Top News

Chili Takes the Chill Off a Frosty Swap Meet

By Michele Johnson

Veteran's Day, November 11, broke cold and clear over Topanga. It was a perfect day for the annual Topanga Woman's Club fundraiser, the Swap Meet and Chili Cook-off held at the Community House. Those manning their booths blew on their hands and shivered under their down vests while they sold their "hidden treasures." Books, china, plants, toys-along with new jewelry and wonderful percussion instruments were all on sale.

Meanwhile, inside, cook-off contenders were making up their chilies by scratch, and this year a bumper crop of the spicy stuff went down easy in the chill afternoon. Winner for the second year in a row was Laura Bateman. Laura, a true old-fashioned Topanga woman shot her own antelope, dressed it, and slow cooked it with a secret combination of spices that made you go "ah."

VOL.24 NO. 24
November 30 - December 13, 2000


The fix was put in on the apple pie bake-off. Yes, Woman's Club president Linda Hinrichs won first prize, beating out her own kids, Gorby and Karelle Just. They came in third with a prize-winning recipe borrowed from the winner a few years ago. Just kidding, though. There was no fix. In fact, Linda had forgotten to put her name on her pie, and said, "The winner is numberPlease step forward." It was only when someone said there were hearts on the pie that she realized she'd be awarding herself first prize. That's OK. Linda's worked hard and as outgoing president, it can be a little good-bye gift from the community. Whitney McCleery came in second.

Linda wants to give special thanks to the Woman's Club crew who helped out. Thanks, too, to Abuelita's and Froggy's who donated tortilla soup and seafood chowder for the hungry crowd. It went fast, and in fact was all gone by the time the chili was ready to sell. Another Swap Meet, and Topanga's closets are just a little cleaner.

Click here to Mouth off !


Watershed Meeting: The News and Views

By Michele Johnson

On Saturday, November 18, battles between UCLA and USC and Gore and Bush blasted on TV, but 20 or so diehards tore themselves away to attend a meeting of the Topanga Watershed Committee at the Top O' Topanga library. Throughout the meeting, there was no trace of the dissension that had arisen over the creation of the Woodland or Protected Tree Ordinance. In fact the Ordinance was never mentioned. Participants worked quickly and harmoniously, covering a lot of ground.
Rosi Dagit, a biologist with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM) moderated the meeting that included in its ranks two Caltrans officials, Supervisor Yaroslavsky's Senior Field Deputy Susan Nissman and Rabyn Blake of the Topanga Canyon Creekside Homeowner's Association.


Rosi Dagit opened the meeting with good news. A parcel on the top of Zuniga Road connecting Calabasas to Red Rock Park was recently purchased for parkland with a grant partially supplied by the Mountains Restoration Trust. The acreage includes a turtle pond, and a Pacific Palisades turtle lover, said Dagit, gave matching funds to complete the purchase. The land will be turned over to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Dagit also heralded the passage of the North Area Plan as a victory. "They [the County] did all but two things we requested in our letter," Dagit said, referring to the letter she wrote based on comments made at the September Topanga Tomorrow workshop. They did not, she specified, refer in the plan to Topanga Canyon Boulevard as a scenic highway and they did not place a monetary value on environmental components as requested, which would have given more credence to the need for protection. But they did incorporate the other specifics in the letter, which had been posted on and for community review before it was sent.

Dagit also announced that the county's Local Coastal Plan will not be ready for review by the Watershed Committee until early in 2001. Once the Plan is completed, immediate control of our coastal resources will be placed in the hands of L.A. County instead of the California Coastal Commission. The Plan has been hung up, waiting for a Coastal Commission report on it for over a year. The Coastal Commission finally submitted a report, but County Regional Planning must review their concerns before the Plan can go public.


Volunteers are needed to collect water samples from specific creek locations to test for water quality on one Saturday a month from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m. High school kids are welcome.

Participants meet at the RCDSMM office to receive their kits. Call the RCD at 455-1030 to volunteer.

In other news, there is a plan, backed by the Watershed Committee, to remove the beautiful but deadly 50-foot pine trees that surround the Topanga Elementary School playground. Ironically, these trees, donated by the fire department to the school in the '50s, are now considered to be a fire hazard. Six years ago, oaks were planted around the perimeter of the playground to eventually replace the pines. A plan is in the works to have the California Department of Forestry take down the trees and mill the logs on-site into board lumber that, Dagit said, hopefully could then be used to build playhouses and tree houses for the children of the canyon. L.A. Unified would provide a chipper and a letter of support to the effort.

Speaking of trees, Susan Nissman announced that a contract has just been put out on our trees. That is, a contract to trim 5,000 plus trees in Topanga has been put out for bids, and work is expected to begin in January and must be completed by March 15, before the nesting season. This regular maintenance plan, due every five years, was protested by some members of the community concerned about the proliferation of dots painted on their trees during County inspections. In an August 10th meeting at the Topanga Community House, residents were invited by Dean Lehman of Public Works to question any proposed trimming. "I will meet with anyone," he said at that meeting. And, said Nissman, due to residents' questions, the original number of oaks to be completely removed during the trimming has already been cut by 40 trees.

Also, Dagit said, Public Works has agreed to cut dead wood first and then trim from the bottom up and outside in to minimize the impact. When trimming is done this way, it was pointed out, many trees will rise above the required minimum clearance--16 feet for oaks and 17 feet for other trees--without further trimming.


As part of a Water Quality Study grant, after the first measurable rain of the season on October 28, water samples were collected from the creek and sent to a lab for analysis. Interestingly, rainfall on October 28th varied tremendously even in different areas of the Canyon. Five inches fell on Fernwood, Old Topanga saw four inches, but only three inches fell on Santa Maria Road.

Dagit also spoke about the Erosion Sediment Delivery Project that's underway. A UCLA scientist is looking at the major drainages and taking measurements to discover how much sediment exists and the sources of the sediment so that we can determine how much of a problem it poses.

One potential sediment problem is the berming done by Caltrans alongside the road. When the sediment sits on tree roots, it could accelerate their decline. Nissman said the County Public Works has had discussions about this and has agreed to implement "better management practices" on County Roads. Then Paul Coran from Caltrans spoke up to say that the state agency has also decided to "set a standard of how to berm around the base of oaks." He went on to say, "You may not see the change right this minute, but very soon. We'll definitely be starting with the oaks." Susan Nissman applauded that decision. "That's really good news."

In general, overdevelopment at the top of Topanga has led to too much sedimentation there, and conversely, too little of this sediment finds its way to the beaches, which desperately need replenishment. "Where is the disconnect?" Dagit asked. That in a nutshell is the purpose of the study.

The county has also approved a 70-mile coastline survey to compare the beaches against data from the late '60s to discover how much erosion has taken place.


The Coastal Wetlands Feasibility Project has been funded to collect information that can help the state to decide how far it should go to restore the Topanga Lagoon. An historic map from 1876 showed a vigorous lagoon with huge kelp forests once existed, but is it feasible or necessary to return to that virgin situation? That's the question to be answered before work can begin.


Dagit announced that the Watershed Committee has "about $10,000" in its bank account, "a most amazing and wonderful thing," she said. She asked and received permission to advance, out of Watershed funds, $5,000 of the $11,200 owed to the helicopter companies that helped with the car clean-up until grant money is freed up at the end of December. It was also agreed that $200 would be set aside to pay for a plaque for the Creekman sculpture created by Dennis King out of car parts from the car clean-up. The plaque would describe the cars used in the sculpture and commemorate the event. The sculpture has been installed at Pine Tree Circle.


$5,000 in grant money has also been found to publicize ways of "Living Lightly in the Watershed." It was agreed that tips for everything from handling bees and native plants to the feeding and care of septic systems will be put out both in the 455 Topanga directory that goes to every home in Topanga and over

The Watershed Committee is also looking for a logo, and plans to hold a contest to solicit ideas from artists and amateurs alike.


Paul Coran took the floor to discuss a Corridor Study of roads in the Santa Monica Mountains that is being prepared by Caltrans. It would be a living document, updated every five years, that would encompass environmental planning, maintenance and construction on highway 27-Topanga Canyon Boulevard. He said Caltrans plans to use an RCD study that maps the flora and fauna in the 15-foot right-of-way and "links you to best management practices" to help road crews avoid impacting plants and animals. Though, Coran said, "There are a few dinosaurs at Caltrans that may slow things down," the director of Caltrans is a former biologist and is intent on going forward with the Corridor Study. Bottom line is, he said, "We're not going to treat Route 27 like we treat the 405."


Susan Nissman said that under the newly passed state law, the county has until 2004 to come up with a set of standards to regulate sewage disposal systems throughout the county. Sometime in the next six months, the county would like to meet with the Watershed Committee to explore what direction these standards will take.<

The next meeting of the Watershed Committee will be held Saturday, January 13th from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at a location to be announced.

Click here to Mouth off !


The Creek Man Cometh

By Rosi Dagit

One man's trash is another man's treasure, or so the saying goes. Topanga artist Dennis King certainly knows how to make the transformation happen. As one of the most dedicated creek car excavators, Dennis got to know each of the cars intimately as he helped dig them out of the mud. Piece by piece, a vision slowly began to emerge. Once all the cars were assembled in the RCD parking lot, Dennis' work really began. Local artist promoter Tricia Watts was seeking a way to make a sculpture from the car scraps to commemorate the event. After thinking about Tricia's idea, Dennis began scrounging interesting pieces from each of the cars. A transmission here, some lug nuts there, a differential, spider gears, struts, springs, spindles, axle housings, disk brakes The list went on and on.

Back at his welding shop in Hondo Canyon, Dennis started putting the pieces together. "I wanted to demonstrate to the kids how found materials could become something totally new," stated King. "Creek Man 2000" has a torso that came from the old white Camaro differential, coil spring legs from the green Volvo, disk brake feet and leaf springs skis from the yellow truck, arms from the black Volvo, shoulders from the Thunderbird and a gear head of many pieces! Even the belly button came from one of the differentials. Best of all, the "buns of steel" came from ring gears and axle gears. "Creek Man" carries with him the stories of all the cars that came together in Topanga Creek.

"Creek Man" now resides in the garden at Pine Tree Circle. "I'm happy to have him there as a reminder of the clean up. It is great for the kids," stated owner, Steve Carlson. King is pleased that "Creek Man" has found a home in the center of town. "I wanted to remind the kids and the community that dreams can come true, and that what may seem impossible can become possible if you keep at it", reflected King. And thanks to Dennis, we will all be reminded of the power of dreams each time we pass by.

Click here to Mouth off !


Eradicating Arundo

By Tony Morris

Consider a plant species from Asia which grows six inches each day, reaches 24 feet in height, has already taken over tens of thousands of acres of coastal drainage areas in Southern California, blocking the growth of native plants, changing the course of rivers and streams-you have Arundo donax. Jamie Gottlieb, a Topanga resident and Viewpoint School student, has organized a study project for his honors biology class which will examine how a designated herbicide works to kill this invasive plant.

Gottlieb, a ninth grade honors biology student, is documenting the results of his study with mentors Mark Abrahamson, head of the "stream team" for Heal the Bay and Rosi Dagit of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Starting with a large stand of Arundo on the south side of the School Road bridge, Gottlieb cut down sufficient plant material to provide access for the application of the herbicide Rodeo which is approved by the EPA for use in wetlands areas. According to the RCDSMM's Dagit, Rodeo applications are carefully monitored and a red dye is normally mixed with the herbicide when applied by county and state agencies so that results of the application can be readily observed.

Removing Arundo is strenuous work as the plant grows together from the root mass. Cutting the plant stalk to approximately 18 inches must be followed in 30 seconds by the hand application of Rodeo, which is brushed on the exposed circumference of the cut plant before the plant's cell chemistry has time to shut down. If this is not done the herbicide is not absorbed and results are negligible.

Jamie Gottlieb's Ecolet Study Project is also studying the effects of herbicide on a stand of Arundo adjacent to a ranger's house in Topanga State Park. By April 16th the results of the Topanga study project will be presented to his Viewpoint biology class. He says, "This plant needs to be controlled otherwise native plants and animals can't survive in their natural habitat." Birds are unable to use Arundo as it has no branches and the plant provides no food for native wildlife since its stems and leaves contain noxious chemicals and alkaloids. Once an area is taken over by the plant, native species have difficulty in establishing themselves.

Arundo was introduced to California from the Mediterranean in the early 1800s and to the Los Angeles region to prevent erosion along the banks of drainage canals. Since its introduction the plant's "behavior" has been more like The Blob, a 1950s Hollywood horror film which featured a blob-like "thing" that caused panic as it grew larger, threatening humankind. While Arundo's spread in this country may not be as dramatic, it is nonetheless a destructive plant species which should be controlled.

One has only to look around Topanga to see its progress. It is located throughout Topanga Creek and in many hillside areas. While it looks like bamboo it is actually a reed-like grass-also known as giant reed, bamboo reed, giant reed grass, arundo grass, donax cane, giant cane, river cane, bamboo cane and canne de Provence.

County Fire Department officials are concerned about Arundo because the plant burns easily and is a major concern should it catch fire in the canyon. The RCD's Dagit acknowledged that Arundo is a major concern as an invasive plant species in the canyon but the solution to its control must be coordinated throughout the area. Attempting removal of the plant with its rhizome and root mass must be complete or small rhizome pieces can float down stream to establish new plants. Dagit says the RCD and other agencies are researching the problem so that control of the plant will be effective. And area-wide.

For more information on Arundo Donax call the Resource Conservation District at 310-455-1030. The RCD is located at 122 N Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Topanga.

Click here to Mouth off !


The Heavy Hand of the Law

By Penny Taylor

Two weeks ago Marsha Mouse stormed in to tell me Topanga resident, Suzanne Teng had been given a ticket for walking her dog without a leash and was emotionally distraught and embarrassed by the treatment she'd received by the CHP officer. Marsha wasshall we sayupset and wanted me to look into the matter.

I contacted Suzanne and she explained that on October 28 at 3:35 p.m. she was walking her dog on Colina, just six doors down from her home when she was stopped by CHP Officer T. Roman. Officer Roman requested her identification, which Ms. Teng did not have on her person. She says she indicated to the officer that she could walk up to her house and get her driver's license and was told that was not an option. She says he then put her name through the computer and, not finding her name, said he was going to take her in. She indicated that all of this took over 20 minutes. It was at this point her fiancé drove up and asked what he could do to help. She says he was told to stand at least 100 feet away from herself and the officer. Finally, she was issued the citation and let go.

Responding to my inquiry, Lieutenant McLaughlin of the CHP indicated that stopping Ms. Teng was at the discretion of the Officer and that once the stop was made to issue the citation, Ms. Teng was technically under arrest until she signed the citation, which is in effect "posting bail." Without identification an officer has no idea if they are signing their real name and if their name does not come up on the computer they can be brought in.

Lt. McLaughlin further indicated that a dog off a leash is a danger since dogs can spook and run out into traffic, causing cars to swerve and cause accidents. And that the CHP can act to uphold any state statute.

He further indicated that officers do not follow people home for safety reasons. An unknown person going into an unknown house can as easily come out with a shotgun as a driver's license. "You don't know the individual, you don't know if they have any wants and warrants." This kind of thing has happened in the past and in Topanga.

The Lieutenant indicated that the CHP routinely patrols the Colina area. They have previously towed numerous abandoned cars from the area and want the citizens to know they are still keeping an eye on things and care about their well being.

He did say walking a dog off leash was not a primary enforcement objective of the CHP.
In an unrelated event, James Moran, a language translator and sales person for Suncoast Mortgage in Topanga, was walking along Topanga Canyon Boulevard the week of November 12th after his car broke down on the way to work. He was stopped by a patrolman who Mr. Moran thought was the CHP but could have been a sheriff's deputy. He was told he could not walk along there and if he continued he would be cited and arrested.

Mr. Moran then lied to avoid further problems and told the officer that someone was picking him up there. (He was by Ed Edelman park.) After the officer left he continued to the next call box to get a call relayed to his office to have someone pick him up. It brought up the question of, "Is it illegal to walk along the state highway?"

Lt. McLaughlin was helpful in clearing up this point. No. It is not illegal to walk along the state highway.

To get further information for the reason for the stop is impossible at this time, since we don't know if it was the CHP or Sheriff that stopped him. (However, if someone from either department recognizes the incident, I'd appreciate it if you'd contact the Messenger with your explanation of the event.)

Click here to Mouth off !


Shibui Opens at Pine Tree Circle

By Debra Feinstein

Balance. Simplicity. Restraint. Those are some of the meanings of the Japanese word shibui, and some of the qualities that Dee Chadwick, owner of a new Topanga shop by that name, strives for in her work. Dee first heard the word in an interior design class more than 10 years ago.

"The word really resonated with me," she recalls. "The concept of shibui immediately became the standard I aim for in everything I do." Applying the word to the field of interior design, Dee interprets shibui as "a state of balance among all of the elements in a room. It is characterized by uncluttered surfaces, which enable you to see the lines of each individual object. When you have achieved shibui, there is a feeling of harmony and peace in the room."

One can experience that sense of harmony and balance in Dee's shop, located on the ground floor of the new Pine Tree Circle center. The understated décor features a line of furniture designed by Dee and her husband, contractor David Chadwick. The walls are adorned with artistic faux finishes, which can be duplicated for customers. Also for sale are hand-made pillows and draperies, sumptuous upholstery fabrics, window treatments, ceramic pieces and wrought-iron candlesticks crafted by local artisans. Services include color consultation, interior decoration, and custom designs.

Dee began her career as an upholsterer in her native England. After moving to the United States in 1980, she had a brief stint in the garment industry, then began applying her creativity to home furnishings and interior décor. In the mid-1990s, Dee discovered feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of placement, and began incorporating its principles into her work.

"I typically create a bagua (pronounced bagwa) which is a feng shui floor plan, when I decorate a home," she explains, adding that the goals of feng shui are related to those of shibui. "The idea is to create environments that blend with nature, where there is not a great contrast between inside and outside spaces."

Shibui is not the only word that has exerted a strong influence on Dee. It was the word "Topanga" that drew her and David to this canyon. "We kept seeing the word and was told it meant 'where the mountains meet the ocean,'" Dee recalls. "We had to see the place that had this magical name, so we drove up. We immediately fell in love with Topanga, and rented a house here within a week of arriving in the U.S."

Opening her shop has been a dream of Dee's for several years. "I kept looking, but I never found a location I liked better than where I was-working out of our studio beside the creek," she says. Now, Dee spends most of her time in the shop, fabricating hand-made creations and greeting her customers.

"I love having this space where I can do my creative work and have contact with the public as well," she says. "Pine Tree Circle is great, because there are so many artists and crafts people here. You can feel a great energy when you walk around this center."

Drop by the shop, located at #15 Pine Tree Circle, between 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and experience the harmony of Shibui.

Click here to Mouth off !


Night at the Oasis

By Tony Morris

The Topanga Chamber of Commerce hosted a special fund-raising event at the Mermaid Tavern on Saturday November 18th. A Night At The Oasis featured Middle Eastern dance choreographed, and produced by Melanie Kareem with a group of 20 superb dancers. Guests dressed up in Middle East attire and were entertained by Arabic drumming and music in a candlelit setting. Entering the Mermaid which had been transformed with 25 saris as a Bedouin tent, guests removed their shoes and were anointed with "sacred oil" after being escorted by "Three Wise Women."

According to Melanie Kareem, the dancers, most of whom were Topanga residents, had rehearsed for four months. Costumes were hand made by each dancer and some dancers had three costume changes. Solo dancers created their own choreography according to Kareem. The most spectacular dance of the evening was the "Candle Dance" which involved dancers holding candles in each hand as they danced in complete darkness.

The Chamber event was sold out by October 30th and over 120 participated in the festive atmosphere. Chamber president Dawn Simmons remarked that there "was a great ambiance with great food and everyone danced and danced ."

Click here to Mouth off !


Holiday Fun for Seniors

The holiday season is here. Families are gathering, the weather is changing and on Sunday, December 3 at 4:00 p.m. the Community House once again opens its doors to all seniors for a delightful evening of food, friendship, music and celebration. A traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings will be served. Voices will be raised in song and old friends and new will meet and greet one another as this canyon tradition continues.

Plans are being finalized as this paper goes to press. Opportunities abound for volunteers, as the Community House becomes a magical place when many hands come together to cook, serve, decorate and clean up. If you wish to join us in honoring the elders of our community just call 455-1980 and leave your name and number.

Seniors who wish to attend please call Lydia Frank at 455-1786 or leave a message for Linda Hinrichs on the Community House answer machine at 455-1980. Reservations would be greatly appreciated on or before Friday, December 1, to enable us to prepare our shopping lists and to be ready to greet our guests. So please mark your calendars, pick up the phone and call us to reserve your place at the table on Sunday, December 3 for the Annual Seniors Holiday Dinner at the Community House. Don't miss this incredible evening of fellowship, warmth and laughter.

Click here to Mouth off !


Carols & Cider for Children

By Linda Hinrichs

Are you going to be home for the holidays? Topanga families who will be in town on Sunday, December 17 are in for a treat. The Children's Holiday Party begins at 6:00 p.m. This annual event offers a cozy, magical, musical evening for one and all. It is co-sponsored by the Children's Corner and the Topanga Community Woman's Club. The tradition is building. Folks who attended in years past have been treated to tales of holidays from around the world, plays and crafts.

This year the evening will include listening to stories together on the rug, singing Christmas carols by the fireside, sipping warm apple cider and generally sharing a sense of family, community and holiday cheer. Plans are in the making and if you would like to volunteer to help with the festivities just call Linda Hinrichs at 455-2966.

Everyone is welcome to attend -- young and old, singles, couples and families. This is a great opportunity for everyone who loves caroling to come out and sing. Your desire to listen, to sing and to share the joy of the season with others is the only admission required. Hot cider and cookies will be provided. (Bakers we need your help! Bakers who wish to contribute a finger friendly desert please call Linda at 455-1980 so we may plan accordingly.) Each year we prepare gift bags with homemade goodies for a local shelter with the remaining treats. Won't you join us?

Be sure to mark your calendar for Sunday, December 17 at 6:00 p.m. Together we will create a magical evening to remember!

Click here to Mouth off !


It's the Date to Nominate

The Topanga Chamber of Commerce is soliciting nominations for the Business of the Year Award and the Citizen of the Year Award. We are seeking a business and a citizen who are deserving of public recognition for current and past contributions to our community.

Please forward your nominations and supporting information to the Chamber's Awards Committee Theatricum, P. O. Box 1222, Topanga, CA 90290 by December 15th, 2000. Please limit your selections to three nominees. The winner will be honored at The Chamber of Commerce Installation Dinner in January. Your nominations will be kept in strict confidence. If you have any questions, please call Ellen Geer, Chair, Awards Committee at 310 455-2322 or Committee member Gail Mc Donald at 310 455-2557.

Click here to Mouth off !


A Phantasmagoria of Holiday Traditions

The American Academy for Dance and Kindred Arts' Holiday Fantasy 2000 will present a celebration of the fantastical. The audience is invited to explore and expand the tapestry of the imagination by actively experiencing the treads of love, joy, spirit, mystery and harmony through the traditions of song and dance at the historic Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica. Pianist Natasha Rubin will play selections from Georges Bizet's Jeux d'Enfants.

Artistic Director and choreographer, Frank Bourman, is recognized as one of the finest teachers of ballet in this country and distinguished as a ballet master and principal dancer. The creative process in the rehearsals is an integral and developmental aspect of Mr. Bourman's work with the AADKA children during Children's Dance Workshop. Mr. Bourman explains how rehearsals and performances nourish and enhance the process of learning. The goal is for the student to metamorphosize, as technique becomes the invisible support system transformed into a visible aesthetic performance. Some of the dance performances included are The Green Roman Holiday Tableaux 'An Adventure off the Jar;' Beneath the Tree 'Imageries of Wonder Through the Eyes of Children' and Mardi Gras 'Mysteries of Another Time.'

Admission is free. The grand event is open to the public on Saturday, December 9, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and on Sunday, December 10 at 2 p.m., with a reception following. For reservations to AADKA's Presentation, please call (310) 656-8899. Seating is limited. Please call by 12/8/00. The Miles Memorial Playhouse is located at 1130 Lincoln Boulevard, in the city of Santa Monica. The nearest cross street is Wilshire Boulevard. We look forward to your attending!

Click here to Mouth off !