News

Bits & Pieces

A little Ebay watch turned up a surprising price for a postcard of the Lower Topanga lagoon area. Beginning at $4, the postcard ultimately sold for $52.58. The seller in Rochester, New York, was surprised and had no idea why the bids went so high. Meanwhile, a county Parks and Harbor Commissioner, after a presentation on the Topanga Lagoon restoration, said, "I'll eat it" if a new 500-foot PCH bridge can be built and the lagoon restored for $15 million to $20 million.

VOL.26 NO. 5
March 7 - 20, 2002

NEWS INDEX:

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Pine Tree Circle was written up in Los Angeles magazine. It really would be a pleasant destination, shopping in the middle of our splendid Canyon. Many packs of spandex bicyclists certainly seem to think so.

Spring sprang last week and now it seems to be springing back and forth. Cedar Waxwings are still rushing here and there. And many, many Robins convened at Kerry Lane to debate the impact of chemical soil stabilizers on worms. Frogs. Loud and very small frogs. Probably the first sounds made on earth by a vertebrate.

A Roadrunner was spotted at Topanga Elementary School on February 28 just after school.

A 12-inch waterline broke on Topanga Canyon Boulevard about three miles from Pacific Coast Highway and was fixed in a day and a half. Maybe during the traffic delays, the glowing Prickly Phlox across the canyon, enjoyed the attention of our commuter friends. Where does the color come from? It's nature imitating the girls' aisle at Toys R Us.

--Susan Chasen

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Relocation Splits Life and Work

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER

Ginger of Ginger Snips Salon and Spa, and a 30-year Lower Topanga resident, faces moving away from her business.

By Susan Chasen

Pressure is mounting on approximately 120 residents of Lower Topanga to find new homes within less than four months as a result of the California Department of Parks and Recreation's urgent desire to clear the property and open it for public use by July 1.

Relocation officials working on removing the 73 individuals and families in the long-standing community say everyone will soon receive a Notice of Eligibility which sets an upper limit on the money they will receive to put toward their new housing expenses, which in many cases are drastically increased over their current rents.

As residents are crossing paths to check out the same handful of houses for sale in Topanga and Malibu that appear to be in their price range, they come away discouraged by how much smaller they are and by how much poorer their condition is compared to their current homes in Lower Topanga.

With time running out, a few residents of Lower Topanga, who also have businesses along the property's commercial strip on Pacific Coast Highway, comprise a unique subset of the catastrophe that has befallen the entire community since State Parks acquired it in August.

State Parks is not planning to close down the commercial strip for two years, until after a general plan for the property is completed. During that process, it is possible a case for preserving these commercial services will be made. In any event, residents who are also business owners are to be moved away from their businesses.

Ginger, of Ginger Snips Salon and Spa, who has lived in Lower Topanga for 30 years in the home where she gave birth to three of her four children, is faced with a future that will break her life in two. Moving from Lower Topanga will destroy a personal arrangement that has balanced her work life and family life for over 20 years since she established her business.

"In one second I can be here or I can be home," said Ginger, standing in the surprisingly large interior of her salon, with its lovely mix of woodwork, personal touches and a little spa patio through the windows in the back.

Ginger said she was trying to see the positive side and is trying to work with the relocation company. She was among the first to receive her Notice of Eligibility. And, she acknowledges, they found her a great house. But it is in Trancas.

"It was very, very far away," said Ginger. "My youngest daughter is 15. I'm not going to leave a teenager home alone while I'm here."

The other problem, she said, is that it isn't a horse property. She has a corral on her Lower Topanga property and breeds Arabians. Over the years, she has had many horses and wants to be able to continue having them.

"That would be like saying I couldn't take my dogs or my cats, or my kids," said Ginger. "They are going to have to fix the situation for my entire family and all my animals."

Meanwhile, Pacific Relocation Consultants, the private Long Beach-based company hired by State Parks to handle relocation, has set up a satellite office in cabin #7 at the Topanga Ranch Motel to complete assessments of Lower Topanga's homes and to provide processing assistance.

An on-site relocation office is required by state law. The absence of such an office until the end of February was one of several shortcomings residents noted in the draft relocation plan completed at the end of November and submitted for public review. The plan has still not been adopted by State Parks. It is expected to be approved sometime this month, just in time to meet the 90-day minimum notice of eviction requirement.

So far, only three or four households are reported to have relocated, according to Barry McDaniel, PRC vice president. He said 12 have received notices of eligibility, ranging from $20,000 to $120,000, indicating that they have been working with the relocation representatives.

Most of the residents have been cooperative, said McDaniel, but a few have not. He said his company will have to estimate eligibility levels for those who have not been cooperating.

Once a plan is adopted, it is possible residents will file a grievance over what they believe to be missing from the plan and from the relocation process.

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Dog Ranch Gets Bone from County

The Canyon View Training Ranch for Dogs is expected to win approval later this month to continue its Topanga Mesa-area kennel and training operation.

After a preliminary approval in January, the county Regional Planning Commission is expected to formally approve a conditional use permit for Canyon View later this month, possibly at the Commission's March 13 meeting, according to county planner Velma Ingram.

Canyon View owners, Randy Neece and Joe Timko, were required to scale back their business until they received the proper permits from the county, but they will soon be allowed to resume full operations, provided several county restrictions are met. These include limiting the number of dogs to 30 and establishing an off-site pick-up and drop-off service to limit traffic on Hillside Drive and Will Geer Road.

The Planning Commission is also expected to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve Canyon View's zone change request from "light agriculture" which does not allow kennels, to "heavy agriculture" which does.

According to Ingram, the zone is being changed, but special restrictions will require that only one "heavy agriculture" use be allowed and that will be for a kennel and dog training uses. All other or future used must still fall within those allowed in a "light agricultural" zone.

Canyon View will also need to obtain a kennel license from the county Animal Care and Control Department as well as other health and safety permits.

Canyon View owners could not be reached to comment on their anticipated county approvals.

Because the facility was initially operating outside its zoning designation and without proper permits, the county required significant cutbacks on the operation. The number of dogs was limited to 10 and no dog training classes were allowed.

Canyon View has had many local supporters who told the county that dog care and training are important services for the community, that the Canyon View facility was tidy and well run, and they encouraged the county to approve the required permits and zone change.

Others were concerned about establishing a commercial business in a residential area and about traffic impacts. But most now appear to be reasonably satisfied with the county's conditions. No one at the last public hearing on January 16 offered any objection to the Planning Commission's tentative approvals, according to Ingram.

Jake Stehelin, who lived in Topanga all his life and is building a house on an 11-acre property adjoining Canyon View, initially was strongly opposed to the kennel operation and he still contends that it goes against the county's own zoning goals, which place a priority on consistency.

"I still don't think it's fair," said Stehelin. "The bottom line is, I didn't think businesses should be plopped down in the middle of a residential area...I'm still against that concept."

Similarly, he said it is inconsistent for the county Fire Department to oppose lot splits because of traffic and access issues on the steep and narrow roads to the Mesa while the planning department is approving a commercial business in the same neighborhood. Stehelin said his concern about noise from barking dogs has been relieved.

"They do control the noise very well," said Stehelin. "I think they're good guys, good neighbors, other than that it's a business...I just didn't want to live next to a business." There are still some other issues. But at this point, said Stehelin, "I've got to live with it or move."

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Fire Protection Group Tours Aeroflite

By Tony Morris

Bob Cavage and Tony Morris, members of Topanga's Citizens For Aerial Fire Protection (CFAFP), visited the Kingman, Arizona airport to inspect the aerial firefighting operation of Aeroflite. Aeroflite is the only full-time American operator of the SuperScooper.

Matt Ziomek, Aeroflite's president and vice-president of Associated Airtankers, provided the CFAFP members with a tour of the company's facility and firefighting aircraft.

Ziomek, with 25 years as a tanker pilot, operates retardant-dropping DC-4s under contract to the U.S. Forest Service and CL-215 SuperScoopers under a five- year contract with the state of Minnesota.

Minnesota purchased two CL-215 aircraft in 2000 after a series of tornadoes cut a 100-mile by 6-mile path of destruction across the Boundary Waters area of the state.

State forestry officials, faced with the prospect of wildfires burning thousands of acres of dead timber, acquired the SuperScoopers to provide aerial firefighting capability in a remote area of Minnesota where access by road is limited.

DC-4 aircraft, with a capacity to drop 2,000 gallons of fire retardant on a wildfire, were manufactured by Douglas Aircraft in the 1940s. Aeroflite's Ziomek says he has an original supply of crated parts for the aircraft which date from World War II.

More than 50 years old, DC-4s were converted to retardant-dropping aircraft after the war and are one of the reasons why the United States has a firefighting tanker fleet. The aging fleet also includes Korean War vintage Grumman "S2s" used by the California Department of Forestry. The S2 is a converted submarine chaser and also was not designed as a firefighting aircraft.

The CFAFP expects to have a non-profit educational foundation by this spring which will provide comprehensive information on aerial firefighting. In addition, the foundation's charter calls for the acquisition of firefighting aircraft.

Recent wildfires in Fallbrook, California, 60 miles north of San Diego, and a brush fire on February 12 at the entrance to Palisades Highlands point out the fact that wildfires can and do occur throughout the year in Southern California, not only during "fire season" when Los Angeles County leases the SuperScooper firefighting aircraft.

CFAFP is working toward acquisition and year-round deployment of water dropping aircraft like the SuperScooper.

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Equine Response Team Orientation Mar. 19

The county Equine Response Team is having a volunteer orientation on Tuesday, March 19 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Lost Hills Sheriff Station, 27058 Agoura Road in Agoura.

The Equine Response Team assists with evacuation of livestock during disasters and educates horse owners on disaster preparedness.

The Equine Response Team is a volunteer organization assisting the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control Department and possessing a remarkably long abbreviation--LACDACCERT--and that's not including the words "of" and "and."

The Equine Response Team is looking for experienced horse and livestock people to join the team. In addition to general orientation, the March meeting will cover specific team duties and responsibilities, the three levels of training and the LACDACCERT Program Manual.

Volunteers complete from 10 to 40 hours of training at evening and weekend classes held in Agoura, Malibu, Calabasas and Topanga.

Level One volunteers assist with communications and paperwork. Level Two volunteers are eligible to assist with animals at the sheltering site. Level Three volunteers are eligible to work on a trailer team in evacuations and drive their own trailers.

For information or questions contact: Mary Lukins, 818-991-8065 at mlukins@co.la.ca.us or Stephanie Abronson, 818-222-7669, at ponycross@att.net.

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