Boom Times at the Old Center

By Penny Taylor


"The report of my death was greatly exaggerated," wrote Mark Twain in 1857.

Likewise, speculation that the opening of Pine Tree Circle would be the end of the Center was greatly exaggerated. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Occupancy at the Center is full, and the Messenger has many new neighbors.

VOL.25 NO. 08
April 19 - May 2, 2001



The old center is booming. These folks represent the new blood at the old center.

One of the newest shops opening also happens to be my favorite. Topanga Tile, owned by Leslie Doolin and her sons Matthew and Paul, is the first shop you'll see as you enter the covered walkway across from the Market. I find myself smiling every time I look at their colorful tiles.

Leslie Doolin had originally opened a tile shop with the Andrews family. She and Rebecca Andrews set up Touchstone Tile, which is still here in the canyon. About three years later, Leslie began Topanga Tile.

Topanga Tile, the newest member of the old center, has its grand opening April 28th and 29th. It's owned by the Doolins--Mom Leslie and her sons Matt and Paul.

Leslie came to Topanga about 30 years ago from Australia, via Europe and New York City. Paul and Matthew are both painters and come to art naturally from their parents. Their father is artist James Doolin of Los Angeles. Paul studied art at Santa Cruz and Matt went to the UCLA Art School to study ceramics. Check out some of Paul's paintings that have been hanging in the Fernwood Market and you'll recognize scenes from Topanga.

Topanga Tile has been in business for about 15 years and does custom ceramic tile, murals of all kinds, cut-out tiles, hand painted tiles and mosaics. They recently completed a huge wall for a well-known theme park, and their work is known throughout the world, including Australia, Canada and Japan. Some of the work is done from architectural drawings, but some trips abroad are necessary. The Doolins take on all kinds of projects--pools, baths, kitchens, floors, fireplaces, fountains and vases. When time permits they do their own projects of special tables and vases. It was the colorful vases and planters that first caught my eye at their new store at the Center. On Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th,Topanga Tile will celebrate its grand opening. Stop by to admire and buy.

Karen Bovee's Ancient Echoes resounds with Middle Eastern atmosphere.


Right across the way is Karen Bovee's Ancient Echoes. With scarves, jewelry, pillows, ornaments and wardrobes from the Middle East, the Center is taking on an international flavor. Karen has lived in the Canyon her entire life and is the daughter of cinematographer John Penner. During my last visit to her shop she was busy putting together fabric pieces that had been created by the Elementary School children to adorn pillows for the recent Silent Auction, so for a taste of the exotic, sensual and colorful, it's an excellent place to shop.


Next door to Karen's Ancient Echoes is Amazon Watch. Atossa Soltani, Executive Director, Thomas Cavanagh, Operations Manager, and Kevin Koenig, Campaigns Coordinator, are just now returning from a needs assessment trip to Ecuador, where they have been visiting the villages and indigenous peoples to find out ways they can help communicate their needs and situation to the outside world.


Amazon Watch director Atossa Soltani meets with U'wa people of Colombia, who are protesting against Occidental Oil.

A non-profit organization, Amazon Watch teams up with environmental organizations and indigenous communities to protect the environment and people from the encroachment of outside industrial development that has come to the rain forest along what they call "export corridors."

The Amazon Basin is the world's largest tropical rain forest, and the uncontrolled mega-industrial projects threaten rare species, the indigenous communities and the rain forest itself. Amazon Watch helps local peoples with technical, financial, legal and public relations support for fighting these projects. The recent trip was to visit different communities and find out what they need in the way of fax machines, computer education, and other ways to help them communicate with the outside world, which may otherwise overlook them in the far reaches of the rain forest. China is high profile right now--a small Indian tribe about to lose their home to mining and deforestation is not. You can learn more about Amazon Watch online at or contact them at Helping at the office while the others are in the rain forest are Rebecca Belletto, who works on campaigns, and Violeta Villacorta, Executive Assistant. The telephone number is (310) 455-0617.


Suncoast Mortgage men with their mutts. L to R: Mark Gleason with Casey, Mike Gleason with Aspen, Curtis Hein with Gypsy and Mike Demattia with Smokey.

Another newcomer to the Center is Suncoast Mortgage. Suncoast arranges financing for the purchase of your new home, or refinancing for the shack or palace you currently own.

Owner-Broker Curtis Hein is an old-timer from Topanga. Not that he's old, but he got an early start in Topanga, as can be witnessed by checking out his picture with his pony when he was two years old and living at Trippet Ranch that appeared in the last issue of the Messenger. The man knows Topanga. His mother--long-time Topanga resident, Judy Hein--is a realtor, so he knew the ins and outs of the business long before he went away to school.

They say small towns die because the youth grow up and move on, but Curtis is Topanga through and through and decided to start his business here.

His partners moved to Topanga last year and fit in just fine. Michael and Mark Gleason are brothers from Michigan. They met Curtis while working for another mortgage company and the three decided to go into business together.

Loan Officer Mike Demattia is from Thousand Oaks. Topanga resident, April LeVery, is Suncoast's newest loan officer on hand to help you.

Topanga residents Jackie Benson and John Dymer also work at Suncoast. You'll see Jackie running security for Topanga Days.

Some people say that Topanga has gone to the dogs and that's probably true if you walk into Suncoast. In frequent attendance at the office are Casey, a retired racing greyhound rescued by Mark; Gypsy and Smokey, pound puppies adopted by Curtis and Mike D.; and a Doberman, Aspen, adopted by Mike Gleason and his wife Stacey, who is a kindergarten teacher.

Since I also work for this group of slave drivers, I should put in a plug that interest rates are down and now is an excellent time to save money by refinancing. May Alan Greenspan become even more benevolent.

You can reach Suncoast at (310) 455-7993. They offer free quotes and loan officers are happy to meet with you at your home or office.


Next door to the Messenger office is Studio RMA. Architect Robert Mechielsen studied architecture and sculpture in Holland and then got a scholarship for the Beaux Arts in Paris when he was 21. After he graduated he started his own studio and began renovating old barns and farms in the South of France. Back then he used a sort of James Bond style with glass and polished concrete to modernize the buildings, while still keeping the main structure intact.

Today Robert's studio creates architectural concepts that include eco-tourism, residences, and restaurants. His work takes him to Hawaii, Thailand, Tahiti, Point Dume and Palos Verdes--all those exotic places.

He's currently working on a 30,000-square-foot center on the Big Island of Hawaii. What is unique about Robert's buildings is what he describes as "poetic form." Gone is the Hawaiian high-rise and plantation style building. Instead the shapes and angles of the roofs bring circulation into some areas, keep buffeting tradewinds out, while still maintaining an open atmosphere.

The same revolutionary but common sense concepts have been used on a residence he worked on in Palos Verdes where cool air is brought in underground and circulated through the center of the house. Also, panel openings near the ceiling let out hot air and more cool air is circulated from a shady area at the side of the house.

Working in Robert's studio are Agnes Smith, who manages the studio and public; Carol Estrada and Brian Krob, who both work on project management, and Abayneh Mikyes, another architect.

One important thing to understand is that, although the design concepts are eco-friendly, we're talking style and design here, not thatched huts with solar panels.

Upstairs and just across the walkway in the Center is another architect, Alfred Kemper, who has been designing residential homes.


Living Wellness, embodied by the booklet available at local stores outlining places for health products and holistic care, is also located upstairs in the Center. Human Dynamics is next door. Operated by Kim Long, Human Dynamics conducts seminars for corporations.

Quijibo the cat is really getting the treatment from the Animal Clinic of Topanga's crew. L to R: Nathalie Cordes, Dr. Holly Scoren, Susan Clark, Hali Maples and Dr. Janet Meyerhoff.

Across the way from the Messenger office is the Animal Clinic of Topanga. Vet Holly Scoren says the office will be open on Wednesdays during the summer months. In addition to vet assistants Nathalie Cordes and Susan Alice Clark, Dr. Scoren has a second vet, Janet Meyerhoff, who comes in on Fridays and every other Saturday.

Dr. Meyerhoff lives in the Valley, but I knew from the first time I ran into her that she's true Topanga material. A coyote had been hit by a car on Topanga Canyon Boulevard and left by the side of the road with a broken back. The coyote had been there for a half-hour before I came along, and I'd been waiting for Animal Control for another half-hour before Dr. Meyerhoff came along. She stopped, and went back to the office to get the injections needed to ease the coyote's pain.

As summer comes up snakes are coming out, and the Animal Clinic has anti-venom on hand for your four-legged friends. Dr. Scoren says that it's also advisable to get your dogs checked for heartworm. The test is easy, and then there are chewable tablets that can be given to prevent the occurrence of heartworm. The tablets also kill other parasites, so a worming is not necessary.

You can contact the Animal Clinic of Topanga at (310) 455-1330.


Frank Rocco stirs the pot at Rocco's Restaurant.

On the other end of the Center is Rocco's. There is not now, nor will there ever be, another Frank Rocco. I know the secret to the pizza dough, yet I have pledged I will not tell. Fine, healthy, tasty Italian food is now also available in Pacific Palisades--the Roccos have opened their second restaurant there, should you really find you need to get out of town.

Also in residence at the Center is 3-D Site, a company that does effects and animation for films. 3-D Site is owned by Daniel Calajacomo. He works with Kiara Calajacomo and James Beylik. James is an animator effects artist and Topanga local.


"This is a community market, so whatever the community demands, I want to provide the service. That's my goal." So says Mike Bae (Mr. Mike), owner of Topanga Creek General Store. Mr. Mike and his wife Young have been part owners of the market for five years, but took charge of it only 1 1/2 years ago, after the much-loved Mr. Moon retired.

Mr. Mike has been in the grocery business ever since he came to America in 1976. He'd been a librarian in Korea, and had heard you could strike it rich as a librarian in the United States. Obviously, he'd been misinformed. Soon after he arrived here he began working for his brother at his Manhattan Beach market. He started by mopping floors, and just a few years and a lot of hard work later, he rose to store manager. Then he realized the American dream and bought his own store--Glen Market in Bel Air.

Mr. Mike now divides his time between Glen Market and Topanga Creek General Store. Most of his days start with a 6:00 a.m. visit to the downtown produce markets. Then he checks in at Glen Market for the morning. By 1 p.m. or so he's in Topanga, where he works until closing. "Most people work 40 hours a week," says Mr. Mike. "I work almost double--80 hours. My wife is the same....She delivered our kid--three days before, she was working."

Asked if he is living the American dream, he says, "I'm very successful in America. I'm a lucky guy. I'm grateful for America."

Mr. Mike is helped by a fine support staff. He especially credits Oswaldo Lopez, his manager for the last 12 years, for the market's continued success. "He's like my right hand." Oswaldo came from Mexico at age 17, and Mr. Mike soon took him under his wing. "He's a very smart kid," Mr. Mike said. Oswaldo worked nights at first and went to school days to finish up, and finally came on full-time. When Oswaldo married, the Baes helped throw the wedding, since Oswaldo had little family in the U.S. Francisco, John, Rene, the two Carlos', Jose, Moon Lee and Sam Lee round out the fine staff.

Mr. Mike and Young Bae, owners of Topanga Creek General Store, stress service and fine produce.

Mr. Mike says he's tried to keep up Mr. Moon's fine tradition, and has even added more and better produce. "I want to offer as low a price as possible and good service."

The Baes have two kids--Lori at UC Santa Barbara and Glen (named for the market), a 10th grader. "I ask my kid, 'Do you want a store?' He says, 'No, thank you!'" Luckily, Mr. Mike is on the job. It's a big job, and thankfully we've got somebody to do it.


Slow Down Update

By Tony Morris

The Topanga Canyon Boulevard Traffic Committee met at Abuelita's on April 4th. Fred Feer of T-CEP said that Caltrans was planning an AM radio system for the Canyon which would provide updated information on conditions along the Boulevard from Pacific Coast Highway to Top O' Topanga.

In response to a discussion of speeding through the center of town, Officer Kevin Pack of the West Valley California Highway Patrol (CHP) said that the CHP's deployment of a portable radar unit at a number of locations on the Boulevard revealed that "speed did not appear to be a problem." Pat Mac Neil of T-CEP (Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedenss) said that the issue of speed "is up for debate" and that "speeding is a problem on sections of the Boulevard," especially on the straight sections of the roadway.

Committee members reviewed with Caltrans representatives a number of suggested changes covering left- and right-hand turns, as well as signage along the Boulevard. Some members were concerned that drivers were routinely ignoring the double yellow "no passing" striping on the roadway. CHP representatives present said that drivers can telephone the West Valley CHP office if they witness other drivers violating the law. Information on the license plate, time of day, location and vehicle description will be required for CHP to issue a warning letter. West Valley CHP can be reached at (818) 888-0980.

A special parking sub-committee will be formed to address the issue of parking in the center of town and along the Boulevard. A meeting was planned for April 18th at Mimosa.

With the Traffic Sub-Committee's work comes a need to produce results. Laurie Newman, Senior Field Deputy for State Senator Sheila Kuehl, asked sub-committee members to "think about how to proceed with items" which have been discussed during the Phase I (School Road to the Topanga Lumber Yard) study of the Boulevard. She said that the sub-committee should come up with "recommendations to the main committee."

A number of participants in this process of participatory democracy believe they should press for quick action on key proposals under discussion and tangible results for items such as the "Slow Down Thru Town" signage north of School Road and south of the Lumber Yard.

The next meeting of the Traffic Committee will be at 9:30 a.m. on May 9th at Abuelita's.


A Call to Alums

By Jillian Palethorpe

We learned well in the Co-op preschool--how to share, how to use our words when we were angry, how to work together cooperatively--and that was just the parents. For our family it's been eight years since we were at Jake's first school, but the lessons we learned there will stay with us forever. And now it's time to put what we learned back into that first school. The Topanga Philharmonic Orchestra takes place on April 28th this year, and the little ones at the Topanga Co-op Preschool need the help of their older Co-op brothers and sisters and their Co-op parents--their alumni. Kim Potts and I will be calling you (if we haven't already), but don't wait to hear from us. We need potluck dishes for the musicians' lunch. We need baked goods for the Food Booth. We need dads and older alums to do a couple of hours as security along the Theatricum's perimeter. We need strong alums to help with lifting and loading and hanging for a couple of hours in the morning set-up. We need clean-up crews. All of this qualifies as community service, so don't let the fact that your able-bodied teenager didn't attend the Co-op Preschool prevent him or her showing up to volunteer. Call me at (310) 455-3744 or Kim at (310) 455-1974 and let us know how you can help.


Trekker Finds True Topanga Hospitality


Yedvart Tchakerian (right) welcomes hobo on horseback Dane Hartwell to his ranch.

By Tony Morris

Motorists driving south on Topanga Canyon Boulevard recently were surprised by the sight of a horse and rider leading two pack horses along the Boulevard. The rider on the lead horse didn't appear to be a cowboy--no six-gallon hat and western boots--this horseman wore a black bicycle safety helmet with a miner's lamp, a two-toned blue off-road motorcycle suit and knee-high leather boots. The two pack horses carried rectangular storage containers and canvas duffelbags, each fitted with solar panels and yellow caution lights. Triangular orange-colored caution reflectors were attached to the storage containers.

Riding throughout the West for the past eight years, 37-year-old cowboy Dane Hartwell--part-time construction worker, writer and handyman from Roundup, Montana--was on his way to Mexico. After passing through Ojai, Malibu and Agoura, Hartwell stopped to rest in the parking lot of the El Camino Coffeeshop in Calabasas. His horses drew the attention of passersby, and among them was Jennifer Davidson--wife of Messenger founder Merrick Davidson--who suggested Hartwell head for Topanga where he could hook up with her good friend who had a horse ranch. And so it was that Hartwell met Yedvart Tchakerian.

A horseman for more than 25 years, Tchakerian welcomed Hartwell and his horses to Topanga. Valerosa, a seven-year-old Peruvian Paso gelding; Little Wind, a 13-year-old mare, and her three-year-old daughter, Belknap needed a rest and immediately started grazing on lush spring grasses. Yedvart generously took Dane and his horses in for several days.

Hartwell said that he had planned to ride along dirt Mulholland towards Hollywood and was surprised to learn about Topanga. His welcome to the community was celebrated at California Trail restaurant as patrons introduced themselves and wanted to learn about his adventures.

Deciding to leave Montana in 1993, Hartwell and his wife Gretchen used all their assets to purchase horses, equipment and supplies to travel throughout the West. After seven years on the trail, Hartwell's wife decided she had to take a break when the couple entered California, so he's finishing his travels alone.

Outfitted with solar cells which power a laptop computer and charge batteries for a ham radio and short-wave receiver, Hartwell keeps in contact with family and friends. His website, posts articles on his adventures and he says that several schools around the country are now communicating with him via e-mail.

An accomplished blacksmith, Hartwell shoes his horses and has learned much about equine medicine since starting out as a cowhand for the Grand Creek Cattle company in Wyoming. As for the dangers of riding along trails in the Sierras, he says that he has had some close calls. He has ridden Valerosa to the top of Mount Whitney--14,495 feet. Hartwell says he had to "push" his mount over large boulders near the summit.

Pursuing a lifelong dream to see the Mann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, Hartwell rode from Topanga, camped out in Runyon Canyon Park, and stayed overnight in the stables of a Hollywood director. The following morning Hartwell and his three horses made it to the Chinese Theater where he took in the sights with hundreds of other tourists from around the world.


Topanga Days Next!

By Lisa Villasenor

The grass is green, flowers a bloom, spring is here and Topanga Days only a month away. The Community House is proud to be the home of the famous Topanga Days. We are celebrating its 28th anniversary this Memorial Day Weekend, May 26th, 27th and 28th--a tradition that continues to grow every year. It's a monumental task to put together this event, but with a lot of help from friends all around our community we seem to pull it off. Why do we do this year after year? To start, it is a Topanga tradition. Second, it is a fund-raiser for the Community House--Topanga Days is the primary source of income to keep its doors open and pay the taxes. The Community House is community owned, and 95% of its use is by the community of Topanga. We encourage all to get involved. There are a few dates left for Topanga Days Prep Meetings--May 2, 9 & 16, from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m and May 23, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. All meetings are held at the Community House in the Penny Room. Come join our team.

We need volunteers. Please call (310) 455-1980 and leave your name and phone number. Remember, if you work a shift you get in for free. We also encourage teens to sign up for community service hours. We have a job for everyone.

Weed Whackers Unite, it's a job for many hands. We will be cleaning up the grounds at the Community House May 12th and 13th around 9:00 a.m. Bring your heavy duty weed whacker and loping shears and help us get things cleaned up.

If you have any questions regarding Topanga Days give us a call at (310) 455-1980.


Firesafe Seminar Held

By Fred Feer

Los Angeles County firefighters, foresters, government personnel and Topanga Firesafe Committee, in the person of Vic Richards, and T-CEP (Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness) took part in a two-day vegetation management seminar sponsored by county, city, state and federal agencies together with more than a half-dozen commercial and professional associations.

Susan Nissman, field deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (and Topanga resident) addressed the group at the start to reinforce the Supervisor's commitment to preventive action against wildfire. Laura Plotkin, assistant to state Senator Sheila Kuehl was there to back up the message. Both women hoped this would be the first annual such meeting.

As the T-CEP person, I thought I would try to explain why this meeting is a big deal, especially for those of us living in Topanga Canyon. The wildfire-fighting community out there thinks and worries about us. Topanga's name arose in every presentation, if not as horrible example, then as cautionary tale for the future.

That is good news indeed. While the pros have been working on the problems of wildfire prevention for a long time, there has been a lag in the accumulation of hard science to back up--and sometimes correct--the accumulation of on-the-job, seat-of-the-pants skill firefighters, foresters and park managers have been using. What a civilian sees in a seminar like this is the beginnings of a real consensus around the value and means of controlling vegetation to reduce the severity of wildfire. The mere list of agencies presenting and sponsoring this seminar suggests that bureaucratic barriers and misunderstandings are coming down.

There is no way to eliminate the occurrence of fire, but it is possible to reduce the risk to life and property. And now, knowledge underlying the means of achieving the goal is beginning to pile up and show the promise of leading to reliable tools.

Deliberate burns of excess vegetation have always been resisted by residents for many reasons--romantic as well as fear-based--because past efforts have escaped--think Los Alamos 2000--or have failed to achieve hoped-for results. It takes years from the time a proposal is put forward to actual implementation. Uncontrolled fires can start in the meantime. With more reliable tools for determining when, where and what kinds of brush to burn, one can hope this delay will be progressively reduced.

With sufficient reduction one can hope that the ideal of a regular program of vegetation management using burning, crushing, selective clearing, planting and clearing of exotic species might be approached. With the development of reliable tools and public education, the time may come when the risk of wildfires like the 1993 Old Topanga Canyon fire--almost 18,000 acres burned, some 400 homes destroyed, three people killed and a score injured--will have been reduced to the point where "Fairplan" will have become a matter of nostalgic memory.

The bad news is that success is a long way off. There is no substitute in the short run for brush clearance and regular self-inspection of our own homes for vulnerabilities--maintenance of a defensible space around the home itself, plugging gaps where embers might lodge around roofs, in corners and vents, and preparing the family emergency plan by discussing it and involving everyone.

One of the scientists addressing the seminar recalled the time when she faced having to evacuate. She opened a shopping bag and gave it to her eight-year-old daughter telling her to go to her room and put a few of her favorite things in it. Some time later, noticing that her daughter had not reappeared, the lady went to the girl's room. She found her in the middle of her room, holding the bag, in tears. "My room is so big and the bag so small I can't think what to put in it." The alternatives in such a case are to lose still more time or increase the trauma to a child of leaving everything behind. A few minutes has been the margin between living and dying for more than a few.


A Cautionary Crash


Captain Mike Johnson (left) and CHP officer Ron Cohen view the remains of a 1995 Honda, smashed near the Post Office.

By Tony Morris

Two vehicles collided on the Boulevard in front of the Post Office late in the afternoon on April 9 just as rush hour commuters were on their way home. A 1999 Oldsmobile sedan attempting to turn left out of the north exit of the Topanga Center was struck by a southbound 1995 Honda sedan. Both drivers said they did not see each other. Damage to both vehicles was extensive and the vehicles could not be driven. Traffic on the Boulevard was slowed as Los Angeles County Fire Department's Station 69 personnel responded to the accident. The driver of the Honda sedan, whose air bag was deployed, was observed by paramedics and did not require emergency treatment. She was driving to work in Topanga when the accident occurred.

Once again the danger of the Boulevard at the intersection of the Post Office parking area and where vehicles exit Topanga Center was underscored. Driving along this section of the Boulevard requires constant attention for vehicles entering and exiting locations. Drivers are at risk, with too many distractions which too often lead to accidents. The Topanga Canyon Boulevard Traffic Committee is currently addressing conditions along the Boulevard. This accident should prompt the committee to look for workable, common sense solutions to a problem which can only become worse when summer traffic returns to Topanga.


Sprint to Come to the Canyon

By Susan Chasen

Topanga now has until May 9 to review Sprint PCS' proposed wireless equipment and power cabinet installations along Topanga Canyon Boulevard. A hearing before the County Regional Planning Commission scheduled for April 4 was continued at Sprint's request to allow the company time to meet with the Topanga community and address local concerns about the project.

The company is now seeking a conditional use permit from Regional Planning and a "negative declaration" indicating the project will have no significant environmental impacts. County planning staff has recommended approval.

The proposal includes 10 sites along Topanga Canyon Boulevard from the coast to Mulholland Drive. Two of the sites are in the city of Los Angeles and eight are in the unincorporated County. Of the County's eight sites, seven involve existing poles. One new pole is proposed south of Fernwood.

Before the April hearing, the Regional Planning Commission received letters from the Topanga Association for a Scenic Community (TASC) and the Santa Monica Mountains Resource Conservation District (RCDSMM) raising concerns about the added clutter as well as possible environmental impacts.

Also, two local business owners--Cathy Bilsky of Angelite Om Inc. and Victoria Norwood of Topanga Hauling--sent letters and showed up for the hearing to object to site #4 at 159 1/2 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard, because installation and monthly maintenance would create access problems for their businesses.


TASC chair Roger Pugliese said TASC and Topanga Town Council intend to arrange a community meeting with Sprint's representatives to review the project. "This is a bigger deal than people think it is," said Pugliese. "They've gotten in touch with TASC, and we're very happy that Sprint wants to meet with the community. We would encourage involvement from as many people as possible."

In TASC's letter to the Regional Planning Commission, Pugliese raises concerns about clutter from the proliferation of these devices. He also asked for analysis of potential impacts on sensitive biological resources and riparian habitat, and of erosion-causing clearance practices around telephone poles and the ground-based power cabinets. The project calls for micro-cell boxes measuring 36"x19"x11" in size, and antennas to be mounted on each pole. Adjoining each pole will be a power distribution cabinet that is just under four feet high and three feet wide. The power distribution cabinets are mounted on concrete pads ranging in size from 15- to 19-square-feet. They are primarily intended to provide back-up electricity. At site #6, just south of Fernwood, a 24-square-foot concrete pad is proposed to accommodate both a power cabinet and a slightly larger "microhut."


Just after the scheduled April hearing, Sprint retained government relations consultants Morey/Seymour and Associates to present the project to interested Topangans.

Seymour said his company, which has worked on hundreds of similar projects, will provide photo simulations and is willing to meet in Topanga more than once. However, he said he does want to move quickly because of the May hearing. "We're hoping that we can do what we need to do in 30 days," said Seymour on April 6.

Cathy Bilsky said Sprint representatives were very accommodating and agreed to move the equipment that would have been a problem for her crystals business and for Topanga Hauling as well. They have agreed to relocate site #4 to the other side of the street. "They were wonderful," said Bilsky. "We'll have to see whether they follow up."


As it turns out, Bilsky may have done the company a favor in raising objections.

She said another company's wireless equipment near her shop has almost never worked and the company has spent $150,000 trying to figure out why on rare occasions it does work. She says the contractors have learned, "You can't put it above a crystal store."

While Bilsky is relieved that her immediate concerns have been addressed, she has general concerns as well. "It's all so people can drive through the Canyon talking on their cell phones," said Bilsky. "As far as I'm concerned, I don't have a cell phone and people shouldn't be driving with cell phones to begin with."

With the new installations, Sprint PCS is seeking to upgrade its system to provide much more capacity for cell phone users as well as wireless computer users.

The County began drafting a Wireless Telecommunications Ordinance in 1997. Last July, the Regional Planning Commission returned the draft ordinance to staff for minor revisions, according to Leonard Erlanger. But he could not predict when the measure would return to the Commission.

Erlanger said the ordinance attempts to accommodate very small projects without requiring conditional use permits and generally ties the level of regulation to the size of the project.

Provisions in the ordinance require compatibility of the project with the surrounding community; prompt removal of graffiti; inventorying of other wireless equipment in the area; notification to neighbors of the project; mitigation of safety hazards and visual impacts, and that cumulative radio-frequency and electro-magnetic radiation fall within federal standards for human exposure.

Generally, "co-location" of equipment onto the same poles is encouraged as long as combined emissions are within federal standards. Early on in drafting the ordinance Supervisor Michael Antonovich sought to ban wireless facilities in residential zones out of concern for potential health effects. But he was subsequently advised by the County planning director that the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 forbids consideration of health effects.

Instead it was decided to require conditional use permits which give the County the opportunity to consider land-use and aesthetic concerns.


Chicken Sign Stolen

By Michele Johnson

Believe it or not, since the last issue of the Messenger, the Chicken Crossing sign put up by the firefighters at Station 69, as featured in Candid Canyon, has been stolen. On Sunday, April 8, a man driving a silver imported car was seen driving away with it. The witness also reported a partial license plate.

And, says B-shift Captain Rick Pfeiffer, just two days later, one of their chickens was run over and killed. How many chickens do they have? "We have six now," said Pfeiffer ruefully. "I can't believe people are that petty," he added. Pfeiffer says the sign can be returned to the fire station, no questions asked.

Meanwhile, long-time Topangans Frank and Mike Kelly just happen to have a chicken-crossing sign they will donate to the Station 69. The sign was given to Frank by his daughter in Missouri. "We had a couple of chickens until the neighborhood dogs decided they wanted chicken dinner," said Mike. She thinks Frank's daughter will be glad the sign is back in use. So go on chickens, cross that road to get to the other side.


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