Topanga Town Council: Speaking Freely

Heavy excavation equipment for the Utilities Undergrounding project on Topanga Canyon Blvd., on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Photo by Annemarie Donkin.

The March Town Council meeting agenda provoked animated discussions on numerous issues and even made some breaking news.


According to the Town Council, Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Undergrounding Project Manager Dave Seeley reports that plans to complete the undergrounding project in the town center that was begun in July 2015 have been revived. The project was delayed in August when archaeological artifacts and remains were found, but was stopped only when a moratorium was declared from November 24 to January 4, 2016, for the holiday season.

According to Seeley, SCE is “faced with a lot of resources to manage at this time because of fire priorities and recent storms.” He, along with the LA County Department of Public Works, will send project updates to the Topanga Town Council as soon as they are available. For updates:


When a meeting claims the presence of Battalion Chief Andrew “Drew” Smith, LA Sheriff’s Department Deputy Mark Winn, two Arson Watch members, and the creator of 69 Bravo, Simon T, the discussion can’t help but turn to an informal and informative debrief of the Woolsey fire.

Both Simon T and Chief Smith hefted topographical maps on a table to demonstrate how close the fire had come to Topanga and are available to discuss them if requested.

“If Drew had not ordered the Phos-Chek drop where he did, when he did, the fire was not a minute away from embedding in Topanga,” said Simon T.

Smith is a Wildland Fire Behavior Analyst, recognized nationwide for his expertise, and was on duty during the fire, supporting incident commanders with “tactically-based fire suppression decisions,” such as the Phos-Chek drop.

LASD Deputy Mark Winn, who is retiring, and CHP Officer Casey Ramstead reflected on the challenges with traffic management and repopulation. “We’ll just say there were lessons learned,” said Winn, who gave a shout-out to CHP PIO Wes Haver (Officer Leland Tang’s replacement) for “taking over the entire PCH to the I-10” and making sense of the chaos.

Officer Ramstead reported that crime statistics in the area are down 22 percent, although domestic crimes recently increased. Someone asked if we should blame it on the rain.

Supervisor Kuehl’s field deputy, Blake Clayton, reported that there were 145 people at the King Gillette listening session on March 3 and that the next step is to meet with the Office of Emergency Management task force to further debrief about the fire.

Simon T, a helicopter pilot, has been flying people over the burn area to impress upon them the utter destruction of the fire. For most, it was an unforgettable realization of how close the fire came; for others, it spurred projects such as Urs Baur’s crowd-funded project, The Woolsey Chronicles, to raise funds for restoration and wildfire awareness.

Other issues briefly discussed were prohibition of brush clearing on Red Flag days, and whether controlled burns are being considered as a fuel reduction method, a suggestion that Chief Smith did not refute and may be a relevant topic for future discussion with the community.

Questions also arose about how long motorists can expect delays and closures of the S-Curves. Speaking as liaison for the Chamber of Commerce, Joseph Rosendo said that Caltrans is aiming for a completion date of mid-June. In the meantime, he said they have improved the traffic flow to be more compatible with the computer rush, allowing more time for heavy traffic to move through.

Kudos went out to the Trash Warriors who have collected 3.5 tons of trash and often go off the highway to find trash from encampments as well as heavy construction debris dumped in the brush.

Your Community Volunteers At Work—This is merely a snapshot of all your local Town Council accomplishes and communicates for the benefit of the community. It is currently looking to staff up as more demands are made on what has become a critical component of Topanga’s civic life since it began in 1977. If you can volunteer—an hour a week or an hour a year—please contact Stacy Sledge at; or (310) 455-3001.

Purchase 2019 Topanga Access Cards for $12 online at


Flavia Potenza

Flavia Potenza is executive editor of the Messenger Mountain News. She is also a founding member of the 40-year old Topanga Messenger that closed its doors in 2016. She can be reached at

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.