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What Might Have Been 

Fire-ravaged Northern California received some welcome rain last week, but the forecast for Southern California continues to be dry, as we head into autumn. Fire risk remains extremely high in Topanga and throughout the Santa Monica Mountains. Everyone who lives in the WUI—wildland urban interface—needs to take that threat seriously. 

A new COVID-19 mandate for residents of Los Angeles County is going into effect soon. Beginning October 7, Los Angeles County will require patrons and employees of indoor bars, clubs and other drinking establishments to show proof of at least one vaccine dose by October 7, and to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 4. County health officials also recommended that the requirement be extended to indoor eating establishments, but have so far not proposed a second mandate. 

The decision came at the same time as research that indicates the unvaccinated are 11 times more likely than the vaccinated to die from Covid-19. A separate study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in three people who survive COVID-19 end up suffering from long COVID, the name given to the host of lingering symptoms and health issues that can plague recovering COVID patients, even those who experience relatively mild symptoms. 

California continues to maintain the lowest COVID-19 rates in the nation, which may be a contributing factor in the landslide no vote on the September 14 recall election.

Topanga residents voted overwhelmingly against the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom, 79.3 percent to 20.7, adding their voices to the groundswell of support for the governor. 

Mandatory recycling of food waste goes into effect for businesses on October 1. The new law is intended to reduce the amount of organic, compostable material that ends up in landfills. Residents have until January 1, 2022 to switch over. Many Topanga families already compost their green and brown waste either at home or at the Topanga Community Center’s Topanga Gold Community Compost Hub, as well as through the efforts of Full Circle Compost ( to help homeowners build their own, but look for collection bins to be arriving at homes next year. The city of Malibu is getting an early start, rolling out its residential collection program next month. The new program includes collection of a wider range of materials than most home composting efforts can process.

Los Angeles County supervisors recently voted unanimously to phase out oil and gas drilling in unincorporated Los Angeles County, and to ban new drilling permits. The main focus of this landmark decision is shutting down oil and gas fields like Inglewood Oil Field, a thousand-acre site that is one of the largest U.S. urban oil fields, but the new law will also apply to smaller sites and future drilling plans. 

It may seem like a remote issue for the Santa Monica Mountains, but not that long ago, there was a major push for offshore oil drilling in the Santa Monica Bay. In the 1970s, activists fought oil industry plans to build multiple drilling platforms along the coast of the Santa Monica Mountains. At least seven test wells were drilled off Topanga and Malibu before the plan was derailed, but the Exxon Mobil leases are still recorded. 

For the activists who remember that fight, there has always been a lingering fear that future oil demand could cause new drilling plans to resurface almost anywhere that oil or gas reserves exist. A permanent exit strategy for unincorporated Los Angeles County is a welcome and long overdue health and safety measure for the most populous county in the country, but it’s just a start. Activists are calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to move the entire state away from oil production. 

Activism can be an agonizingly slow process, a marathon where the finish line is constantly moving, but sometimes persistence really does pay. Little by little, we travel far.

Stay safe, be well.

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