News

Tuna Caught in Net of Development

ILLUSTRATION BY BECKY NYGARD

VOL.25 NO. 06
March 22 - April 4, 2001

NEWS INDEX:

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By Susan Chasen

The fight to save Upper Tuna Canyon from development suffered three devastating blows at the February meeting of the California Coastal Commission with the approval of two houses with associated structures as well as a water well and large holding tank for a third house which was previously approved.

Leaders from TASC and the Tuna United Neighborhood Association (TUNA) who have been fighting to save one of the last major undeveloped watersheds in the Santa Monica Mountains believe they have reached the end of their options after five years making their case. Now their only hope appears to be acquisition of the property by a public or private conservancy.

"Tuna Canyon is going down unless we can get help from our elected representatives to get it purchased," said Kay Austen of TUNA. "The only solution is for these properties to be bought."

At this point, help is needed from the whole Topanga community, said Austen. "We need an all-out effort."

According to Austen, these three houses are only the beginning for the developers of Tuna Canyon. They will be used to justify approval of up to 16 houses on the approximately 45-acre subdivision in upper Tuna Canyon, complete with road, water and utility extensions into previously untouched areas.

Because the subdivision, located south of Sabina Drive, was created in the 1960s and predates passage of broader environmental review requirements, all this can happen without an environmental impact report on the project as a whole.

If these houses are built, they will be forcing a revival of outdated land-use policies over an area that numerous more recent studies have shown to be environmentally important. The property is within the County-designated Tuna Canyon Significant Watershed which has provided critical undisturbed habitat and a year-round water supply from Tuna and Pena creeks for local wildlife as well as for migrating song birds and waterfowl.

While Coastal Commission staff included findings on cumulative impacts, opponents contend that they don't cover the full extent of impacts on the Tuna Canyon watershed, wildlife corridors and habitat, or Fernwood roads, traffic and fire evacuation safety.

In fact, on the question of fire hazard, the Coastal Commission permit is conditioned on the applicants signing a wildfire waiver of liability that holds the Commission harmless if the properties burn.

Also, opponents contend that provisions against growth-inducing development have been ignored with approval of new road and waterline extensions. The owner of an adjoining 80-acre property is already believed to be interested in developing, according to Austen.

All told, Austen foresees a minimum of 24 mini-mansions and guest houses with pools and spas, grading for roads and site preparation, vegetation clearance requirements, septic systems and more groundwater-depleting wells if the Coastal Commission continues down its current course.

"We're not sure why we're not being listened to," said Austen. "We're fighting the developers and the Coastal Commission. If it were one or the other we might be winning. But we're up against both and we're losing."

THE RULING

On February 13, the Coastal Commission approved the application of Gerald and Shirley Sayles to build a 4,500 square-foot house on West Betton Drive with a three-car garage, a pool and a spa. On February 15, the commission approved Marian Olson's similar plans for a house just under 4,000 square feet on Fabuco Road with a pool and a four-car garage.

Also, Austen requested that a permit previously awarded to a third builder-Mark Jason-for a well and an 8,000 gallon underground water tank be revoked on grounds that data in his approved application was inaccurate. Her request, which focused on groundwater depletion, was denied. Jason already had Commission approval for a house.

While Sayles is planning a nearly half-mile water main extension from Tuna Canyon Road, Jason is planning a well and so is a fourth applicant whose project is expected to go before the Coastal Commission this summer.

According to Austen, it is possible that others will ultimately choose to use wells rather than pay the cost of participating in the water line extension, so the cumulative impact on the water table is unknown.

The property owners seeking to build contend that their opponents in TUNA are motivated by self-interest and are simply trying to protect their own views and privacy. TUNA's environmental arguments, they say, are often hypocritical in light of the way some have used their own properties, for example, with regard to fencing, extensive non-native landscaping and equestrian impacts on streams.

"I have mine, but you can't have yours. That's the syndrome," said Mark Jason of Malibu who bought his property in 1977.

"They have no respect for people's property rights," said Jason. "Finally, the Coastal Commission had enough."

At this point, Jason said, he has submitted plans to the county and intends to build.

"As of right now, I've never seen an offer and I don't want to sell my property," said Jason.

After a bitter five-year battle that included vandalism to his property, Jason said he's not sure whether he and his wife will live there.

"I really don't like my neighbors," said Jason.

Similarly, Don Schmitz, a Malibu development consultant, said his clients Sayles and Olson will likely move forward toward building after they catch their breath from making it over this hurdle.

"The mean-spiritedness of the neighbors has really been a bitter pill," said Schmitz. "I don't know if they will still want to live there."

Schmitz also accused the opponents of disingenuousness and defended his clients' projects.

"Short of taking the property, which is illegal and unconstitutional, this is really the minimum you would expect to see on a property like this," said Schmitz.

According to Schmitz, who is a former Coastal Commission staff member, the two houses are "very sensitively designed." He notes that they don't have tennis courts, gazebos, equestrian rings, barns or storage buildings which are becoming typical for homes in the area. Because of future improvement restrictions on the permit, Schmitz said, these kinds of amenities would require separate Coastal Commission approval.

"We were pleased that the Commission approved the projects. It's been a long and very expensive process for these people."

At the February 13 hearing before the Coastal Commission three hours away in San Luis Obispo, Austen and two others, including an attorney representing TUNA, argued against approval of the Sayles house. But the Commission voted 6 to 5 to approve it.

Two days later, on the third day of its February meeting, the Commission voted 10 to 2 to approve Marian Olson's plans.

Coastal Commission chair Sara Wan said even though she voted against approval of the permits as a matter of conscience, there are several historical factors which made approval virtually inevitable. The disparity in the votes, she explained, simply resulted from commissioners recognizing that if the first was approved there was no basis for denying the second.

"In my opinion the development is inappropriate," said Wan, a Malibu resident and public member appointee to the Commission.

"I think it's terrible. That was a pristine area that is now going to be destroyed....It's a shame, but this is really a direct result of a number of things that have happened over the years."

Specifically, Wan said, the area should have been designated an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area, or ESHA, in the Los Angeles County's land use plan as was recommended in biological studies at the time it was drafted.

Instead, the "ESHA" designation, which would have prohibited residential development, was defined more narrowly to include only the riparian vegetation along Tuna and Pena creeks. The current properties, which are less than a tenth of a mile from designated ESHAs, are located within the Tuna Canyon Significant Watershed.

As a "significant watershed," new development is supposed to occur only in proximity to existing roads, services and other houses, but it hasn't worked out that way.

A county provision against urban sprawl that sounds like it limits new roads in the area to 300 feet from an existing road hasn't held up well in court where distinctions between new roads and driveways have been subject to differing interpretations.

COASTAL FEARS LAWSUITS

According to Wan, once the Coastal Commission lost in court in 1986 when a Tuna property owner named Kenneth Healing sued and won, the die was cast.

That case resulted in a $350,000 judgment against the state of California. Healing then sold his property to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for $250,000.

The case continues to influence the Coastal Commission.

Also, in 1996, TUNA and the Topanga Association for a Scenic Community (TASC) went to court over the Coastal Commission approval of a nearly 1,800 foot road to Mark Jason's property and lost. That road now being extended another 600 feet has literally paved the way for all 16 houses.

"They're going to approve all of them," said Tuna resident Vince Scipioni. "They're going to just do them one at a time."

Scipioni agrees that the Healing case was a turning point, however, he contends that Healing was funded by development interests.

"It was a ruse to cripple the Coastal Commission," said Scipioni.

Before that case, Scipioni said permit applications on the same properties were being denied. In the '70s, he said, the staff called the proposals "growth inducing" and recommended against approval.

Now, he said, the tone is just the opposite.

"The bent in the staff report is to approve the project, not to disapprove it," said Scipioni, and there's no mention of growth inducement.

"The only thing that affects the Coastal Commission's point of view is if they think they are going to be sued."

According to Scipioni, title reports suggest that a majority of the lots are owned or controlled by two people, making at least part of the project more like a development than just assorted individuals building houses to live in.

However, Coastal Commission staff planner James Johnson said it doesn't matter whether the applicants are developers or not. The permit, he said, is really going to a piece of land. He said the Coastal Commission staff has looked at cumulative impacts and that, with the approved conditions, the projects comply with the Coastal Act.

Nevertheless, Scipioni and others in TUNA and TASC have felt cheated out of a proper environmental review of the whole project. Indeed, the county's Environmental Review Board in 1996 found the project inconsistent with the county's Land Use Plan in numerous ways and suggested that an Environmental Impact Report might be necessary.

"It's development right within the watershed. It's not on the periphery of the watershed," said Scipioni.

Now with Coastal Commission approvals for homes that will sell for over $1 million, Scipioni says he fears the price of a buyout by a conservation agency will be too high.

Austen recognizes that there are already houses scattered along Tuna Canyon Road including her own, but these new roads and driveways, she says, go into the heart of upper Tuna Canyon and open it to sprawling development.

"That's why we fought so hard to stop it," said Austen.

TUNA AND TASC ON THE ROPES

TUNA and TASC have had some successes in court, but they have turned out to be shallow victories, said Austen. Most recently, permits for Sayles and Olson were thrown out last year over technical deficiencies such as not examining a no-site development alternative, but both were able to return to the Coastal Commission last month and win approval again.

"Coastal Commission staff said OK and put the headings in," said Austen. "It was complete lip service."

Austen and other opponents of the project contend that these houses are "spec" houses intended to turn a profit. That's why, she says it's especially painful to consider that the property owners might make as much selling to a conservancy as they stand to make from the costly development.

"I think it matters that they are destroying a canyon for profit," said Austen. "They don't have a God-given right to destroy this canyon. They do have a God-given right to be compensated. And we want them to be compensated."

Both the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Restoration Trust have expressed interest in acquiring the Tuna Canyon property, but the property owners have previously indicated that they would not be willing sellers.

Both Schmitz and Jason complain about moves by the Conservancy to prevent development of Tuna Canyon. Jason said after he was initially denied a permit by the Coastal Commission in 1986, before the Healing decision, that the Conservancy approached him with an offer of $20,000, which was less than he paid for the property.

Schmitz charged that the Conservancy staff had explicitly proposed a strategy of piecemeal acquisition to block access and devalue adjoining parcels so they could be acquired more cheaply. This was why the property owners announced at a Conservancy meeting in 1999 that they weren't interested in selling, he said.

Aside from the hope of acquisition, TUNA and TASC will continue to oppose the project as plans are submitted to the county for review. They are also seeking involvement from the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over damage to streams and possible impacts on protected species.

Also, neighboring property owners have threatened to go to court over easements the applicants have claimed through their properties which they allege were never granted. These conflicts could affect planned access and waterlines to the project sites.

TASC chair Roger Pugliese said he is disappointed by the Coastal Commission approvals.

"I'm very disheartened and not as hopeful as I once was," said Pugliese. "At this point it will take a miracle to protect it....We're at the end of the line. We need a hero."

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Sale of Lower Canyon on the Move!

By Susan Chasen

The proposed purchase of Lower Topanga Canyon for a major addition to Topanga State Park, extending it to the coast, moved an important step forward last week with the announcement that the American Land Conservancy (ALC) had agreed to exercise its option to buy the property.

Now, if California State Parks approves the new $43 million appraisal of the property, the sale may be completed sometime before the end of the year. The key requirement for ALC to complete its purchase is state approval of the purchase price. The ALC can then transfer it to State Parks.

The announcement by LAACO Ltd. which has owned the 1,659-acre property for over 75 years, came March 14, one day before its option agreement with the ALC was due to expire. The property extends from ridge to ridge, 2.5 miles from the coast to the boundary of Topanga State Park and stands to fulfill the original "mountains to the sea" vision of that park.

"LAACO is very optimistic, very excited," said Julie Benson, spokesperson for LAACO. "For the past 10 years, perhaps longer, we have been looking to make this public parkland. This is a step closer to making that a reality."

According to Benson, LAACO is confident that the state will accept the independent appraisal obtained by the ALC. LAACO's own appraisal was previously reported to be $65 million.

ALC president Harriet Burgess said this is a unique opportunity she has sought for more than a decade. "It's rare in any urban area-particularly in Los Angeles-to find such a large parcel of land that hasn't been carved up by development, especially by the beach," Burgess said. "We're just thrilled we have an opportunity to preserve this extraordinary property so that it can be enjoyed by current and future generations."

As for the timing of the transaction, a letter to tenants from LAACO vice president Fred Zepeda suggested only that escrow will close later this year. Benson said she could not provide any further details.

State Senator Sheila Kuehl said she was delighted at the progress toward purchase.

"I think it looks good. This was an absolutely necessary first step," said Kuehl. "I was really frustrated about the time that it was taking for the [American Land] Conservancy to be able to acquire it."

She suggested that the San Francisco based private non-profit ALC exercised its purchase option because the appraisal came in above the option price of perhaps $40 million or less.

Responding to the fact that the appraisal is higher than the $40 million budgeted for the purchase, Kuehl said, "The appraisal doesn't equal the sale price. The sale price has yet to be determined."

"There's a rumor that the Governor is using Prop 12 for electricity and that's not true," said Kuehl.

A major concern with this proposed parkland acquisition has been over how approximately 120 renting residents on the property and 12 businesses along the Pacific Coast Highway are going to be treated if the sale goes through.

According to Kuehl, the state is not allowed to take land with tenants on it. However, if LAACO is seeking to close escrow later this year, there may not be time to both meet state relocation requirements and have the property vacant. According to Benson, the ALC intends to transfer the property immediately to State Parks in back-to-back closings.

Residents of Lower Topanga, also known as the Rodeo Grounds, were initially shocked by LAACO's announcement. However, they hope the state's involvement now as the ultimate recipient of the property will bring the process into the open.

"The people around here are pretty unnerved right now," said Scott Dittrich, a 28-year resident of Lower Topanga. "But it brings the state into it, which we think is good."

Dittrich says the only choice is to negotiate an agreement and a time-line for residents to leave voluntarily because the state will not find comparable housing for relocation.

"This is the last affordable housing in Southern California along the coast," said Dittrich. "There is no comparable housing. It doesn't exist.

Bernt Capra, another long-term Rodeo Grounds resident, insists the state should not wipe out a community by taking a "felt pen and marking an area green."

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Watershed Study on Agenda at Topanga Tomorrow II

By Michele Johnson

On March 3, 20 dedicated people gave up their Saturday to join together at the Topanga Tomorrow II workshop, hosted by Bill Buerge at the historic Mermaid Tavern. Community members met with representatives of Caltrans, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Water Quality Control Board and other agencies to discuss and update the Topanga Creek Watershed Management Study. Biologist Rosi Dagit with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM) moderated the workshop, which continued the work begun by the Topanga Tomorrow workshop held last September 30. This workshop, like the last, was open to all. Heavyweights present included Susan Nissman, representing Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, new Chamber president Livia Salamon and RCDSMM board member David Gottlieb.

MAKE A NEW PLAN, STAN

The Watershed Management Study, completed in 1996, was intended to lay out a voluntary alternative to a draconian Floodway Ordinance that the County was threatening to impose on Topanga's watershed. The Floodway Ordinance, based on a 2,000 year flood scenario, would have placed cumbersome burdens on individual property owners and conversely, might have eventually required the channelization of some of Topanga Creek.

The alternative proposed by the Study stressed voluntary compliance and environmentally friendly best management practices (BMPs). It was meticulously prepared over four years by members of the Topanga Canyon Floodplain Management Citizen's Advisory Committee (TAC).

In 1998, the County once again tried to push through an extreme Floodplain Ordinance, but it was once again fought and defeated by Topanga activists with the assistance of County Supervisor, Zev Yaroslavsky.

But what happens if, one day, Topanga has a supervisor in office not as sympathetic to protection of the watershed and the rights of those living in it as Yaroslavsky? Against that day, Dagit pointed out, we need to press all agencies of the County to officially accept and adopt as many of the recommendations for dealing with the watershed as possible.

Also, Dagit pointed out, a new Local Coastal Plan (LCP) regulating land use by the County in the coastal zone is being prepared. "We need to be ready to have what we want incorporated into the LCP," said Dagit. The Watershed Management Study was never submitted in final form to the County. "The County wanted the document five years ago in 1996. It's now 2001."

With that end in sight, the group began to assess the recommendations made in the original Watershed Management Study, one by one.

SOME ITEMS MARKED "DONE"

Happily, several recommendations listed as ones "which could be implemented," can be moved into the "implemented" category. For example, the recommendation, "Compile annually a list of flood hazards and sites of potential slope failure" is being done by T-CEP in cooperation with the County and Caltrans.

The Watershed Committee recently completed another recommendation: "Distribute brochures with 'user friendly' information" on managing the watershed. "Living Lightly in the Watershed," a supplement to the Messenger's 455 directory, was recently mailed to everyone in the Canyon. It's chock full of useful tips, compiled by Woody Hastings, Andrew Rasmussen and Dan Irwin. Mary and Leigh Bloom of Topanga Mail and Message created the layout for no cost, and the Messenger printed it at cost.

As the day wore on, those assembled divided into two discussion groups to review each recommendation, updating and tweaking the language where it was needed. The work proceeded swiftly, and by the end of the day, 3/4 of the language had been agreed upon. On April 28, a third workshop will be held to finish the job. Meanwhile, Rosi will prepare a draft, making the corrections, cross-referencing connected items and pulling out all provisions that are OK as written. When the entire document is done, the changes will be circulated throughout the community for review and come up for a final vote at a Watershed meeting. It's hoped that the revised, updated study can be submitted to the County by the fall.

SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

Big news for the watershed. The Committee received a $92,000 grant to study steelhead trout in Topanga Creek. The contract is active in June, though real work must wait for next winter's rainy season. The grant pinpoints funds to hire an ichthyologist. Also, volunteers will be sought to map and fish the creek-though you'll need to throw back what you catch.

More good news. Another grant will fund a new position for an education specialist at the RCDSMM office. As the group reviewed the Watershed Study recommendations, several were earmarked as jobs that could be done by the new education coordinator.

Dagit reported that money is also being sought to take water quality to the next level of study. That is, to do genetic fingerprinting to categorize the pollutants at each trouble spot, so that residents can be specifically educated on what to do to improve water quality.

The workshop was adjourned at 3:00 and people went home to their cats, dogs, kids and roses. But the watershed, which could be defined this way-as all that is touched by a drop of water which falls at the summit of the Canyon-may be just a little safer.

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Caltrans Holds Community Meeting

By Tony Morris

Only a handful of people showed up when Caltrans held a public meeting at the Topanga Elementary School auditorium on February 27th to discuss elements of a project which will study the environmental effects of roadway activities along Topanga Canyon Boulevard from Pacific Coast Highway to the Top of Topanga. The Environmental Corridor Study will seek to develop Best Management Practices along the Boulevard in order to minimize activities that negatively impact environmental resources.

Caltrans officials from the Office of Maintenance and Environmental Planning introduced an aerial photographic composite of the entire community which had been prepared for the corridor study. Community residents present at the meeting asked Caltrans officials if the aerial composite could be donated to the community upon the completion of the study. Officials said that they would look into the possibility.

With such a small number of residents turning out for the meeting, the public comments segment of the meeting was focused on problem areas identified along the Boulevard. A number of residents said that large piles of dirt and rock had been repeatedly dumped along the Boulevard north of Pacific Coast Highway. Caltrans officials admitted that debris from road clearance projects had been routinely stockpiled in this area and the problem would be addressed.

Caltrans officials said that no herbicides are used for brush control in the canyon in order to minimize the impact on environmental resources. Pat Burke, proprietor of Pat's Topanga Grill, questioned why Caltrans could not spend enough money to get it right. Ron Kosinski, Chief Environmental Planner, said, "Our staff's goal is not to do a mediocre job."

Caltrans officials also said that they would seek to identify wildlife corridors along the Boulevard when asked why deer, bobcat and badger are routinely killed. Funding from the federal grant process may be available to study the problem.

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"Slow Down" on Fast Track

By Tony Morris

A Topanga Canyon Boulevard Traffic subcommittee meeting was held at Abuelita's restaurant on February 28th. Subcommittee members included representatives from the Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's office, State Senator Sheila Kuehl's office, Topanga Town Council, T-CEP, TASC and Slow Down Thru Town.

Sheik Moinuddin, Caltrans Senior Transportation Engineer, suggested that Caltrans create a 'master list' indicating signage along Topanga Canyon Boulevard which could be used to discuss the pros and cons at specific locations. Moinuddin said, "Caltrans will give feedback to the subcommittee regarding signage."

The location of existing crosswalks and the need for an additional crosswalk between Pine Tree Circle and Topanga Center was discussed. New crosswalk design and lighting, providing pedestrians with an added margin of safety, could be utilized.

Discussion of the design for signage to be installed north of School Road and south of Topanga Lumber was a major topic during the meeting. A proposed graphic for signage-Slow Down Thru Town/Radar Enforced-was presented to the subcommittee and is under review by Caltrans. A number of subcommittee members urged swift action on approval and fabrication of signs.

Caltrans' Moinuddin reminded those present that there is still a problem with ingress and egress on the Boulevard in the center of town. The subcommittee will also be studying conditions along the Boulevard from School Road to the Lumber Yard, School Road to the Top of Topanga, and the Lumber Yard to PCH.

CHP representatives advised the subcommittee that a radar trailer, shared with the CHP's Newhall station, will be available for use in Topanga starting in March.

The subcommittee's next meeting is scheduled for March 22nd at 3:00 p.m.

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WOLF Camp Puts Down Stakes


The WOLF pack: back row, left to right--Anne and Scott Ralston, Marisa Lopez, Julietta St. John, Greg "Tigger" Hosford. Front--Michael Reddish, Chris Brotzler, Meghan Walla-Murphy and their mascot Tasha.

By Susan Chasen

The recent announcement that a new summer camp is scheduled to open this summer on the old Camp Wildwood property may have come as a surprise to those who have heard that a bed and breakfast was planned for the site. But the current plans, aside from offering a new option for Topanga kids, may also be the community's best hope for eventual restoration of the large pool on the Wildwood property.

Wildwood's owner, longtime Topanga resident Randal Mariott, has leased the property to the Wilderness Outdoor Leadership Foundation, or WOLF, a non-profit corporation that designs custom outdoor education and confidence-building programs to meet the needs and interests of a wide variety of groups-from disadvantaged youth to corporate managers.

According to Mariott, one of her goals in leasing the property includes the possible restoration of the pool and some kind of public access arrangement. For almost 25 years, beginning in 1954, the pool was a daily destination in summertime for Topanga children.

"We figured this was a good program for children and it's putting good use to Wildwood," said Mariott. "This is something good for the community, particularly if we can manage to open the pool."

As it stands now, WOLF Adventures Summer Day Camp has a 2 1/2-year lease, but there are no plans to repair the pool for use this summer. Campers will make twice weekly trips to the beach and will play in swimming holes in the creek to cool off, according to Michael Reddish, WOLF director.

Reddish said it probably will not be possible for WOLF to raise funds to repair the pool without a longer term commitment. And that will depend on how successful the camp is, said Reddish.

"I would love to get the pool restored," said Reddish, "but it's going to take a lot of work to meet health and safety standards."

Initial estimates put the cost to repair the 50-year-old pool at about $100,000, Reddish said.

Currently, Mariott said she still envisions a "quiet and peaceful" bed and breakfast at Wildwood eventually, but has put her plans on hold for WOLF.

"I want to keep it very quiet and peaceful. I don't want to disrupt the community. I've lived here a long time. I want to maintain this beautiful community that is really the last outpost for this kind of lifestyle."

WOLF in turn is working hard to spruce up the 14-acre property-removing dead wood, cleaning out the creek, clearing fields and trails, building bridges and making repairs.

"The place needs a lot of work," said Reddish. "We're taking on a great expense to bring things up to standard."

While WOLF, founded in 1992, has been running outdoor programs including week-long residential programs for nearly 10 years, this is its first summer day camp venture.

The WOLF Adventures Summer Day Camp for children ages 6 to 13 will include six weeklong programs at $380 per week with a maximum of 50 children. Reddish said Topanga residents will get a discount of $20 which can be added to discounts running in advertisements in LA Parent and LA Family magazines. There will be additional discounts based on need. Also, transportation will be provided.

WOLF moved its headquarters to Topanga last summer. Reddish lives and works out of the big red barn just south of Froggy's, but no programs are run at that location. WOLF has a core staff of six, including Topangans Selim Sandoval and Connie Eberhart, but relies on about 35 specialists who are contracted for individual programs.

WOLF's programs, that combine outdoor education and adventure for fun as well as self-esteem and leadership development, have been offered to at-risk youth through a number of agencies. These programs are provided at many sites throughout California and are separate from the summer day camp plans, though the Wildwood site may be used at other times of the year.

One group of about 40 youths from the San Fernando Valley Volunteer Center has been helping to clean up the site, according to Reddish. These teen-agers completing community service requirements are trained by the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation to do trail building and related work, Reddish said. They were out for two weekends to help.

Since coming to Topanga, Reddish said WOLF has received support from many sources. He especially thanks the Theatricum Botanicum which held a benefit for WOLF; Topanga Lumber and Hardware; Pat Burke of Pat's Topanga Grill; the Community House Improvement Committee; Red Road Foundation-another Topanga-based non-profit working with children; and Wildworks.

"It seems like everybody in town really wants to see this thing go," said Reddish. WOLF Adventure Summer Day Camp will be sending out fliers to Topanga residents and will be participating at two upcoming camp fairs in Calabasas and Encino.

As for the long term future for the old Camp Wildwood, things may still be up in the air. But for now it seems that a new camp is putting down stakes.

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