherever I went. And I still love my “ocean view” – …. one of the many things for which I am grateful…… Lee Calvert

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