Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Readers Respond To The Underdog For Kids Column About the Paseo del Mar Landslide from a Geologist to a Researcher

Keep it Natural

There is really only one way to keep a place "natural", undisturbed, etc... Stay out of it. This is not a jest. It really has been proved repeatedly in ecological research.  Even the Jane Goodall's upset the balance.  So, nature has made it harder for folks to get to this area, and now it will be a little more protected.  Like most every change in the universe, there are benefits as well as drawbacks.  

--John Mattson 

Recounting Memories

Wow, Diana....what a beautiful article...and amazing pictures! I never realized that so many of us have a special bond with that tree. My dear friend Al Carr, who has since passed away, used to call it the "pineapple palm" because of its chubby base and shape of the fronds. He and I would take walks along Paseo and turn around at the "pineapple palm"- such fond memories. You are right, Diana, when you say that the landslide is breaking hearts- it truly is!

Thank you, Diana, for capturing the mood of what so many of us are feeling. I have forwarded your article to my friends who used to live in San Pedro. I so appreciate your writing, Diana!

--Annie Johnson

Area Landslide Histories
Provided By Mike Bennett

1929           Six-Acres of Point Fermin Park began to slide into the ocean, today known as                                Sunken City.
             It should be noted that while Sunken City began in 1929, it continued to slip until 1934/1935.  All but two homes were pulled towards Shepard Street and saved.  *
1933            A Japanese constructed a seaside resort centered on a sulphur spring bathhouse at Royal Palms, closed due an earthquake, which sealed off the sulphur springs.
            I include this occurrence due to the area being between two of Southern California Earthquake faults and wonder (no proof) what became of the water from the hot springs, as the geological phenomena of the area is called a "Slump."
1956            Portuguese Bend slide began destabilizing 260 - 300 acres of hillside on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
1969/1970   A 300-foot-long crevice opened up at edge of the slide area in Sunken City. Along the “Palisades” portion of Paseo del Mar, due to heavy storms eroding the cliffs and poor storm run-off, one home was lost as were a series of guesthouses. 
(This is how/reason we have "Zero-lot-lines" on the ocean side of Paseo, due to      houses being pulled toward the street and away from the cliffs and I have one of the massive storm drains).  *
 More cracks appeared a few streets away (East of our current slide area), from an Active/Historic landslide area  (as Sunken City is also labeled).  
It should also be noted there is also the South Shores Landslide Area (Dormant), just beyond the Western Border of South Shores.  All of these are illustrated on the California Geological Survey: “Landslide Inventory Map of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.”  (Wayne D. Haydon).
1999             A landslide at Trump’s Ocean Trails Golf Course sent 16 acres into the ocean.
2009             A portion of the cliff beneath Paseo del Mar, less than a quarter of a mile from the current landslide, eroded.  The cliff was bridged & repaired from underneath the street.  
No one to date has noted that a large portion of this repair was lost in the current slide, as can be seen in recent photos.  It should also be mentioned that a comparison of Google Earth Maps, for the Nature Preserve, show moment in the South-Eastern portion of the Preserve and has been identified as unstable in a number of geological surveys of the area.
2010             Another large chunk of Sunken City dropped 100 feet into the surf.
As presented by Pipkin & Ploessel, (1972) in their paper: “Coastal Landslides of Southern California;” “Between Abalone Cove and Cabrillo Beach …53% of the shoreline has undergone some form of land sliding, and the remainder has experienced rock falls.”

A Geologist’s Point of View

In every generation in San Pedro there will be land movement. The first big one most people remember is Sunken City. Another example, though much more directly connected to human influences, was the sinkhole on Western Avenue at Summerland. And how about the 18th hole at Trump National Golf Course? The current landslide is not much different.

As a professional geologist, I'm a bit taken aback by people's reaction to the current landslide, also known as "Paseo No More." There seems to be an out pouring of emotion. "Let's save the tree." Realistically, that's not going to happen. The time for doing that was before the sinkhole turned into the landslide, and even then, tree removal would have been risky. For all we know, it was that tree's roots that kept the land so stable for so long. Taking away the tree could have then been seen as the cause of the landslide, whether or not that actually was the case.

Is the loss of this strip of land heartbreaking? Is this a major tragedy? As much as I am saddened by the loss of a favorite strip of earth to walk, my personal reaction has not been one of absolute loss as much as some other people. I am awed by the forces of nature. I am in wonder that a sinkhole could change so dramatically with just the right rainfall, and I anticipate that with the next few rainstorms, the geometry of this area will continue to change.

The study of geology tells us that cliff erosion happens. Landslides happen.

The geology of San Pedro is not that different from that of Palos Verdes Hill. Old landslides line the coast. Buried clay deposits in the ground are resting at just the right angle for a landslide to occur should there be enough moisture to make the surface slick enough to fail.
The real question that I see at hand is what about the nature preserve? How long will the nature preserve remain here? When--and not if--Paseo del Mar is rerouted in the area, it will need to cut through the preserve. How much of the nature preserve will remain afterwards? The street will not be placed at the newly formed cliff's edge. There will be a setback. The question is how far will the setback go and how much of a bend will be needed to reconnect one part of the street to the other. Not easy questions.

Moreover, there will be debate about leaving the concrete bunkers in place. Did the old infrastructure accumulate and leak water to the subsurface? Would a new road be placed too close to these old structures? Because of these questions, the federal government--which placed the military structures in this location--will need to be involved in the construction of the new road.

And when all of the new road-building studies are done, how much of the nature preserve will remain? Somehow, in the face of these questions, the fate of the lone palm tree pales. How about the future of all the brush and critters in the preserve. Is that little bit of nature in San Pedro doomed?

--Rachel Fischer

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ocean views many of us witnessed along Paseo del Mar. LAist/Jimmy Bramlett
Meditative palm tree, likely to end up on the ocean floor if the slide keeps moving, now sits on its own island. -- Sky News
The Paseo Del Mar Landslide Breaks Hearts and Forces Us to Face a New Future

By Diana L. Chapman

We lived it. We walked it. We breathed it.

For decades, through births, deaths and presidents, a 600-foot section of Paseo del Mar served thousands of us: visitors taking scenic drives, locals scurrying on their daily constitutionals and even lost drivers who would ask me for directions to Hollywood.

No, I didn’t laugh at them. I figured they were blessed for seeing a stretch of road where we biked, jogged and skateboarded perched 100 feet above the frothy sea.

That luminous stretch of Paseo – which  slipped away from us more than a week ago during a Sunday of pouring rains --  provided us with ample opportunities to spot whales, view cliffs veiled in gray mist or the chance to linger in the luxury of dusky, golden dawns.

 Moods of every kind; often one of a kind -- until the strip became mother nature's victim.

A landslide that first became noticeable in September-- starting out with a bump and dip in the scenic highway -- recently stripped away chunks of the road, tons of earth and storm drain hunks, plunging some of it into the ocean.

What’s left is a beautiful stretch of road now cut in two by a ravine 600 feet deep, jumbled asphalt, massive pieces of a storm drain salting the beach line and fears that the land could move some more.

Due to the real danger of trodding on land that could fall into the ocean in seconds, pedestrians have repeatedly been warned to stay out. Police helicopters continually buzz overhead. But for those of us who considered this strip a part of our lives, we’re having trouble letting go.

 We’ve lost a place of meditation, of solace. 

Our lives will be different now. I am realizing my son won’t complain profusely when I drive the long way home down Western Avenue to Paseo del Mar, breathing in the sea air and watching pelicans grace the sky, blue whales surface with towering plumes and crashing waves that chew away at the cliffs of time.

I am realizing that the fat palm tree I walked by now sits on a treacherous island of its own and appears to be slowly melting into the horizon. The emerald palm reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books (now considered offensive): Little Black Sambo. It was the story of a boy who ran into four hungry tigers and cleverly traded articles of his clothing to stay alive. He was a kid I wanted to be like.

Every time I walked past that palm, it sparked my memory of stupid tigers racing around a tree and melting into butter as the boy who outwitted them looked on.

“I loved that tree,” said Peggy Lindquist, owner of the Corner Store, who has served hundreds who once used the now disconnected Paseo del Mar to get to her business.

Many others have expressed concerns about the palm and wonder if it can be saved. That seems like us trying to grasp at ghosts now past.

It’s time to look ahead, step out of the quicksand of memories and work on what’s next. It’s likely it will be nearly impossible to fix the slide. Cutting another road anywhere near it clearly makes no sense, because any construction could trigger more movement.

It all should be incorporated, many say, in the White Point Nature Preserve
that drifts on the hills above the road. Perhaps that's where we should begin to put focus. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

San Pedro High Principal Jeanette Stevens teaches students how to make pie.
To Launch San Pedro High’s After School Cooking Club, The Principal Shakes and Bakes with Her Students 14 Holiday Pies
Students Find They Like The Principal And Her Family Holiday Tradition
By Diana L. Chapman
   San Pedro High students scored this past week when their principal decided to teach them personally about one of her family holiday traditions – how to bake  pumpkin and Southern pecan pies almost entirely from scratch.
   As students kneaded, lumped, and rolled pastry to make pie crusts-- many of them having never baked a pie in their lives before -- said they were astounded that their principal, Jeanette Stevens, took the time out to work with them.
    “It’s not every day you’re making pies with your principal,” explained Jose Hernandez, 16, about why he came. “I’ve never done a pie. I don’t really know how to cook at all. I use to think it was so complicated. But it seems really simple.
Jose Hernandez enjoys learning how to make pies for his first time.
     “Mrs. Stevens is a great teacher. She has patience even when we asked the same question again and again.”
    Jesse Vasquez, 13, added: “She’s not strict and stuff. She’s teaching kids about life. I love cooking and I want to be a chef when I grow up. I like it because it gives me the freedom to create.”
   While wearing a red-checked apron and scurrying around patiently to teach a whirlwind of some 15 chatty and happy students, Stevens said she found it “incredibly refreshing” to be back in a classroom with kids – especially when it involves bowls, spoons, eggs, flour, sugar and pecans. Stevens launched the after school cooking club’s first session Monday, which was funded by the San Pedro Coastal Neighborhood Council.  The council provided  $1,000 to support the culinary opportunity.
Students chatting away excitedly while baking.
    That’s particularly important since the once popular culinary class, which had waiting lists in the hundreds, was closed due to budget cuts for the past three years. It has periodically reopened, but not for more than a semester.
   But with this opportunity, students had a chance to check out their skills. As they gleefully kibitzed, they whipped up a frothing egg mix, poured in pecans, got flour on their faces, their clothes and on the floor – but were really appreciative and surprised that Stevens took her own time out to work with them.
   “I really feel I connected with the principal more than I ever have,” said student leader Elizabeth Do, 17, a senior who is president of the school’s Key Club, co-president of the Community Outreach Club and a member of the school’s Academic Decathlon. “There’s so many of us in the day, so it’s definitely hard to connect.
   “I feel like I got to know her. My perspective has changed, because now she’s someone I can relate too. She’s just a wonderful principal to take the time out to do this with us.”
    Moments were often holiday jolly – especially once English teacher Anthony Saavedra arrived to make fresh whip cream. Stevens and Saavedra had a pie-off competition amongst the staff last year, but the faculty voted that Stevens sweet treats were the best.
  “You can tell how political the staff is,” Saavedra joked. “She won.”
Jesse Vaquez shows off her pie creation with teacher Anthony Saavedra

  Once the crusts were ready and the students started making the mix, Stevens warned them that there’s a lot of debate on how to put pecans in the pie. She said she folds hers into the mix, but others believe they should be placed down on the crust where they can “float to the top.”
   “There are people who argue how to put the pecans in the pie,” Stevens told the kids. “It’s up to you.”
   To make a go of the after school cooking club, the campus needed outside funding.
  Long supporters of area schools, the Coastal Neighborhood Council offered funds for the club partly because of all the severe budget cuts that have swept away life skills programs, such as home economics and auto shop.
   “This is something our board felt is a worthwhile activity, not just for learning self-reliance, it gives students constructive things to do after school,” said the council treasurer John Stinson. “It’s teaching them something that is useful. These are skills you need in everyday life.”
   Stevens said what prompted her to do the first lesson was her interest in sharing her family holiday traditions. Much of what she cooks, she learned from her grandmother, who is now 92.  Every year around the holidays, she and her girlfriend come together make 20 to 25 pies, including mincemeat, pecan, pumpkin and sometimes apple.
  “My passion is kids,” beamed the principal. “This is so nice to be here and see so many kids interested in a tradition that’s gone by the wayside.”
   Student Rita Marquez said the experience showed that something like baking can pull people together and: “It shows us that anyone can do it, from the principal to the students,” she said smiling. “It’s pretty universal.”

Kimberly Hernandez shows off here nearly finished pecan pie.