Oaks Annual Meeting 2009
By John Saurenman

On March 16, more than fifty  Oaks members and residents gathered at the American Film Institute for our annual meeting.  Bob Young, President of the Oaks Board, kicked the evening off by introducing our guests from Council District 4 (Council member Tom LaBonge and staff members Renee Weitzer, Sharon Shapiro, Doug Mensman and Jullian Harris-Calvin), the Los Angeles Police Department (Senior Lead Office Mike Shea), and Natalie Freidberg from All Shades of Green.

After the introductions, Bob turned to the first order of business: an explanation of why we had moved the meeting from Immaculate Heart High School to AFI.  Bob explained that notwithstanding the opposition of a number of community groups including the Oaks HOA, Immaculate Heart had proceeded with its plan to demolish the house  at 1912 St. Andrews Place.  The school hopes to use the parcel for additional parking or for an extension of its facilities.  Renee Weitzer from CD4 noted that the city could not have stopped the demolition and that for any other use of the property, the school will need a variance which will require a full public review and hearing.

Bob also reviewed several news items from 2008, the most notable of which were the implementation of the Interim Control Ordinance (regulating new building in our hilly neighborhood) and the big infrastructure activities ( the sewer and electrical upgrades in the Oaks).

Bob then turned the podium over to Mike Gatto and Alexander von Wechmar to discuss the proposed traffic circle at the intersection of Canyon and Bronson Drives.  Mike reviewed the 501(c)(3) entity that has been formed (the Oaks and Bronson Canyon Improvement Fund) to raise the $80,000 to $120,000 needed to design and construct the traffic circle.  Mike noted three reasons for a traffic circle:  1) it will make the intersection safer; 2) it will make the neighborhood more appealing; and 3) amenities like this reduce crime.  Mike and Alex also noted that we need to contribute funds to the 501(c)(3) and to locate people who can contribute skills, for example, architectural and landscaping skills. 

Gerry Hans was the next speaker, and he reviewed several items regarding Griffith Park.  First, Gerry noted that in 2008, the City  designated the Park  a historical and cultural monument, a  designation that will help preserve the Park.  The designation process got off to a rocky start, but the public expressed considerable support for the designation which helped move  the process along.  Second, Gerry told us that while the development of a new master plan for the Park has been a drawn- out process, it is moving forward again.  The Master Plan Working Group has a draft plan which the City has reviewed and wants to see refined in a few areas.  Because the City does not have the funds for full environmental review, it may adopt the plan as a framework or vision plan.  Third, there are several developing issues in the Park including Forest Lawn’s plans to expand its operation and moving the DWP Festival of Lights toward becoming a 100% walking event.  Finally, Gerry had pictures on display showing all the flowers that now are blooming in the Park.

Councilman Tom LaBonge followed Gerry to the podium.  The Councilman reviewed a number of issues including ongoing efforts to upgrade the infrastructure in our area.  He noted that the City faces financial challenges, but that he wants to push for  those activities that provide the most benefit to the most citizens.  Regarding the traffic circle, LaBonge noted that such projects  had been tried in other parts of the City only to be abandoned when local opposition surfaced.  He suggested that, as an initial step, we consider laying the circle out in paint in order to measure community acceptance.  Then , turning to the police officers in attendance, LaBonge said  he wanted a new northwest division formed around Vermont and Santa Monica, but that such a new division will take time to come into existence.  He also reported that the new fire station is now under construction  at Van Ness and Hollywood.  And he reiterated his focus  on achieving  the purchase of Cahuenga Peak.  He also noted that that there is a large undeveloped parcel in the Oaks (adjacent to Griffith Park), and that he wants to be sure that it is developed in a way that conforms to the character  of our neighborhood.   In a related vein, Tom reported that he will be presenting a motion to extend the Interim Control Ordinance for six months.  Finally, noting that  the northwest corner of Western and Hollywood will soon be redeveloped,  Tom expressed his belief that gentrification helps to stabilize areas. 

During his presentation, Tom stated that finding the funds for repaving of streets was challenging.  While our neighborhood streets clearly need work, the city’s major thoroughfares  get most of the funding.  At the conclusion of Tom’s remarks, Jullian Harris-Calvin, the Council District field deputy for our area, reported that some of our streets will be proposed for repaving in this fiscal year and others for the next fiscal year.  This however does not guarantee that the city will actually repave them.

Next up was SLO Mike Shea to address security issues in the Oaks.  As a general matter, Mike reported that, on an ongoing basis, we have a very low rate of violent crime.  And while our area has a more typical rate for property crimes, even that is low and seems to be focused on mailbox thefts and car break-ins.  Mike emphasized the importance of reporting crimes.  If ta spike in reported crimes is noted,  LAPD will assign more resources to that area; but if residents don’t report crimes that have occurred, LAPD has no way of knowing  that an area needs attention.  Residents can  telephone  911 for crimes in progress or against a person or  311 for non-emergency events.  Mike noted that for many crimes, there are simple solutions.  Making sure your  home’s windows and doors are locked deters  burglaries; locked mailboxes deter mailbox thefts; and avoiding  leaving valuables visible inside your car deters car break-ins.  Finally, in response to audience questions, Mike addressed response time.  The average response time in Hollywood is under 6 minutes, but the response time is faster for calls from the flats.  Because our streets are more tucked into the hills  and often difficult to find, LAPD’s response time in the Oaks will be slower.

Natalie Freidberg of All Shades of Green was our final speaker, giving an informative presentation on options for greening  our homes ,  and especially more energy efficient.  She reviewed the three steps to achieving higher performance: testing to identify where  problems are and where a homeowner needs to spend money: upgrading heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to make them more efficient: and insulation and air sealing to make everything work better.  With these improvements,  homeowners will have  more comfortable homes that are less noisy and have lower utility bills.  Natalie also noted several products worth our consideration, including compact fluorescent light bulbs and power strips that have motion detectors (if the power strip does not detect motion for a set period of time, it will power down all those items connected to it thus conserving energy).

As our final order of business, the members of the Oaks HOA reelected the Oaks Board.  The current board members are listed on the Oaks website.  At that point, Bob closed the meeting.

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