March 21st, 2011
The Oaks Association’s 2011 Annual Meeting
By John Saurenman

Notwithstanding that some scofflaw had stolen or destroyed all of the signs announcing our Annual Meeting, the board of the Oaks Homeowners Association and about fifty members gathered in the American Film Institute’s Jack Warner Building on March 21st for our annual get together.  Outgoing board president Bob Young introduced our new president, Caroline Schweich who chaired the remainder of the meeting.

Caroline began by giving a summary of the projects the board is currently working on as well as some of our recent accomplishments.  Among the latter is the hillside/anti-mansionization ordinance that governs building in the Oaks.  The City has recently adopted a citywide ordinance that is intended to accomplish the same goals, but our ordinance will supersede the City’s on projects in the Oaks.  In addition, the Association continues to work to try to get streets repaired and repaved and to get bulbs replaced in our street lights.  We have also joined with other local organizations to try to save the trees on Franklin Avenue.  Caroline then ran down the social events the Oaks board hosts including the annual Halloween Walk (which has become more expensive as the City can no longer pick up the costs of fees and permits as they did in years past).  We also put host the summer picnic in June and a holiday party in December.  Finally, we put on our annual fundraiser at Vermont restaurant where board members are waiters and all the tips go to the association.  Vermont night this year is Tuesday, April 12th and we are hoping that many of the members attend.  The restaurant has put together a wonderful prix fix menu for the event.

Tomas O'Grady
Caroline then introduced Tomas O’Grady who spoke about leaf blowers and the problems they cause in residential areas like The Oaks.  Tomas began by noting that gas leaf blowers are illegal in Los Angeles, and for good reasons: they are noisy, pollute the air, and suspend particulate matter in the air.  Electric blowers, by contrast, are legal and are less noisy and do not emit fumes.  However, they too suspend the particulate matter (which includes all sorts of bad stuff).  While the city has a gas blower report hotline, the ordinance is very hard to enforce.  And though gardeners are often reluctant to give up their gas blowers, they can be induced to do so if homeowners are willing to pay slightly more for their gardening service.  Tomas suggested that a rake and broom are really the best solution for cleaning leaves and debris.

Lili Singer of the Theodore Payne Foundation
Boardmember Wayne Schlock then introduced Lili Singer of the Theodore Payne Foundation. The Payne Foundation was founded in 1960 to promote the understanding and preservation of California native flora.  Lili began by adding a point to Tomas’s presentation.  She noted that leaf blowers are bad for plants, and that the best environment for plants includes the leaves dropped by trees.  She also let us know about the Foundation’s garden tour on April 9 and 10 and that the foundation operates a full nursery in Sun Valley that is open to the public year round.  In addition, the Foundation has a booth every Sunday at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market.  Finally, Lili spoke about coastal live oaks and valley oaks both of which are native to our area.  Years ago, we had coastal live oak forests, but development has decimated them.  Similarly, we had many valley oaks (which is the oak most common in Thousand Oaks), but it too has fallen to development.  Farmers coveted the land where valley oaks grew because the oaks were an indication of fertile soil.

Bob Young
Next, while we waited for Tom LaBonge to arrive, Bob Young addressed several security issues.  People who park on the street should never leave personal articles of any value in their cars.  Most car break-ins are crimes of opportunity in which the passing thief sees and snatches something from a car.  Similarly, when residents leave their homes, they should always lock up.  And to prevent mail theft, install a locking mail box.  Finally, if you are a victim of a crime, report it to the police even if you believe there’s no chance of catching the criminal.  The report still goes into the Police Department’s statistics and can lead to a greater police presence in the Oaks.

Members also brought up other issues of concern in the Oaks: the congestion at Franklin and Bronson, street repair and disaster preparedness.  Caroline reported on a meeting that CD4 had arranged at Gelson’s to discuss the problem.

CD 4 Staffer Mary Rodriguez
Representatives of CD4, the Oaks, Gelson’s and the Oaks Gourmet attended.  Among the ideas discussed were coordinating the deliveries at the Gelson’s and Oaks Gourmet so that they occurred at different times.  The group also discussed whether Gelson’s could unload some portion of its trucks on the Canyon side of the store, an idea that was widely accepted by all present at the meeting.  Regarding street repair, we briefly discussed an idea that has recently surfaced: that we form a non-profit corporation to accept donations, and that we use the funds raised to repair our own concrete streets.  A group from the Oaks was to meet soon with the city to discuss the idea.  As for disaster preparedness, we discussed providing information on supplies and instructions on the Oaks website.  Among the items we might address is how to network the blocks in the Oaks so that they are prepared in the event of a disaster.

Caroline then introduced James Westbrooks ( who is a field representative for State Senator Curren Price.  James noted that he and his colleagues are here to help and urged folks to contact them.

Councilmember Tom LaBonge
And then came Tom LaBonge.  Tom had heard part of the discussion about our streets and sidewalks and their deteriorating condition.  He prefers safe streets and sidewalks, but pointed out that the City is in financially challenging condition and that our infrastructure is old and decaying.  So, it’s a tough time to get these projects done.  Doug Mensman from Tom’s staff noted that the citywide anti-mansionization ordinance is now law, and he reported that a Hollywood Historic Overlay District is in the works for the area between Canyon and Western, and Foohill and Franklin.  Tom ended by addressing three other matters.  First, he’s pushing for using reclaimed water in Fern Dell and on city golf courses.  He also wants more signs to correctly direct visitors to Griffith Park.  Finally, he agreed that earthquake preparedness was an issue worth renewed attention.

CD 4 Staffer Doug Mensman
We closed the meeting with another discussion about how to fund street repairs.  Alexander von Wechmar reported that the non-profit trying to build the traffic circle had raised about $25,000 of the needed $125,000.  In response to a question from a member, Alexander said he felt that the traffic circle non-profit could not properly redirect this money to general street repairs.

The members in attendance then elected the board for another year of service.
Caroline closed the meeting by noting our appreciation to the Oaks Gourmet for providing pizzas and to Trails Café for providing cookies.  In addition to an interesting evening discussing our neighborhood, we also had a nice light repast. 

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