By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
As the Pacific Palisades Community Council returns to a regular schedule of meetings held via Zoom, Councilmember Mike Bonin was invited as the guest speaker for a virtual meeting on July 23.
The councilmember began with brief updates about what is going on across the city, including the fact that City Council meetings, which are also being conducted virtually, have increased participation from residents who may not be able to attend an in-person meeting but can join in online.
“I have missed having the human contact that is such a big part of this job, although I’ve been grateful for Zoom,” Bonin began. “In a weird a way, it has actually, at least at the City Council level, it has stepped up and enhanced civic engagement to a great degree.”
This sentiment is reflected in PPCC meeting attendance—with close to 70 people checking in at one point.
After his introduction, Bonin took questions from the board and audience members during a near hour-long discussion, with many attending to ask questions and hear answers about the Highlands eldercare facility.
“What do you say to people who say that, ‘I shouldn’t have to wear a face covering and I shouldn’t have to stay six feet away from people’ and so on and so forth?” PPCC Chair David Card asked first. “How do you promote safe habits of people who may not want to be quite that safe?”
Bonin responded that he appeals to both science and to common sense.
“Even if you feel that you are hale and hearty and tough and you’re going to live forever, please … don’t think about it in terms of you,” Bonin said. “Think about it in terms of your grandmother or think about it in terms of someone who is working to provide you a service.”
The second question related to the city budget and whether it would affect the existing level of LAPD and LAFD service in the Palisades, which includes one patrol car, one senior lead officer, the beach patrol and two fire stations.
“I am pretty confident, today in particular, that we are going to be able to do that,” Bonin replied, explaining that LAPD is planning to focus on patrols and community outreach rather than specialized units and other police functions.
Around halfway through Bonin’s time, the discussion turned to the eldercare facility, following nudging in the Zoom chat from Area 2 Representative Steve Cron reporting there were many Highlands residents in the meeting with questions and to “please make sure that they have the opportunity to be heard tonight.”
“I’ve been a supporter of yours for a long time but one position of yours I still don’t understand, you have repeatedly spoken out against putting housing in high fire areas and yet you have been a supporter of the eldercare facility,” Cron began. “I bet if we could do a show of hands, the vast majority of the people here who are Highlands residents that are on this meeting tonight are against it. I still don’t understand why you would want to put that many people in a high fire area.”
Bonin responded that it’s “no secret” that he’s been a supporter of the project for a while, acknowledging that it’s been a controversial decision and that he generally does not like putting housing in high fire areas.
“We also have an urgent need to be providing places for seniors to age close to their relatives and have a safe place to be taken care of, and that’s an important and a competing public objective,” Bonin said. “I know it’s been a controversial decision, but it is one that has been upheld, even recently by the courts, as being a legal and a sensible one.”
He continued on, explaining that the city needs places where it can take care of its seniors.
“Even taking care of them in a situation like this, where they could be surrounded by fire and dependent on fire officials to get them out in an emergency situation?” Cron asked.
“It’s not like we’re getting proposals to build eldercare facilities left and right,” Bonin said. “If we had a plethora of them and we had too many of them, it would be a different calculation, but we need places to take care of people.”
Bonin took other questions from audience members, including his rebuttal that he does not have a close relationship with project developer Rony Shram and that this meeting was the first time he heard of a retaining wall, which he said he will have his staff look into.
The next PPCC meeting is scheduled for August 13 and will feature LAPD Captain Jonathan Tom, West Division Commanding Officer, as a special guest.