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Palisades Crime Update: LAPD Reports Increase in Grand Theft Auto

LAPD Officer Brian Espin
Photo courtesy of PPCC

By LILY TINOCO  | Reporter

Los Angeles Police Department Officer Brian Espin, current acting senior lead officer for Pacific Palisades, provided year-to-date information about local crimes that have occurred, noting a spike in cases of grand theft auto.

“I will tell you what is skyrocketing through the roof is vehicle crime—car break-ins, cars being stolen … that is what’s hurting the Palisades the most right now,” Espin said during the Thursday, April 22, Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting.

Grand theft auto has increased by nearly 167% in the year, with nine at this time in 2020 and 24 so far in 2021. At the time of the meeting, Espin reported 20 cases of grand theft auto.

Espin said newer vehicles are susceptible to theft, as residents tend to leave their key FOBs in their car.

“A lot of these burglars … are opportunists,” he added. “They walk around … start lifting door hands and if one opens up, if it’s a push start … they get in, step on the brake, push it and see what happens. We’ve had quite a number of those.”

PPCC Chair David Card shared a recent experience of his own with attendees during the meeting, reporting that an individual rummaged through his car overnight and took a few of his belongings after he left his car unlocked.

“No big loss, the car is still there, but it’s a warning,” Card said.

Espin advised that to protect themselves, community members should not leave keys, valuables or anything that could be viewed as worthwhile in their cars: “Lock it, hide it, keep it.”

Compared to this time in 2020, there has also been a nearly 60% increase in instances of burglary/theft from motor vehicles, jumping from 51 cases to 80.

Theft has increased by 32%, with 25 cases reported in 2020 and 33 cases reported so far this year.

Burglary increased by eight instances, with 29 so far in 2021 and 21 in 2020.

Espin said individuals should continue to be mindful of their neighborhoods.

“If you see something, say something,” he said.

“Please help each other out and look out for your neighbors,” Espin said in an email to the Palisadian-Post. “Most crimes can be deterred by being aware of your surroundings and letting your neighbors know what is going on.

“When people are out and about with eyes on the street, most criminals take notice and will move on to another area where they will not be noticed or stand out.”

Pali High Students Return to Campus, In-Person Instruction

Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By LILY TINOCO | Reporter

Palisades Charter High School is moving into its next phase of reopening, allowing students to return to in-person, faculty-led instruction after more than a year of distance learning.

Principal Dr. Pamela Magee said approximately 100 students were slated to return to campus Monday, May 3, to participate in on-site, online instruction with their peers and supervising teachers, similar to LAUSD’s “Zoom in a Room” model. On Monday, May 10, the program is going to transition to in-person, instructional, faculty-led learning.

Magee said the upcoming program builds on the phased-in return to campus that began in March and the school’s Back to Campus afternoon enrichment program, which currently has over 500 students enrolled in electives or athletics.

To minimize disruption, she said students’ schedules are not expected to change and will remain the same as their current schedule. Students will have the opportunity to attend classes Monday through Thursday.

All students and staff are required to follow health protocols, which currently include physical distancing, proper use of face masks, and passing the school’s three-part daily health check of symptoms, temperature and a COVID-19 test. All forms of on-campus, in-person interaction requires students to show proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test on a weekly basis.

Students may opt to continue distance learning, and Magee said Pali High plans to continue the Back to Campus afternoon program, contingent on participation.

Executive Assistant Antoinette Stewart said the school received over 800 responses and approximately 550 students expressed interest in returning to class Monday, May 10, so far.

Stewart said Pali High has made it known that the school would allow students on campus when guidance from CDC, Public Health and their authorizer LAUSD said it would be safe to do so, which has allowed them to make the shift.

Reporting at the end of March that the school took into account feedback from faculty, parents and students, Pali High designed an in-person, after-school program for students, offering “ a variety of opportunities to interact with parents, teachers and support providers.”

LAUSD District 4 Representative Nick Melvoin explained during an April 7 virtual town hall that there are unique challenges in the secondary model, primarily that stable cohorts that can be offered at the elementary school level “are thrown out the window.”

“Students on a typical day are going from six to seven classes,” Melvoin said.

Melvoin shared at the time that he hoped to discuss plans with LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner with the goal of having a full-day schedule come August.

“As we move into the remaining months of the school year, I continue to be reminded of the dedication, commitment and adaptability of Pali High teachers,” Magee said to the Palisadian-Post. “They are our heroes who rapidly and repeatedly adapt to the ever-changing demands of this very challenging year of the pandemic.

“I am grateful for the support of the school community to make this return to a closer to normal school environment for our students, which will help us prepare for a full reopening of school in the fall.”

LA County Meets COVID-19 Threshold for Yellow Tier

By LILY TINOCO | Reporter

Los Angeles County has met the threshold for the yellow tier—the least restrictive in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy—Public Health reported on Tuesday afternoon, May 4.

A revised Health Officer Order was slated to go into effect on Thursday, May 6, allowing bars to begin providing indoor service at 25% capacity and other sectors to increase capacity limits.

The county continues to report low and stable case numbers and daily hospitalizations. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, hospitalizations have dropped below 400 in the county.

In January, Palisadian and medical director of urgent care at Providence Saint John’s Health Center Anita Gorwara told the Palisadian-Post the hospital was inundated with patients who had, been exposed to or wanted testing for COVID-19—back when a high number of cases strained health systems across the county. Her volume in urgent care at that time was 70 to 100 patients per day.

She shared that things are “much better now,” and that she is back to an average of 40 patients per day in urgent care.

“Our ability to maintain low numbers of cases, and correspondingly low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, can be attributed in large part to the increased number of people vaccinated,” Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

As of Friday, April 30, over eight million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered to people across LA County. To date, 64.8% of Pacific Palisades and 62.9% of Palisades Highlands residents have gotten at least one shot, according to data from Public Health.

Pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid recently announced same-day appointments for vaccines. CVS, located at 864 Swarthmore Ave., had doses of the Pfizer vaccine in stock as the Post went to print Tuesday.

Vaccine appointments can also be made at Pharmaca, located at 15150 Sunset Blvd. The pharmacy had the Moderna and Janssen vaccine available as the Post went to print.

Individuals who are 16 and 17 years old can schedule appointments with guardian consent at any location that administers the Pfizer vaccine. All eligible Angelenos can schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment by using the state’s My Turn system.

“There will be a time in the not-distant future when many of our children will be eligible for the vaccine,” Ferrer concluded. “While we are all reminded daily about the powerful vaccines now available, for our children and others not yet vaccinated, masking is an essential tool in our effort to keep transmission rates low.”

As the Post went to print Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 had reached 1,234,202 across the county when factoring in Long Beach and Pasadena, with 23,930 deaths. The county’s daily test positivity rate is 0.7%.

Pacific Palisades had reached 842 confirmed cases and 14 deaths Tuesday, with an additional 146 in Palisades Highlands and one death.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free for everyone, regardless of immigration status or if the person has health insurance. Residents of Pacific Palisades can visit myturn.ca.gov to make an appointment.

City Council Redistricting Commissioner Provides Local Updates at PPCC Meeting

Michele Prichard
Photo courtesy of PPCC

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

City Council Redistricting Commissioner Michele Prichard—appointed by Councilmember Mike Bonin to the 2021 Los Angeles Redistricting Commission—gave a presentation about the process at the April 22 Pacific Palisades Community Council board meeting.

“The key goal of the commission is to develop new political boundaries,” Prichard explained.

The commission’s mission statement is “to strengthen the governance of the city of Los Angeles by empowering its communities to have their diverse needs served through fair and inclusive representation,” according to a slide Prichard showed during her presentation.

The updated boundaries will be based on 2020 Census data, creating equal-sized districts in the city of Los Angeles. The commission is composed of 21 members appointed by LA elected officials, including one representative for each of the city’s 15 districts.

“Prior to 2000, the LA City Council actually drew their own political city council district lines,” Prichard said, “but in 1999, LA City voters passed charter reform, which authorized the creation of an appointed commission to draw and to recommend boundaries for the council districts.”

The commission’s recommendations—partially based on information obtained from residents during a series of board meetings over the course of summer 2021, written comments, recommendations and map tools—will go before the City Council for final approval.

Because neighborhoods can change, including demographics, homeownership patterns and employment base, redistricting is completed every 10 years, Prichard explained.

A number of foundational laws are considered when redistricting, including the U.S. Constitution, Los Angeles City Charter and Federal Voting Rights Act. The constitution requires that every American receive as close to equal political representation as possible, with a deviation of less than 10%, based on criteria like natural boundaries, neighborhoods and communities of interest.

“For redistricting purposes this really means that we have to avoid over-representing or under-representing any people or community,” Prichard explained. “Essentially, our assignment is to seek districts that are equal in population size as much as possible.”

Prichard added that after the Census Bureau publishes the 2020 count, every political jurisdiction across the country—including California state, LA County and LAUSD—has to update their boundaries to create equal districts, with the census delay causing entities to amend their timelines.

Initially, data was supposed to be released at the end of March, but the latest update Prichard shared was that specific counts won’t be available until the end of September.

The commission is charged with gathering public input, with Prichard offering three steps to participate: describing a community, drawing a community on a map and sending testimony to the commission.

“Political boundaries can make all the difference in the amount of political power any community can exert, and our job is to try to make it as fair and effective as possible, and not provide advantage or influence for any one community over another,” she said.

The commission will host a series of hearings over the next few months, as well as launch a website that allows residents to manipulate maps and see how changes to the boundaries can impact population.

“My personal comment—I can’t speak for everyone, but I bet others have the same feeling—the primary thing that we want to leave you with informally is we have great ties of community interest with the community of Brentwood,” said PPCC Chair David Card, adding that in addition to sharing a common charter school complex with the community, there is also a shared community plan. “We’ll be sure to tell you over and over again that we like Brentwood and they like us.”

He then added that though people may not think of it this way, Pacific Palisades is a beach town, identifying with other areas of the city of LA along the Santa Monica Bay.

Prichard took questions from members of the board, including one from Vice Chair David Kaplan asking how far above or below the average number of residents CD 11 currently is.

“As to which parts of the city have grown and which have diminished in population size,” Prichard responded, “I don’t know any of that yet, but that is what we will be delving into.”

An interactive website is in the works, but in the meantime, residents can submit comments to the commission at redistricting.lacity@lacity.org or by mail to Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission, Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Room 275, LA, CA 90012, Attention: Mr. Frank Cardenas, Executive Director.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

PPCC Message to the Community and Public Officials

The following message was sent by Pacific Palisades Community Council to all relevant public officials and has been reprinted here with permission.

On April 29, Pacific Palisades Community Council asked Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Mike Bonin to promptly and unequivocally answer this question: Will you reject or withdraw any proposal to use the public state beach parking lots for homeless housing?

PPCC has not received a direct response from any of these officials, apart from only a generic, equivocal message from the office of Supervisor Kuehl, apparently written before PPCC’s April 29 letter was sent, which did not directly answer our question.

The fact that elected officials would equivocate is not surprising. Given the importance of this matter and the legitimate concerns expressed by constituents, the failure to acknowledge our concerns or respond at all is disturbing.

It appears that some of our officials may be taking the disingenuous position that a study or other exploration of “feasibility”—proposed to be conducted by the city of Los Angeles, an entity which neither owns nor operates the state beach parking lots—is somehow needed before they can answer PPCC’s simple question.

This is nonsense. A study, whether conducted by the city, county or state, is clearly not required to understand that it should be out of the question to use state beaches and their appurtenant facilities for homeless housing. State beaches are our crown jewel public resource, where dwelling or habitation is expressly prohibited by LA County law.

The state beaches in Los Angeles are our Central Park. Frederick Law Olmsted, the country’s first landscape architect, created that early public park in New York in a space where a city dump had existed. Workers had no access to public open space for recreation and peace of mind in the midst of the urban grit of the Industrial Revolution. Although our state beaches were naturally created, they serve the same purpose here. The public beaches are a magnificent natural resource for all people of greater Los Angeles to escape the heat, play with family and friends, and peacefully use and enjoy.

We haven’t been able to find a single other instance in California where a homeless encampment or shelter of any kind has been allowed to be located at a public beach. The reasons for this are obvious. As Judge Carter recognized, these treasured public spaces must be reserved for use by all citizens as they were intended to be used: for public access and recreation, not as dwelling spaces for the homeless.

On April 30, the day after our last letter was sent to public officials, LA County officials distributed a press release about a grant program for the “LA County Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks and Beaches Measure” (Measure A). County Supervisors stressed the importance of providing access to recreational open space:

  • “access to quality parks and recreational facilities are essential for an equitable, healthy and vibrant LA County” (Supervisor Mitchell);
  • the Measure A funding will “ensure that all residents have access to recreational spaces that allow them to live, learn and play” (Supervisor Solis);
  • “our Board of Supervisors is committed to providing fair and convenient access to these resources for all our residents to enhance both physical health and mental health” (Supervisor Barger);
  • the grants will ensure that “all of our neighborhoods have access to beautiful, quality open space” (Supervisor Hahn); and funding for these recreational resources will make “the biggest difference in the health and well-being of local residents” (Supervisor Kuehl).

The public beaches are some of the largest and most-frequented recreational areas in the entire county, enjoyed equally by countless residents of all income levels and from all neighborhoods of Los Angeles. They are iconic areas of “unsurpassed beauty and diversity,” as noted by the Coastal Commission Coastal Access Guide. Although closed for a brief period at the start of the pandemic in 2020, the state beaches are now wide open and their parking lots are packed on hot days with visitors from far and wide taking pleasure in everything that the beaches offer.

We agree with County Supervisors that access to these beautiful, unique and important recreational spaces is critical not only to residents’ health and well-being, but to the vibrancy of LA County as a whole.

PPCC calls on all our elected officials to put a stop now to the bad, unprecedented and unthinkable idea of using the public state beach parking lots for homeless housing.

PPCC Officers
David Card, Chair
David Kaplan, Vice-Chair
Richard G. Cohen, Treasurer
Christina Spitz, Secretary

Celebrating Moms

In honor of Mother’s Day, community members shared favorite memories of their mom, what they enjoy most about motherhood and what they love about their mom.

Photo courtesy of Annie Hill

Annie and Sarah Hill

Our mom, Joan Hill, is impossible to sum up in a few words or one memory. She’s ambitious, one of the first women to get an MBA at Ohio State. She’s passionate, getting involved in education and political causes close to her heart. She’s got a discerning eye, as anyone who has ever been shopping with her can tell you.

Ultimately, she is the heart of our family and puts fun and togetherness at the center of everything she does. While our family is often apart, be it for school or work, she ensures every moment together is one we’ll forever remember.

Last year, just before the pandemic struck, our family got together in New York, for the greatest few days—she organized tickets for the Westminster Dog Show, where we were able to watch the magic unfold and meet the “stars” of the show. Among the best was the Old English Sheepdog, her favorite breed—she lived with two of the massive dogs, by herself, in a New York studio apartment before she moved to Pacific Palisades.

During the past year of uncertainty and prolonged separation, with our family spread across three continents, it’s these memories that mean far more than anyone would have thought at the time.

Photo courtesy of Fay Vahdani

Fay Vahdani

Every year around the New Year my mom makes all kind of sweets, and I remember me and my cousins used to help my mom and grandma in the kitchen. It was a day of laughter and fun for all of us. My mom, Nesa Vahdani, continued this tradition now with my daughter and niece and nephews. She is always dapper and courteous toward everybody.

My favorite thing about motherhood is the unconditional love that I feel about my daughter. On Mother’s Day, my husband always gets up early in the morning and buys flower from the farmers market and makes a delicious breakfast with my daughter Bita for my mom and me.

Photo courtesy of Millie Wexler

Millie Wexler

Being a mother has been the most incredible journey of a lifetime. Watching my children grow and develop into responsible, caring and productive adults has been very gratifying. Giving them roots and wings really is what it’s all about.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Jim Kenney

Valentina Wein

In the 1970s, when my brother John and I were little kids, my mom, Carole Kenney, would walk us around our neighborhood—the El Medio Bluffs—collecting seed pods that had fallen from the trees. We’d go home and do all sorts of crafts with them. (I still have a necklace!)

Then around 2007, she started walking my two kids around the same neighborhood, collecting seed pods from the same trees. Today, if you look around the Palisades, many of the trees you see were planted by my mom (along with the group Palisades Beautiful)—throughout the El Medio Bluffs and along Sunset between town and Chautauqua.

My mom died in 2017. I feel so fortunate to live here—for many reasons, and at the top of the list is that every day I’m surrounded by her trees.

Photo courtesy of Cerisa Moncayo

Cerisa Ignacio Moncayo

My favorite thing about my mom, Carmen Ignacio, was her fearlessness. It made her seize opportunities, explore the world, shatter the glass ceiling, express herself freely (that may have gotten her in trouble a time or two), live without regrets, love immensely, among so many other things.

What also comes to mind was her organization and planning skills. She was hospitalized November 10, 2020, with COVID and was in the ICU for a month before passing away (two weeks before Christmas). Somehow, she was the only one who had all her Christmas shopping done … and had everything even wrapped and labeled/tagged. We laugh and cry about that, as she was *always* ultra-prepared. I miss her with my whole being.

Photo courtesy of Nechama Diskin

Nechama Diskin

My mom, Zisi Cunin, is my hero. She is the mom to me and my 10 siblings and Bubby (grandma) to my two children and my nephew, thank G-d!

I don’t know how she does it. I always knew my mom was a super woman but when I had my own children I gained an even greater respect for her.

In addition to raising all of us children and running a beautiful home, she is the co-director at the Chabad Jewish Community Center, mentor and friend to so many. Somehow she does it all.

My favorite thing about motherhood is spending quality time with my children, 2 months and 22 months, and cherishing every moment I have with them (even the challenging moments). I feel truly blessed to learn and grow with them.

Photo courtesy of Allegra Richdale

Allegra Richdale

I chose to launch my company, Tessa James, on Mother’s Day a few years ago to honor my mother, Elvira Growdon. She inspired me in all ways—her vivacity, taste, inner strength, intellect, and devotion to family and friends. With my collection for little girls, I sought to capture her ineffable sparkle and celebrate the values that connect us all through the generations. I am so grateful she knew my daughter, Tessa, for two precious years, who is very much her doppelgänger. She truly lives on.

Photo courtesy of Sara Marti

Sara G. Marti

My mom, Paige Greene, has been the only constant part of my life! We’ve been to dark places, climbed to high heights and seen the most beautiful things together. She is my world and I am hers (especially since I gave her grandchildren and a great son-in-law … they might be her new favorites).

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Sophie Friedberg

Sophie Friedberg

My mom, Carly Friedberg, has two current Pali High students (and me as a Pali High alumni), and she is so incredibly involved with the school. She is the first to sign up for any parent volunteer position and is especially involved with Pali VAPA.

I was the captain of the Pali dance team, my brother is in every Pali theater production and my youngest brother is involved with Pali’s music program. She has given so much to Pali, and is always eager and willing to help every single student and treats them like they’re her own.

She also is an amazing speech pathologist and sees young clients all across Los Angeles. She works 40 hours a week and spends the remainder of her time caring for her kids and husband.

She is the most hardworking and selfless person I’ve ever known, and has made herself a staple of the Palisades community. She deserves to be recognized today and every day!

Photo courtesy of Tatyana Yukhtman

Tatyana Yukhtman

For years, I dreaded Mother’s Day, and the weeks leading up to it played havoc on my heart. It was only when I became a mother that I learned to embrace and fall in love with Mother’s Day again.

Social media, TV, newspapers and stores filled with Mother’s Day gifts and cards, there is no mistaking that Mother’s Day is upon us. It probably feels innocuous to many, if not completely annoying. I know it was for me—until my mom died from cancer several years ago. Mother’s Day changed forever.

My first motherless Mother’s Day came just a few short months after losing my mom, and I wasn’t ready for it in any way. I was in so much pain and still grieving. I wasn’t sure this feeling would ever lessen, it felt impossible to wrap my head around getting through my day-to-day life without my mom.

It turns out my lifeline came from my daughter. Before the big day, I told my family that I don’t want to celebrate. I just wanted to be left alone, pull the covers over my head and stay in bed.

On Mother’s Day, two of my boys came into my bedroom; one made me the most beautifully decorated breakfast in bed: pancakes and fruit, complete with a flower and handmade card. My youngest son presented me with a beautiful handmade frame with his picture. My sweet husband came in with a huge bouquet of flowers and a beautiful and heartfelt card. My daughter came in last; she was carrying flowers and a huge bouquet of balloons; I LOVE YOU MOM!

My daughter leaned over and reminded me what I said at my mom’s funeral, “The lucky ones get to walk around and say, ‘My mom is the best.’ But my mom really was the best.” She would hate that any of her children were in pain. Then, she added, “Mom, my brothers and I have the best mom, and we want to celebrate you! So, I know you may be sad that your mom is not here, but we are here, and we want to celebrate our mom.”

A warmth came over my heart, a tear rolled over my cheek; today, Mother’s Day is about my children and their mom. I am the luckiest mom to have my amazing children and my beautiful family.

Photo courtesy of Hanna Shin

Hanna Shin

My mom, Maggie Shin, is a daredevil like me and we both love doing adrenaline-pumping activities. We swam with whale sharks, we did tandem paragliding, we jumped off a 40-foot waterfall and we love roller coasters!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama, and looking forward to many more thrilling adventures with you! I love you.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Karina Eid

Karina Eid

While I could write a 1,000-page essay on why I love my mom, I can also reduce it to one word: selflessness. Perhaps I appreciate this quality because it’s the most subtle.

In simple terms, my mother is always there for me, both physically and emotionally. After stressful and arduous days, she stands by my side, kindness guiding each response and every move. I never need to ask for her advice or generosity, either; it is simply a natural reflex. In fact it seems as though my mother’s only interest is to act in my best interest.

In short, I am extremely lucky and grateful to have such a loving and attentive mother.

Photo courtesy of Vanessa Masterson

Vanessa Masterson

My favorite thing about my mom, Jessica Masterson, is how generous and affectionate she is. She always focuses on the little things and does everything to the best of her ability. I love the warm hugs and kind words she always offers when I need them most. I love you, Mom.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Maryam Zar

Maryam Zar

My favorite thing about motherhood is the notion that this labor of love helps craft the future. Watching my kids grow from children to the budding young adults they are, and recognizing that they are thoughtful people who are vested in shaping a positive future and thoughtful about the world around them, is heartwarming. I also love making them dinner and having them eat it.

Mother’s Day for us is precious because my mother and father live very close to us and this celebration is very much an ode to my mom each year. This was a woman who lived in Tehran, Paris, Brussels and London before she was 20—and practically did it all over again when she was 40 and fleeing a revolution with kids in tow, bound for the States.

She was a trailblazer in her own land and a tireless entrepreneur even after she adopted a new homeland. Between all the challenges, she still taught us unfailing integrity and uncompromised dignity, which she possessed by instinct.

I have been lucky to be the daughter of this mother, and I hope I am passing even half of that bounty to my daughter and two sons—for that reason, it’s usually an elaborate but earthy brunch at our house with all our family invited.

Marlo Vinzoni

This Mother’s Day I’ll be at the restaurant, CinqueTerre WEST Osteria, working, helping others celebrate their moms. I’ll be there bright and early into the late afternoon. Then I’ll get to enjoy the evening celebrating Mother’s Day with my family.

A Justice League of Their Own

Photos courtesy of Arielle Hatton

Pali High Students Spearhead Innovative Gen-Z Research Group

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

When someone is motivated to make a change, there is no telling what can be accomplished. That is especially true whenever people with shared ideas work together.

One vivid illustration is the several Palisades Charter High School students who have brought together teens from multiple schools to create a Gen-Z research group

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, 14 teens from across the country have joined forces to pursue their love for the law. Forming what they call The Social Media Justice League, these future lawyers and change makers are using social media to help law firms win and negotiate their cases.

What began as a small group of Pali High students bound by their collective passion for law has grown into a band of like-minded teens from eight different schools, looking to completely disrupt the investigative process in civil and criminal cases. These teens want to expose others to the powers of social media and help older generations recognize how important an individual’s online activity can be to the outcome of a case.

“More often than not, people leave large digital footprints that highlight important details about their day-to-day lives,” Arielle Hatton, a junior at Pali High and president/founder of The SMJL, explained. “It’s these details that help to reveal missing information and fill in the blanks for cases that are difficult to win or settle.”

While some might view the team’s age as a hindrance, Hatton shared she sees it as a secret weapon, believing that their distinctive and fresh Gen-Z perspective offers them an edge.

“As members of a generation born into technology, we know the ins and outs of social media like the back of our hand,” she said. “Social media is native to us. It only makes sense that we be the ones navigating it. Another plus: We don’t cost as much as expensive private investigative firms. We just do it because we are passionate and want to prove that we can use our skills to make a difference.”

Members of The Social Media Justice League

The seed for The SMJL was planted when a family member of Hatton was sued in what she thought was a bogus case. With her interest piqued, Hatton took to social media, and after diligently sifting through the plaintiff’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, she was able to find posts that poked major holes in the other side’s case.

Hatton immediately presented her findings to her family member’s lawyer, who used her work to bring the plaintiff to the negotiating table.

“I was surprised to find that the attorney hadn’t done this research himself,” Hatton said. “After digging deep on multiple social platforms, I was able to completely change the outcome of the negotiations.”

It was then that Hatton realized the need for such a service in the legal field. She immediately enlisted the help of 13 of her peers, and The SMJL was born.

Her team includes fellow Palisades students Anirudh Chatterjee, Ethan Kim and Hemosoo Woo; Vice President Shani Shaham from Shalhevet High in Los Angeles; and students from Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach, Milken Community School in Bel-Air, La Jolla High in San Diego and Northwest Yeshiva High in Washington.

“A family member of mine was sued for millions of dollars, and I was so surprised that no one on their legal team had even thought to look online,” Hatton recalled of the case. “I presented what I found out to the lawyer and ultimately it went from being a multi-million-dollar lawsuit to being settled for a mere $35,000. It was then I saw the great need for such a service in the legal industry and the role we Gen-Zers play in that.”

Arielle Hatton

Hatton touched on the fact that some attorneys are part of an older generation who may not have the inherent technological skills of her and her peers.

“We were essentially born with smartphones in our hands, and looking through social media is like second nature to us,” she added. “It only makes sense that we be the ones navigating it.”

Hatton was recently named co-editor-in-chief of Pali High’s online student newspaper, Tideline.

“To be honest, I was a little surprised,” she admitted of the accomplishment. “I’d only been in the class for two years and was competing for the spot with people who had been there since the start of their freshman year. I’m happy that my passion for journalism shined through in my interview, and that they saw value in my writing and leadership skills. It just goes to show that with hard work and effort, even things that seem impossible are within reach.”

Hatton takes her new position—and the responsibility that goes along with it—seriously.

“Being named editor-in-chief has been a dream since I joined the journalism class as a sophomore,” she said. “As a prospective lawyer, I find writing and researching to be incredibly valuable skills that I know will help get me farther in my legal career.”

Anirudh Chatterjee

Hatton was a staff writer as a sophomore and co-section editor her junior year, which she said allowed her to learn so much about the fundamentals of journalism, allowing her to “truly perfect” her writing and researching skills.

Tideline has become a huge part of my life and I’m beyond excited to share its benefits with the rest of the class,” Hatton added. “Moving forward, I want to give the writers more freedom to cover topics that interest them and encourage them to test out a new section that pushes them out of their comfort zone. By trying new things, they’ll be able to grow as writers, just as I did.”

Hatton, who went to Paul Revere Charter Middle School before Pali High, said she dreams of being a criminal defense lawyer. She plans to take the pre-law path and major in either political science, English or psychology in college.

“In some cases, people’s social media accounts are private, which does make the kind of work we do a little more difficult,” Hatton explained. “However, our team has found ways to work around that by using our vast network of friends and family to find connections that help get us into these censored accounts.”

She said that in one instance, The SMJL team was able to find the most compelling online evidence via Yelp.

Lily Abrahams

“Through our searches we identified a new witness who, with our help, was contacted and asked to testify,” she shared. “A majority of the time, we found that, more often than not, people keep their accounts public, which highlight important details about their day-to-day lives. It’s these details that we use to reveal missing information and fill in the blanks for cases that are difficult to win or settle.”

The SMJL has already worked with four esteemed LA law firms since its formation. Through meticulous social media deep dives, the team has been able to establish important timelines, identify new witnesses, track down people and disprove legal claims made in depositions. The teens hope to grow their group and extend their reach to provide assistance to more attorneys across the city and eventually the country.

“We want to create a movement,” Hatton expressed. “By bringing together people with a common love of the law, we want to foster our passion while simultaneously honing in our skills to help older generations succeed. As we continue to grow, we aim to have SMJL-like resources in multiple states across the country to help teach older generations of lawyers, defendants and plaintiffs all about the power of social media and the immense value someone’s digital footprint could add to their cases. We believe these older generations can learn just as much from us as we can learn from them.”

The SMJL appears to have a bright future and is ever expanding.

“We have two incoming cases from new attorneys and are excited to see what we can find,” Hatton shared. “The future lies in growing our team and expanding our client base. New people are joining every week. We have a goal of reaching at least 100 members and while it’s ambitious, we definitely think it’s achievable.”

Priscilla Rayon

Hatton shared that for the past year, she has been interning with a law firm where she writes legal-related articles and learns the intricacies of the criminal justice system.

“Without a doubt, my time there has played a huge role in inspiring me to start SMJL,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without Vice President Shani Shaham and the rest of the founding members: Henry Fried, Anirudh Chatterjee, Siena Capeloto and Maddie Feng, who are helping us reach our full potential.”

For more information, visit thesmjl.com or email thesmjl@gmail.com.

Resilient Palisades Hosts Vegan Food Truck Event

Food trucks on Swarthmore
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

The Resilient Palisades Plant Based Solutions team hosted a Vegan Food Truck Event on Sunday, April 25, on Swarthmore Avenue—garnering so much success that the trucks sold out of many of their menu items just halfway through the afternoon.

“Based on the number of sales reported by each food truck, I’d say over 300 people attended our event,” organizer and leader of the Plant Based Solutions team Aleksandar Pavlović shared.

Participating in the inaugural event were three trucks: Word of Mouth, Original Herbivore and Compton Vegan.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm from people who attended,” according to Pavlović. “Many people said they were happy to see more vegan food in the Palisades.”

Pavlović shared that some of the attendees traveled from across Los Angeles to attend. Everyone he spoke with said they loved the taste of the food.

Sarah Marti-Corral, another member of the team, shared that “the day was fantastic.”

“Going to Veg Fests is a monumental experience,” she shared. “Food brings people together. Being on the organizing side of this was an honor and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of making Palisades history. Grateful to Resilient Palisades for brining me on the team. Big thanks to my husband, Jordan, for always opening new doors with me.”

The team, one of several that fall under the umbrella of Resilient Palisades, plans on hosting other events like this in the future.

“The successful turnout from this event exceeded our expectations and showed us that there is definitely a demand for more vegan food in the Palisades,” he added.

Locally based environmental nonprofit Resilient Palisades, which was launched in 2020, has four teams, including Zero Waste Team, Clean Air and Water: Green Gardens and Clean Energy Resilience Team. The Plant Based Solutions team was created to “effectively communicate the power of a plant based diet and lifestyle to help stop and reverse climate change while supporting [the] local community in becoming more vegan-friendly,” according to the organization’s website.

The team aims to “inspire excitement around living a healthy vegan lifestyle,” with “taste, quality and convenience” not being sacrificed.

Pavlović explained that it was important for the team to plan this event, and others like it, because “vegan diets tend to have significantly lower carbon, water and ecological footprints than diets that consist of meat, dairy, fish and eggs.”

“We wanted to promote food choices that are far more sustainable for our environment,” he added. “We understand that it’s hard for many people to give up or cut down on animal products. That’s why we planned this event in our community, to show that there are a variety of delicious vegan foods to choose from and that one doesn’t have to feel like they are making a compromise with flavor when making food choices that help our environment.”

Pavlović explained that the United Nations published a report in the beginning of 2021 saying that meat-eating diets and agricultural production around the world are so carbon-intensive, that emissions from the global food system alone would be enough to put the Paris climate goals out of reach—even if all other major sources of emissions were closed down.

“Cutting out any amount of animal products from our diet is a great start that will go a long way to save the lives of animals, improve our health and heal the environment,” Pavlović concluded.

Your Two Cents’ Worth

Casa Nostra

Whew, close call for our local jewel Casa Nostra (electrical fire, not their fault). Let’s support Giovanni and his wonderful crew during their closure by patronizing their Sunset-and-Swarthmore location — which they have just opened for lunch to keep everybody on the payroll. Molto buono!


Break-Ins

The frequent break-ins around the community are seriously concerning. Get a camera for your home because if it detects any suspicious activity or movement where you placed it, you’ll get motion alerts and can sound an alarm from your phone. It’s very helpful and can scare the potential criminals away.


Scams

Thank you for last week’s letter reminding our community to stay vigilant about scams. I have noticed an increase in calls that I’ve received lately, so I imagine it’s happening to others across town.


Cookies

I have tried Superkind Cookies, featured in last week’s Post, and let me tell you: They are no joke. I was amazed that they arrived warm, just like the bakers promised. Highly recommend.


CVS

I 100% recommend getting your COVID vaccine at CVS!!! I went with my dad and had a great experience personally. The staff was helpful and excited to know people were eager to get vaccinated. They have you sit and wait 15 minutes to make sure you’re okay, and after your second dose you get a coupon for the store!!


History

I love the Palisades and learning that a lot of its history still lives on: From generational legacies to the creatives! There are so many talented musicians, artists, photographers, visual creatives all around town that remind me why people came here in the first place. Would love to see more stories covering some Palisades history.

Neighborhood News

Shopping Center Fire Update  |  The Highlands

Los Angeles Fire Department has determined the fire that broke out at 1515 Palisades Drive in the Highlands on Thursday, April 22, originated in the kitchen area of Casa Nostra near the stove, citing “significant” electrical wiring charred in the wall and hood.

The fire broke out on the first floor of a two-story shopping center, damaging the restaurant and surrounding offices. LAFD attributed the fire to a failure of equipment, with no other specifications.

The fire spread to businesses on the second floor of the complex and burned for 41 minutes before being extinguished, according to LAFD Spokesperson Brian Humphrey.

Joe Cirillo, general manager of the property, said he is not sure how long it’s going to take, but that he believes the property damage will be resolved and back to normal “hopefully within a short period
of time.”            

—LILY TINOCO


Move With Love  |  Pacific Palisades

Community members are invited to walk, run, swim, golf, dance or spin to support the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research’s annual fundraising event on Saturday, May 15, renamed “Move With Love” for 2021.

Each year, Palisadian runners and walkers join the foundation in spring for the annual Walk With Love, which, in a typical year, hosts iterations in Pacific Palisades, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Susan Love Foundation

In 2020, in response to COVID-19, the event pivoted to take place virtually. And this year, it will once again be online, but with a slight difference: Instead of Walk With Love, it is now Move With Love.

“I am so excited to be able to get moving this year and support the foundation,” Anne W., a 2021 Move With Love supporter, shared. “It’s great to see that we’re branching out into new areas, and I’m excited to move with my friends and family around the country.”

Each registered participant will receive a Move With Love bundle, which includes a limited-edition T-shirt, custom movement bib and a social media toolkit to share the experience online with the Move With Love community. Palisadians are invited to register as an individual, or by joining or creating a team.

“Together we will reach our fundraising goal of $150,000 in support of innovative, ground-breaking breast cancer research,” Dr. Susan Love concluded in a statement.

For more information or to register for this year’s event, visit movewithlove2021.org.  

—SARAH SHMERLING


Gelsons Offers Mothers Day Brunch, Gifts  |  The Village

Gelson’s is offering to-go brunch options this Mother’s Day, with pickup times available on Saturday, May 8, and Sunday, May 9, for orders placed by Friday, May 7.

Items on the brunch menu include Poached Salmon served with Artichoke Fennel and Prosciutto Salad, Crab Cakes with Pixie Tangerine Salad and Citrus Grilled Chicken with Greek Salad. Each item comes in serving sizes for two people, with sides of fruit, a demi baguette and Nutella chocolate bites.

Gelson’s also has an array of flower options available, with an additional selection of gifts, including a curated selection of wine, freshly squeezed orange juice and See’s Candies.

For a full list of items, visit gelsons.com/mothersday.

—SARAH SHMERLING