News

Field of Greens Takes on Davis & Co.

Peter Camejo is the Green Party candidate for governor.

By Woody Hastings

In one of the largest state Green Party meetings ever, about 175 party members from all over the state of California convened at UCLA from January 18 to 20 to discuss and vote on party business, participate in workshops, and, in the highlight of the weekend, nominate for the first time ever a full slate of candidates for state offices.

This was the first time the California Green Party has convened in Los Angeles since 1996, when Greens nominated Ralph Nader in his first "run" for U.S. president. By all accounts, the meeting was a thorough success for the party, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary of achieving ballot status in California in 1992.

VOL.26 NO. 3
February 7 - 20, 2002

NEWS INDEX:

The gubernatorial candidate, Peter Camejo, founder of one of the first socially and environmentally responsible investment firms, pointed out an irony that may help the Green campaign.

"I want everybody to know that the hardest working campaign worker we have promoting the Green Party is none other than our present governor, Gray Davis!" said Camejo to an enthusiastic crowd.

"There is no one who is making it clearer to the people of California why we need a Green Party, why we need an alternative. I have never seen a candidate win with such a large margin, who in only three years has alienated every base of his support, from labor to Latinos to African Americans, environmentalists and teachers--right across the whole state. Why is that? Because Governor Davis is the 'pay- to- play' governor. He responds to the corporate world and the people who have been funding his campaign."

Regarding the tens of millions of dollars in contributions that Gray Davis garnered before his first run, Camejo said:

"Every Californian should know, these are not contributions, these are investments. They [corporations] are buying access and they are buying control. This is an example of what is fundamentally wrong and why a party that represents people and not money is what is needed, and that is what the Green Party is."

Contrary to some who have said the elections of 2000 damaged the Green Party, Camejo pointed out that the Green Party has surpassed the Reform Party as the third largest party in the United States, and it is the fastest growing.

"We're doing this because the party, in recent years, has been having one success after another, running more candidates, winning more elections, registering people, and winning support throughout the nation," said Camejo. "We are running far more candidates this year than ever before in the history of the Green Party."

In addition to work on the board of Earth Share, helping to form the Environmental Justice Fund, working with the organic farming firm Earth Trade to make Nicaragua the world's largest producer of organic sesame, Camejo has a long and interesting activist background that includes marching in Selma, Alabama with Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Green Party candidate for lieutenant governor, Donna Warren is a "local" from South Central Los Angeles. For the last 10 years, Donna has supported human rights and social justice struggles in Los Angeles. As a coordinator of the initiative campaign to amend the "three strikes" law (which can require life sentences for a third felony conviction) she was instrumental in convincing Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley to change the policy of charging non-violent offenses as a third strike. Her work also helped produce overwhelming California voter approval of Proposition 36 which provides treatment alternatives to incarceration for first and second minor drug offenses.

Warren retired from the Department of Defense in June 1996, and from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in 2001. She is the President of the Kujichagulia Project, which means "self-determination" in Swahili, and is dedicated to raising funds for grassroots activities. Donna Warren's top issues include addressing California's energy needs, amending three strikes law, and ending America's "war on drugs."

The Green Party candidate for Insurance Commissioner, David I. Sheidlower, joked about being the only candidate in the insurance commission race who actually wants the job, and doesn't just see it as a stepping stone. He was even able to take a decidedly dry subject and make it compelling with a Green spin, pointing out that insurance giant Berkshire Hathaway "recently revealed [they have] become socialist."

"Nothing turns those free market types into socialists faster than losing money," said Sheidlower. Berkshire Hathaway estimates it will pay out around $2.2 billion in claims as a result of September 11. And so, in a recent letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, CEO Warren Buffett proposed the leftist notion that 'the only viable re-insurer for truly large-scale terrorism is the U.S. government.'" Sheidlower said giant insurers proposed that taxpayers pay $16 billion of the first $20 billion in losses and 90 percent of all losses over that. So, if a terrorist event caused $100 billion in damage, the industry would pay $12 billion and the taxpayers would pay the remaining $88 billion.

"That's socializing part of an industry--the part that loses the money," said Sheidlower. "But guess what they forgot to socialize? The profit part, the part that makes the money. The profits stay private.It is unabashed corporate welfare. In this campaign and, if we're lucky, in office, this is the kind of abuse of our government that we must call attention to and oppose."

For more information about the Green Party and the candidates, visit Green Party of California at www.cagreens.org or the Green Party of Los Angeles County at www.cagreens.org/lacounty or call (310) 449-1882.

Woody Hastings is a 19-year resident of Topanga, and an elected member of the Green Party County Council, of Los Angeles County. He can be reached at wwh2002@earthlink.net.

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State Parks' Plan Angers Lower Topanga Residents

PHOTO BY DAVID BLATTEL

Lower Topanga resident James Mathers questions plans for Lower Topanga State Park at meeting in Temescal Canyon.

By Susan Chasen

It would be hard to imagine a more bizarre public input process than State Parks' meeting January 24 on an Interim Plan for Lower Topanga in which the main purpose seemed to be to avoid the main issue.

State Parks' representative apparently would have been happy to talk for two hours about 10 to 15 parking spaces, a few picnic tables and trailheads. And questions about these modest plans for the new 1,659-acre park would have undoubtedly found earnest answers flowing freely.

However, there was an 800-pound gorilla in the room and it had something else on its mind: relocation.

The destruction of a long-standing community of over 100 people who live in some of the last affordable rental homes along the county's coastline is now only four and a half months away. These tenants of Lower Topanga still have no commitments from the state on how much relocation and rental assistance they will receive. A few who have already moved have yet to receive any financial assistance or compensation for their expenses.

Some residents are optimistic that their community has a strong case against relocation going forward by July 1. If the state is going to change its position, it will likely be decided soon because April 1 is the deadline for residents to receive 90-day notices of eviction.

When questioned about relocation issues, the answer was repeatedly "I don't know," from Clay Phillips, chief of State Parks Southern Service Center in San Diego, where the Interim Plan for Lower Topanga is being prepared.

Displacement of the 73 households on the property is never mentioned in State Parks' proposed plan. The language in the plan refers only to removal of "man made intrusions, fences, structures and debris."

And now, with humans presumed to be eliminated by July 1, some of the "man made intrusions" and "structures and debris," are starting to look more worthy to parks officials and others who are increasingly interested in appropriating the residents' homes for staff and ranger housing and other purposes.

About 50 people attended the evening meeting at Stewart Hall in Temescal Canyon Gateway Park. Probably 80 to 90 percent of them came to speak out against what they view as an unrealistic and illegal fast-track relocation process--an issue which State Parks, despite public promises to the contrary, has refused to put on the table.

Of course, these plans can change overnight, as they did for the 10 Lower Topanga businesses along Pacific Coast Highway, which suddenly were granted a two-year reprieve in December. But, if equal flexibility is not shown for the residents, who have lived on the site for decades, they warned the controversy is likely to end up in court.

"If it goes that way, it goes that way," conceded Phillips, who often found himself under attack throughout the evening for not having answers.

Residents tried not to make their complaints personal, but some were angry that Phillips, who has been hearing similar arguments now for months, has continued to serve as a shield for those who are aiming a wrecking ball at their community.

Phillips presented his team's preferred Interim Plan proposal which included only minor revisions to earlier plans drafted in December.

Its seven general goals include enhancing habitat and the public's "environmental experience" of the park, protecting natural, archaeological and historical resources and providing access and educational opportunities.

The sixth goal, to "Continue Responsible Stewardship in the Operation of Topanga State Park," calls for eliminating "all private residential use" which is deemed to be contrary to State Parks' mission.

The plan is estimated to cost from half a million to $1 million to implement. In February, an environmental impact report, which will not address impacts from eliminating the residents, will be released for a 45-day public comment period. State Parks' timetable calls for approval of the EIR and the Interim Plan in April.

Other specifics in the plan are 10 to 15 parking spaces and a few picnic tables on Old Malibu Road behind Wylie's Bait Shop; a few more picnic tables along the creek; four short trails within the lowest section of the property, including one to the top of the knoll behind the Malibu Feed Bin.

It also calls for use of eight of the 49 existing residential structures for park employees along with conversion of the historic Topanga Ranch Motel into offices for environmental groups and agencies and overnight educational programs such as Junior Lifeguards and other educational programs.

The 49 structures and motel units, some of which are large with outlying cottages, constitute 73 separate rental households. For now, draconian proposals for removing all non-native plants and trees--Eucalyptus, Palms, English Ivy, fruit trees and ornamentals--have been scrapped in favor of eradication, using mechanical methods, only of Arundo, Cape Ivy and Tree of Heaven.

Surprisingly, Phillips said the Reel Inn has been dropped from the list of identified historical resources on the property.

The Malibu Feed Bin, which traces its lineage back to the old Potter's Trading Post in the 1920s is still not regarded as a historic resource.

Several residents complained that State Parks is offering a choice between a "preferred plan" and the "only plan."

"A preferred plan would indicate alternatives," said Derek von Briesen. "I guess we're frustrated there are no alternative plans presented here."

Among the alternatives not examined in the plan are "co-use" options that could incorporate existing uses into the park, creating a model sustainable community, allowing residents to leave by attrition or gradually phasing out residents according to an incentive-based program.

Also, State Parks has not evaluated the elimination of scarce affordable housing in relation to other government policies protecting it.

Von Briesen also took issue with Phillips' remark that residents were given 11 to 12 months to relocate, since those who have left have received nothing and those who remain still don't know what to plan for.

"Without a relocation plan in place, you can't say that we've had that time," said von Briesen. "As it stands right now, there is no formally approved plan."

Residents contend that local vacancy rates are not high enough to absorb the entire community within a few months. They point out that even 25 years ago, State Parks expected relocation to take at least five years.

While much of the meeting was devoted to familiar, if still unanswered, arguments, there were also several new voices.

Jean Rosenfeld, a long-time environmental activist, criticized State Parks' insensitivity to the community's sacred attachment to Lower Topanga.

"I am astonished that the State of California did not do more preparation," said Rosenfeld. She proposed that State Parks look for creative solutions such as "co-use" which is done at a state park in Hawaii, before rushing residents out.

"These people are as much a part of the ecological balance as the parrots and the palm trees," Rosenfeld said later. "Land is not the same as money or as a plan....Home is a place we make sacred."

She proposed that an ombudsperson skilled in conflict resolution analysis be brought in.

She cited other examples, such as Anza Borrego State Park which encircles a private community, where parks and residents co-exist. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area itself, she said, is founded on co-use principles.

Lower Topanga resident Carol Winter, who has lived in Lower Topanga for 32 years, told Phillips she is willing to move, but State Parks is not doing its part.

"I have boxes and I'm ready to move," said Winter. "Some people are willing to work with you and are getting so frustrated. Even if we want to there's no follow through on your end."

Winter said she has spent many weekends house hunting, but without concrete answers from the state, she can't make any financial commitments. Instead, she said the state is still gathering information and coming up with new requests--most recently for pictures of her home.

"I teach full time. I am a hardworking person. I'm concerned about having time to move," said Winter. "Nobody has come through with anything."

Artist Norton Wisdom, who is a 25- year resident and long-time lifeguard, said he is wary of striking a relocation agreement with the state. He recounted his mother's experience being relocated by Caltrans on an "extreme emergency" project that still hasn't begun five years later.

What's more, he said, the state reneged on its agreement with her, cutting her compensation by two-thirds.

"They reinterpreted every issue she agreed to," said Wisdom.

Several voiced concern about fire, drugs, weapons, garbage and other harmful use of the property once the residents are gone.

"I think you're going to require a huge ranger presence," said 28-year resident Scott Dittrich. He noted that without the houses as a barrier, wildlife will end up going onto Topanga Canyon Boulevard with tragic results.

Phillips agreed that the property presents a challenge. He even added to Dittrich's point, noting that without the houses as a buffer the park also will be much noisier.

"It's a challenge to prevent ill or detrimental use," said Phillips of parks located near state highways. "But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have them in a natural condition."

Topangan Delmar Lathers took personal offense at the residents' complaints saying, "I feel like I'm being beat over the f***ing head" and he repeated charges that the residents are an environmental threat to the property.

Ultimately, his language created a minor scandal in the room and he was asked to step outside to cool off.

Another view from "upper" Topanga came from Tricia Watts, education coordinator for the Topanga Watershed Committee. She was upset that the residents' crisis was dominating the meeting so much that other ideas weren't being addressed.

"You've wasted all these meetings on this," she said.

She expressed alarm that the houses might be demolished when they could be used in other ways.

"Save some of this stuff for us," she said, proposing that the homes might be taken over for Topanga's use and her environmental education classes.

Assemblymember Fran Pavley sent a representative to the meeting to monitor the planning process.

"Fran is committed to a reasonable and fair process for the residents," said Mary Sue Maurer, Pavley's field representative.

Maurer said Pavley is concerned about the residents' frustration.

Bernt Capra, an outspoken leader in the residents' cause, said after the meeting that the plan should address State Parks' role as landlord.

"They can't just ignore the fact that they are landlords," said Capra. "We are there. They are in total denial that we exist. That's a big mistake."

State Parks' spokesperson Roy Stearns in Sacramento said department staff are concerned about the residents' complaints. He said they were working to complete the relocation plan within the next month and to make funds available perhaps even sooner.

"This should not be a hardship for them," said Stearns. "There is a strong desire to do lump sum payments to help the folks relocate."

He acknowledged that information for the relocation plan is still being compiled and verified, but said the difficulty in some cases stems from residents not providing information.

"We're trying to bend over backward to make sure we accommodate people honestly," said Stearn. "We are working to get the relocation plan adopted as soon as possible."

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State Fellowships Available for College Graduates

Applications for state government fellowships for college graduates are now being accepted.

Assemblywoman Fran Pavley announced the program which will give fellowship recipients first hand experience working in the four branches of California government.

The deadline to apply is February 27. The four fellowship programs include the Jesse Marvin Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program, the California Senate Associates Program, the Executive Fellowship Program and the Judicial Administration Fellow Program.

"These programs...are excellent opportunities for students or others interested in state government to gain firsthand knowledge of the four branches of state government," said Pavley.

Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree by October 2002, said Pavley. Fellowship recipients will receive a $1,882 monthly stipend and health benefits.

The Unruh Fellowship was founded in 1957 by the legendary former Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh and is the oldest and one of the most prestigious legislative fellowship programs in the nation, according to Pavley.

The Unruh Fellows spend 11 months working as staff to a legislative committee or as a personal staff member to an Assembly member in Sacramento. Their assignments include developing and researching legislative proposals, responding to constituent requests, analyzing bills and writing speeches and press releases.

The state Senate fellowships are similar to the Unruh program. Executive fellows work in offices throughout the executive branch and judicial fellows in the judicial administration.

All fellows receive graduate study credit from CSU Sacramento as well as attending graduate seminars at the state Capitol.

Applications are available at Pavley's district office at 6355 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Suite 205, in Woodland Hills, or by calling (818) 596-4141 or (310) 395-3414.

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Yaroslavsky Renews Support for Symphony

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has awarded $1,500 from his discretionary funds to the Topanga Symphony to support the Symphony's 2002 program of free concerts in the Canyon. Supervisor Yaroslavsky, who has attended concerts by the Topanga Symphony, has made several similar grants to the Topanga Symphony.

Symphony President Jack Smith said the Symphony's Board of Directors and musicians are most grateful to Yaroslavsky for his support. "This most welcome grant, along with the support of the Friends of the Topanga Symphony and the Topanga business community, will ensure that the program of free concerts will continue for another year," said Smith.

The Symphony's next concert will be on Sunday, March 10, at 3 p.m. at the Community House and will feature guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima.

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Kerry Lane Neighbors Fight for the Last Dirt Road

PHOTO BY ROB WELLS

Kerry Lane, off Observation Drive in Fernwood, is actually the county's last unpaved road in Topanga. Neighbors have fended off plans to pave. The county is now considering soil stabilizing additives.

By Dan Mazur

For Fernwood residents, Kerry Lane is one of the last nearby open-space areas in a densely-developed neighborhood: an undeveloped, country dirt road, perfect for hiking, walking dogs, riding horses and contemplating the year-round stream and native plants.

For the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, however, Kerry Lane, along with connecting Vulcan and Shuttle Lanes, represents a maintenance headache and erosion problem. Public Work's approach to solving this problem has been a cause of concern for local residents, who met recently with county officials to hear their plans.

The meeting took place on January 16 at the home of John and Susan McLaughlin on Observation Drive at the entrance to Kerry Lane. Public Works' Dean Lehman and Steve Sheridan presented the department's proposals to members of the Kerry Lane Protective Project (KLPP), as well as other concerned citizens. KLPP was formed last year, after neighbors learned that the County intended to pave dirt road loop that connect Observation Drive and Tuna Canyon Road.

Vehicle traffic on the roads is to be minimal. There are no homes or structures of any kind on the roads, nor do any residents use them for access.

The meeting--also attended by Susan Nissman, field deputy for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky--was the first presentation of the county's recommendations for "Kerry Lane et al." Seven alternative options were put forth to create a non-eroding surface for the roads and control runoff during heavy rains. Public Works contends that these solutions would "be aesthetically compatible to the rural environment."

According to Lehman, the Kerry/Shuttle/Vulcan Lane loop is the only remaining county-maintained dirt road in unincorporated Los Angeles County. This unique status, however, only increased residents' determination to preserve the loop's pristine character.

The problem being addressed by the new maintenance project is, called "sediment loading," according to the County, referring to the depositing of sediment run-off in the Topanga watershed during periods of heavy rain.

Lehman said that several times each year, after heavy rainfall, Public Works sends in truckloads of earth to grade the road back to a driveable condition. That dirt is in turn washed off by later rains, winding up as sediment in the watershed. Lehman and Sheridan estimated that a total 500 cubic yards of soil are trucked in and washed away each year.

Nissman explained that the trend in the county is toward awareness of environmental concerns such as watershed issues.

"We've been sensitizing our department for many years now and we're happy that they're noticing these things to do with watershed management," she said.

It was this concern for the environment that prompted the County's initial decision to pave the roads to halt the erosion, said Nissman. However, when those plans met with alarm by the surrounding residents, different options had to be explored.

"We want to keep it as natural-looking as possible," said Sheridan, "and you really wouldn't achieve that if you went with asphalt or concrete."

The "soft solution" favored by the county is to use a commercial soil stabilization product known as the "EMC Squared System." EMC Squared is a chemical compound which, when mixed with the soil of the roadway and compacted, binds to it and prevents erosion.

According to the county, EMC Squared is an "environmentally friendly" product that has been approved by the EPA and requires no special handling.

The estimated cost of the initial application is $300,000. However, the treatment would have to be repeated regularly, every six months to two years. Lehman and Sheridan were uncertain of the exact timing of the repeated treatments, or what the ongoing costs would be. Lehman estimated that they would be in the ballpark of the initial procedure.

The other element of the county's solution is to use "Uni-green Turfstone Pavers" to create a five-foot wide "soft swale" that would run along the up-slope side of the road for the entire length of Kerry, Shuttle and Vulcan lanes. According to Public Works, the swale pavers would "channelize any runoff and slow it down to provide erosion control."

The swale would consist of interlocking, cinder-block-like cells, with regular square openings through which, according to Public Works, "native vegetation would be planted."

Overall, residents had decidedly mixed feelings about county's proposals. "We're thrilled that the county has abandoned the idea of paving the road," said KLPP co-chair Sophie Calisto, "but we're concerned about the materials being proposed."

Roger Pugliese of TASC, who has also been involved with KLPP, agreed. "We're worried about destroying the last county-maintained dirt road in the Santa Monica Mountains," he said, "that we'll destroy its character and flavor by putting this stuff down."

Residents also questioned the high, ongoing maintenance costs of the project.

"How could this little road cause all this problem for them?" asked KLPP co-chair John McLaughlin afterwards. "It could cost them half a million dollars a year to maintain this road. I think the county has more important things to do with our money."

The added element of the "soft swale" came as a particular shock to the residents. "It was never discussed before this meeting," said Pugliese. "It expands the project into something much bigger."

Neighbors were quite familiar with the Public Work's practice of regular grading of the road. They pointed out that, each time the County grades the road is widened and more and more native plants that help prevent erosion are uprooted.

KLPP member Woody Hastings questioned the need for such extensive work when serious erosion takes place only in certain areas along the loop. But Lehman disagreed. "Erosion is taking place over all portions of the roadway,"he said. "It's more cost-effective to do the whole road than to do portions and have to come back later."

Hastings suggested that roads could be maintained at a different level, allowing native plants to grow back, returning it to a narrower road with natural erosion control provided by vegetation.

However, Lehman resisted the idea of letting nature do the county's job. "To do nothing is not to deal with the erosion process," he said.

Residents also proposed testing the EMC Squared process in a limited area before subjecting the entire road to it. Lehman was skeptical. "How long would a test run?" he asked. "The longer I have this situation, the longer I'm not following Best Management Practices."

An underlying concern of the residents was that the project would make it easier for development along the loop. Lehman assured them that additional road improvements necessary for building would be a developer's responsibility, not the county's. The proposed project will not widen the road to the 24 feet required for development, he explained.

Nissman and Lehman stressed that the purpose of the meeting was to acquaint local citizens with the county's thinking and open a dialogue, not to present a fait accompli.

"We've researched this for months, we've looked at every option there is," said Lehman. "But if you bring me other ideas, we're open. We want in no way to say, 'This is it, there's no other solution.'"

KLPP is currently drafting a letter to Supervisor Yaroslavsky, outlining the residents' questions and concerns about the project.

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Caltrans Plans Retaining Wall at Coast

By Tony Morris

This spring, Caltrans expects to begin construction of a steel soldier pile retaining wall along Pacific Coast Highway at the intersection with Topanga Canyon Boulevard. The $4.9 million project will be built adjacent to the closed Arco service station and should be completed by winter 2002.

This project will be the third phase of a three-phase project. Phase 1 was completed in 1997 under an emergency contract and involved the installation of 22 horizontal drains to remove subsurface water from the hillside above PCH in an effort to control earth movement. During Phase 2 inclinometers were installed to monitor slope movement during 1998. The third and final phase involves the construction of a tieback restraint system to prevent catastrophic failure of the slope.

The hillside above PCH has experienced massive movement over the years since 1995 when over 24 inches of rain was recorded. Motorists driving northbound on the heavily travelled highway have experienced bulging of the road surface as a result of the hillside movement. PCH has been realigned twice and the striped center median has also been moved to accommodate the realignment of the northbound travel lanes.

During construction, a steel soldier pile retaining wall will be installed at the toe of the hillside along with two tiers of tieback restraints to increase the stability of the hillside. Contract work also calls for repairing the bulging pavement and returning the lanes to their previous alignment.

According to Caltrans spokesman James Deno, to accommodate the construction, the striped median will be eliminated, the northbound lanes shifted next to the southbound lanes and the road shoulder width will be reduced. During off-peak hours one north and one south-bound lane will be closed. Electronic billboards will be installed well in advance of construction. Night construction is also permitted by the terms of the contract.

The purpose of this project is to increase the stability of the hillside and reduce the risk of a major landslide onto PCH.

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Feldman to Challenge Waxman

Kevin Feldman of West Hollywood has announced that he will challenge 28-year incumbent, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-LA), for the Democratic nomination in California's 30th Congressional district, which, as a result of redistricting, now includes Topanga Canyon.

Feldman, 33, is a former Charles Schwab executive who is emphasizing a need to restore the nation's economy in his nomination bid.

"Our economy is suffering from a severe investment-led downturn which is producing a devastating loss of jobs, failure of small businesses and decreased economic opportunity for many Americans," says Feldman. "I believe that promoting a stable, healthy and growing economy should be the number one domestic priority for Congress."

He also points out that California needs creative solutions to contend with a predicted 50 percent population increase over the next 20 years.

"Los Angeles will be crippled with over-crowded schools, worsening traffic congestion and poorer air quality if we do not start finding innovative solutions to address the effects of population growth now," says Feldman, a fourth generation Los Angeles native.

He supports safe and high quality public education, extensive rail transportation service and affordable prescription drugs.

Feldman received a masters degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2000 after taking a sabbatical from Charles Schwab. He recently left the company to pursue his political goals. He received his undergraduate degree in Linguistics and Computer Science with a specialization in Business Administration from UCLA, graduating magna cum laude in 1993.Feldman, who seeks to become California's first openly gay Congressman, has been active in the Democratic Party for 10 years, fundraising for local and statewide candidates and initiatives a well as supporting many other charitable and political organizations.

The 30th district now extends from Malibu and Agoura Hills to West Hollywood. As a result of reapportionment, Topanga's current congressional representative, Brad Sherman, will run in the 27th district which is north and east of his current 24th district and doesn't include Topanga or the Santa Monica Mountains.

For more information about the Feldman campaign call (323) 639-1419 or go to www.feldmanforcongress.com.

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Working Hard for Topanga

PHOTO BY TONY MORRIS

Lola Babalon, Lisa Villaseñor and Karla Morrison clean out the Community House loft.

By Lola Babalon

On January 26 about 15 volunteers came together at the Community House and put in some muscle and elbow grease towards making improvements.

We remodeled the kitchen by taking out the old appliances, scrubbing, painting and putting in new stainless steel sinks and shelves, as required by the county Health Department. We cleaned up and organized the tremendous mess in the loft, consisting of vast amounts of holiday decorations, paper goods, kitchen utensils, lost and found items, cleaning supplies and Topanga Days necessities. By the end of the day we had moved the wooden cabinets from the kitchen into the loft--no easy feat, as it required taking off and replacing the door, banister and trim of the stairs.

The loft is now clean and lofty as the name implies, with plenty of room for supplies. Heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers who came through again--you know who you are. Cheers for a job well done!

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Tenant Puts Out House Fire off Summit Drive

By Tony Morris

A wind-driven house fire, which started on the roof of a rental unit at Summit Drive and Stonewall on the night of January 23, was extinguished by the tenant's quick response to a life- threatening situation. As Topanga's Station 69 units responded to the 9:22 p.m. emergency call the tenant, who did not wish to be identified, used an extinguisher and buckets of water drawn from thee kitchen sink to douse the fire before high winds could spread the flames.

According to the tenant, the fire started when sparks from a wood stove ignited the rental unit's plastic and canvas roof. As flames appeared on the roof by the wood stove's vent the tenant grabbed a fire extinguisher, spraying the four-foot flames as fire spread rapidly across the roof. Neighbors hearing a call for help came with garden hoses to assist. The fire was put out shortly before Station 69 units arrived. Firefighters saturated the area and extinguished any remaining embers.

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Land Trust Buys Key Tuna Property

The anticipated purchase of 417 acres of undeveloped Tuna Canyon open space adjoining Lower Topanga parkland has been completed and a second major Tuna Canyon purchase of 1,416 acres is expected to go through soon as well.

The Mountains Restoration Trust and the California Coastal Conservancy announced the joint purchase January 24. The property, which extends from the Pacific Coast Highway up Tuna Creek about three miles, will preserve an important portion of the Tuna Canyon watershed as well as wildlife habitat and pathways.

Seller John Paul DeJoria, founder and president of Paul Mitchell Hair Care Systems, worked closely in partnership with the two conservation entities to reach an agreement that guarantees protection of the land and prohibits use in any future sale or land-swap proposal, according to MRT spokeswoman Garrie Mar.

As part of the deal, DeJoria agreed to sell the property for $1.36 million, a tenth of the estimated property value, and to take a 90 percent charitable tax deduction. The California Coastal Conservancy, a state agency allocated the funds for the purchase and the private, non-profit MRT provided the tax benefit.

DeJoria said he felt fortunate to be able to donate such a "magnificent piece of land" to be enjoyed by future generations.

In addition to the canyon property's natural features--a year-round creek, riparian, chaparral, coastal sage habitats and oak and sycamore woodlands--the new preserve is home to 19 identified rare, threatened and endangered species. It will also provide an important link in the proposed 70-mile Coastal Slope Trail that is intended to have an almost continuous ocean view.

"It's the best example of a coastal canyon in Southern California for its resource value alone," said Steve Harris, director of the Mountains Restoration Trust. "As a bonus, we can link two large open space properties."

Another pending acquisition of 1,416 acres in upper Tuna Canyon and Pena Canyon, will provide for further extension of the Coastal Slope Trail westward and provide added protection for wildlife passages.

The MRT will manage the new DeJoria Family Tuna Canyon Preserve while arranging for eventual public access from Pacific Coast Highway or adjacent parklands.

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Psst...Wanna Buy a Water District?

By Susan Chasen

The Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 29 is currently looking into the possibility of selling itself to another water company.

The idea is still at a very preliminary stage, but it arises from other water company inquiries about making such a purchase, explained Brian Hooper, head of the Waterworks and Sewer Maintenance Division of the county Department of Public Works.

What the district intends is to prepare a request for proposals (RFP) and to see whether another water provider might offer customer benefits not available to District No. 29.

"We are not offering the district for sale at this time," said Hooper. "This is simply a fact-finding process."

Hooper said the county Board of Supervisors, which is the governing board for the Waterworks District, is expected to authorize the RFP to be circulated. Then the District will see if the proposals are credible and the level of benefits to customers sufficiently increased to merit further investigation, he said.

If the Waterworks District facilities serving 7,100 customers in Topanga and Malibu were to be sold, the special district itself, a publicly governed entity created in 1959, would have to be dissolved by the county Local Agency Formation Commission, also known as LAFCO. Any decision to allow such a sale would first be considered by the Board of Supervisors.

Currently, Hooper said local water is purchased from the Metropolitan Water District and is expensive at $535 per acre foot.

"Someone might bring in cheaper water," said Hooper. "As responsible managers we should find out what the details are on behalf of our customers."

But at the same time the outside interest may be more salesmanship than substance, said Hooper.

The district has identified $141 million in needed improvements, said Hooper. These include 97 miles of pipeline replacement, 15 million gallons of additional storage tank capacity, additional interconnections with the MWD and pump station upgrades.

The existing system includes 208 miles of water mains, 51 storage tanks and numerous pumping and regulating stations.

Hooper said the district spends over $2 million annually on improvements, but funding sources for the district are limited. A recent reclassification will enable the district to qualify for more loans, but it's possible that a larger company would have other advantages in paying for capital improvements, said Hooper.

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