Emission Control: Davis Signs Pavley's Landmark Bill
By Susan Chasen
Under the sweltering heat of an ordinary Los Angeles summer day--or perhaps an L.A. summer day plus global climate change already upon us--Governor Gray Davis signed into law the first legislation in the country aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
While national automobile fuel-efficiency standards have been set by federal policy for some time and are essentially the realm of this law as well, California's "Clean Car Bill" introduced by Assemblymember Fran Pavley, is the first to target auto emissions that contribute to global warming and related climate changes. The June 22 bill-signing ceremony at Griffith Park was cause for mutual congratulations among state officials and environmental groups for prevailing against a multi-million dollar campaign waged by the auto industry against the measure. The bill, AB 1493, passed in the Assembly on July 1 on a vote of 41 to 31 and in the state Senate June 29 on a 23 to 16 vote.
PHOTOS BY SUSAN CHASEN
Governor Gray Davis shares the podium with Assemblymember Fran Pavley shortly before he signs her landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California.
"This measure is historic," said Davis. "We're pioneering once again....It's a very proud day for me and a proud day for California."
Offering reassurances to the auto industry, Davis said the technology exists today to comply with the new law, which will not go fully into effect until 2009, and there are many ways the anticipated standards may be met.
"Our job is not to be prescriptive. Let us work together to develop a range of alternatives," said Davis. "We Californians love our cars. Don't change our cars; just change the amount of harmful emissions that come from our cars."
This type of global-warming legislation should be adopted at the national level, said Davis, but with the failure of the Bush administration--with its ties to the oil industry--to take the lead, the responsibility has fallen to the states. He expects other states will follow California.
"California is going to do its part," said Davis. "I'm proud to be the governor of a can-do state. We not only believe it can be done, we believe it will be done."
Actor/director Rob Reiner spoke in support of Pavley's greenhouse gas bill as a way of reducing reliance on foreign oil.
Pavley's bill calls for the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop regulations to achieve "the maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions" from non-commercial cars, sport utility vehicles and light-duty trucks by January 1, 2005. These gases include carbon dioxide as well as nitrous oxide, methane and water vapor. In formulating the new regulations, the ARB will hold at least three public workshops in communities with the worst air pollution problems, including low-income or minority neighborhoods.
During the following year, the state Legislature will review the regulations and determine if revisions or further legislation are required, before implementing the new program. These standards will not go into effect before January 1, 2006. Then the automotive industry has until its 2009 model cars hit the market to comply with the new emissions standards. Previous standards have not specifically addressed greenhouse gases. Earlier compliance will be rewarded via a greenhouse gas reduction credits system once standards for measuring them are established by the California Climate Action Registry.
Pavley said she had a broad coalition of supporters to fight in her corner against auto industry opposition. In addition to three co-sponsoring environmental organizations--Bluewater Network, Coalition for Clean Air and the Natural Resources Defense Council--and 23 co-authors in the state Legislature, numerous health organizations, farmers and business leaders, all concerned about the consequences of global climate change, joined the cause. She also pointed out that 150 religious leaders of many faiths announced support for the bill in an advertisement in the Sacramento Bee.
"California should set a moral compass for the rest of the nation on this issue," said Pavley. "California can come up with the technology....We can lead the way in the 21st century."
Pavley's leadership on this and other popular environmental legislation has made her a rising star in California politics where there is widespread consensus on environmental issues.
TV's Bill Nye, "the science guy," said new gas saving technologies will be good for the auto industry because they will be an incentive for consumers to buy new cars.
Indeed, 77 percent of SUV drivers--who willingly chose their poor gas mileage vehicles--are supportive of this legislation, according to a poll conducted by Mark Baldassare for the non-profit/non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California. Perhaps it conforms well to consumer plans to buy new cars by 2009.
Overall, in the same poll, 81 percent of Californians expressed support for requiring auto makers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2009, which suggests auto industry plans to challenge the law in court or by a voter referendum may have dubious prospects. California, with its 35 million cars and the largest auto market in the country, is the only state permitted to set emissions standards that are stiffer than national standards. However, with passage of this measure, other states are allowed to follow suit.
Eighty-eight percent of voters polled said stance on environmental issues will be "somewhat important" to "very important" in their vote in this fall's gubernatorial election.
Opponents of AB 1493 included the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the California Chamber of Commerce, United Auto Workers, California Motor Car Dealers Association and the California Taxpayers Association. They have charged that the measure goes beyond California's special air-quality regulatory authority because carbon dioxide does not contribute to smog and has not been regulated as an air pollutant.
With so much yet to be defined in the bill, opponents speculated aggressively about what its ultimate effects might be, including new gas taxes and mileage fees, increased vehicle costs, bans of certain low-fuel-efficiency vehicles such as SUVs and pickup trucks, lowered speed limits or restrictions on miles traveled.
The bill was subsequently amended to eliminate these concerns, even explicitly protecting SUVs, light-duty trucks or any vehicle category from the threat of being banned.
Despite the protest, several American auto makers are reportedly preparing to release hybrid SUVs, which like Toyota's Prius and Honda's hybrid Civic and Insight, will enjoy improved gas mileage by recapturing power generated from the motion of the car itself and reducing wasted fuel when the car is idling.
Pavley said she has seen Ford's hybrid SUV. But she said she is generally concerned that while American car companies are fighting emission reductions--as they fought catalytic converters and unleaded gasoline to reduce smog--foreign companies like Honda will get too far ahead.
Several of the technologies anticipated in the bill are already being used in Europe. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, reductions of 12 to 29 percent in greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles are possible today, using existing technology. Among these fuel-saving technologies are variable valve timing and continuously variable transmissions for greater engine efficiency, improved aerodynamics in body design to reduce drag and better tire tread design to reduce rolling friction, and reducing or eliminating other greenhouse gases that are worse for global warming than carbon dioxide--such as nitrous oxide and methane--by recalibrating the catalytic converter or eliminating hydrofluorocarbons emissions by improving seals in the cooling system.
Tim Carmichael, executive director of the Coalition for Clean Air, urged the auto industry to help make these new technologies work.
"They need a new attitude," said Carmichael. "I issue this challenge to the car companies--don't spend your money on litigation or a referendum to block this law. Spend it instead engineering and selling cleaner, less polluting cars."
Greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere at a tremendously increased rate over the last 150 years of industrial development. As these gases accumulate, they envelop the Earth, trapping heat absorbed by Earth from the sun and eventually raising temperatures around the globe, creating exaggerated climate cycles or other climate changes.
According to F. Sherwood Rowland, a Nobel Laureate for his work in atmospheric chemistry and professor of chemistry and Earth system science at University of California Irvine, the global temperature has increased one degree in the past century, mostly occurring in the last 25 years. While it is difficult to separate natural fluctuation in temperature from global climate trends, Rowland said the warmest two years in the last 140 years were 1998 and 2001, and the warmest decade was the 1990s. Current models predict a temperature increase from 2.5 to 10.4 degrees by the year 2100.
Some suspected effects of global warming are already being seen, according to Rowland. He noted disappearing glaciers which threaten to increase sea levels and the devastation of four million acres of Arctic spruce forest by spruce bark beetles that are surviving over warmer winters and reproducing in record numbers.
Other predicted global warming effects for California are: water shortages from reduced snow-pack in the Sierras threatening agriculture and food supplies; health problems from increases in smog created by higher temperatures; pest outbreaks like the spruce beetle; more fires from hotter, drier summers with increased vegetation for fuel from possibly wetter winters, and loss of coastline from increased sea level.
California is second only to Texas in emissions of greenhouse gases, reportedly emitting six percent of the nation's total greenhouse gas output. About 40 percent of California's greenhouse gas pollution comes from passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks. Nationally, about 25 percent of carbon dioxide emissions come from transportation and about half or that, or 12.5 percent, comes from passenger vehicles.
Several speakers at the bill signing highlighted its foreign policy implications as well as its environmental merits.
Robert Kennedy Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the bill "the most important foreign policy initiative over the past several years," speaking at the event via the telephone.
"It will reduce our dependence on foreign oil that is making us subservient to dictators in the Middle East."
Actor-director Rob Reiner agreed.
"It will give us a huge advantage in fighting this war on terrorism," said Reiner.
"If adopted around the country, it will position America as the leader in reducing greenhouse gas in the world....This will ultimately have a huge impact on the health of this world, making this world a healthier and more livable place."
Assembly speaker Herb Wesson, Jr., who Pavley credited along with state Senate president pro tem John Burton, said Pavley has been an influential seatmate.
"Since she's been my seatmate I have a 100 percent voting record on environmental issues."
He joked that winning approval of AB 1493 took so long because he was negotiating to buy a car at the time. Now that it's passed, said Wesson: "I'll never be able to get a new car. They'll say: 'Is that Herb Wesson? One million dollars.'"
He was so pleased with the success of the bill that he forgave Pavley's bait-and-switch approach. When, as a last resort she noted the celebrity interest in the bill, he said: "If you can get me Jennifer Lopez, I'll get the 41 votes."
As it turned out, she got him Rob Reiner instead, but Wesson was coping well.
"On this day, you look pretty good," he said to Reiner from the podium. "Kiss me."
Bill Nye, "the science guy," was also on hand for the signing.
"It's an old drum beat for me," said Nye. "What I always argue is that somebody's going to get rich."
The auto industry should be thrilled, he said. "Everybody's going to buy a new car."
Cleaner air and more efficient cars are better for everyone, he said.
"Every single thing we do affects everyone in the world. This is especially true of air quality," said Nye. "This is the first bill motivated by, or designed to combat or curb global warming....It's a big ol' deal."
Nancy Helsley, president of the Santa Monica Mountains Resource Conservation District, praised Pavley's initiative on the issue of global warming and Davis for his courage in signing the bill.
"I think this is going to force car makers to come up with an environmentally friendlier vehicle that will get more miles to the gallon," said Helsley. "It will help us do our local part in diminishing global warming."
She said Pavley and state Senator Sheila Kuehl have become effective partners on behalf of environmental issues.
"Both have the good of the community, state and the world in mind and they've had the courage to move on that."
Mail Theft Reported in Topanga
By Tony Morris
Topanga Postmaster Oscar Reynoso reports that there has been a number of mail thefts from mail boxes in the Canyon. Thefts have occurred in Old Canyon, along Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Saddlepeak and Robinson Road. On July 22 mail was taken from the 1100 block of Fernwood Pacific Drive.
Two suspects, described as male Hispanics 18 to 20 years old, were observed in a late-model silver Mercedes with a sunroof and a bright yellow dealer plate. The vehicle's passenger was described as 5' 10", approximately 180 pounds, with a crew cut. Postmaster Reynoso said that residents should report mail theft to the Sheriff's Department and the Topanga postmaster without delay. If thieves are observed in the act, details of the vehicle's color, license plate, location and the time of day should be noted.
Mailboxes are considered federal property and it is a crime to vandalize them or to destroy mail deposited in them. Violators can be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned for up to three years.
To protect against vandalism or mail theft the U.S. Postal Inspection Service advises residents to report the theft or destruction of mail to the Topanga postmaster and complete the appropriate forms at the post office. These forms will help the Postal Inspection Service to determine if the problem is isolated or is frequently experienced in your neighborhood.
It is best to remove mail from the mailbox as soon as possible after delivery. Mail that accumulates for several days is an open invitation to vandals and thieves. If it is not possible to pick up mail after delivery, or if you have had problems with mailbox vandalism or theft, it might be wise to rent a post office box.
To make it harder for thieves to steal your mail:
1. Never send cash or coins in the mail--use checks or money orders.
2. Make certain that your mailbox is secured and in good condition. Your postmaster can tell you how to improve your mailbox's condition.
3. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you are expecting checks, credit cards, food coupons and other negotiable items. If you will not be home when these items are expected, ask a friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.
4. Have your local post office hold your mail while you are on vacation or absent from your home for a long period of time.
5. If you do not receive a check, food coupon or other valuable mail you are expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
6. If you change your address you should immediately notify your post office and the people you do business with through the mail .
7. Address your mail legibly. Include a complete return address with street and apartment numbers, and nine-digit zip code.
8. Always deposit your mail in a Postal Service mail collection box or mail slot at the post office or hand it to your letter carrier. Never place your outgoing mail for your carrier to pick up in an unprotected mailbox or area where it can be easily stolen.
9. Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other's mailboxes and homes. If you observe a mail thief in the act, call the Sheriff's Department and then the local postmaster.
To report mail theft, call Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Lost Hills Station at (818) 878-1808 and the Topanga Post Office at (310) 455-0254.
We've Got a Secret Valley, New Parkland and Trails Celebrated by MRT
PHOTOS BY KATIE DALSEMER
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, state Senator Sheila Kuehl, Mountains Restoration Trust President Stephen Harris and Assemblymember Fran Pavley at the Secret Valley dedication.
By Susan Chasen
The Mountains Restoration Trust hosted an off-road caravan on July 19 up the Calabasas-Cold Creek Trail to dedicate a new 40-acre open space acquisition called Secret Valley and to stress the importance of trail linkages in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The Secret Valley property borders the Calabasas-Cold Creek Trail, also known as the Calabasas Peak Motorway, and protects an important section of the view from the trail from the possibility of eventual development.
Though the new purchase is relatively small, the mood on the tour was that interest in protecting the Santa Monica Mountains through public purchases is gaining momentum at the county, state and federal level.
The Secret Valley acquisition was arranged by the Mountains Restoration Trust (MRT) but actually goes to Los Angeles County because the federal funding source that paid for most of it requires the purchase to go to a government agency.
The property is located north of Red Rock Canyon Park, but not adjacent to it. The two parkland properties are linked by the Calabasas motorway/trail. This trail, in turn, connects to Summit to Summit and Henry Ridge motorways in Topanga, ultimately connecting to the Backbone Trail, Topanga State Park and Summit Valley Ed Edelman State Park. Outside Topanga, it leads to Stunt Ranch and Cold Creek Preserve.
"It's the threads of all the trails that connect all the public property in the Santa Monica Mountains together," said Stephen Harris, president of the Mountains Restoration Trust, a private, non-profit land trust based in Canoga Park.
"It's important that we have this connectivity between the large blocks of protected property....There's a lot of public use of these trails and we need to ensure this type of activity in the mountains. It's a way to get out of the city, away from the hustle and bustle, get some exercise and connect with nature."
With this acquisition, last year's adjoining 120-acre Zuniga Pond acquisition and two other anticipated acquisitions for an additional 200 acres in the same area, the MRT will create the Secret Valley Nature Preserve.
Harris said the new Secret Valley property is open to the public with trails from the Calabasas motorway/trail to an oak grove on the property. Also, the Secret Valley Trail connects Mulholland Highway to the Calabasas motorway/trail near the Secret Valley property.
The future nature preserve will not have the same restrictions on access that Cold Creek Preserve--the MRT's other major Santa Monica Mountains preserve-- does, according to Harris. Cold Creek, which has a year-round stream and is said to be the cleanest watershed in the Santa Monica Mountains, is limited to 25 visitors per day because of its unusually pristine habitat.
According to Harris, the Secret Valley property was appraised at $2.1 million, but property owners Don Hopp and Chuck Lambert agreed to accept $550,000 cash, donating the rest as a charitable contribution. Funding included a $250,000 grant from California's share of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, $180,000 from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, $80,000 from a Recreational Trails grant from the California Resource Agency and $40,000 from the MRT.
The $250,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund--a federal pot of money from offshore oil drilling fees--marks the return of an important funding source for the Santa Monica Mountains, according to Jo Kitz, MRT program manager who assisted the county in applying for the funds.
In 1988, Congress stopped distributing these funds to the states, but in 2000 these allocations were resumed, including the Secret Valley grant.
Elected officials on hand for the tour and dedication were state Senator Sheila Kuehl, Assemblymember Fran Pavley and county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Pavley joked about the small fleet of gas-guzzling SUVs (sports utility vehicles) that shuttled everyone the 2.5 miles from Stunt Road to the Secret Valley site, in light of the anticipated signing June 22 of her historic legislation seeking reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles in California--the first legislation of its kind in the nation.
In support of maintaining a trails network, Pavley credited Harris with the idea for a bill she carried last year, AB 1011, that requires county recorders to index conservation easements. These varied easements, including "offers to dedicate" trail and access easements made when development permits are sought, will make future owners and resource agencies aware of these trail options.
"It was his concept and idea," said Pavley.
With Calabasas tract housing in view opposite Secret Valley, she pointed out the county's important change of consciousness in favor of protecting the Santa Monicas.
"Twenty years ago, the county wasn't the same player it is today," said Pavley. "I think all of us get it."
She cited the enormous value of the Santa Monicas for protecting air quality and for recreation.
"Malibu Creek State Park is packed every weekend," she noted.
Yaroslavsky mused about his "tough job on a Friday morning" as he stood admiring the beautiful mountain view.
"If this was in the Sierra Nevadas everyone would say 'wow,'" said Yaroslavsky. "It's every bit as spectacular."
The Secret Valley acquisition, which follows on the heels of Lower Tuna and Zuniga Pond acquisitions, is a sign that "we're on a roll," said Yaroslavsky.
"It's a reaffirmation of all of the work that we've done to try to preserve the Santa Monicas."
He acknowledged the county's past mistakes in approving nearby subdivisions. There are enough subdivisions now, he said.
"The county's responsible for a lot of that, going back a lot of years," said Yaroslavsky with regret. But now, things are different, he said.
"We're all working off the same page....If you're going to build anything in this part of town, it's going to be a fight, and we take no prisoners."
He said all the interested agencies and officials need to continue leveraging their resources and ingenuity "to put more and more of these mountains and valleys in the public domain."
Calling it a "wonderful convergence" of partners that sometimes makes her role easy, Kuehl praised all the organizations and agencies that fund acquisitions in the Santa Monica Mountains.
"Elected officials can help simply by saying you're for them," said Kuehl. "I think this is where the money ought to go."
Rorie Skei, chief deputy director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said the elected officials representing the Santa Monicas are a "convergence of the stars," of "the best and the brightest" creating a model for the rest of the country.
"I think we've won the battle," said Skei. From here, she said, it's merely incremental battles and clean-up actions to protect the mountains.
Kitz, who has been active in efforts to protect the Santa Monica Mountains for 30 years, said she got involved when she heard her young children screaming at the sight of a spider.
"I realized that love of the environment is not hereditary," said Kitz. "I really believe that the health of our country depends on the health of our wild lands."
Fire Clearance and Bunch Grass
From the trail overlooking the new 40-acre Secret Valley acquisition, Jo Kitz pointed out the damaging impact a single house can have on habitat in the Santa Monicas. There, in the distance, stood a lone mansion, surrounded by a nearly bare patch of cleared land to meet fire safety requirements, cut out of an otherwise lush growth of hillside chaparral.
These fire clearance requirements known as "fuel modification" can dramatically amplify the impacts of development, resulting in several acres of lost native habitat for a single home, said Kitz.
If native plants are required to be trimmed for fire safety, she explained, fearful new homeowners believe they will be safer if they remove them altogether. As a result, characteristic chaparral plants like laurel sumac with 30-foot roots, are lost, increasing erosion and in turn degrading streams and creeks. Also, to make matters worse, these measures don't necessarily reduce the fire danger, she said, because the plants that sprout in cleared areas are generally non-native annuals that are very "flashable" and burn very quickly.
To reduce some of the environmental impacts, as well as the cost, of fire clearance on public lands, Kitz described an MRT pilot project to discourage non-native weeds from cropping up year after year in cleared buffer areas on public lands.
Native bunch grass will be planted on a strip of land 160 x 1,000 feet, she said, in hopes that once established it can then simply be mowed to five inches for fire clearance, creating a more predictable and cost-effective maintenance schedule. Currently, the non-native weeds that sprout in the cleared areas--especially during wet years--can amount to a tremendous volume of vegetation to clear and, with re-growth, can require repeated clearance.
Kitz said the bunch grasses are a compromise between the naturally occurring chaparral habitat and draconian clearance practices that dry out the soil and leave it vulnerable to invasive weeds. The density of bunch grass may make it safer in a fire than the fast growing non-native annual grasses, thistles and mustard, she said.
"We know it does burn, but we don't believe it will burn as fast," said Kitz.
The "disking" method generally used to till the soil for brush clearance, she said, kills earthworms and arthropods that support a healthy top soil and plant growth. Part of the pilot project will include restoring the soil.
"We're going to be gardening for a while," said Kitz. "We will have to water for the first few years."
Conservancy's Edelman Considers Affordable Housing in the Mountains
Paul Edelman, deputy director of planning and natural resources for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, suggests a possible option to creating affordable lots in the Santa Monicas.
With so many mansions being built in the Santa Monica Mountains and an affordable community like Lower Topanga being taken out for a new park without even a pause over cultural and lifestyle diversity issues, the question arises as to whether the many agencies devoted to preserving natural habitats have any interest in or hope for preserving the possibility of modest living in the mountains.
While the current regulatory approach to resource protection certainly stands to inhibit development by increasing the cost of building in the mountains, it may also price low-impact, simpler lifestyles out of the mountains in favor of those who have the financial resources to achieve their expectations for expansive homes, landscaping and other amenities.
When asked about this issue at the recent dedication of the new Secret Valley 40-acre acquisition, Paul Edelman, deputy director of planning and natural resources with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, offered one interesting idea.
"As a Conservancy employee, the only way I see there being a creation of home sites that are affordable, that we have anything to do with, is creating parcels of tax-defaulted properties," said Edelman.
These occasional tax-default acquisitions, purchased from the county, Edelman explained, could pay for themselves if a small portion could be sold as a new home site--one with pre-defined limits on size and prohibitions against future additions.
For example, a small portion of a 10-acre parcel adjoining an existing community could be sold for a modest new house and the rest preserved as open space. The size and other restrictions on the house would serve to limit the price, he suggested, but would be enough to reimburse the Conservancy.
Currently, the Conservancy, which has the right of first refusal to buy these properties for the price of the back-taxes owed, has five such properties. Another dozen or so are in the pipeline and may be acquired by the end of the year, said Edelman.
The Conservancy is interested in some of these properties because they have good habitat areas or "paper" roads that could be developed.
"A little shotgunning doesn't hurt," said Edelman. Sometimes, these small acquisitions act like seeds to attract further dedications and acquisitions in an area, he said.
No Left Turn!
PHOTOS BY TONY MORRIS
Motorists need to be aware of these new signs, at the Post Office and north entrance to the Center (left) and by Fernwood Market (right) which prohibit left-hand turns.
Topangans should be advised that new traffic signs have been installed at the Topanga Post Office and the entrance to the parking lot at Fernwood Market. Following a study by Caltrans and the Topanga Canyon Boulevard traffic committee, signs prohibiting left hand turns from the Post Office and the Topanga Center onto Topanga Canyon Boulevard during the hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., and into the Fernwood Market parking lot, Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., have been installed. Drivers should be aware that they will be cited by the California Highway Patrol if they are in violation of the new requirements. The estimated fine for violating the signs is from $100-200.
The Post Office signage is located at the southern edge of the parking lot on the shoulder of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, and the Topanga Center signage is located at the north entrance to the parking area in front of a pepper tree which currently obscures the sign. It is expected that the tree will be trimmed so drivers have a clear view of the sign.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LACOFD
Former Assistant Fire Chief Mike Dyer has been promoted to Deputy Fire Chief.
By Tony Morris
Assistant Fire Chief Mike Dyer has been promoted to Deputy Fire Chief in charge of Special Operations for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Dyer is well known to Topangans, having served as a captain at Topanga Fire Station 69 during the Topanga/Malibu wildfire of 1993. The new Deputy Chief says he remembers working non-stop for six days during that fire, one of the most destructive wildfires in the county's history.
Following his posting at Fire Station 69 Dyer served in West Hollywood, as a Hazmat specialist in Carson, as a Battalion Chief in Covina and as Assistant Fire Chief at Station 70 in Malibu.
Dyer is well acquainted with the dangers facing firefighters in communities like Malibu and Topanga. As Deputy Chief in charge of Special Operations he will oversee the Air Operations section of the Fire Department which includes the county's helicopter fleet, leased heavy-lift helitankers and SuperScooper aircraft.
Hands Across the Table: Topanga Evacuation Procedures Discussed
RESIDENTIAL ASSEMBLY LOCATIONS/
RED CROSS SHELTERS
* Cali-Camp/ Calmont School -- 1717 Old Topanga Canyon Road
* Topanga Elementary School -- 141 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard
* Topanga Community House -- 1440 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard
* Topanga Christian Fellowship Church -- 269 Old Topanga Canyon Road
Topanga Center -- the "Y" at Old and New Topanga
Topanga State Park Parking Lot -- 20825 Entrada Road
Open Field -- 1400 Bonnell Drive
Water Tanks at Top O' Topanga
* indicates Red Cross Shelter
For information on horse evacuation call Alli Acker at (310) 455-3029
By Tony Morris
A meeting of representatives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW), Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (T-CEP), Los Angeles County Animal Control, and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's office was held at the Lost Hills Sheriff's Department on July 24 to discuss specific plans for evacuating Topanga in the event of a major wildfire. Sergeant John Hargraves of the Sheriff's Department Emergency Operations Bureau was moderator of the three-hour event and provided a review of the Sheriff's Incident Evacuation Plan.
Hargraves said that it is the responsibility of the Sheriff's Department to notify residents after the Fire Department's Incident Command has issued an order to evacuate. He stressed that rescue of residents is the responsibility of the Fire Department, not the Sheriff's Department, because the Fire Department has the proper protective clothing and safety equipment to do the work. The Sheriff's Department cannot force residents out of their homes during a wildfire but homeowners who remain will be given an "Evacuation Refusal" notice stating that they are in a designated evacuation area. The form advises homeowners that failure to evacuate "could result in Misdemeanor Prosecution of section 409.5 of the California Penal Code."
Lieutenant Phil Abner of the Lost Hills Sheriff's station noted that members of his department will be patrolling the Topanga area on Red Flag Days when Santa Ana winds are blowing and there is high fire danger. Abner stated that if evacuation is necessary patrol vehicles and the Sheriff's helicopter will make announcements over loudspeakers to warn Topanga residents of the fire emergency. Local radio stations such as KFWB and KNX and Charter cable TV will broadcast details of the fire.
Of particular importance to authorities is control of access to Topanga at the start of a fire. In an emergency the CHP and the Sheriff's Department will regulate traffic and DPW will provide proper signage for detours and road closures. All persons attempting to enter Topanga will have to show proper identification and residents may be delayed to allow access to emergency personnel. The CHP is looking into ways of expediting the identification process and assisting residents at a location on Pacific Coast Highway that will not block traffic.
Fred Feer of T-CEP reported that their radio network consisting of 20 ham operators can communicate anywhere in the Canyon. Residents should not feel that they are on their own in an emergency. The T-CEP Hotline is (310) 455-3000 at the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) and will allow residents to "speak to a human being who will give them emergency information." Feer also said there are eight Residential Assembly Areas where residents can gather and survive a fire (see box). "They may not be too comfortable but they are survivable areas."
T-CEP will assist in coordinating the needs of the handicapped and elderly citizens with special needs.
Alli Acker of the Topanga Equine Response Team has local neighborhood groups organized to evacuate horses from the area. "However, there may not be time to activate this plan and outside volunteers from the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control may be called in to assist in the process."
Several meeting participants suggested that a low power AM radio service should be installed along Topanga Canyon Boulevard to provide residents with "real-time" information on road conditions, fire emergency, etc. Malibu already has such a system along Pacific Coast Highway. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has had a radio information system for many years.
Susan Nissman, senior field deputy for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's office, is working with state Senator Sheila Kuehl's office to determine if the low power radio service, similar to the LAX radio station, can be extended from PCH into the Canyon and along Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
Alan Carson, volunteer coordinator for the Sheriff's Department Disaster Communications Service in Malibu, reports that his organization has over 200 trained ham and portable radio operators. During an emergency 25 to 30 these operators will be available to disseminate information from their portable radios.
School evacuation is a major concern. The Las Virgenes, Santa Monica-Malibu and Los Angeles Unified School District should coordinate the evacuation of students from the area by making buses available in a wildfire emergency. Supervisor Yaroslavsky's office will look into the feasibility of obtaining buses to transport our school students if an emergency occurs.
Get Out Your I.D.
During the months of August and September, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Malibu/Lost Hills Station will assist the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) investigators by conducting a series of "sales laws compliance" investigations. It is hoped that public awareness of these investigations will cause alcohol merchants to more carefully monitor the age of their customers.
Any questions regarding enforcement of sales laws compliance should be directed to Deputies Matt Dunn, Vic Paladino, Tom Coolsey or Mark Kocisko at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station Juvenile Intervention Unit at (818) 878-1808 ext. 3080.