April 23, 2018

Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner



Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky inducted the 2014 Chamber Board at the 65th Annual Awards Dinner. (L-R) Julia Swanson, Recording Secretary; Mary Guillerman, Membership Chair; Ron Kramer, Treasurer; Jenni Billings, Advertising Chair; Yorit Tal, Event Chair; Dianne Porchia, President; Mitch Metzner, Vice-President; and Bonnie Morgan, Social Media and Professional Development Chair.

The Grand Hall at the Topanga Community House, decorated by TCC treasurer Gabrielle Lamirand, warmly welcomed a gathering of about 75 residents, honorees, state, county and local officials as they arrived for the 65th Topanga Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner.

Among them were: Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; representatives Andrea Kun and Tim Pershing standing in for State Assembly member Richard Bloom; State Sen. Fran Pavley and Lieutenant John Lecrivain of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department.


Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

Lieutenant John Lecrivain of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department with Stacy Sledge, President of the Topanga Town Council.

Honored this year were: Citizen of the Year, Zev Yaroslavsky, who will term out on November 30 after 20 years in office; the Topanga Association for a Scenic Community (TASC) headed by Roger Pugliese, as the Non-Profit Business of the Year; and nine-year-old Lucy Babcock for Lucy’s Bake Shop, as Youth Business of the Year.

Glasses of champagne greeted people at the sign-in table while delectable hors d’oeuvres circulated served by caterers Van Torossian and Hovanes Kirakosyan, who also presented elegant dinner choices of salmon and chicken. Decadently delicious desserts were augmented by Lucy’s Bakeshop cupcakes.


Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

From left, Ellen Geer, Samara Frame, Paul Grzymkowski, Joanna Gunst and Ken Mazur.

The awards proceedings reflected the warmth of longtime relationships among officials and residents who have worked and fought the good fight together for a good part of their lives.


Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

From left, Susan Clark of Topanga Animal Rescue, artist Clare Brown, Chamber Events Chair Yorit Tal and Chamber President Dianne Porchia.

Chamber president Dianne Porchia began with a candle ceremony requesting guests to light a single candle at their tables, then small votives that were placed in a circle around the large candle.

“This is where nature, community and business thrive together. Nature promotes health and stillness,” Porchia said, and invited people to join the Chamber “to experience all that is Topanga.”



Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky accepts his award from Dianne Porchia, President of the Topanga Chamber of Commerce and Mitch Metzner, Ph.D, Vice President of the Chamber.

Porchia then called Yaroslavsky to the stage to receive the Citizen of the Year award, a ceramic plaque made by local ceramist Rebecca Catterall, who made one for each of the honorees.

“I just want to thank you for letting me serve you all these years,” Yaroslavsky said. “We’ve done well over the last 20 years and I take full credit for it!” He laughed and everyone laughed with him.

“The library is now one of the most beautiful features of Topanga,” he continued. “But only in Topanga could the building of a library be controversial!”


Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky greets Roger Pugliese of TASC at the Chamber Awards Dinner at the Topanga Community House.

In a more serious tone, he said, “This is a special community. The Santa Monica Mountains are very special to the county and the state,” he said, and referred to the recently passed Local Coastal Program (LCP).

“That is a singular opportunity to strike a blow against the individual self-interest of developers to destroy what should be preserved for future generations so all can enjoy these mountains and the beauty of them”

When it came time for Fran Pavley to honor Yaroslavsky, her colleague and friend of many years, she added a light-hearted moment to the occasion.

“You have enough plaques and certificates,” she said and handed him a Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area ball cap that she and her husband, Andy, bought at King Gillette Ranch Visitors Center, one of the great acquisitions of Yaroslavky’s tenure.

Field Deputies for Richard Bloom, Andrea Kun and Tim Pershing regaled Yaroslavsky with “our heartfelt appreciation to you. No certificate! We’re saving trees!” said Pershing.



Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

Lucy Babcock standing with dad Wyatt, mom Jenny and brother Jason was honored for Youth Business of the Year, Lucy’s Bakeshop. She held a bowl of her homemade dog biscuits that really did look good enough to eat. She donates part of the proceeds to Topanga Animal Rescue.

A composed Lucy Babcock, who is not only an entrepreneur but also a philanthropist, gracefully received her “Youth Busines of the Year” and other awards, announcing that, in addition to the cupcakes, she also made dog biscuits for sale, with profits donated to Topanga Animal Rescue.

In presenting Lucy with a County certificate, Yaroslavsky told her he had one recommendation: “From a Type 2 diabetic,” he said, “Sugar Free!”

Lt. Lecrivain also acknowledged Lucy, saying, “My first official meeting here [in Topanga] was at the Topanga Town Council and I received a beautiful cupcake. I love cupcakes! We commend you, Lucy, on your entrepreneurial skills.”


Perhaps the most moving presentation was when Roger Pugliese, in accepting the Chamber award, called Joe Edmiston, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, to join him in paying tribute to Bob Bates, a founding member of the Topanga Association for a Scenic community (TASC) and chairperson for 25 years.

“It took 18 years to save Summit Valley,” Edmiston said, presenting a brass plaque acknowledging Bates’ leadership and enormous contribution to the victory over a development that would have destroyed the Canyon’s air and watershed at the north end. It is now Edmund D. Edelman Park, named for the supervisor who preceded Yaroslavsky and presided over the final decision.

“In honor of Bob’s work, this plaque will be placed at the Summit Valley trailhead,” Edmiston said, “so future generations will know about him. Bob saved Summit Valley for all of us to enjoy for years to come,” he said.

The 20-year anniversary of the dedication of Summit Valley will be celebrated on May 24 with the placing of the plaque honoring Bates.

“We all stand on his shoulders,” Pugliese said, noting the Bates lost a child during that long fight.



Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

Topanga Association for a Scenic Community (TASC) are from left, Robin Fomalont, Ron Fomolant, Ari Fomolant, Dan Larson, Ken Mazur, Toby Keeler, Roger Pugliese and Herbert Peterman.

]]Bates, who lives in Oregon with his wife and is ailing, wrote a letter for the tenth anniversary of the Park dedication. It is reprinted in part here:

“The process of getting 662 acres of undeveloped headwaters dedicated as a state park was an endeavor of continuous battles, year after year! I doubt that many readers today know that it was actually a 31-year fight beginning in 1963.

“That year, Topanga Association for a Scenic Community (TASC) was formed, whose primary purpose was the protection of the headwaters of Topanga Creek from undesirable development. I was a founding board member and several years later became chairperson and held that position for nearly 25 years, if my memory serves me.

“An early goal of TASC was achieving state park status for Summit Valley and, of course, many members of the community chuckled over our “pie-in-the-sky” goal.

“I believe it was 1984 that a new proposal popped up called Montevideo. It consisted of a “world class” golf course, a hotel and 125 million-dollar homes. The project was in complete violation of Topanga’s Area Plan, but, remarkably, this project stayed alive for almost 10 years and proved to be the longest running application for a development in Los Angeles County history!

“Montevideo was never approved due to continuous pressure from TASC. At one point the developer sued TASC for having the audacity to oppose his project at a public hearing. The case was thrown out when the judge asked the developer’s attorney if he had ever heard of the First Amendment. Discouraged, the developer sold the property to the Disney sisters.

“We thought we were doomed. We were told that the sisters operated out of a trust fund of $2 billion. TASC’s treasury was less than $2,000.

They spent thousands of dollars on a smear campaign against me and the board of directors.

“We decided to fight fire with fire and organized a group of Topangans to lay siege to the Disney Studios, armed with huge placards put together by local artists showing Mickey Mouse driving a monster bulldozer leveling the hills of Summit Valley.

At a subsequent hearing for the project before the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Edelman announced to a stunned audience of mostly Topangans that he, state parks and Disney had just negotiated the purchase of 662 acres for a state park. After a split second of silent disbelief, pandemonium broke out. The hearing room was filled with screams of delight, people hugging and kissing, dancing in the aisles and crying uncontrollably. It was an emotional experience of a lifetime. The Board of Supervisors sat in frozen silence because I sensed they knew we deserved our due. The 31-year fight to preserve the “impossible” dream was over. I’m actually tearing a little as I write this.


Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

TASC Board Member Herbert Peterman; Executive Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Joe Edmiston and Kim Lamorie, President of the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation.

A short time after the hearing, a large group of us met up in Glenwood to celebrate at the Mitchell’s whose large deck overlooked Summit Valley. As we toasted the land and each other, suddenly a rainbow appeared over Summit Valley. Mother Nature evidently had decided to join the celebration and honor us with beautiful colors. Some thought of it as an omen, but whatever one wants to believe, it was a perfect ending for the victory that few ever thought would take place.


Appreciation and Gratitude Prevailed at Chamber Awards Dinner

Enjoying the ambiance of the Chamber event were, from left, Barbara Yaroslavsky, Karla Morrison and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

The park was dedicated in May, 1994. I had to remind those present that this didn’t happen because of one person. It was a combined effort of those who believed that the impossible not only could, but would happen. Without those dedicated TASC members and hundreds of selfless volunteers, you could still be fighting to preserve Summit Valley.”