Chamber Chooses Top Contributors of the Year
By Tony Morris
The Topanga Chamber of Commerce 53rd annual
Citizen and Business Contributor of the Year banquet was celebrated
at the Community House on Saturday, January 27th. Gail McDonald
Tune, organizer of the event, reported that 180 Topangans gathered
together for the annual celebration which was inaugurated in
1954. Topanga's own Wally High sang and played his guitar providing
entertainment for the capacity audience throughout the night.
PHOTOS BY KATIE DALSEMER
New Chamber officers
and friends: L to R Peter Norwood, Treasurer; Yolande Michaels,
Corresponding Secretary; Caren Ebert, board member; Livia Salamon,
President; Ron Denend, Vice President; Kathi Burke, Recording
Secretary; Gail McDonald Tune, board member; and Assemblyperson
For the whole story see the
current newsstand edition of the Messenger.
Pat Burke and Bill Buerge share top honors at Chamber Dinner.
Wally High once again rocks the room.
here to Mouth off !
Did the Earth Move For You Too?
PHOTO BY TONY MORRIS
MacNeil (third from left) and Fred Feer (in vest), chairs of
T-CEP, debrief volunteers at the recent earthquake drill.
By Penny Taylor
Walking into the chaos of the T-CEP Emergency
Operations Center (EOC), Saturday the 27th could have been comical
if it hadn't been for the newspaper headlines that same morning
reporting that at least 6,000 people had been killed and thousands
others were missing in the 7.9 earthquake that struck India the
previous day. The estimated death toll has since grown to over
10,000 with news reports of relief supplies and rescue workers
pouring into India. It is a grim reminder of the possibilities
Southern Californians face each day. Our buildings are better
built to withstand earthquakes, our populace is less dense than
India's 1 billion 14 million, but it remains to be seen what
will happen in the next earthquake, especially when we haven't
seen the likes of a 7.9.
Still, Topangans are an independent lot. A slide blocks off the
s-curves necessitating the closure of one lane and leaving traffic
open to only locals for six months and it's, "Yeah! All
right! We should have done this earlier!" So it's not surprising
that we would get together to prepare for all the eventualities
with the idea that we may be cut off and face major calamities
without outside assistance.
T-CEP's last drill was on a massive scale and based on a fast
moving fire. Sheriff's Deputies, CHP officers, Search and Rescue,
the Red Cross, Arson Watch and the various teams of T-CEP were
brought into play. Saturday's drill was on a much smaller scale,
centering mainly around the operations of the EOC, and not as
carefully choreographed as the previous drill.
Brad Davis let it be known that there was going to be an earthquake,
but other than that disaster scenarios were kept secret and the
usual managers of the EOC, Pat MacNeil and Fred Feer, were initially
cut out of the loop.
So what would seem like a simple drill, after the extensive practice
and size of the last exercise, was really a wakeup call of what
we would deal with if the team leaders weren't in the canyon
and less experienced volunteers stepped in. But then the point
was to give them the experience.
Initially the EOC was opened by Randy Neece of the Plans and
Intelligence Team (P&I) and Andrea Makshanoff, who would
be making her debut as the EOC Manager.
Opening the EOC is a by-the-book thing. First get in and turn
on all the ham radio receivers so that when operators come in
they can go straight to work. Calls are made to Susan Nissman
of Zev Yaroslavsky's office and the heads of T-CEP. Susan would
begin calling everyone on her list. The Sheriff's department
needs to be notified that the EOC is being opened.
On this day Randy was informed that Fred Feer was unavailable
and that Pat MacNeil was in Long Beach. (Yeah, right. I happen
to know for a fact that Pat had her feet up at home, happy in
the knowledge that for once she wouldn't be one of the first
ones in and the last to leave. Undoubtedly, the mother hen in
her was probably worrying about her brood at the EOC, but she
has to get over that.)
Lynn Sherman, the Hotline Supervisor was reportedly sick (I hope
not) and Carol Feer was called to head the hotline operators.
Lynn did put out the calls to bring in other hotline operators.
Terry Valente of the Disaster Response Team (DRT) showed up on
her own as did Buzz Tarlow, who runs the ham radios. They would
be followed shortly thereafter by Renee Gander who runs the radios
for Arson Watch and John Hollis and members of the P&I Team.
Deputy Peter Sanzone and Lieutenant Sabalone were there from
the Lost Hills Sheriff's station.
As in a real earthquake, volunteers are expected to deal with
any emergencies at their own homes first and then report to the
EOC when they can. This is one of the reasons for the extensive
need for volunteers who can fill team positions. If five people
are on a team, maybe only three can actually get to the EOC.
If the emergency is long term, volunteers need to work in shifts.
T-CEP is trying to get away from the early days when a person
was literally at the EOC for 24 hours at a time.
A PEEK AT P & I
Plans and Intelligence (P&I) is the
clearing house for information coming into the EOC from Arson
Watch, ham radio operators, the Sheriff's Department, Fire Department,
CHP, DRT members and hotline operators. They log the information,
time code it, map the location of the incident, determine its
urgency and pass on information to the EOC Manager and others
One of the best organized and tightest knit teams, they meet
every month and routinely have mini drills in Randy's living
room or at regular P&I meetings. They've spent a lot of time
developing 1, 2 and 3 person teams to deal with mapping, triage
and other aspects of any emergency.
Randy says, "It really takes three people in a perfect world,
but we know in reality that we may have two people and maybe
only one." This drill was a good opportunity to see how
P&I works as the hub of the ECO. He stated, "We started
really getting our functions going."
It seemed to be working fairly well when I arrived at the EOC
about 09:30 hours. (This 24 hour clock can get confusing for
some.) But the rest of the trailer had more of a spatial quality
A PRO AS PIO?
For this drill I was stepping in as Public
Information Officer (PIO). (This should not be confused with
Plans and Intelligence. In a crisis I struggle for both. And
in this position there's really not much I can do to mess things
up.) As the PIO I have this long list of responsibilities under
a job description that was outlined from another city's Public
Information Office and tailored for Topanga. In pulling out the
still unfinished document I was startled to see I'd started working
on it back in August of 1999.
To use Randy's phrase, "In a perfect world I'm supposed
to serve as a coordination point, ensure that the public within
affected areas receives 'complete, accurate and consistent information
about life safety procedures, public health advisories, relief
assistance programs and other vital information,' coordinate
media releases, develop, format and hold press conferences with
the EOC Director, maintain a positive relationship with the media
and supervise the information branch. There're two more pages
of Activation and Operational Phase GuidelinesIn your dreams.
Angela, as EOC Manager, was thrown into a situation where a massive
amount of information was being thrown at her with the speed
of a AK47 and disseminating it, let alone acting upon it, when
totally new to the position must have been an overwhelming sensation.
There was a fire reported at Rocco's,
a slide at Brookside Drive and a person was trapped with the
creek rising. A mobile home had slipped on Heathercliff and someone
was trapped there. There was a reported heart attack victim on
Walnut Trail and a slide on Grandview that had a third person
trapped. The DRT team member who went to investigate got trapped
as well. Old Canyon was closed north of Summit to Summit and
also near Mill Creek Stables, and Topanga Canyon Boulevard was
closed all the way from a slide at Amerigas to PCH, with numerous
slides in between and two power poles down, one of which had
live wires. There was another fire on Fernwood, part of a building
had collapsed at Topanga Elementary School. Dr. Roy had called
in from out of the canyon and said he was on his way and would
arrive at his office in Topanga and would be in within the hour
to treat victims. Communications with the Sheriff's Department
had been down, but was now active.
The stack of incident forms went on and I felt myself glad that
it was only a drill. I couldn't even find the sign-in sheet.
Joe Adams says I should always expect the worst and then be happy
when it doesn't happen. I'm working on it, Joe.
FRED-NOT ALL THERE
Fred Feer came in to keep an eye on things,
but since he wasn't technically supposed to be there everyone
pretty much ignored him and went on with their jobs. Slow on
the uptake, I didn't know he wasn't really there and started
throwing questions at him, which he answered even though he wasn't
really there and I found that to be a great help. (The answers,
not his absence.)
here to Mouth off !
Then Pat MacNeil and Fred showed up for real and everyone went
out for a pickup truck tailgate meeting for shift change. It
was a nice sunny afternoon and I tried to imagine doing it in
the rain. A real emergency doesn't wait for good weather.
In the meantime Gabrielle Lamerand was heading the Red Cross
Team over at the Community House. More of a meeting than a drill,
Topanga Red Cross Volunteers were getting together with people
representative of a variety of neighborhoods in Topanga, like
Greenleaf and Summit. They'd been invited to meet the Red Cross
volunteers, learn about the Red Cross presence, services and
capabilities in the canyon along with being given a chance to
talk about their concerns and get answers to questions. Over
60 people got together between 9 and 11 a.m. for a positive meeting
that brought up such ideas as Nurse First Aid Kits and 3-4 page
emergency booklets that could be given out in case of disaster.
It was a good morning, with volunteers learning new positions
and old-timers honing their skills. Practice, practice, practice.
Later everyone met at Abuelita's for a re-hash of the morning's
activities and to talk over what could have been done better.
Like Randy said, "I think Brad did a great job of organizing
it. Everyone got an awful lot from it."
If any of you are interested in joining T-CEP in any number of
capacities, please phone (310) 455-3000. There are T-CEP groups
located around the canyon with individual team phone numbers
you can call. Susan Alice Clark needs help on the Small Animal
Rescue Team and there's always a need for more hotline operators.
I could use people with transportation who can come in as backup
and post and distribute information around the canyon in a real
Remember, it's your canyon and in a catastrophic emergency help
from outside may be slow in coming. It won't be so bad if we
already know what we're going to do-can do for ourselves.
Watershed Committee on Tap
PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER
Winter rains fill
Topanga creek, viewed from teh bridge at Sassafras.
By Rosi Dagit and Michele Johnson
On Saturday, January 13, a busy Watershed
Committee meeting featured several key announcements. Dona Christianson
requested help mapping and eradicating invasive weeds, in particular
cape ivy, which is now in bloom. State Parks is also looking
for help and has a small budget to do eradication. Dona hopes
to start a Topanga Weed Warrior group. Call Dona at 455-2095
Susan Nissman, Senior Field Deputy for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky,
announced the formation of a Weed Management Area in L.A. County
to deal with invasive exotic weeds threatening to take over the
native vegetation, especially in the creek.
Dan Irwin, a Topanga graphic designer,
offered to design a logo for the Committee and has contributed
a camera ready layout for Living Lightly in the Watershed information
that will be included in the next 455 directory, published by
the Messenger. Information for the section was prepared
by Woody Hastings and Andrew Rasmussen.
Leigh and Mary Bloom will include the information in a brochure
for the Welcome To Topanga packet they provide to new families
in the Canyon, and Gary Meyer offered to make the information
available on TopangaOnline.
Catherine Tirr, a local painter and Julia Howell of the Howell-Green
Gallery announced that a percentage of the sales from Catherine's
work, shown at the gallery this Spring, will be donated to the
Woody Hastings announced that the Earth Day Committee is looking
for a location for their celebration. Call him with ideas at
Bernt Kapra, resident of the Rodeo Grounds at the mouth of Topanga
Creek spoke about the concerns of the renters in Lower Topanga
who would be impacted by the sale of the land by L.A. Athletic
Club to State Parks. He asked to be put on the March 15 meeting
agenda to present information gathered by residents regarding
Susan Nissman announced that the Topanga Boulevard Traffic Committee
was to have its first meeting on January 31. Glenn Bailey, Director
of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains
(RCSSMM), announced that there is a vacancy on the Board now
that Fran Pavley has moved to the Assembly. Contact Margo at
455-1030 for information about applying.
STUDYING THE STUDIES
The Water Quality study continues, including
sampling in the lagoon itself. Data after the October storm and
in November indicate that the watershed shows a few hot spots
(Entrado Road, behind Topanga Market, Falls Drive), but is overall
in good shape by the time the water reaches the bridge two miles
up from PCH. In the lagoon, bacteria counts were on the threshold
of safe contact.
The Sediment Study is in full swing. Erosion troughs are in place
and channel cross-sections are being measured following each
The Topanga Lagoon and Watershed Restoration Feasibility study
is also in progress. Historical aerial photos and maps are being
digitized into a GIS system so that changes over time can be
illustrated. The Hydrological Analysis RFP went out and proposals
were due in by mid-January. Those are being reviewed by 12 members
of the Technical and Landowners Advisory Committee, and a consultant
will be selected this month.
The Topanga Stream Team is measuring the flow during rains. Over
25 volunteers have been trained. Scott King and Dennis King have
installed stream gages on bridges for more accurate data collection.
The RCDSMM has submitted a grant proposal to the Department of
Conservation for a Topanga Watershed Coordinator position to
expand the education efforts of the Committee, provide organizational
support and be a liaison to the County Local Coastal Planning
The Prop 13 deadline was February 1 and Rosi Dagit will meet
with members of the County Watershed division to discuss possible
projects, including watershed planning, voluntary demonstration
sites for graywater systems (six residents have volunteered their
homes), demonstration of on-site drainage retention systems,
continued water quality monitoring and additional hydrologic
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Rabyn Blake suggested new ways to get Watershed
meeting times out to the public, including a phone tree and announcements
in local newsletters. The Committee agreed to set up the next
year's schedule of meetings, which will alternate weekday evenings
and Saturdays. The Committee also discussed holding a yearly
"State of the Watershed" meeting and inviting all community
organizations to participate.|
here to Mouth off !
There will be a special meeting to discuss the Draft Watershed
Management Study on Saturday, March 3, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00
p.m. at the Mermaid Tavern. A fee of $10 will be charged to cover
lunch from Pat's Grill and copying expenses, and folks are asked
to register in advance. Call the RCDSMM at 455-1030 to register.
The next regular meeting of the Watershed Committee will be on
Thursday, March 15, from 6-8 p.m. at Top O' Topanga Mobile Home
Lower Canyon Park on Hold
By Susan Chasen
The American Land Conservancy's option
to buy Lower Topanga Canyon is due to expire next month, but
the parties involved say they are still hoping to close the deal.
here to Mouth off !
"There's still nearly two months to go," said Julie
Benson, spokesperson for LAACO, which has owned the property
for 75 years. "The owners have faith that it will go through."
The option agreement, originally announced in January, 2000,
was later extended for 12 months to March 15, 2001 after voters
passed Proposition 12, the $2.1 billion parks bond initiative.
Subsequently, $40 million was allocated in the state budget for
purchase of the 1,655-acre property that would extend Topanga
State Park to the coast.
ALC project manager Jeff Stump said ALC is still pursuing the
acquisition, but he did not want to discuss specifics. "There
really isn't anything that I can report," said Stump. "We
haven't made a ton of progress. We're still plodding through
the appraisal process."
In the meantime, residents of Lower Topanga Canyon have endured
nearly a year of uncertainty, facing possible relocation as part
of the parkland deal, with still no answers in sight.
In an effort to bring the human impacts of the parkland deal
into focus, Bernt Capra, a 21-year Lower Topanga resident and
director of the acclaimed independent film "Mindwalk,"
will make a presentation about his community at the March 15
meeting of the Topanga Watershed Committee.
"Any land preservation that has in mind the eco-system has
to also deal with the people that are part of the eco-system,"
says Capra. "I want to make them aware that there are people
in the equation. The people should be part of every discussion."
Currently there are 52 households and about 120 people living
on the Lower Topanga property on month-to-month leases as well
as 12 businesses. Many Lower Topanga residents have been there
for two and three decades; some for over 50 years.
According to Capra, the current lack of consideration for the
residents contrasts with an attempt in the 1970s by State Parks
to acquire the property and tends to support their fears that
the ALC is not as sensitive to its obligations to the residents
as State Parks was.
His proof is a 40-page, water-logged relocation report from 1977
recently uncovered in a neighbor's old Volkswagen van. At that
time, residents received relocation questionnaires early in the
negotiations process. From there each case was treated individually
and relocation was to be phased in over a five-year period.
"It's a very thorough and fair procedure if they do it by
the book," said Capra. "None of these things happen
"No one will tell us where the deal stands right now. It's
already cruel and unusual punishment to proceed like this,"
said Capra. "The most fair thing is for State Parks to buy
and phase us out slowly."
The prospective purchase of the LAACO property, which extends
2.5 miles inland from Pacific Coast Highway, stands to become
a major addition to Topanga State Park in a three-way deal, with
ALC acquiring the property in order to transfer it to the California
Department of Parks and Recreation.
In addition, the acquisition is believed to provide for eventual
restoration of wetlands and the lagoon at the mouth of Topanga
Creek as well as to eliminate any threat of development on the
TASC has been watching the progress of the Lower Topanga acquisition
very closely, according to TASC chair Roger Pugliese, but has
so far not taken a position regarding relocation of the residents.
"TASC is in favor of the preservation of the land in Lower
Topanga and is opposed to any further development on that land,"
For residents, perhaps the most important goal is to establish
what the plan for the property is before they are forced to go.
The creation of a public park that would surely be heavily used
and restoration of wetlands--"those are really conflicting
goals," says Capra.
Capra would like to see consideration of historic preservation
of the Lower Topanga community added into the discussion, both
because it is an example of California "vernacular"
architecture, which is disappearing along the coast, and because
of its cultural significance in the history of Topanga and Malibu.
"A city should have pockets like this that enable a lifestyle
that's a little different from the norm," says Capra.
Anyone interested in helping to compile a history of Lower Topanga
can send an e-mail to Topanga90265@hotmail.com or send a FAX
here to Mouth off !
The figures for serious crimes in the Topanga area are
listed below for the month of December 2000, and include additional
details regarding residential, vehicle and business burglaries.
Vehicle (locked) 0
Grand ($400+) 0
Vehicle (unlocked) 0
Grand Theft Vehicle 0
A residential burglary occurred on Observation Drive resulting
in loss of U.S. currency and personal belongings. The suspect(s)
entered the location by smashing a window. The investigation