Viewpoint: Bridge Facts: Bridge Emotion

A fire behind, the Caltrans wall, raced up the hill threatening homes at The Corona del Mar section of the Huntington Palisades.

At the Zoom community meeting held on December 5 about the proposed pedestrian bridge between George Wolfberg Park and the Will Rogers State Beach parking lot, all the facts were trotted out, again. They included:

  • The Coastal Commission allowed the grading/stabilization of Potrero Canyon creating a park, which prevented other homes along the rim from slipping in. The caveat: there needed to be Coastal access. The 1985 report suggested a pedestrian bridge.
  • There were numerous meetings about a PCH crossing, starting in 2005. The bridge was generally accepted by the committee. . . Although Friends Street and some Huntington Palisades residents opposed it.
  • The City did a 2016 study to see what the best option for a PCH crossing. A tunnel, a bridge, a lateral trail and a pedestrian light/crossing on PCH were considered. Caltrans did not want the latter. A tunnel could not be built because of underground utilities, which left the first two options. Because the lateral trail would involve an additional six-tenths of a mile to reach a traffic light at Temescal, it was felt that when people reached the bottom of the canyon, instead of walking more than a half a mile, they would run across PCH. The bridge was deemed the safest option.
  • The state earmarked $11 million for a bridge. If funds are earmarked for a bridge, they then can’t be used to plant petunias or hire police, for example.
  • The George Wolfberg Park is the only park in Pacific Palisades that is surrounded by a fence and gates. The park is closed from sundown to sunup, which means no one will be able to legally cross the bridge and enter the park after hours. (Unliked the proposed lateral trail, which will not be closed and there are no plans for a fence, for the lateral trail.)
  • In an effort to ensure there is community involvement in the bridge and design the Councilmember’s office not only held this meeting, it sent out 190 flyers via U.S. Mail to neighbors near the park, and also passed out 150 door-to-door flyers.

But facts did not seem to matter.

“I live near the park, and I never got a flyer.”

“Money will better be spent on the police.”

“There is a lack of community involvement.”

“I have seen fires. I do not want my house to burn down. I am concerned about the hours of operation.”

From a Via de la Olas neighbor, which is not on the edge of the George Wolfberg Park. “Our street gets drainage from the area and our street is constantly being used by the public. There is erosion in the street not being addressed.”

“The most important aspect is public safety.”

“What will prevent dangerous people from entering?”

From a Friends Street resident, “This is not a good use of funds. Anyone can access the beach from Temescal. The community would be better served by a lateral trail and it’s cheaper.”

A resident who lives in the El Medio bluffs area, not near Potrero said “Get ready for a wild ride if the bridge is built. There will be no security. When there’s problems, there’s no one to call and no one will come.”

“We live next to the tennis courts (by Frontera) and we have not been contacted.”

“There have been multiple fires on the rim bluffs by PCH. Everyone should be happy with a lateral trail. The bridge is a waste of money.” (Editor’s note: the fires have largely started behind the Caltrans wall below Corona del Mar and in parkland below the Via de Los Olas Bluffs – where the lateral trail is proposed. There have also been fires along Temescal Canyon road, where there is no fence.)

“Safety first, there was a woman raped in Santa Monica.”

“A big concern is general safety. We need to take safety concerns first.” Pacific Palisades Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin was asked how many homeless individuals have been found in Potrero Park since it opened a year ago. “Zero,” he said.

This fire in the Via de las Olas bluffs was started by a homeless individual.

Two thoughts came to mind. The first was the  common thread: “Keep out THOSE people.”

When this editor’s parents went back to summer school to complete their college degrees, our family of seven lived in a four-room apartment.

On Sundays, the family would go to a park that bordered a lake for a picnic, to swim and to escape the confines of the small apartment. We would be exactly the kind of poor family that some Palisades neighbors do not want coming to the Park.

The second thought was about the fear mongering—when this editor rang the bell yesterday for the Optimists’ participation in Red Kettle Day—I heard about all the scary issues with a bridge.

Rob Yeung, a psychologist and author of “How to Stand Out,” said that one of the most effective strategies with people is to use emotion, not logic, to make a case for something.

In a 2015 interview for Quartz, a business online publication, he said, “If you think about most big topics, people are not persuaded by logic. People in the Western world know that smoking cigarettes is bad for you and understand the principles of weight loss. But that’s not enough to motivate them to change. People do not listen to facts. You need an emotional angle.”

In a 2020 study “Human Decision Making – Emotions vs. Logic” it noted that  90 percent of human decisions are made based on emotions.

Basically, it doesn’t matter how many Potrero pedestrian bridge meetings are held and how many facts are presented, because people are not listening. People are responding to emotion.

Maybe photos of the people hit and killed trying to cross PCH should have been printed—would that have a bigger emotional impact: would that make a difference?

The truck and three cars were involved in the early morning accident across from the L.A. County Lifeguard station at Potrero Canyon. This has been the site of several pedestrian deaths.

The bluffs above PCH are prone to slides. The lateral trail is proposed along the highway.

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6 Responses to Viewpoint: Bridge Facts: Bridge Emotion

  1. Margot A Metzner says:

    Excellent reporting. You have accurately captured the atmosphere of the zoom meeting. I, for one, fully support the bridge. Just hope that it is built in my lifetime and that it is designed with a gentle incline and not a lot of steps!

  2. gilbert dembo says:

    Very Good! may be you will change someones thinking on the bridge

  3. Michael says:

    Would anyone even use a lateral trail? What a dumb idea.

  4. Doug Day says:

    “…people hit trying to cross PCH…” With that logic Potrero Park should be shut immediately because “people may be tempted to jump the fence to go to the beach.” And it would absolutely eliminate a lateral trail (which nobody seems to want except for a few sponsors) because it is completely open and unfenced creating a temptation to cross illegally. And it runs directly beneath a cliff face that would require toeing and drainage for safety. Build the bridge.

  5. Linda R Friar says:

    Perhaps the initial requirement that Potrero provide beach access was not necessary. Was it something that was just thrown in without really thinking it through?
    There is safe beach access and ample parking from the entrance at Temescal Canyon.
    Why is another entrance needed so close by?

    The Palisades is not a closed community. People from all over the city can and do come to enjoy Will Rogers Beach, Temescal Canyon, the Farmer’s Market, etc. People can readily access Potrero from the Village. So, without getting emotional about it, I wonder why we’d spend $11,000,00 for a bridge that really adds very little in terms of access. Too bad it’s probably too late to question the initial mandate.

  6. Sue says:


    The access wasn’t “thrown in” it was specifically required by the Coastal Commission.
    To shore the hillsides, money was needed that the City did not have. An agreement was made that if the hills were shored, and the lots sold, that money would not go into the City’s general fund, but into the park. The Coastal Commission approved that scenerio, provided there was coastal access. In their 1985 report the CC spoke of a pedestrian bridge.

    The Temescal entrance is more than a half a mile away–six-tenths to be exact.


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