On Friday, June 16, Topanga residents, business community, federal, county and state officials joined Roger Pugliese, Joseph Rosendo and members of the Topanga Canyon Roadside Committee, to celebrate their successful effort to have Topanga Canyon Boulevard (TCB) declared as a state scenic route. (Refer to “Topanga Canyon Boulevard – Forever Scenic!”, Messenger Mountain News, June 2, 2017, Vol. 1, No. 10).
Hosting the day at Theatricum Botanicum were Ellen Geer and Peter Alsop. The Grateful Dads—Tom Mitchell, John Cannon, Herb Engleheart and Neil Hartman—played early arrivals into the amphitheater before the official proceedings began, then set the tone for the dedication ceremony with the late Wally High’s song, “Highway 27.”
Roger Pugliese, Chair of Topanga Association for a Scenic Community (TASC) and an exuberant Joseph Rosendo, liaison for the Topanga Chamber of Commerce, opened the ceremonies.
“We did it! We forged a partnership with Caltrans and the County to take back our main street to protect, preserve and maintain it,” Rosendo said.
“It was always a resource that needed protection from overuse and institutional urbanization but the protection of the highway had to be formalized with an agreement forged between private, public and governmental partners,” Pugliese said.
Following Susan Clark’s presentation of cash prizes to the kids who entered and won the Highway 27 Poster Contest (see related article, page TKTK), it was time for certificates of appreciation and sincere heaps of praise from government representatives who took part in supporting the effort.
Representing Congressman Ted Lieu, Janet Turner said, “Topanga Highway 27 is in the Santa Monica National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) and is eligible for federal funding.”
Jeremy Wolfe, speaking for Senator Henry Stern, promised, “In the spirit of being different and having a place to go, we will continue to keep Topanga Canyon wild.”
Fiona Nagel, West Valley & Mountain Communities Senior Field Deputy for Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, noted, “There are 850 miles of state highways in California; only 50 are designated as State Scenic Highway. Somehow, Topanga was able to protect Highway 27, and that was because of the people. It’s a symbol of everything we were, are and would like to be.”
District 11 Planning Director Trisha Keane representing Councilman Mike Bonin of L.A. City’s westside area, said, “Stewardship of natural resources is very important to us. While State Parks owns three-quarters of Topanga, Los Angeles City owns 8/10 of a mile on this new scenic highway. We acknowledge the vision of a community, coupled with their government agencies, for their passion and commitment to keep Topanga Canyon ‘Scenic Forever.”
Caltrans had turned down the first application, saying that 77 percent of the road from Mulholland to Pacific Coast Highway had “intrusions,”—a multitude of parking and traffic signs, housing, parked cars and a roadside lineup of trashcans. Utility poles and overhead wires were also considered “a major visual intrusion.”
But with encouragement from former Senator Fran Pavley, help from Anita Gutierrez, Los Angeles County Supervising Regional Planner, and Nicole Englund, Los Angeles County Planning and Transportation deputy, a revised application, limiting scenic status to a portion of the S-Curves, was accepted.
The application was 79 pages long with required documentation that contained letters of support from community organizations and residents; a resolution by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors; L. A. County Regional Planning Department; the City of Los Angeles (because a tiny portion of Highway 27 is in the City); and State Parks.
The icing on the cake was presentation of a Topanga-crafted seven-minute video extolling the virtues of TCB from PCH to Mulholland Drive narrated by then Supervisor Zev Yaroslavky and supported by Zev’s Senior Field Deputy, Susan Nissman, and Gina Natoli of Regional Planning.
“It was necessary for the community to support it,” Rosendo said. “With 79 pages and the video, we really did bring it to them”
“I’ve been an environmental planner for 50 years,” said Caltrans representative Ron Cosinski. “It would have been easier to give up. There’s a continuity here and we’ll be working to get telephone poles and wires down to make it even more scenic.”
In closing, Rosendo quoted Los Angeles Times reporter Robin Abcarian, who could not attend but sent a congratulatory e-mail: “Who said Pigs can’t fly? In Topanga Canyon pigs do fly. We just got a piece, but we’ll take it—for now. We did it and it’s named for what it always was.”
California Scenic Highway 27, all 3.5 miles of it, is the first state scenic highway designation in Los Angeles since Route 2, the Angeles Crest Highway, rose to that status in 1971. Signs announcing the scenic route are posted at both ends.