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Hello Topanga Days 2024!
Editorial

Hello Topanga Days 2024! 

Get ready for the 49th Topanga Days Festival—three amazing days of music, food, artisans and activities, this Memorial Day weekend, May 25, 26 and 27, 10 am-7 pm, at the Topanga Community Center. We have all the details on page 8-9, together with a feature on the band Kummerspeck, a uniquely homegrown Topanga rock ‘n roll powerhouse who will be taking the stage at the festival. Tickets are on sale now! See you there! Cover concept and design by Urs Baur

On May 3, California Governor Gavin Newsom finally proclaimed a state of emergency for Topanga and other areas impacted by record rains over the winter. The proclamation came two weeks after Caltrans announced that it would probably take all summer to clear the estimated 80,000 tons of rock, mud, and debris blocking Topanga Canyon Blvd. The emergency declaration makes the cleanup eligible for funds from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program, but probably won’t do much to speed the reopening of the road. Topanga residents, businesses, workers, commuters and visitors are still in for a long, inconvenient, detour-filled summer.

The governor’s office also announced some safety improvements for Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu this month. A new “Go Safely PCH” campaign includes $4.2 million for Caltrans that will be used for lane separators, road striping, and additional speed limit and curve warning signs. While the news is encouraging it is also troubling that these measures weren’t already part of Caltrans’ routine for keeping this dangerous—and frequently deadly—stretch of highway maintained. 

Right now, Topanga and Malibu are struggling with related issues: the road closure in Topanga, and the hazardous conditions on Pacific Coast Highway, which include two smaller slides at the moment, and a long history of deadly accidents. These are problems rooted in a longstanding lack of resources and the commitment to address issues that were baked into the construction of both roads in a time when engineering and an understanding of geological constraints were not part of the road building process. 

Even if there were sufficient funds for extreme measures, could either road be permanently fixed without radically altering the terrain or character of the areas they run through? Would it be worth it, and how long would even the most extreme or ambitious solutions last? The Santa Monica Mountains are young mountains that are still growing. This is a dynamic landscape, and if climate change predictions are accurate, we can expect bigger storms, more potential for rockfalls and mudslides—and in the case of PCH, erosion that is accelerated by sea level rise. Living here has always had its challenges. Most of us would be quick to say it’s worth the price, but sometimes that price is extremely inconvenient.

The road closure may have a major impact on how visitors get into—and out of—Topanga Canyon over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but that isn’t stopping Topanga Days from happening, and this event, now in its 49th year, is a great opportunity to experience an important part of the real Topanga. This is the Topanga Community Center’s annual fundraiser. The money raised at this event funds the programs that bring our community together, and this year’s event is going to be amazing. We have all the details on this classic Memorial Day weekend festival in this issue. 

Photographer and TNT reader Kraig Hill captured this view of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing over the Ventura Freeway at Liberty Canyon under construction. Crews are more than halfway through the process of installing the massive concrete beams that form the backbone of the crossing. Governor Newsom announced last week that the 210-foot-long bridge is on track to open by early 2026. 

We can’t fix the road, but we can all help with highway safety over the holiday weekend by slowing down, having patience, letting our neighbors who live along the boulevard or on the smaller streets safely turn out, and by watching out for cars parked in unpredictable places and for pedestrians in the road.

President Biden has officially signed the San Gabriel National Monument expansion, adding 100,000 acres to the existing national monument. The expansion includes a large swath of the front of the range that provides the dramatic backdrop for Los Angeles. 

The San Gabriels may seem far from home, but those mountains are part of the view Topangans and Topanga visitors enjoy from the top of our mountains—not that far away as the crow flies. 

Conservationists are hoping that the news of the national monument expansion may be a good omen for legislators seeking to expand Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, incorporating the Rim of the Valley corridor into the existing NRA.

That legislation needs to pass both houses of Congress and be signed into law by the end of 2024, before the current effort—Senate Bill 1466 and House Bills 5881 and 2887, expire. The Senate bill was introduced by U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with support from both parties in 2023. U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff and Mike Garcia are working to pass the house version of the bill. An earlier effort to pass similar legislation failed during the previous administration—a reminder that elections have consequences that are felt at every level.

We are blessed this May with coastal fog and cool temperatures. It’s a good time to take advantage of the mountains in our backyard, before the summer heat arrives. 

Stay safe, be well.

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