Despite the late summer heat and no air conditioning, it was a high-energy meeting as the Topanga Town Council convened following the summer hiatus and worked through a full agenda at the Topanga Library on Sept. 11.
Topanga Town Council Vice President Carrie Carrier chaired the meeting with Community Liaison Tam Taylor and Council Member Alisa Land Hill.
The Council held a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11, after which Mike Brown, Battalion Chief at Los Angeles County Fire Department, who has replaced Battalion Chief Anthony Williams, reported that Topanga had 22 medical calls in August and one brush fire extinguished by Topanga’s Engine 69. Brown said the LACoFD just concluded 2,255 fire inspections and dispatched fire crews throughout the canyon for brush clearance.
“The fire department has also identified 39 specific areas of concern on each side of the Boulevard from the county border to PCH that will require brush clearance mitigation,” he said. Crews were working at the north end of Topanga Canyon Blvd. on Monday, September 16.
CHP Public Information Officer Weston Haver reported that CHP responded to 17 collisions on Topanga Canyon Blvd. (SR-27) in July and August. In July, two traffic collisions occurred from L.A. City limits south to the two-mile bridge—one was a minor injury due to speed and one was a rear-end collision. This was down from six collisions in July of 2018.
Of the seven accidents in July from the two-mile bridge south to Pacific Coast Highway, there were no reports of serious injury. This was up from four accidents in July of 2018. Officer Haver said the primary collision factors were unsafe turning and speed.
In August, three traffic collisions occurred from L.A. City limits to the two-mile bridge—the same number as in August of 2018. One was a report of an injury resulting in pain; other than speed, one factor was an improper U-turn and one was an unsafe start.
Also in August, there were five traffic collisions from the two-mile bridge to Pacific Coast Highway with no reports of serious injury—up from three collisions in August of 2018.
To report unsafe driving, call (818) 888-0980; (800) TELLCHP; or e-mail Officer Weston Haver at Weston.firstname.lastname@example.org
LOST HILLS SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Winn said while he did not have the crime statistics, there is an ongoing concern about the residents of Santa Maria Road locking the gate on red flag days.
“Santa Maria is a private road, they can close those gates of they wish; they are on the correct side of MRCA easements, but my suggestion is if they do that, they need to post somebody there to verify access. Santa Maria is a very poor road and we don’t want an evacuation to be dependent on that road,” he said. “It should be absolutely, positively mandated that there is a fire lock on that gate, otherwise we will cut it off.”
Winn also said that the Sheriff’s Department and Fire are also looking into illegal dwellings located where the legendary Corral once stood. The property is now owned by Lindsay Hemric, aka Moonshine.
“Regional planning is working on her sweat lodges and tents,” Winn said. “The Fire Department is also looking into this for illegal fires.”
Winn spoke of the challenge of policing homeless encampments and hikers/campers in the hills of Topanga and the reasons why unarmed firefighters should not be policing them, so they may need to use helicopters and megaphones to notify them of evacuations in case of emergency.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON: VEGETATION MANAGEMENT
Carrier introduced Luis Perez, Senior Specialist, Vegetation Management for Southern California Edison (SCE) who said they went through an exhaustive permitting process to be able to trim trees and brush around their power poles.
Perez said they use 20-22 trucks to trim more than 1,066 trees to prevent interference with power lines throughout the canyon.
“In the next couple of days, people should receive door notices regarding tree trimming in their area that says we have a permit to trim,” he said. “People will experience roadblocks and lane closures, there will be a number they can contact; we expect a high number of trucks between Sept. 21-30.”
Perez said SCE line crews are also conducting reinforcement and insulation on the power poles in high fire areas.
Julie Levine asked if there was any spraying happening.
Carrier said she had already nailed SCE on that issue and Perez reassured the group they are not spraying the vegetation or trees and that all the work is done manually.
There was also much discussion of the lack of notification by the County or Caltrans for road work involving tree-trimming, SCE’s new policy of cutting off the power during Red Flag days, in addition to their plan to replace all of the power poles in the Canyon.
“We need more clarity and information,” Carrier said. “We need more information in one place to go to get that information.”
Roger Pugliese of TASC then read an ordinance from the Southern California Department of Regional Planning regarding native and/or oak trees with a single trunk less than eight inches in diameter and native or oak branches smaller than two inches in diameter “shall not be cut, removed, damaged, or encroached.”
“It is incumbent on those in the Canyon to monitor the situation when crews do trimming of branches touching the power lines.”
Deputy Winn countered with the fact that last month the power shutoff was not because of a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event but because a large branch fell on the power poles. (PSPS is a practice that SCE may use to preemptively shut off power in high fire risk areas to reduce fire risk during extreme and potentially dangerous weather conditions.)
Tessa Charnofsky, West Valley and Mountain Communities District Director for L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, said the Woolsey Fire Task Force, will be coming out with their recommendations at a public hearing on Oct. 6, from 10-2 p.m. at the Calabasas High School Performing Arts Center.
“The Task Force will present findings and recommendations based on months of interviews and analysis,” she said. “The Board of Supervisors will have to approve recommendations and take action.”
Charnofsky also mentioned that October 1 is the deadline for Discretionary Funding Grant Application for nonprofits ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.
Find Online Applications at www.sheilakuehl.com
TOPANGA COMMUNITY REPORT
Council Member Alisa Land Hill reported that Topanga Charter Elementary School has just hired three new teachers for the semester and are actively looking for a new principal.
She said they are also at the five-year point on charters and are hoping to be recertified as a “Green Ribbon” school.
Hill reported that Topanga Elementary was awarded 1,600 Monarch butterfly habitat plants, and was organizing a community planting party in October or November at the school, the library, businesses, homeowners, and other areas in Topanga who want to create more butterfly habitat.
She also reported that, astoundingly, Topanga Elementary has no back-up power in case of an emergency.
“We have over 300 students and faculty and have no back up power in the school,” Land Hill said. “We are talking to SCE; we are trying to work with TCEP and the parents. If anybody has expertise in this area, we would be grateful.”
Library Manager Ashley Abrams reported that September is Hispanic Heritage month, so they are hosting many programs at the library, including Latin Jazz for kids 5-12.
She also said that Topanga Library is being considered by the L.A. County Registrar Recorder’s office as an early voting center for the 2020 elections. That means Topangans will have the opportunity to vote early for up to 11 days at the library, including on election day.
Abrams urged support for the location and invited residents to go to www.lavote.net for more information on the new voting process.
CANYON SAGES REPORT
Tam Taylor offered a heartfelt plea for more support for the Canyon Sages in Topanga, especially during evacuations.
“It’s really, really difficult to reach people in the Canyon; we need support,” she said.
Deputy Mark Winn offered that those who are considered “slow load” residents, meaning those who may need help getting into vehicles, including children, those with mobility issues and the elderly, need to be somewhat more proactive in the case of an evacuation.
“We on the law side have to be careful of medical information due to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA)” Winn said. “What we’ve been doing for the last couple of years, is if you more time to load, and you have a caregiver whom we can interest in an access card, we can track the house by need based on the caregiver card. That’s how that is working.”
Taylor agreed that this is a delicate issue given that the main problem is getting the word out to seniors to get a Topanga Access Card and/or one for a caregiver. She also mentioned the need for help with property maintenance for seniors in the Canyon.
“We frequently have people in need of home repair, for example,” she said. “We have one person who has not had running water for two years. The Sages have found somebody who has been making donations, to get the system working for this person; maybe the Chamber has contacts with contractors to do the work at cost, there is a county handyperson available for low-income residents, but it’s in every district but this one. There is [also] a county program to give low-interest loans, but it is only in districts Four and Five. We are a community who tries to take care of its people, but we need more resources available as a community.”
Taylor also implored the County and LACoFD to assist in any way regarding brush clearance for seniors who can’t afford it.
“We are all vulnerable if seniors can’t afford brush clearance,” Carrier said. “It seems with all that extra fire money that was allocated last year, it would be nice to find a cutout somewhere.”
Canyon Sages, go to www.canyonsages.com.
TOWN COUNCIL REPORT
Carrier provided the Town Council Report regarding what many consider to be insufficient signage by SCE and the Department of Public Works for the ongoing tree trimming and roadwork on Old Canyon and TCB.
“We need much more advanced notice,” Carrier said. “That is the key thing we need to do.”
She also spoke of gathering volunteers for the Joint Town Council and RCD Creek Cleanup on the morning of Sept. 21; volunteers 16 and older should meet behind the General Store at 10 a.m.
Winn said he used Topanga’s Evacuation model in a training class to teach emergency preparation practices to businesses in Malibou Lake. The community has already implemented it, establishing three evacuation routes and creating plans to deal with other emergencies in addition to wildfires, such as earthquakes and floods.
“The information was taken from the Topanga Emergency Management (TEM) Task Force manual, and applied to Malibou Lake,” Winn said. It was a compliment to Topanga’s diligence over the years to create an emergency plan for its residents.
“All this work actually does yield results,” Carrier said.
“Don’t change Topanga, let Topanga change you,” Winn responded.
5G FREE TOPANGA AND BEYOND
Julie Levine, co-founder of 5G Free Topanga and Beyond, introduced representatives to talk about the newest generation of technology.
Topanga resident Marin Lutz, a bio-geneticist, presented evidence of harm and cited 18,000 peer-reviewed articles about electromagnetic impacts on human health from 5G.
“My background is as a researcher, molecular biology, and geneticist,” she said. “Understanding biology and neurology, Julie, myself, and two other women started this group ten months ago due to our grave concerns about wireless technology.”
We came together as a group of four women, now there are more than 450 in the 5G Free Topanga,” Lutz said. “We started talking to State Sen. Henry Stern, Rep. Ted Lieu, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who say there is nothing they can do because the FCC put out a rule in 1996.
“However, there is no law in place for the FCC to tell the public or municipalities what to do. There’s not a thing that concerns me more than this wireless issue.”
Judy Bruce of 5G Free Simi Valley presented arguments against a non-existent law meant to implement 5G technology.
“It turns out that local governments have been systematically fed false information from paid legal consultants and pro-industry consultants and just agree to this unprecedented and unconstitutional land grab called 5G,” she said. “We have been trying to tell them for months that FCC 18133 is not law and that Title 47, which is also the 1996 Telecommunications Act, has not been enacted into positive law.”
Levine made a request to have 5G Free Topanga and Beyond have a regular space on the agenda at each Town Council meeting.
“Let’s get the information out to the public before it’s too late,” Levine urged. “The power lines have been changed from 4,000 to 16,000 volts; the small cell towers are right there at Mulholland and Old Canyon. They are moving in.”
Carrier asked Perez of SCE if the power poles and infrastructure being installed were related to 5G.
“Absolutely not,” Perez replied.
Topanga Town Council (TCTC ) was formed in 1977 in response to needs unique to the mountain community and serves as liaison with Topanga’s official governing body, the Los Angeles County Supervisor’s Office. The next General Meeting is October 9, 6 p.m. at the Topanga Library.