September 30, 2014

Tribute to Zev: “Let the Land Dictate the Use”

 

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN MESSENGER © 2014

Tribute to Zev: “Let the Land Dictate the Use”

Kim Lamorie, President of the Las Virgenes Homeowner’s Federation, presents Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky with a gorgeous painting of King Gillette Ranch as a tribute to his enduring work to save 20,000 acres of pristine land in the Santa Monica Mountains.

These days, it seems outgoing Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky moves from one tribute event to another, but the Tribute to Zev on Saturday, June 21, hosted by the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation (LVHF), must have felt like one to beat all others.

Every element of the evening seemed to align—the weather; the band; the hors d’oeuvres and elegant dinner catered by Antoinette Peragine of Choux Choux (chouxchouxla.com); decorations of green and blue-themed floral centerpieces with a green apple at every place; “Zev-tinis;” the people; and most of all, the person they were there to honor: Zev Yaroslavsky.

As The Mighty Croon Dogs band rocked out with classic oldies and Rock ‘n’ Roll, guests gathered on the patio of an annex building overlooking the panorama of King Gillette Ranch, “the geographical heart of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA),” a property that Yaroslavsky was instrumental in acquiring and that now houses The Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center at King Gillette Ranch.

Dinner began with a “sunset toast” to Zev of a potent “Zev-tini,” made with vodka and apple schnapps and cleverly garnished with a green apple slice with a Z carved into it.

As the sunset gave way to the night sky, Kim Lamorie, president of LVHF, began the program.

“Tonight we celebrate Zev, and our 20-year open space acquisition and conservation journey with our supervisor that has been like no other in the history of the Santa Monica Mountains. Twenty-thousand pristine, magnificant acres and miles of trails and ridgelines have been preserved in perpetuity because of his fortitude and tenacious actions, Lamorie said.”

“Representing the Third District and its two million constituents, Zev is our ‘environmental hero’ here in his Santa Monica Mountain communities. There would be no North Area Plan, Grading and Significant Ridgeline Ordinance, Low Impact Development, or Prop A, without Zev and, of course, our prized jewel, the Local Coastal Program (LCP) would not exist. The LCP is the most exciting and powerful coastal resource protection plan ever embraced.”

Lamorie then proceeded to acknowledge members of Zev’s staff and key people who worked with him throughout the years to “implement and uphold smart and savvy land-use laws and guiding principles like ‘Let the land dictate the use,’ that have ensured maximum protection of our natural resources.”

Alisa Beilinkoff Katz, Chief Deputy; Maria Chong-Castillo, Assistant Chief Deputy; Ginny Kruger, Former Planning Deputy; Laura Shell, L.A. County Planning Commissioner and Former Planning Deputy; and Susan Nissman, Senior Field Deputy; were presented with a gold oak tree necklace.

Also acknowledged were Hal Helsley, Former L.S. County Planning Commissioner, who made sure that “every development was approved on the condition that it was appropriate to the land.”

Of Ben Saltsman, Yaroslavsky’s Planning Deputy, Lamorie said, “He is a master at upholding Zev’s land use policies, the best ever writing, and driving the LCP to success. His fine hand in everything Zev is apparent in the Santa Monica Mountains and especially the Decker Canyon acquisition, where he worked with the landowners.”

In appreciation, Rorie Skei, Director of the SMM Conservancy, announced “that we have established and named ‘The Ben Saltsman Trail’” in Decker Canyon and presented him with the plaque.

Calling Yaroslavsky to the podium, Lamorie presented him with a framed watercolor painting of King Gillette Ranch. “You have been a friend and the best supervisor we have ever known. We are faced with the reality of saying goodbye. [You helped preserve] the most breathtaking 20,000 acres of deep canyons, ridgelines and oak woodlands. We have traveled this road with you. It has been a privilege to work with you and the Federation salutes you. What an incredible journey it has been.”

With that, she turned the podium over to a succession of officials who, admonished not to give Zev any more proclamations and plaques for his already crowded “garage wall,” came up with a number of creative solutions.

A quote by Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Executive Director Joe Edmiston, “We are sitting in a landscape by Yaroslavsky…,” graced the front of the program that succinctly reflected the sentiments of the evening.

Saying “This is the perfect setting and perfect tribute to Zev,” Senator Fran Pavley presented him with an inscribed copy of “The Santa Monica Mountains: Range on the Edge,” by Tom Gamache and Matthew Jaffe and then listed “10 Reasons Why my District Loves Zev.” Reason 10 was: “For being an outstanding role model for almost 40 years and feisty defender of the UCLA Bruins.”

Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks said, “He’s a mench. When I became Supervisor, I copied a lot of things he did [in LA County] into the County of Ventura. What a legacy that is.”

Art Eck, past Superintendent of the National Park Service, said, “Because of Zev, everything changed for us. In 2008, when the [federal] government, among them Sandra Day O’Connor, were visiting national parks for funding, the NPS told them that the Santa Monica Mountains were the first park they needed to see. [Zev] saved this park and I will be forever grateful to him.” And to Zev, he said, “You are the Man to Match the Mountains.”

Craig Sapp, Supt. of CA State Parks, said, “My volunteers are the backbone of state park land. State Parks have always been ‘park poor.’ Zev made it possible to restore, preserve and protect Lower Topanga Creek. The collaborative effort of state and local parks, all those people together with his leadership, made it possible.”

Clark Stevens, Executive Officer of the Resource Conservation District, said, “Speaking for my board, we built the RCD with Zev,” and presented Yaroslavsky with adoption papers for a native reptile, a western pond turtle. “He’s named L’il Zev, #179. They are indigenous and will be there for a long time in your honor

Ruskin Hartley, President and CEO of Heal the Bay said, “We’ve got your back Zev, on the LCP. Take it on to the Bay!”

He went on to say, “Zev was one of those early leaders in banning plastic bags in L.A. When plastic bags get into the ocean, they look like jellyfish.” Presenting Yaroslavsky with an empty plastic bag, Hartley added that Heal the Bay is naming a moon jellyfish at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in his honor. “Come and visit any time,” he said.

Bill Vandenberg, Vice Chair of Sierra Club, Santa Monica Trails Council and Task force of the Sierra Club, was there on behalf of Ruth Gerson who could not attend.

“The future of these mountains and all the parks need the participation of everyone. As the only black man here, it’s important we all have an investment in the mountains. The next time you visit, invite a friend or neighbor to come with you.”

Charles Caspary, Board President of the Las Virgenes Water District thanked Yaroslavsky “for your dedication. With the alliances you forged, you have given us a gift that will last for generations.”

Acknowledging the generous praise, Yaroslavsky said, “Barbara [his wife] needs a ride home tonight because the car won’t be big enough for my swelled head. Thanks Kim for being such a great advocate and partner with our office. A lot of the acquistions wouldn’t be possible without your team.

“Nothing we have done came from the top down. It all came from you. The vision for the Santa Monica Mountains park started in the ‘60s with Marvin Braude, [member of the Los Angeles City Council for 32 years]; U.S. Representative Tony Bielenson [(1977-1997)]; and U.S. Representative Howard Berman [(1983-2013)]. I have just been your agent. I have been in a place where I can do something, to do good. I told my staff that we have the ability to do something to protect the mountains. When you look at all the things that have been done, we still have left a lot of work for the next person.

“When I came out of the LA City Council to take this job, my district was the worst in land use. You have got to be tough and uncompromising when it comes to things you care about. I made a commitment to myself that we would take no prisoners when it came to protecting the Santa Monica Mountains.

“This Local Coastal Program is the most significant coastal plan to be enacted in the state in 30 years. While it’s not perfect, it satisfies about 95 percent. We need the Supervisors’ vote one more time and we will bring the ponies home on this.

Acknowledging his staff, he said “They are the best part of the job. Things that seemed impossible when I first got here became possible, thanks to you. We always worked hard.”

Yaroslavsky conceded that there is a lot of work yet to do and loose ends to tie up before his term ends in November.

“We are in a sprint to the finish now and intend to finish the work,” he said.

Yaroslavsky saved his dearest acknowledgement for last. “To Barbara, she’s been a great life partner for me and a great public servant in her own right.”