Tears for Feers: Friends Pay Tribute to T-CEP's First Couple as They Prepare to Move
People gathered for a farewell barbecue at the home of Pat and Jack Mac Neil on June 23 to thank Fred and Carol Feer for their dedication to the community and most especially for the creation of the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (T-CEP).
Over the years the Feers have collected enough plaques and certificates of appreciation, commendation and recognition to fill the walls of a mansion. Presumably there will be a special place in their new condo, just 10 miles south of Washington, D.C., to add more certificates to the displays of love and affection from a grateful Topanga Canyon where they lived for 17 years.
PHOTO BY TONY MORRIS
Capt. John Glazer of the Lost Hills Sheriff's station commended Topanga as a tremendous base of citizen support and thanked Fred and Carol Feer for educating the community. "I hope you can go back to the D.C. area and do just as much for President Bush," he quipped and was met with a huge guffaw.
Representatives from County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and State Senator Sheila Kuehl, officers representing the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol, as well as local volunteers who helped T-CEP become a reality--all came with words of praise, love and a slew of elaborate certificates, plaques and gifts that piled up on a nearby table.
Pat Mac Neil, who takes over the presidency of T-CEP, was mistress of ceremonies and said she understood the Feers wanting to be near their grandchildren. "That's a big call," she said holding back tears. "I've learned an incredible amount from Fred and having that experience in my life will let me go and do what I have to do."
T-CEP presented them with a glass menorah.
After the formal presentations, Fred sat down and talked about what is left to be done to ensure Topanga's safety during a disaster.
"There are substantive issues that need to be addressed," he began. "The medical team is up and running, they've recruited people and done some training. But in terms of being a T-CEP member, they're not quite there yet.
"We have to work on protocols that determine who does what so the team functions in a way that is predictable for the rest of the organization. In an emergency, there has to be direction and some confidence that that direction will be followed. We haven't confronted a real emergency yet and have to acknowledge the difficulty of what we are doing here. Government professionals are paid to do what our volunteers do," explained Feer.
"The other main thing that is an inevitable part of the problem is the question of how we alert people. We have never had a solution to that problem. Part of the solution was set up by the county called Community Alert Network (CAN) and operates out of the Sheriff's station. It can make telephone calls to certain zip codes and deliver an emergency message. But it costs $1 per number and doesn't know unlisted numbers.
"The only feasible way is something Malibu has begun to set up--a low-power AM radio station. With that, you can broadcast emergency messages tailored to each area. The system is being implemented in Malibu because they can put up the money and Congressman Brad Sherman got them some federal highway money for the project. That is the single most important public safety project we could have. T-CEP could take our information and put it on that system and a lot of phone calls wouldn't have to be made, a lot of panic could be avoided and people would have good information. A ballpark cost would be a few million dollars.
"In terms of emergency preparation, T-CEP has gotten pretty good at most of what it does. We could go along doing things the way we are doing them for a long time and people would be happy. But T-CEP has the challenge of wanting to do a lot better. It will cost something and will demand more time and more input from more people to make it work.
"One of the stories we haven't told yet is what the other teams are, how the whole fits together. We are a volunteer organization and you take what you can get. But there are many functions that need specific knowledge, such as damage assessment. We need people who are willing to learn what's necessary before a disaster occurs. Otherwise, someone during an emergency will have to stop what they are doing to teach.
"Many of the things need only a few hours a year, like hotline training. The Disaster Response Team (DRT) and the medical team need more training. Carol has noticed that when you have a T-CEP meeting you see a lot of gray hair, not a lot of young people. We have to go to some lengths to draw in new people. Carol had an idea to have a T-CEP Welcome Wagon that makes a date with every new family after escrow closes, briefs them on where they are and why T-CEP exists.
"The spiel would go something like this: 'Mr. and Mrs. Newcomer, I have something to tell you....You live in fire, flood and earthquake territory and we are trying to inform you that there are things you can do that won't cost you a lot of money or a lot of time but will serve your own interest.' Then we would give them my book Evacuating Topanga: Risks, Choices and Responsibilities.
"The thing is the new Emergency Operations Committee (EOC). We've outgrown the old EOC. We need to create an office and hire someone part-time for a few days a week. We need a classroom where we can schedule classes at our and the public's convenience to educate residents and build on all the stuff we've done. There are a lot of things that can be done better. That is always going to be the case but what makes life interesting is challenges. That's where all the fun is."
The glorious afternoon languorously drifted toward evening and people began reluctantly to take their leave of Carol and Fred. The unasked question hung in the air: "What will we do without Fred?" I asked him if he would be on call in case the new officers and volunteers needed him. "I think I'm a good kibitzer," he smiled. "I'll be happy to kibitz."
John Hollis will be taking over as T-CEP Operations Director and seems clear on what needs to be done. "We have two functions: Preparing a community with outreach programs and classes; and preparing our own team. Fred has prepared us. It was overwhelming at first, but a lot of people have stepped in."
Laurie Newman, deputy to state Senator Sheila Kuehl, worked with both Carol and Fred in many capacities. Carol was a wonderful volunteer who came in to answer phones, said Newman.
"I won't be begging any more," she added, reassuringly. She also expressed support for a radio system tying the 101 Freeway to PCH through Topanga. "Hopefully soon," she added. She presented a beautiful state certificate of recognition, saying: "In honor of your extraordinary contribution."
Buzz Tarlow of the DRT warmly roasted Fred with a few "spook" jokes (Fred was an analyst for the CIA in one of his past lives) and presented him with a certificate of appreciation.
The Nature of WildWorks founder Mollie Hogan gave the Feers a painting by Shirley Gordon of Merlin, the screech owl that the Feers took care of at their house. "Carol has been a devoted friend and volunteer for several years," said Mollie. Even though Fred says that Merlin doesn't like him, they paid to have an owlery built at WildWorks.
Carol Felixson, who was public information officer for the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) and participated in early meetings said T-CEP surpassed all expectations.
"We wrote the after-action report where we talked about the community-based organizations. Of all of them, T-CEP was the most organized and expanded beyond the initial concept of what was possible. It has become a major force in this area."
Lynne Haigh is head of the Disaster Mental Health team, which has eight psychiatrists, social workers and a psychiatric nurse.
"What Fred has done is huge. We have had several meetings and there are a lot of people who are willing and able to rise to the occasion and take over the jobs," said Lynne.
If Topanga rises optimistically to the new challenges, T-CEP will fulfill its mandate, as Fred puts it, of doing things better. And when--not if, but when--the next disaster strikes, new Topangans will have learned from established Topangans and experience firsthand the true meaning of this community.
Barbara Allen, a member of Arson Watch, said, "I can't imagine Fourth of July without Fred. We go out on patrol and position our vehicles at certain locations and Fred has always been with us. There's going to be a big void in more ways than one. I'm going to miss him."
Morris Promotes SuperScooper on KCRW
PHOTO BY BOB BRESNIK
Messenger reporter and SuperScooper advocate Tony Morris participated in Warren Olney's "Which Way L.A.?" radio broadcast discussion of Los Angeles County fire danger on June 24. Bob Cavage, president of Topanga-based Aerial Fire Protection Associates, assisted on the sidelines. Also on the program was Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman.
Olney asked Chief Freeman about the possibility of "monster" wildfires in Malibu and Topanga such as those which have occurred in Arizona and Colorado. Freeman said that there is always the possibility of such fires in these areas. He said that clearing brush at least 200 feet around homes is essential to protect structures from the threat of wildfires.
Tony Morris said that there is a need to provide year-round protection against wildfires as wildfire danger is already high, well in advance of the usual three-month SuperScooper lease period from October through December.
Freeman said the county's plan has been to lease the SuperScoopers, utilize heavy-lift water-dropping helicopters and the county's two Firehawk helicopters.
Freeman did say, however, it would be possible for a private group such as AFPA to operate SuperScooper firefighting aircraft in the county. With proper certification of aircraft and pilots, details could be worked out, he said.
Early SuperScooper Request DOA
By Tony Morris
With one of the lowest rainfall totals since record-keeping began in the late 1880s, and wildfires occurring in June instead of September, the residents of Los Angeles County are facing real danger from wildfires. The county normally leases two SuperScooper aircraft from the Province of Quebec from September or October through December, but the extreme fire danger in the county prompted Supervisor Mike Antonovich to introduce a motion at the Board of Supervisors meeting on June 11 calling for the Los Angeles County Fire Department to investigate the possibility of bringing the SuperScoopers to Los Angeles County "as soon as possible."
The fixed-wing SuperScooper has the advantage of being able to scoop 1,620 gallons from the ocean and reservoirs in seconds for up to three-and-a-half hours of continuous firefighting.
Deputy Fire Chief Daryl Osby, who has been in discussions with Quebec regarding the availability of aircraft, said it is unlikely that the county will be able to obtain SuperScoopers now because Quebec's fleet of CL-415 SuperScoopers are needed to fight wildfires there. Quebec's fire season runs from May to mid-September, after which the SuperScoopers are available for lease by Los Angeles County.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said that Quebec's SuperScoopers are currently scheduled to arrive by September 15 this year. When asked if the Fire Department would consider the CL-215 piston-driven SuperScooper model which might be available from an American operator, Freeman said "no." He said these aircraft do not have sufficient power to fly safely through the canyons and hillsides of the county. The CL-415 model, introduced in 1995, is specially designed with more powerful turbojet engines and carries an additional 200 gallons over the updated CL-215T. They are available for lease from Quebec and are equipped to fly safely anywhere in the county, Freeman said.
Jennifer Plaisted, deputy for Supervisor Antonovich, said that the county not being able to lease SuperScoopers to provide initial attack firefighting protection for the period from July 1 to September 15 is not an argument for purchase of the aircraft. Plaisted said for the cost of one SuperScooper, approximately $23 million, the county can lease two aircraft for 12 years.
It is the immediate danger from wildfires which concerns Aerial Fire Protection Associates, a Topanga-based non-profit organization working to acquire two CL-415 SuperScoopers for use by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The AFPA believes that the need for the permanent deployment of SuperScoopers is real. Using the initial attack capability of the aircraft for only three months, during the annual Santa Ana wind season, does not provide sufficient aerial fire protection for county residents, according to AFPA president and aeronautical engineer Bob Cavage.
Zev Backs Topanga Library Idea
By Dan Mazur
Fueling the hopes of many in the Canyon for our own public library, county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has decided to apply for Proposition 14 funds for a Topanga Branch County Library.
Yaroslavsky's field deputy Susan Nissman announced the decision during the meeting with the Community Development Commission at the Community House on June 5. Proposition 14 is a statewide library bond measure passed by the voters in March, 2000. It provides $350 million to California communities over three years. The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, Nissman explained, agreed that each supervisor would submit one application for his or her district.
Yaroslavsky's decision to make Topanga the single community in the third district on behalf of which the Board of Supervisors will apply for Prop 14 funds, comes largely as a result of the efforts of the Friends of the Topanga Library, a group of Topanga residents who have been working to bring a library here.
"The fact that there is a core organization that is growing and gathering support and doing outreach was something absolutely in Topanga's favor in helping the Supervisor make his decision," said Nissman.
The application, which Nissman described as a "very, very involved process," will be made by June 2003 in time for the second year of the three-year Prop 14 funding cycle.
Nissman stressed the high level of statewide competition for Prop 14 money and the considerable hurdles to be overcome before the application can even be completed, let alone be granted.
The single most difficult requirement will be finding a site for the library. A commitment for land has to made before the application can be submitted. Friends of the Topanga Library has spent considerable effort in exploring the idea of a public library as part of the vision for future improvements to the Community House. While there is strong interest within the Community House Improvement Committee, it also seems likely that environmental regulations, including potential added restrictions in the county's Local Coastal Plan, would pose considerable challenges to construction of a library building.
"The Community House is not un-feasible," said Nissman, "but at the same time, we're keeping our options open and looking at other opportunities. We want to be able to find something that will work for the community and be affordable."
Another prospect for a library site is the Resource Conservation District property, north of Pine Tree Circle.
Regardless of success or failure in this application, says Nissman, Supervisor Yaroslavsky is committed to the vision and goal of a public library for Topanga.
"He feels that the library fits right in with the kind of community Topanga is, and is kind of lacking in what you would picture a community having," she said.
A Fernwood man was charged June 28 with making a felony threat against a clerk, according to Sheriff's Detective Todd Kocisco.
John Conroy, 48, who lives on Observation Drive, was arrested June 26 at 1:15 p.m. after allegedly making a threat to Dan Venezia, a cashier at Fernwood Market.
"He went in there looking for alcohol," said Kocisco. "During that time, he threatened the clerk."
Venezia said the man wanted free beer.
"He threatened to shoot me in the head," said Venezia, because he wouldn't give him what he wanted.
Kocisco said Conroy was searched and no gun was found.
On June 25, Sheriff's deputies had been to Fernwood looking for Conroy because of an earlier alleged threat to use a gun.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 11 at the Malibu courthouse.
An elderly resident of Old Topanga was the victim of a daytime burglary of three chainsaws, a survey transit and possibly other equipment, according to Joe Blaine, the man's caregiver.
A neighbor reported seeing a gray pickup truck leaving the vicinity shortly after, Blaine said. It was early in the morning, just after sunrise when Blaine and his client were heading out to breakfast.
"It was so brazen because it was daylight," said Blaine. "It was probably the most startling thing I've seen in 20 years of taking care of old people."
The Sheriff's Department has been notified and is awaiting further information from the man's nephew about what was taken, Blaine said.
Blaine, who specializes in hospice care and dementia-related cases, said he has been working with his client for three months.
"He has a good heart," said Blaine. "He's a real sweet man."
Blaine said he will offer a $200 reward for information leading to the conviction of the people responsible. He believes the thieves must have had some knowledge of the remote property.
About eight months ago, in a similar daytime robbery, an air compressor and several thousand dollars worth of tools were stolen from a neighbor's house.
And the Emmy Goes to...
PHOTO BY TONY MORRIS
Tom Mitchell holds his Los Angeles Emmy for documentary about teen-age drunk driving.
Topanga's Tom Mitchell received a regional Emmy Award at the 54th Annual Los Angeles-area Emmy Awards, presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on June 29 at the Academy's Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre.
Mitchell received an Emmy as a producer in the "Children/Youth Programming" category for a 30-minute documentary, Every 15 Minutes "For My Friends."
Produced in cooperation with the Santa Monica Police Department, the film reconstructed a fatal traffic accident which occurred at 14th Street and Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. Four teenagers died after a drunk driver struck their car.
Using students from Saint Monica's High School, the film examined the consequences of making wrong choices in life.
Volunteer students from Saint Monica's were made to look like those who had died in the accident. Portraying the accident victims, volunteers in makeup sat in class without speaking throughout the day as a stark reminder to fellow students that they would not be able to talk to their classmates again. They also stayed in a hotel overnight so that their parents could experience what it would be like if their children did not come home.
In a two-day event, students at Saint Monica's heard from representatives of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and discussions were held regarding the consequences of drinking and driving.
Mitchell said the film will be shown on all of the major cable and government access channels in greater Los Angeles.
Shooting Paradise in Lower Topanga
PHOTO BY SUSAN CHASEN
Austrian filmmakers Natalie Lettner and Werner Hanak are making a documentary about Lower Topanga.
A pair of documentary filmmakers just completed two weeks shooting in Lower Topanga for a film titled "Topanga--Paradise Lost" to show on Austrian television, telling the story of life in a unique community of artists and aging hippies that is being eliminated for a State Park.
Filmmakers Natalie Lettner and Werner Hanak, who have known Rodeo Grounds resident Bernt Capra for several years, have been following the story of the demise of the Lower Topanga community over the internet from Vienna. So, instead of taking a vacation in Spain, they decided to make the trip to Los Angeles before it was too late.
According to Natalie, the Lower Topanga story has a paradigmatic significance.
"It's an individual story that's typical for processes that are going on," she said, "that something like that is not any longer allowed to exist."
Werner said he is struck by an apocalyptic feeling when he pictures the vacant houses.
"It's a strange feeling that it might be empty," said Werner. "I hate this image. I think I have to come back to see them."
Also, they said they will probably return to follow up on how the individual stories they filmed are resolved. They have 40 hours of videotaped interviews with 10 residents. They also would like to interview local environmental leaders, who were not available during this visit, to discuss their belief that they are regaining more than they are losing.
Capra's son Pablo, who is 22 and is a life-long Lower Topanga resident, helped with the project.
"It's a little bit through his eyes," said Werner. "Some have had their time here. Some see the best time has already happened." "But," adds Natalie, "for Pablo, it's totally different. He's so addicted to this place that he can't imagine to live in another place."
They said it has been interesting learning about the Southern California "beach hippie."
"That's not very familiar to us," said Werner.
"We had a sort of hippie culture too, but not comparable to the Southern California one."
They expect to find a way to show the film in the United States as well. In any case, they would like to show it at a reunion of the community.
"It will take a year to make a real good film," said Werner.
THS Picnic 7/21 at Eden Ranch
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TOPANGA STORY
The Barton School, an early Topanga alternative school from 1932 to 1948, located on the present Eden Ranch, will be the topic at the Historical Society's annual picnic.
By Mary Bloom
Topanga has always been a place that has attracted a variety of private schools, some offering a traditional education and others an alternative one. One such innovative school, which has a special place in Topanga history, is the Barton School, founded by UCLA-trained teachers Sven and Marguerite Barton in 1932 and operated by them until its closing in 1948. The school was located on the idyllic property now known as Eden Ranch, owned by Patricia Moore-Joshi. All of the school's original buildings still stand, although they are used for different purposes now.
According to its prospectus, Barton was "a small country boarding school where boys and girls together were to receive a sound education at the elementary level. Teachers and pupils would live and work together in a close family atmosphere, giving each child scope and encouragement to develop his or her unique potentialities. The unspoiled rural setting and useful chores on the farm which provided largely for the school's needs would balance study with a natural way of life, healthful to body and spirit alike. The Barton School would combine living with learning."
Most of the students were boarders whose families lived in the Los Angeles area. Most were from middle income families, however, some children came from difficult family situations and others were children of the Hollywood elite. The school reached its peak enrollment and reputation in the mid-1940s, but remained open only a few more years due to changes in health code regulations for institutional residential facilities. It was simply too costly to bring the buildings up to code, so the school was closed and the property sold.
The Barton School will be the subject of the Topanga Historical Society's next program at our annual picnic, to take place Sunday, July 21 at 12 noon at Eden Ranch in Topanga. Present owner Patricia Moore-Joshi, whose family bought the land in the early 1950s, will talk about the history of the property, including that of the Barton School. Bob White, a student in the 1940s who now lives in Big Bear, will also be there to describe his experiences at the Barton School. Bring your own picnic lunch, a blanket or folding chair and join us for this fascinating look back at a piece of Topanga history.
Eden Ranch is located at 22151 Eden Road. From Old Canyon Road, turn on Old Church Road and follow the signs up to Eden Road. For more information call (310) 455-3326.
Assembly Passes Gas Bill
The state Assembly, on July 1, sent to the governor landmark legislation authored by Assemblymember Fran Pavley to curtail global warming and protect the environment.
"I am pleased that the Assembly approved AB 1493 that directs the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from passenger vehicles," said Pavley.
California, the fifth largest economy in the world, generates most of our greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. AB 1493 directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to come up with cost-effective, technologically feasible regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light duty trucks. Public workshops on the proposed regulations will be heard during the development of the regulation. To allow for public and legislative oversight, prior to implementation, the regulations will be delayed for one year.
"The potential long term impacts of global warming in California are far-reaching. Recent scientific studies warn that climate change may increase the incidence of droughts, floods, forest fires, and heat waves," said Pavley. "California's leadership will accelerate improvements in automotive technology for new cars sold in California and throughout the world."