Committee for Prevention of California Wildfires
We Palisadians can all give thanks this Thanksgiving. Warm and cozy in our homes, sated with the turkey and the stuffing and the yams and the pumpkin pie, we take our blessings for granted, as most Californians do, until our worlds are shattered as happened to thousands of Californians in the devastating wildfires of the past year.
Yes, we Palisadians got lucky when the Woolsey fire was stopped at Topanga Canyon, but we may not stay lucky the next time. We’re getting no help from Governor Brown. We must help ourselves.
That is why I suggest that we form a committee to fight for the prevention of fires, which are sure to begin again soon, judging by the frequency of the Thomas, Carr and Woolsey fires.
The acronym would be CPCW: Committee for Prevention of California Wildfires. We need a fire department official, a petitioner, a fund raiser, a telephone caller, an engineer, the U.S. Representative of our district and any other personnel who can help achieve our first goal: to nip small blazes in the bud before they grow into wildfires that would destroy the paradise which some of us have taken for granted.
My home is open for the first meeting. My email address is
When my family moved to the Palisades in 1972, I was 7 years old. This little town by the sea was humble and easy going, like a day at the beach. Nothing about it screamed privilege and consumerism—but that has all changed in the span of two decades, and it was cemented by the tragic transformation of Swarthmore into a baby Grove shopping mall by Mr. Caruso.
I am grieving the harsh overreach of consumerism and gentrification that wipes out environments, neighborhoods and whole cultures. We, as a community, had the opportunity to lift up beauty, connection and balance when Swarthmore was up for a re-do.
Instead, our little town by the sea has sold its soul to a cookie-cutter design by a man who may be a wonderful person, but who fails to deliver anything but shallow re-enactments of the same old show.
Here is what breaks my heart, and closes the book on my childhood home:
1) Consumerism trumps architectural interest and beauty. Swarthmore is dead. Dancing on its grave is a shopping mall—a theme park—nothing more.
Stepping foot onto the bricked sidewalks, I was immediately over stimulated by piped in Christmas music and crammed in Nantucket storefronts intermixed with contemporary shopping mall buildings.
I didn’t recognize my neighbors in the shops. The Bay Theatre was the only nod to our historical past, but in the day, those movies were 99 cents—certainly not $27 per movie with liquor and dinner delivered to your seat.
2) Consumerism trumps the environment. While touring the development, my mother noticed that the old plantings had been replaced by new flowers over night to match the holiday season.
I cringed at the obvious waste, and noticed the water-thirsty green lawn and the monstrosic dead Christmas tree that belonged still growing in its natural habitat.
Not only are all of these choices lacking in any empathy for the state of our natural world right now that burns all around us, but they again are a simple cut and paste job from the Grove totally lacking in connection to our natural habitat.
3) Consumerism trumps diversity. Christmas is not the only show in town. But, by the look of things on Swarthmore, it’s either Christianity or bust.
I happen to celebrate Christmas, but walking around Swarthmore made me feel uncomfortable for the vibrant Jewish families in the Palisades, not to mention others who may practice other religions or nothing at all.
4) Consumerism and blind patriotism. An ugly, faceless statue of a larger-than-life man pledging allegiance to the American flag now towers over Swarthmore. Mr. Caruso did not select a piece of art that celebrates our ocean, sea life, family life—no, nothing of the sort. Mr. Caruso has forced a symbol of blind patriotism on our town, and it scares me.
If I could, I would replace that faceless symbol of blind allegiance with one of children marveling at butterflies landing on their outstretched arms. It is the wonder and idealism of children and nature that has the power to bring us all back to ourselves and to one another.
My hope is that as Mr. Caruso’s mall ages, Palisadians will find a way to reclaim the ambling street once again for their own. Replace the statue, turn off the piped in music, open religious themes, plant a cactus. All of this would be a good start, but far from what it will take to find balance.
While growing up in Connecticut in the ’50s and ’60s, I have such fond memories when my wonderful father would purchase two Christmas trees: one good tree and the other not so good. He would saw the branches off the “not-so-good tree” and fasten those branches to the good tree—each Christmas, we always had the most fabulous tree.
Lately I have heard some bemoaning about how the Caruso Village crew ran amok as the Palisades Village Park was decorated; the crew used the same techniques as my dear ol‘ dad.
With all due respect, I now find myself writing this factual letter to the significant majority of the hospitable and gracious citizens of Pacific Palisades.
There has been a small band of dissenters in our town that can only find negative impact from Caruso’s Palisades Village. Perhaps to give everyone a candid perspective, it seemed best to recount the real facts and not a lot of bloviated opinion, fired by sour grapes.
Mr. Caruso and senior members of his team met with hundreds of Palisades residents. Their requests, from architecture to merchant mix and accessible parking, were not only heard, but provided from day one.
Regarding the parking, Caruso vowed to do everything in his power to be certain that employees of The Village parked for free and stayed out of the residential areas, i.e. the leases provide that tenants must pay for employee parking and must ask their employees not to park in residential areas. Furthermore, he penalizes tenants who do not provide tenant parking.
Remember that this is why the parking structure is so large; in fact, there are 100 more parking spots than is required by code and over 200 more parking spots than in the old parking lot. Plus the fact, there was never any free parking in the old lot and now there is an hour of free parking, before validations.
Before Caruso’s significant investment, North Swarthmore was semi decrepit. Businesses could not survive and landlords refused to do simple repairs. According to businesses all over the Palisades, this negative area impacted our entire town.
The Caruso investment in our community and the in-depth participation of his senior staff as volunteers in our local organizations has enlivened our Palisades.
This community has always had a magnificent soul. Thanks to the Caruso team and our new Palisades Village, our community’s heart has a great place to “beat” and infuse the rest of our town with new life.
The Village opened just about 70 days ago. Let us stop the petty negative attempts of a few people and give our new neighbor the chance it deserves.
We have such horrible issues in our world today, from the shootings in Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks, to the Woolsey fire, let us all come together and be thankful and more positive.
We have a lot to be thankful for so let us join together as one beautiful community and love one another.
Peter F. Culhane
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