Pali News Extra

Palisades Crime Report: June 1, 2016

LAPD Senior Lead Officer Michael Moore Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

LAPD Senior Lead Officer Michael Moore
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

The Crime Report is provided by LAPD Senior Lead Officer Michael Moore. In case of emergency, call 911. To report a non-emergency, call 877-275-5273.

BURGLARY/THEFT FROM MOTOR VEHICLE

17300 block of Pacific Coast Hwy, May 21 between 10:15 AM and 11:45 AM. The suspect used a key left on victim’s vehicle wheel to enter and took a wallet, phone and money.

900 block of Corsica, May 23 at 4:02 AM. The suspect (male white, black hair, 5’10” 180 lb, 40 years) entered victim’s unlocked vehicle and took a wallet and money.

700 block of Haldeman Rd, between May 24 at 6 PM and May 25 at 8:30 AM. The suspect entered victim’s unlocked vehicle and took towels.

17300 block of Pacific Coast Hwy, May 29 between 11 AM and 12 PM. The suspect entered victim’s vehicle using a key left on the tire and took money and credit cards.

 

BURGLARY

17800 block of Tramonto, May 25 between 7 PM and 10:15 PM. The suspect entered victim’s garage through an unlocked door and took a bicycle and bike helmet.

200 block of Ocean Ave, May 24 at 8:30 PM. The suspect (identified) entered victim’s home and took alcoholic beverages.

16800 block of Calle Bellevista, between May 14 at 8:30 AM and May 30 at 11:30 PM. The suspect used an access code to enter victim’s home and took money and jewelry.

 

THEFT

15400 block of Sunset, May 28 at 4 PM. A 45-year-old male was arrested for theft after taking food from victim’s business without paying.

 

POSSESS NARCOTICS PARAPHERNALIA

Sunset/Pacific Coast Hwy, May 29 at 8:15 AM. A 38-year-old male was arrested for possession of narcotics paraphernalia during an investigation for illegal camping on the beach.

2016 Mr. and Miss Palisades Crowned at Annual Teen Contest

By ERIKA MARTIN | Reporter

In front of an audience of more than 200 people, Palisadians Evan Epstein and Casey Longstreet won the titles of Mr. and Miss Palisades at the 2016 Mr. & Miss Palisades Teen Contest on Wednesday, May 18 at Palisades Charter High School.

The winners each received a $1,000 Cathie Wishnick Scholarship Fund scholarship, a year of free food at Palisades Garden Café and the opportunity to ride with Station 69 in the Fourth of July parade.

Runners-up were Connor Smith and Emma Sims of Pali High.

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“The feeling is indescribable,” said Brentwood School sophomore Epstein as his nerves thawed following his win.

Adding to his list of titles in the Palisades, Epstein was also First Baby of the Year in 2000.

Longstreet echoed his sentiment. “It’s really exciting and I definitely had an amazing time doing it,” said the Pali High student. “It’s really cool to be able to say I’m Miss Palisades.”

Both honorees celebrated by going home to confront their homework.

2016 Mr. and Miss Palisades Teen Contest winners Casey Longstreet and Evan Epstein high-five on stage after winning. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

2016 Mr. and Miss Palisades Teen Contest winners Casey Longstreet and Evan Epstein high-five on stage after winning.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

A total of 13 teens participated in the contest designed to celebrate the character, achievements and talents of young people in the Palisades. Friends, family and community members gathered for the event in Mercer Hall, which had been transformed by Events by Fabulous into a youthful, club-like setting with light displays, mirrored tables and plush couches.

The event kicked off with a captivating a cappella performance by AcaPali, a vocal group composed of Pali High students and led by the school’s performing arts teacher, Joshua Elson. The singers, including outgoing 2015 Miss Palisades Danika Masi, wowed the crowed with unaccompanied renditions of “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 and Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On.”

“I know a couple of the girls performing and it’s always fun to watch community members,” said Maude Tipton, a Pali High sophomore and AcaPali member. “This event brings the community together, and you can watch talented kids from your neighborhood who you maybe didn’t know could do that.”

“We are thrilled to be here tonight to celebrate the teens in our community,” said Frances Sharpe, editor-in-chief of the Palisadian-Post, which presented the event with the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce.

Palisadian Lee Calvert, who has been attending the Teen Contest every year for more than a decade, said the event presents a rare chance to experience the town’s young talent before students move on to bigger opportunities.

“There’s a lot of talent in the Palisades. It’s very unique,” she said. “I love seeing young people get involved in the community, and seeing them before they become who they’re going to be.”

Event host Daniel Gottesman, Mr. Palisades 2015, introduced judges Pamela Ann Magee, executive director and principal of Pali High, producer/actress Denise CrosbyNadine Zylstra of YouTube OriginalsScott Gibson of Gibson International Realty, Matthew Unger of Lexus Santa Monica and 1983 Miss Palisades contestant and winner of Miss Congeniality Pamela Lynn Tayler.

Janet Han, a Pali High sophomore who was recently crowned Miss Beach Cities Outstanding Teen 2016, was on hand to present the winners and expressed her appreciation for the opportunities created by the competition.

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“The scholarship really helps out a lot of students,” Han told the Post. “I think it’s cool we have something like this on our campus. It gives students an opportunity to get out there that they might not have otherwise.”

During the talent portion of the evening, winner Epstein stunned the crowd with an emotive and powerful rendition of Franz Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz” on piano. Epstein, who has been playing for 12 years, later said that hard work and fundamentals have been the keys to his success.

Winner Longstreet commanded the stage with a lyrical, contemporary dance performance choreographed to Lana Del Rey’s “Old Money.”

Runner-up Smith gave the audience a change of pace with his woodworking presentation. Smith has been woodworking since the age of 12 and displayed some of his creations, including a canoe, skateboard and skis he used himself on a High Sierra excursion.

Runner-up Sims dazzled the crowd with a collection of her photography, featuring thoughtful and polished shots sharing her unique perspective of life in the Palisades. She has already spun her talent into a job at teen clothing company Brandy Melville.

Jack Berglas shared a presentation on his YouTube channel, “Talk Automotive,” through which he has jockeyed his passion for cars into a media venture that has allowed him to interview the likes of famed racer Mario Andretti and hobnob with the creators of the new Bentley Bentayga.

Pali High junior Sophia Eberlein and Campbell Hall senior Jackson Hamm both impressed with original compositions they performed with guitar and vocals.

Post junior reporter and Pali High sophomore Morgan Singer displayed her larger-than-life stage presence with a series of three monologues. She later said the backstage camaraderie was just as big a part of the experience as the competition itself.

“I love performing because I’m an actress, but also the people who I was performing with were so nice and it was fun to hang out with them backstage,” Singer gushed.

Daniel Allen, who goes to Pali High, brought the audience to the edge of its seats with a video demonstrating his martial arts skills that ended with a live battle between him and one of his martial arts students.

Katie Duke, a Pali High freshman, closed the show with a stirring performance of Jean-Baptiste Accolay’s Concert No. 1 in A Minor on the violin.

“I was really a nervous wreck backstage but I think once I actually got out there it felt natural to me,” she said. “The Palisades is a great community and everyone’s really nice together, so everyone was really supportive.”

Other contestants sang, played instruments or even demonstrated vegan cooking.

Voting was based both on the judges’ evaluation of contestants’ character, talent, communication and overall presentation as well as audience votes submitted via text. Scott Groza of Groza Learning Center served as the score tabulator.

Fancy Feet Dance Studio performed for the audience and 2015 Mr. and Miss Palisades Gottesman and Masi gave their final farewell before Chamber Executive Director Arnie Wishnick and Ramis Sadrieh, a former Mr. Palisades and founder of Technology For You!, took the stage to commend the teens for their bravery and share their admiration for the range of talent displayed.

Before and after the event, audience members enjoyed cappuccinos, café lattes and more courtesy of Urban Espresso and nibbled on cookies from Bake Sale Palisades, a Palisadian-owned business.

 

EXCLUSIVE: SWAT Standoff Team Takes Post Behind the Scenes

By DAYNA DRUM | Reporter

It was a worst-case scenario.

A family with their small infant awoken in the night by gunfire through a backdoor to their home, and a suspect desperate to get away from authorities.

In the early hours of May 11, Kharl Stuart allegedly stole a vehicle in Long Beach and led police on a chase onto Pacific Coast Highway and into Pacific Palisades. He eventually crashed into a parked car at Lombard Ave. and fled on foot to a nearby house in the Via Bluffs. When he was unable to gain access to the home, he barricaded himself in the family’s garage and was in a standoff with LAPD for almost six hours, firing gunshot rounds at officers and the LAPD helicopter overhead.

Officer Michael Mullins stands in front of “The Bear,” the armored vehicle that vacated a Palisades garage in an LAPD standoff with a suspect on May 11. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Officer Michael Mullins stands in front of “The Bear,” the armored vehicle that vacated a Palisades garage in an LAPD standoff with a suspect on May 11.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Shortly before 8 a.m., SWAT officers used an armored vehicle to ram the garage door and apprehend Stuart.

Behind the wheel of the ballistically armored, 30,000-pound vehicle called “The Bear” was Officer Michael Mullins.

On a recent visit to the new LAPD Metropolitan Division headquarters, Mullins gave the Palisadian-Post a tour of the Armory and the equipment used in the Palisades incident.

Officer Mullins stands outside of the truck used as SWAT command post. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Officer Mullins stands outside of the truck used as SWAT command post.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

In a situation where the suspect is armed, all of the division’s armored vehicles respond, plus a large truck that serves as the command center stocked with weapons and cookies. The large supply of snacks and caffeine enables officers to work for long periods of time when no clock-out time is in sight.

A vest that is part of typical SWAT gear Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

A vest that is part of typical SWAT gear
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Despite the hundreds of calls Mullins has been on in his nine years with the LAPD Armory, the call to the Palisades didn’t fall far down the list of extreme situations he’s been in. As an armorer Mullins offers logistical support to the SWAT team. By now he’s seen almost everything but the nerves don’t really get to him anymore.

A remote control robot with camera that SWAT officers use during hostile situations Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

A remote control robot with camera that SWAT officers use during hostile situations
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

“We’re in good hands,” Mullins said referring to the SWAT team’s protection. He also acknowledges that death has a schedule of its own, and when it’s his time he could either be on his couch or in the field. However, the officers are anything but unprepared. In the field, Mullins wears a protective helmet, vest and utility belt that weigh around 60 pounds, which the officer explains is light by some standards.

The team is called up about 100 times a year and responds to a variety of situations from standoffs to serving dangerous warrants. Each day is different and always has the potential to turn into a 30- or 40-hour day. Sometimes they’re called up for fairly unusual situations. In 2009 after Michael Jackson’s memorial service at the Staples Center, “The Bear” was used to transport the pop star’s body to a different location. Mullins explained they were unsure how fans would react after his death and were worried someone might try to steal the body.

Officers in the armory are responsible for keeping SWAT equipment prepared for action. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Officers in the armory are responsible for keeping SWAT equipment prepared for action.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Mullins has spent so much time with the equipment he knows almost every scratch, pointing to different marks and explaining what kind of situation was occurring at the time it was made.

For him this is a dream job. Mullins was slated to be a firefighter in Manhattan Beach, but his brother, who was a police officer, implored him to apply to LAPD. He has now been on the force for 27 years and still loves it.

Officer Michael Skajem, who also responded to the Palisades standoff with Stuart, explained there is a big misconception about what SWAT does. Whenever the team responds to a situation, the intent isn’t to go in “guns blazing.”

“It’s really about preserving life,” Skajem said.

The SWAT team is equipped with a myriad of response methods, from robots to sponge bullets to gas canisters—the same gas that was used to try to extract Stuart from the Palisades garage.

Mullins explained some people have a higher tolerance to the gas and that’s why Stuart was unaffected by it and “The Bear” was ultimately called to duty.

The team’s ultimate goal is to avoid contact with the suspect whenever possible and get everyone in the situation to safety.

The six-man armory team is still settling into their new facilities and adjusting to their expanded quarters.

When they aren’t navigating “The Bear” and all of its fellow vehicles through Los Angeles streets or ramming down garage doors to apprehend suspects, the team spends a lot of their office time getting things ready for their next call.

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BREAKING: Bonin Announces Restoration of LAFD Engine Company 69

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin today announced a major victory for public safety in Pacific Palisades—the restoration of Engine Company 69.

Bonin made the announcement at Station 69, which was hosting an open house as part of the Los Angeles Fire Department’s annual Fire Service Day.

The engine restoration has been one of Bonin’s top priorities for the Palisades community and was an issue he pledged to address during his 2013 campaign.

“Pacific Palisades has narrow roads, only two routes in and out and an extremely high risk of brush fires in the hillsides and canyons. Engine 69 will be a necessary and invaluable resource to protect people and property in Pacific Palisades,” Bonin said. “I am incredibly excited to deliver on the promise I made to this community to restore this engine company. This would not be possible without phenomenal partners like Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas and Mayor Eric Garcetti, and I am very proud that we were able to work together to put neighborhood safety first and get this done.”

Engine 69 was established in 1929 to provide fire protection to the small but growing community of Pacific Palisades, and the engine company protected the neighborhood for 80 years before budget cuts forced rotating closures and periodic redeployment of first responders to other fire stations in 2009.

The engine closure was made permanent in 2011, diminishing the effectiveness and operational capability of the single remaining fire suppression resource at Fire Station 69.

“The restoration of Engine 69 is critical to ensuring that the residents of Pacific Palisades are adequately protected from a wide variety of hazards—most significantly brush fires, structure fires and serious traffic accidents,” Chief Terrazas said. “Engine 69 also serves as a vital component of the LAFD’s effective response force in the surrounding hillside and canyon neighborhoods of the Palisades Highlands, Brentwood and Mandeville Canyon. This is a big win for this community.”

Importantly, the restoration of Engine 69 will increase the number of firefighters at the station on Sunset Blvd. from six to 10 per shift. The two fire companies assigned to Fire Station 69 will allow first responders to accomplish crucial emergency tasks simultaneously.

“Restoring Engine 69 will help first responders reduce the spread of fire, increase the speed of rescues, further limit property damage and most importantly, save lives,” Bonin said.

Engine 69 is only the fourth fire engine to be restored in Los Angeles since the 2011 budget cutbacks, and Bonin fought for the restoration as a member of both the City Council’s Budget and Finance and Public Safety committees.

In addition to working with LAFD leaders like Chief Terrazas and Chief Pat Butler, Bonin partnered with the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City (UFLAC) to champion the issue of improving emergency service in the Palisades.

“Councilmember Bonin never gave up the fight for this engine to be restored,” said UFLAC President Frank Lima, who also served as a Captain at Fire Station 69 during the budget cuts. “This engine restoration is a sign that our city leaders continue to realize the critical importance of restoring the LAFD and making it a top budget priority. On behalf of the men and women of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, I would like to thank Councilmember Bonin, Mayor Garcetti and Chief Terrazas for their support.”

Bonin, Terrazas and Lima were joined at a Saturday morning news conference announcing the engine restoration by local leaders, including Pacific Palisades Community Council Chair Chris Spitz.

“We can’t thank Councilmember Bonin, Chief Terrazas and everyone who fought for Engine 69 to be restored to our community enough,” Spitz said. “This is a big, big deal for our neighborhood. Lives are going to be saved because we have local leaders who are putting neighborhoods first.”

Sex, Cash & Suicide | Carlos Tobalina

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Carlos Tobalina and His Palisades ‘House of Ill Fame’

By NATE BERG | Contributing Writer

PART TWO

Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the two cliffside homes overlooking the ocean at 14914 and 14930 Corona Del Mar in Pacific Palisades were not exactly what they seemed. The bedrooms, the pool, even the bathroom floor served more than just domestic needs.

Little known to neighbors or the outside world, these were all sets for the adult films of the homes’ owner, pornographer Carlos Tobalina.

Decades-old broken-down cars litter the weed-pocked front yard of a Huntington home where a pornographer lived with his family. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Decades-old broken-down cars litter the weed-pocked front yard of a Huntington home where a pornographer lived with his family.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

His was some of the earliest—and at the time groundbreaking—hard-core pornography being produced. The dozens of films Tobalina made throughout his career came to typify the medium, with low production values, poor acting, weak storylines and nearly any conceivable pretext to insert an explicit sex scene.

Before his death in 1989, he produced and directed at least 47 feature-length adult films, including “Undulations,” “I Am Always Ready” and “Flesh Pond.” It wasn’t necessarily art, and he certainly didn’t invent the form, but it did make Tobalina a very wealthy man.

His homes—and by extension, the Palisades—have played a perhaps unexpected role in the evolution of pornography.

Through a series of arrests and court battles, Tobalina helped to establish the legality of pornography, shaping modern thinking about the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech and how the Supreme Court would come to interpret the concept of obscenity.

But his was also a suspicious and sometimes dangerous industry, dominated by the mafia and the constant threat of arrests and lawsuits. Though Tobalina’s life in the Palisades can be at least partially pieced together through the details of his work in the adult film industry and his real estate interests, much of his life remains a mystery.

Nearly three decades after his death, his properties on Corona Del Mar are also shrouded in mystery, literally hidden for years behind a padlocked chain link fence covered by a green construction screen.

BUILDING AN EMPIRE

Efrain “Carlos” Tobalina was born in Peru in 1925 and emigrated to Brazil and then to the U.S. in the early 1950s. According to court files, Tobalina arrived in California in 1956. He worked as a car salesman at various dealerships over the following years and moonlighted as an announcer on a Spanish-language station.

Peruvian-born Carlos Tobalina’s immigration card shows his move to Brazil in the early 1950s.

Peruvian-born Carlos Tobalina’s immigration card shows his move to Brazil in the early 1950s.

In 1964, he started his film business, C. Tobalina Productions, Inc. The same year, he married a bookkeeper named Maria Pia Palfrader, and became stepfather to her young daughter, Gloria.

In 1966, Carlos and Maria had a daughter, Linda. The family lived in the house at 14914 Corona Del Mar. The house next door was used for business only.

It’s unclear what, if anything, Tobalina’s company produced between its founding in 1964 and the release of “Infrasexum” in 1969. It’s also unclear where Tobalina’s money came from during these years.

The two properties Tobalina owned on Corona del Mar in the Huntington quietly came on the market in 2015 and were quickly purchased, selling for a total of $16.75 million. Photo: Spencer Rawnsley

The two properties Tobalina owned on Corona del Mar in the Huntington quietly came on the market in 2015 and were quickly purchased, selling for a total of $16.75 million. Photo: Spencer Rawnsley

He purchased the two homes on Corona Del Mar—one in December 1970, the other in March 1971—for an estimated combined total of just $76,000 (approximately $444,949 in 2016 dollars).

The prices were likely discounted because of the homes’ cliffside locations and two recent Southern California earthquakes measuring above 5 on the Richter scale.

Carlos Tobalina’s real estate empire included X-rated theaters (clockwise from above) the Star Theater in La Puente, the Mayan Theater in downtown LA and the X Theater on Hollywood Blvd. Mayan: Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Carlos Tobalina’s real estate empire included X-rated theaters (clockwise from above) the Star Theater in La Puente, the Mayan Theater in downtown LA and the X Theater on Hollywood Blvd.
Mayan: Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Star Theater in La Puente

Star Theater in La Puente

X Theater on Hollywood Blvd.

X Theater on Hollywood Blvd.

By the fall of 1971 Tobalina became owner of the Mayan Theater on Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles.

“He went to San Francisco and came back with a bag full of cash,” says William Larraburre, a friend of Tobalina’s who also did camera work on “Infrasexum.” He says Tobalina wouldn’t reveal where the money came from but hinted at a rich uncle associated with the Catholic Church.

“I’m not sure if he was telling me the truth or not, but he came and bought the Mayan Theater for cash,” Larraburre says.

Tobalina paid an estimated $300,000 (about $1,701,000 in 2016 dollars) for the building. (All property purchase prices are estimates, based on the documentary transfer tax shown on grant deeds from these sales.)

The theater, which had up to that point featured performances and films geared toward a Spanish-speaking audience, quickly transformed into an adult film theater.

The Mayan Theater became the primary venue for Tobalina’s own films—all distributed to other theaters across the country by another Tobalina company, Hollywood International Film Corporation of America.

Due to the enforcement of obscenity laws at the time, some of these early adult films were made under the auspices of being educational in nature.

The first scene of Tobalina’s 1971 film “Refinements in Love” attempts to establish its educational value with this acknowledgment: “Our thanks to the many medical doctors, psychiatrists and neurologists from Tokyo, Paris, Rome, London, Moscow, Berlin and Buenos Aires for their answers to our questionaires [sic] and especially to: The London Psycho-Therapy Association, The Freudian Friends (Berlin) and Asociacion Neurologica de Latino America (Rio de Janeiro, Brasil) for their valuable cooperation in our research.”

Others were little more than re-packaged footage from pre-existing films. In his 1970 film “I Am Curious Tahiti,” the main character—a Soviet spy played by Tobalina’s wife Maria—uses a device to see through walls and spy on couples having sex, the footage of which was merely compiled together from other films.

“Tobalina was sort of the Ed Wood of X. He made terrible movies,” says William Margold, an adult film actor who appeared in many Tobalina films and who also wrote the advertising copy for films appearing at the Mayan Theater.

“His movies were often neither fish nor fowl,” writes Liz Renay, another performer in Tobalina films, in her autobiography, “My First 2,000 Men.” “They had too much of a story line to qualify as good X, and too much X to qualify as a good story.”

But these films were apparently very successful, starting with his first film, “Infrasexum.”

“People just poured in to see that film, because it was a novelty at the time,” Larraburre says. “And he made a lot of money.”

Throughout the ’70s, Tobalina gradually built up a small string of adult theaters in Southern California, starting with the Mayan Theater in downtown LA.

In November 1975 Tobalina and his wife purchased what became known as the X Theater on Hollywood Boulevard for an estimated $220,000 ($969,598 in 2016 dollars). In December 1976, Tobalina went in with a partner to purchase the Star Theater in La Puente for an estimated $53,000 ($220,859 in 2016 dollars).

Tobalina’s company apparently operated a number of other theaters. A July 1971 article from the San Bernardino County Sun references theaters in San Bernardino and Ontario that were run by C. Tobalina Productions, Inc.

Maria Tobalina is quoted in the article as saying the company also ran theaters in Seattle, Tacoma, San Diego and Long Beach.

Records for these other theaters could not be found. Though they may have been part of Tobalina’s small empire, he was also known to exaggerate his success and fabricate his history.

In his 1971 film “Refinements in Love,” Tobalina includes clips of himself from what’s purported to be a television news interview in which he boasts of one of his films winning a first prize for erotic films at the Cannes Film Festival—a prize that does not exist—and that he has a list of more than 2,000 women willing to work in his films. He also says he’s the nephew of a late South American president.

Despite these dubious claims, court records show that Tobalina was indeed making a lot of money. By the mid-’70s, he owned the two homes on Corona Del Mar, homes in Peru and Pacoima, a six-unit apartment building in downtown LA, two motorcycles, eight cars (two of which were antiques) and a 30-foot yacht. His income was estimated at roughly $10,000 a month ($44,072 in 2016 dollars).

The exact source of all this money is not clear.

From the late ’60s on, the adult film industry in Los Angeles was dominated by the mafia, which used films and theaters to launder money. It’s estimated that the mafia controlled 80 percent of the industry by the mid-’70s.

Though there’s no evidence Tobalina was involved, it’s unlikely he wouldn’t have crossed paths with the mafia in one way or another. Whether he was simply a pornographer making his way in the industry or was closely connected to its criminal side is currently unknown.

The FBI had suspicions. Included in the roughly 550 pages of heavily redacted FBI files released to the Palisadian-Post is a brief note suggesting that “[a]s recently as February 6, 1973, he was believed to be producing films in Peru and unsubstantiated information is available that he was allegedly shipping cocaine to the United States in film cans.” Tobalina was never explicitly connected to the mafia or the drug trade.

TOBALINA AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT

Tobalina had a long relationship with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. As early as 1969, Tobalina hired lawyers to defend himself and his films from what he saw as overzealous obscenity laws.

One case involved his film “Infrasexum” being cited as obscene material in the state of Colorado. The court eventually sided with the defendants, owners of a small chain of adult film theaters. Tobalina then countersued the prosecution—including the mayor of Denver, the state attorney general and the governor. His suit called for the government to stop enforcing a newly passed obscenity law.

Tobalina would soon take this moral fight even further.

A 1973 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel details the Supreme Court’s ruling on obscenity laws. Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

A 1973 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel details the Supreme Court’s ruling on obscenity laws.
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

In September 1971, Tobalina was found guilty in the Los Angeles County Superior Court of violating California Penal Code section 311.2—exhibiting obscene matter—for showing the 1971 film “Januarius.” He was sentenced to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

He soon hired the law offices of Stanley Fleishman, a prominent First Amendment lawyer who famously represented author Henry Miller in his Supreme Court fight to have his book “Tropic of Cancer” labeled non-obscene. Fleishman appealed the ruling in Tobalina’s case to the Los Angeles County appellate court, which subsequently upheld the original ruling.

When the California Supreme Court then declined to review the case, Fleischman petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court.

From the mid-’60s on, obscenity laws were based on whether the material in question was deemed “patently offensive” and “utterly without redeeming social value.” Being relatively imprecise terms, these standards were interpreted differently at the state level.

By the early ’70s, an increase in pornography-related cases like Tobalina’s led the Supreme Court’s justices to seek out a standard that could be more clear.

In a case argued before the Supreme Court in 1972 and decided in 1973, the court established a new three-prong test to determine whether material is obscene.

Under the new ruling, the language “utterly without redeeming social value” was deemed unconstitutional and replaced with criteria that center around whether or not “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the material in question “appeals to the prurient interest”—a significantly more lenient interpretation of the law.

That case was decided on June 21, 1973. Four days later, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling in Tobalina’s case and sent it back to the LA County appeals court.

Though the appeals court eventually ruled against Tobalina and the Supreme Court denied a second request for review of his case in October 1974, Tobalina apparently never served his six-month jail term nor paid his fine.

By the mid-’70s, the gradual mainstreaming of adult film had loosened the “contemporary community standards” that the Supreme Court had set as the criteria for obscenity. Tobalina’s case, though ultimately unsuccessful, played a role in that shift and the increasing lenience offered by courts to pornographic material.

Tobalina continued to produce increasingly explicit films. From the late ’70s to the early ’80s, Tobalina produced at least 25 films, eight of which were released in 1983 alone. By the mid-’80s his output began to slow.

At the same time, the advent of home video was dramatically reshaping the adult film industry. Demand for theater-run feature films declined precipitously. Tobalina would go on to direct only a handful of films in the latter part of the decade, releasing his final film, “Pulsating Flesh,” in 1987.

SUICIDE BY SMITH & WESSON

On March 31, 1989, days before his 64th birthday, Tobalina was found dead from a single gunshot wound to the head.

He was last seen alive around noon that day, according to a coroner’s investigatory report.

Three and a half hours later, his wife Maria found him unresponsive, lying face up on a red velvet blanket in the enclosed back patio of the Spanish-style home-turned-pornography-set at 14930 Corona Del Mar. Within 20 minutes, an LAPD officer called to the house confirmed his death.

A .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver lay in Tobalina’s right hand, one expended cartridge under the hammer and five live rounds in the cylinder. Shot through his right temple, the bullet bounced off a concrete wall and landed next to his body.

Nearby, a note explained that he’d taken his own life because he was suffering with terminal liver cancer.

A page from Carlos Tobalina’s FBI file

A page from Carlos Tobalina’s FBI file

Despite his many years in a quasi-legal industry widely run by the mafia, no foul play could be found in Tobalina’s death. It was ruled a suicide.

“There was no evidence of any other trauma or of crime,” according to the investigator’s report. Though violent and perhaps shocking, it was the fast alternative to a slow and painful death by disease.

The home at 14930 Corona Del Mar was demolished in 1996 after suffering significant damage during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Over the following decade, a number of permits were filed to shore up the land, secure the slope and even build a new house.

But since the original home was demolished, the land has remained empty. Maria continued to live in the house at 14914 Corona Del Mar until her death in 2007.

Ownership of the two properties, along with the various theaters, was passed to Tobalina’s daughter Linda and step-daughter Gloria Nakamura. Linda declined to comment. Nakamura declined to speak on the record.

The two properties on Corona Del Mar were sold in August 2015 to two subsidiaries of the Japanese conglomerate Belluna, both of which were established in July, seemingly for these transactions exclusively.

Granbell Corona LLC purchased the house at 14914 Corona Del Mar for $8.5 million. Belluna Corona LLC bought the empty lot next door for $8.25 million.

The agent listed for the two companies did not return calls to his office seeking information about the new owners’ plans. His phone number was subsequently disconnected.

In the months following the sale of the properties this past summer, a large moving container could be seen parked in the front yard, nestled near the two out-of-order cars, each at least 30 years old, that have been sitting in the dirt yard for years.

By mid-December, the moving container and the old cars were gone, the front yard strewn with a jumble of moving boxes, storage containers and garbage.

Seen locking up the chain link fence around the properties recently, Tobalina’s stepdaughter Nakamura was collecting the last bits of mail that had been delivered to the house. Very little evidence of Tobalina’s life as a pornographer was still around by the time the house was packed up, she said.

The house, now empty, will likely soon be demolished by its new owners and replaced with the type of high-priced real estate this neighborhood has become known for.

For the time being, the two properties remain shrouded by green fencing, as they have for more than a decade.

As the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash down below, these two cliffside properties are the last physical traces in the Palisades of the salacious, mysterious and ultimately tragic life of Carlos Tobalina.

Casey P. Smith contributed to this report.

Missed Part One? Read it here.

Palisades Crime Report: May 10, 2016

LAPD Senior Lead Officer Michael Moore Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

LAPD Senior Lead Officer Michael Moore
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

The Crime Report is provided by LAPD Senior Lead Officer Michael Moore. In case of emergency, call 911. To report a non-emergency, call 877-275-5273.

BURGLARY/THEFT FROM MOTOR VEHICLE

1100 block of Galloway St, between April 29 at 4:30 PM and April 30 at 5:20 PM. The suspect pried open the trunk of victim’s vehicle and took golf clubs.

 

THEFT

1400 block of Via Anita, between Oct. 30, 2015 at 9 PM and April 30, 2016 at 5 PM. The suspect entered victim’s home and took a ring from victim’s safe.

14800 block of Pacific Coast Hwy, April 27 at 9:35 PM. The suspect (male white, 6’1″ 140 lb, 55 years) entered victim’s business, took victim’s merchandise, and exited without paying.

500 block of Bienveneda, between April 16 at 7 PM and April 17 at 7 AM. The suspect took plants from victim’s backyard.

Porto Marina/Pacific Coast Hwy, May 6 between 8 AM and 11 AM. The suspect took a wallet and money from victim’s unattended bag.

 

CRIMINAL THREAT

17200 block of Pacific Coast Hwy, April 30 at 2 PM. The suspect (male black, bald head brown eyes, 5’10” 180 lb, 30 years) said to victim “I will kick your ass.”

 

DUI

17200 block of Pacific Coast Hwy, May 3 at 11:20 PM. A 47-year-old male was arrested for DUI after being involved in a traffic collision.

300 block of Surfview, May 7 at 11:50 PM. A 21-year-old male was arrested for DUI after being involved in a traffic collision.

 

VEHICLE TAMPERING

700 block of Ocampo Dr, between May 8 at 4 PM and May 9 at 6:30 AM. The suspect entered victim’s unlocked vehicle.

 

TRESPASSING

800 block of Haverford, between April 23 at 11:30 AM and May 6 at 10 PM. The suspect (identified) repeatedly entered victim’s property without permission.

SPECIAL REPORT: Sex, Cash & Suicide

Tobalina_WEB_1a

Carlos Tobalina and His Palisades ‘House of Ill Fame’

By NATE BERG | Contributing Writer

PART ONE

The modest, single-story 1960s ranch-style home at 14914 Corona Del Mar was, in its time, a fairly standard house in the upper middle-class Huntington neighborhood of Pacific Palisades: Four bedrooms, 3,500 square feet and a backyard with a pool and a tennis court.

This home on Corona del Mar, which has been veiled behind a padlocked chain link fence for nearly 15 years, has a secret—and sordid—past that includes X-rated moviemaking in the Huntington. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

This home on Corona del Mar, which has been veiled behind a padlocked chain link fence for nearly 15 years, has a secret—and sordid—past that includes X-rated moviemaking in the Huntington.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

As the decades passed and the neighborhood’s property values skyrocketed, many of the surrounding homes saw upgrades—new pools, new wings, modern renovations and mansion-like replacements built from the ground up. But the home at 14914 Corona Del Mar has added only one new amenity in those years: a padlocked chain link fence around its perimeter covered with a green construction screen.

For nearly 15 years the house and the empty lot next door have sat behind this veil, seemingly vacant and unused, a rare blotch of brown in the Huntington’s verdant and value-conscious real estate market. Decades-old broken-down cars littered its weed-pocked front yard, just behind a “No Parking” sign hung on the street side of the fence.

Carlos and Maria Tobalina Source: Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Carlos and Maria Tobalina
Source: Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Neighbors saw this property as a blight, decaying before their eyes over the years. Though the house may look abandoned, or even haunted, it wasn’t quite empty. Some neighbors recall periodically seeing a mysterious woman entering the house late at night. “It was always such a horrible eyesore,” says neighbor Harold Wrobel.

That these two multi-million-dollar cliffside properties and their unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean would sit behind a construction fence for more than a decade has been something of a mystery to many in the neighborhood.

The Tobalina family Source: Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The Tobalina family
Source: Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The mystery, from a real estate perspective, is clearing up. The two properties quietly came on the market last summer and were quickly purchased, selling for a total of $16.75 million to subsidiaries of a Japanese conglomerate. The green fence, for now, still stands.

Behind the fence lies a unique and untold chapter of the history of the Palisades. These properties have a secret past dating back to the early 1970s that involves sex, drugs, the U.S. Supreme Court, the mob, a gunshot wound to the head and a pornographer named Efrain “Carlos” Tobalina.

X-Rated Moviemaking in the Huntington

By the time Carlos Tobalina purchased the house at 14914 Corona Del Mar and the single-story Spanish-style home that was then next door at 14930, he was a successful adult film producer.

A gregarious Latin American with bushy brown hair and an accent from his native Peru, Tobalina had four feature-length X-rated films to his name, and more to come. It was early 1971, and the genre had only recently made the jump from short, 8-millimeter film strips of dancing naked women typically played at stag parties to full-length, “hard-core” movies featuring story lines, nudity and, increasingly, full unsimulated intercourse.

Tobalina was one of the early film producers making these types of explicit adult movies, which had wide release in the growing number of adult movie theaters across the country, from Hollywood to Times Square—a small chain of which Tobalina himself would eventually own.

Carlos Tobalina’s 1975 film “Marilyn and the Senator” reflected what was the beginning of a new era in erotica that would become known as the Golden Age of adult cinema.

Carlos Tobalina’s 1975 film “Marilyn and the Senator” reflected what was the beginning of a new era in erotica that would become known as the Golden Age of adult cinema.

This was the beginning of a new era in erotica that would become known as the Golden Age of adult cinema, when high profit margins on relatively low-budget films fueled a boom in X-rated movies across the United States.

Between 1972 and 1983, adult films accounted for roughly 16 percent of the total box office sales in the U.S., according to Luke Ford’s 1999 book “A History of X.” A 1976 cover of Time Magazine warned of “The Porno Plague.”

Throughout the ’70s, adult films flourished, before the advent of home video technology in the 1980s and, later, the Internet would all but eliminate the theatrical market for feature-length adult films.

For filmmakers like Carlos Tobalina, the late ’60s through the early ’80s was a golden age for making money. The money Tobalina made in this realm would flow back to the Palisades, in the form of cars, drugs and the proceeds of a small Southern California real estate empire.

But when he first began producing X-rated movies in the late ’60s, sex on film was considered by state and municipal laws to be obscene and was punishable as a felony. Police, sometimes undercover, would monitor adult movie theaters and even sit through entire X-rated films before serving arrest warrants on producers, directors, actors and theater operators. It was a risky business.

Tobalina’s first feature-length film, “Infrasexum,” was released in July 1969. An ad in the Los Angeles Times for the film’s run at the Mayan Theater in downtown LA called it “Hollywood’s answer to the new European films,” with the caveat, “Warning: Restricted to persons over 21 only!”

Another ad, announcing its run at two theaters in Denver, touts that the film presents nudity and sex “so candidly as to un-nerve the viewer while the cameras probe into very real and very shocking slices of life.”

Carlos Tobalina himself appeared in his 1972 film “Affaire in Rio de Janeiro.”

Carlos Tobalina himself appeared in his 1972 film “Affaire in Rio de Janeiro.”

In a sign of the legal complications of producing and exhibiting X-rated films at the time, the ad includes a copy of a 10-point waiver theater-goers would be asked to sign, acknowledging their awareness that the film included sexual acts and was intended for adults.

Item 9 on the waiver asked viewers to agree that “I believe that the will of the majority of the people is Law, and all authorities should submit to this law. I, as an individual, and as a citizen, declare my support for production and showing of such films, or the like, in my community when they are clearly identified as such and restricted to persons of legal age.”

Enforced differently from city to city and state to state, obscenity laws were among the major challenges of being involved in the adult film industry. Many of the early producers and performers tried to conceal their activities to avoid being arrested.

These standards began to slowly change with the release of the X-rated film “Deep Throat” in 1972. Showcased in theaters—adult and non-adult—the film gathered national attention, and at one point was even mentioned on “The Tonight Show.”

Perceived by many Americans as a risqué novelty, ticket sales for the film skyrocketed, eventually making anywhere between $30 million and $600 million (depending on the source and accounting) in ticket sales and rental revenue.

“Deep Throat” transformed adult film from a seedy endeavor into a new type of kinky, almost mainstream entertainment.

Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems, the stars of “Deep Throat,” would also appear in some of Tobalina’s adult films, including “Sexual Ecstasy of the Macumba” and Tobalina’s final release, “Pulsating Flesh.”

Other notable porn performers to appear in Tobalina films include John Holmes, Ron Jeremy, Marilyn Chambers and Liz Renay. Tobalina and his wife even appeared in many of the films, though in non-sexual roles.

Between 1969 and 1989, Tobalina is credited with directing at least 47 sex films under his own name, as well as the pseudonyms Jeremiah Schlotter, Bruce van Buren and, most often, Troy Benny.

“I am not ashamed of the films I have made,” Tobalina told the Hollywood Independent in 1975. “I have made films that show the beauty of sex.”

Unbeknownst to neighbors who were engaging in more typical Pacific Palisades activities, like shopping in the Palisades Village or eating at the Hot Dog Show, Tobalina was inside the otherwise inconspicuous home at 14930 Corona Del Mar shooting many of these sex films right in the heart of the Palisades.

But some, including the Los Angeles Police Department, knew what was going on behind closed doors.

Trouble with the Law

“[Carlos] knew he was breaking the law. But he was having so much fun,” says William Margold, a veteran adult film actor who appeared in multiple Tobalina films.

He recalls filming many of them inside the house at 14930 Corona Del Mar—a Spanish-style courtyard home, with eclectic furnishings, tile floors, fur blankets and a taxidermied South American pig.

The LAPD and other southern California police departments were well aware of Tobalina and his films by the early ’70s, issuing obscenity charges and arresting him more than once.

By the mid-’70s, LAPD officers were trailing his movements as well as the comings and goings at his two houses on Corona Del Mar.

Carlos Tobalina filmed many of his pornographic movies in this home as well as a home, which has since been demolished, on what is now the empty lot next to it. Photo: Spencer Rawnsley

Carlos Tobalina filmed many of his pornographic movies in this home as well as a home, which has since been demolished, on what is now the empty lot next to it.
Photo: Spencer Rawnsley

Between July 1974 and April 1975, police officers meticulously watched over Tobalina, tracking the people who came to his houses, what they did and how much they were paid. According to court files, male and female performers were observed on multiple occasions engaging in sexual intercourse and oral copulation while Tobalina filmed with his camera. Performers were paid between $100 and $200 in cash, and up to $1,400 in checks from C. Tobalina Productions, Inc.

Half a dozen people who participated in these filming sessions were charged with various crimes, including the violation of California Penal Code sections 182.1 and 288a, which at the time made the “crime of conspiracy to commit oral copulation” a felony.

Tobalina himself was charged in two separate cases with the crime of pandering or causing someone to engage in prostitution. He was similarly charged with aiding and abetting oral copulation, and 14930 Corona Del Mar was labeled “a house of ill fame.”

Tobalina and five of his performers were arrested under these charges in April 1975. Most of the performers had their bail set at $2,500. Tobalina’s was set at $10,000.

Tobalina quickly paid the bail for himself and his performers and contested the charges.

In the 1975 article in the Hollywood Independent, Tobalina recounted the experience, calling out the LAPD officer who’d been trailing him, Lloyd Martin, for trying to stretch the pandering and oral copulation laws to apply to pornography.

“He is a very sadistic man. He gets very violent and threatens people if they don’t cooperate,” Tobalina was quoted as saying. “And he likes to serve an arrest warrant on a person’s birthday. My birthday is April 5th. He had the search warrant and the arrest warrant long before that, but he went out of his way to put me in jail on my birthday! Sick.”

But according to Margold, who was one of the performers arrested along with Tobalina, the filmmaker hadn’t been especially quiet about his work or his industry’s complicated relationship with law enforcement.

“They hated Carlos because Carlos sort of dared them to come and get him,” says Margold.

By December 1976, both cases against Tobalina and his performers were dismissed based on changes in how the laws were being interpreted.

But whether it was a moral fight against pornography or not, the police did have reason to be suspicious of those in the adult film industry. Much of the pornography industry in the 1970s was run by the mob.

According to testimony before the U.S. Congress by LAPD Chief Daryl Gates in 1986, “organized crime infiltrated the pornography industry in Los Angeles in 1969 due to its lucrative financial benefits. By 1975, organized crime controlled 80 percent of the industry.”

Tobalina’s first film, “Infrasexum,” was released in 1969. By 1975, he had produced at least 14 hard-core adult films and owned a string of adult theaters.

It’s unclear whether Tobalina was explicitly involved in organized crime.

An article in the Santa Monica Evening Outlook touts Carlos Tobalina and his wife Maria, who both participated in the family business, as a “sexploitation team.” Source: Santa Monica Evening Outlook

An article in the Santa Monica Evening Outlook touts Carlos Tobalina and his wife Maria, who both participated in the family business, as a “sexploitation team.”
Source: Santa Monica Evening Outlook

According to Margold, who also worked in one of Tobalina’s adult film theaters in the ’70s, it’s likely that mob members came to visit Tobalina. He says he never saw it personally, but it’s a fair assumption. That doesn’t necessarily mean Tobalina was affiliated; Margold himself recalls interacting with members of the mafia during his adult film career simply because they were so entrenched in the industry.

Tobalina’s FBI files, obtained from the Department of Justice through a Freedom of Information request, suggest at least a tangential connection. Files relating to indictments against Tobalina and other adult film distributors for “interstate transportation of obscene matter” include some mention of the mafia. One heavily redacted section of a 1977 arrest report for the operator of an Atlanta area theater includes the following potentially telling detail: “On July 26, 1977, a review of Atlanta file 92-387, captioned ‘LA COSA NOSTRA, Membership Index, AR-CONSPIRACY,’ reveals that [redacted].”

In 1975, Tobalina and his wife were arrested by LAPD officers who were conducting a raid on the house at 14914 Corona Del Mar “in the course of an investigation relative to the type of films” Tobalina produced, according to court records.

In the course of the search, a plastic bag containing nearly a pound of marijuana was found. Carlos and Maria Tobalina claimed it did not belong to them, and must have gotten into the house during a film session. They were sentenced to six months probation.

The Tobalina Mystique

How entwined Tobalina was with this criminal world may never be known. Most of his associates are dead. His remaining family declined to comment.

What’s left behind are the properties on Corona Del Mar. Though these, too, may soon fade away. Even if they’re redeveloped by their new owners, they’ll carry the infamy of being the homes of pornographer Carlos Tobalina—and the site of his death by a single gunshot to the head.

Casey P. Smith contributed to this report.

Read Part Two here.

Post Earns Eight Awards in Statewide Newspaper Contest

The Palisadian-Post earned eight awards, including one first-place honor, in the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s 2015 Better Newspapers Contest (BNC). The winners were announced Saturday, April 30.

Nearly 4,000 BNC entries are received each year, according to the CNPA.

PostCNPAAwards_IMAGE

“I couldn’t be more proud of our award-winning editorial, graphics and photography team at the Post, and I am so honored for this community treasure to be recognized by such a prestigious organization as the CNPA,” said Editor-in-Chief Frances Sharpe. “We are committed to bringing more award-worthy journalism to Pacific Palisades residents in the years to come.”

Assistant Managing Editor Jacqueline Primo (writer), Sharpe (editor) and Graphics Director BJ Samuels (designer) took first place in the “Enterprise News Story or Series” category among weekly newspapers with a circulation of 4,301-11,000 for the series on Rachel Ziselman, the 11-year-old girl who disappeared from Pacific Palisades in 1977.

1st Place: Enterprise News Story or Series; Jacqueline Primo (writer), Frances Sharpe (editor) and BJ Samuels (designer)

1st Place: Enterprise News Story or Series; Jacqueline Primo (writer), Frances Sharpe (editor) and BJ Samuels (designer)

“Enterprise” news is a proactive story or series that is not directly based on a news event and that covers a topic or issue in a new and creative way.

Judging considerations stated coverage should be comprehensive and enlightening while demonstrating an undertaking of risk, effort and difficulty; quality of writing; selection of material; balanced reporting; local appeal; photography; graphics and headlines.

2nd Place: Best Sports Game Story; Steve Galluzzo (writer), BJ Samuels (designer)

2nd Place: Best Sports Game Story; Steve Galluzzo (writer), BJ Samuels (designer)

Sports Editor Steve Galluzzo and Graphics Director Samuels earned second place in the Best Sports Game Story category for the article “Saving Her Best for Last,” which detailed Palisades Charter High School cross country and track phenom Marissa Williams’ final state competition.

Judging considerations incuded quality of writing, clarity, organization and effective use of language; originality, relevance and news value; graphic presentation; and headlines and photos.

2nd Place: Sports Action Photo; Rich Schmitt (photographer)

2nd Place: Sports Action Photo;
Rich Schmitt (photographer)

Staff Photographer Rich Schmitt’s photo “Catching Baseball Fever,” which captured the excitement of PPBA opening day, was honored with second place in the Sports Action Photo category.

Judging considerations included visual impact, storytelling and technical quality.

2nd Place: Inside Page Layout & Design-Broadsheet; BJ Samuels (designer)

2nd Place: Inside Page Layout & Design-Broadsheet; BJ Samuels (designer)

Graphics Director Samuels took second place among all weekly newspapers—regardless of circulation numbers—for the Inside Page Layout & Design: Broadsheet category.

Judging considerations included layout and consistency throughout the paper, quality of story and headline writing, effective use of photography and graphic design, as well as effective use of color and/or black and white.

The Post notched four other honors, placing either third or fourth (results have not yet been released) in four additional categories.

3rd or 4th Place: Best Investigative Reporting; Post Staff

3rd or 4th Place: Best Investigative Reporting; Post Staff

“Lawsuits, Judgments Stack Up Against Prominent Local Biz Denton Jewelers,” which revealed the explosive news that 27 lawsuits alleged that Denton’s owner Saad Mazboudi had been systematically “misplacing” or “losing” high-end jewelry and watches, bouncing checks and reneging on legal judgments for more than a decade, placed in the Best Investigative Reporting category among weekly papers with circulation between 4,301-11,000.

In this category submissions needed to focus on one in-depth investigative story/series. Entries needed to exhibit extensive research and an above-average amount of interviewing, documentation and background research.

Judging considerations included effective organization of facts; thorough support and attribution; and thoroughness of investigation, initiative, enterprise and quality of writing.

3rd or 4th Place: Best Front Page; Post Staff

3rd or 4th Place: Best Front Page; Post Staff

The Post placed in the Best Front Page: Broadsheet category, which included all weekly papers regardless of circulation numbers.

Judging criteria included layout and news selection, quality of story and headline writing, as well as use of photography and graphic design.

3rd or 4th Place: Best Sports Game Story; Steve Galluzzo (writer)

3rd or 4th Place: Best Sports Game Story; Steve Galluzzo (writer)

Sports Editor Galluzzo’s article “Savoring His Riviera Moment,” which recounted golfer James Hahn’s win at the Northern Trust Open at The Riviera Country Club, along with Graphics Director Samuels’ treatment of the story earned a nod in the Best Sports Game Story category.

3rd or 4th Place: Sports Action Photo; Rich Schmitt (photographer)

3rd or 4th Place: Sports Action Photo; Rich Schmitt (photographer)

Staff Photographer Schmitt earned a second honor in the Sports Action Photo category for his “AYSO Season Opens” image depicting opening day for the youth sport, which ran in a September 2015 issue.

Caruso Project Approved, Allen’s Appeal Denied

By FRANCES SHARPE | Editor-in-Chief

Developer Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village project passed another milestone on Thursday, April 28 when the Los Angeles City Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny Jack Allen’s appeal and to approve the parcel map and adopt the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) with a few amendments. 

Caruso Affiliated is proposing to build a movie theater, specialty grocer, restaurants, retail, a park and two levels of underground parking on 116,215 square feet on 3.11 acres of land in the heart of the Palisades.

Palisadians file into Van Nuys City Hall to speak at the City Planning Commission hearing on Caruso Affiliated’s Palisades Village project. Photo: Jayrol San Jose

Palisadians file into Van Nuys City Hall to speak at the City Planning Commission hearing on Caruso Affiliated’s Palisades Village project.
All photos by: Jayrol San Jose

“It’s fantastic,” Caruso told the Palisadian-Post of the decision. “It really does reinforce the power of the community. I’m very grateful to the community and can’t wait to get started.”

Over 70 Palisades residents attended the hearing at Van Nuys City Hall to show their support for the project while attorney John B. Murdock spoke on behalf of Allen’s organization Palisades Preservation Association. (In 2015 Murdock represented Palisades residents who successfully appealed the city’s approval of a proposed apartment complex at 17000 Sunset Blvd.)

“Tear down these walls, Mr. Caruso, tear down these walls!” shouted Palisadian Judy Silk, one of the more than 70 supporters who spoke at the hearing, expressing her eagerness for the Caruso project to get underway.

Her enthusiastic cry was met with rousing applause from the audience.

Several of the commissioners remarked on the unprecedented show of support for the project.

“Either the opposition’s bus broke down or Caruso’s team did a remarkable job on community outreach,” Commissioner Robert Ahn said, adding that he had never seen such a lack of opposition for a project of this size.

Even people who previously challenged certain aspects of the project offered their support.

Alphabet Streets resident Lou Kamer, who for the last few months has been mediating discussions between Caruso and a group called Protect Out Village (POV), said, “Late last night an agreement was reached between these parties. I feel they will produce a project that will enhance the community.”

Palisadians crowd around a table to fill out comment cards so they can speak at the hearing.

Palisadians crowd around a table to fill out comment cards so they can speak at the hearing.

Ted Weitz, a POV advisory board member, said, “This organization expressed a number of concerns at several meetings. We felt many concerns weren’t being addressed, but after many meetings, yesterday we reached an agreement with Caruso. POV supports the project as presented and looks forward to having an ongoing conversation.”

Kamer urged the Commissioners to approve the proposed project and added, “To all who still have issues, you should consider our approach instead of legal or legislative action.”

The one voice that challenged the project’s approval belonged to Murdock, who said most of the issues in his client’s appeal had already been resolved. The only sticking point?

“The one-way street is one issue that has not been resolved” and Allen won’t back down on that, Murdock said.

Murdock added that transforming Swarthmore into a one-way street will “funnel about 1,000 trips a day into residential streets and preclude them from going down to Sunset. We recommend an EIR to study that particular issue.”

Conducting an Environmental Impact Report could delay the project by at least two years.

Caruso offered a rebuttal to Allen’s claims, stating that a traffic analysis of the one-way street showed “an additional one car per minute. That is all.”

Caruso added that “in the interest of safety, one way is far superior.”

Tricia Keane, Director of Land Use and Planning for Councilmember Mike Bonin spoke of Bonin’s strong support for the project and the one-way street.

“We support the one-way street configuration as it will improve pedestrian safety, increase parking and add for street beautification,” Keane said. “Deny the appeal and move the project forward to City Council as quickly as possible.”

Allen did not attend the hearing due to a medical procedure, according to Murdock.

“I don’t know who Jack Allen is, but I can understand why he didn’t show up today,” said Huntington resident Mike McRoskey to applause from the audience.

Prior to the hearing Murdock was seen huddling near the back of the room with Pacific Palisades Design Review Board (DRB) members Donna Vaccarino and Kelly Comras.

(L to r): Design Review Board members Kelly Comras and Donna Vaccarino converse with John B. Murdock, the attorney representing Jack Allen who filed an appeal asking for an EIR.

(L to r): Design Review Board members Kelly Comras and Donna Vaccarino converse with John B. Murdock, the attorney representing Jack Allen who filed an appeal asking for an EIR.

The DRB held a preliminary hearing on the Caruso project on Jan. 13, but its final hearing scheduled for March 2 was canceled when the City Attorney’s office determined that four members—Vaccarino, Comras, Barbara Kohn and Stuart Muller—had improper communications regarding the project. Three of those board members—Vaccarino, Comras and Kohn—are disputing the City Attorney’s decision.

Project supporter Don Scott tells commissioners: “I hope work can start immediately.”

Project supporter Don Scott tells commissioners: “I hope work can start immediately.”

Vaccarino spoke at Thursday’s hearing, offering what she called a correction to the DRB’s suggestions regarding architectural style at its preliminary meeting.

“There was no DRB consensus of architectural style at that meeting,” Vaccarino said. “The DRB was never allowed to correct this misunderstood point.”

She added that the DRB had suggested that Caruso seek inspiration from the Palisades’ heritage of early Mission, Spanish, California Mediterranean and famed mid-century architects.

During the commissioners’ discussion of concerns that had been raised, CPC Vice President Renee Dake Wilson echoed Vaccarino’s suggestion that the project adopt an architectural style that she said is more in keeping with the history of the Palisades.

Dake Wilson said, “Although the DRB lost discretion on this project since no quorum existed, discretion passed to this body and the director. I’m sympathetic to the DRB findings, which requires architecture to model architecture in the area. I want a condition of approval that architecture [reflect] precedence of neighboring architecture: Mission, Spanish, California Mediterranean, case studies, mid-century modern rather than having…Cape Cod.”

A resounding round of “boos” from the audience drowned out Dake Wilson’s remarks.

A seemingly startled Dake Wilson backed down on the issue of architecture, saying, “Certainly, the crowd has spoken.”

Other commissioners commended the architecture proposed in the project.

Dake Wilson also suggested reducing the height of a brick wall proposed on Monument Street, suggesting that the wall would make the proposed park appear privatized.

The wall in question is where Caruso is planning to honor the commemorative tiles that line Swarthmore.

After a brief discussion of the matter, the parties agreed on a maximum height of 4 feet for the wall, which will allow the bricks to display the names from the tiles.

After discussion of a number of concerns that had been raised during the hearing, the CPC, led by President David Ambroz, unanimously denied the appeal and approved the parcel map and adopted the MND with some amendments.

The next step in the process is a hearing with the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, which is expected to take place in June.

Jr. Reporter Gavin Alexander Attends the Caruso Appeal Hearing

By GAVIN ALEXANDER | Jr. Reporter

3rd Grade, Palisades Elementary Charter School

My parents let me miss school on Thursday, April 28 to go to Van Nuys City Hall to the appeal hearing regarding Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village project. My grandpa was nice enough to take me.

Gavin arrives early at the City Planning Commission hearing at Van Nuys City Hall. Photo: Jayrol San Jose

Gavin arrives early at the City Planning Commission hearing at Van Nuys City Hall.
Photo: Jayrol San Jose

We arrived early and had seats in the second row. Mr. Caruso asked me to fill out a comment card and speak at the appeal. I was one of the first speakers and I got up in front of a room filled with people to share my support of the project.

Mr. Jack Allen, who had filed an appeal, was not present due to a medical procedure. His lawyer was there on his behalf.

Speaking at the hearing, Gavin says Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village project will “help the community to have fun.” Photo: Jayrol San Jose

Speaking at the hearing, Gavin says Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village project will “help the community to have fun.”
Photo: Jayrol San Jose

There was one woman who spoke against the project because she did not want the trees to be cut down. Everyone else was supporting the project.

At the hearing, I learned the importance of patience. I learned that the City Planning Commission takes a lot of time to make decisions because they want to know all the facts.

Gavin gets a high-five from Rick Caruso after speaking. Photo: Jayrol San Jose

Gavin gets a high-five from Rick Caruso after speaking.
Photo: Jayrol San Jose

I was so happy the appeal was denied. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Caruso is building for the Palisades. I know it will be awesome.

Related story:

Jr. Reporter Gavin Alexander Interviews Rick Caruso

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