Coalition of Palisadians to Keep Marquez Charter Safe was founded in February 2012 in response to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (“DWP”) proposal to build a new power distributing station directly next to Marquez Charter Elementary School (“Marquez Charter”). The group consists of past, present and future parents of Marquez Charter as well as local residents who feel adamantly about keeping Marquez Charter and the surrounding area safe for children and everyone in the community.
To safeguard the well-being and advocate the interests of children who attend and families that live near Marquez Charter.
- To prevent DWP’s proposed power distributing station from being built next to Marquez Charter
- To educate the public about the potential safety, environmental and health hazards of building a power distributing station next to Marquez Charter
- To organize the community to preserve Marquez Charter as a safe sanctuary for children and other members of the community
- To advocate “Children’s Safety First” and the safeguarding of Marquez Charter before decision-makers, public officials and elected representatives
The DWP has announced plans to build a new power distributing station in the Marquez Knolls residential enclave of Pacific Palisades. The target location is an undeveloped lot immediately adjacent to the Marquez Charter.
On February 29, 2012, DWP hosted an informational Town Hall meeting to present the proposed project, “Distributing Station 104” (“DS 104”) to the community. Although residents and Marquez Charter parents had learned about the Town Hall meeting merely days before, 200+ attended and over two dozen spoke out against the proposed power distributing station as a potential environmental and health hazard. At the end of the Town Hall, the community submitted to DWP a petition with 400+ signatures to protest the proposed power distributing station.
Read the local news coverage of the Town Hall meeting here:
The proposed project is a new electrical “distributing station.” As DWP explained at the Town Hall meeting, a distributing station is a part of the DWP’s electrical generation, transmission, and distribution system. It transforms voltage from high to low between the generating plant and the residential consumer.
Although specific plans and design details have yet to be publicly disclosed, informal discussions between community members and DWP suggest that the installation will comprise of multiple buildings spread over a large footprint covering the entire site. The proposed power distributing station is intended to supplement the existing Distributing Station 29 in the Palisades Village. With ever-increasing energy demands, the community anticipates that the proposed distributing station may ultimately serve the entire greater Pacific Palisades area and beyond.
DWP has proposed the distributing station be located on an approximately 1.9 acre undeveloped lot immediately adjacent to Marquez Charter (the “Marquez Lot”) at 16931 Marquez Avenue, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. The location is in the heart of Marquez Knolls, a quiet residential enclave populated by many families with young children. The site is bordered by single-family homes to the south and the east, a canyon of natural vegetation to the west, and Marquez Charter to the north. The Marquez Lot borders the entire length of the southern fence of the Marquez Charter lower playground.
The homes surrounding and the elementary school directly adjacent to the Marquez Lot were developed in the 1950s. Around 1969, DWP set out to acquire a site for an eventual second distributing station in the Palisades. Exercising a “low-key community involvement approach” (i.e., a tactic “involving the ‘interested individuals and public organizations’ only after permit applications are filed’”), DWP reviewed three potential sites in Marquez Knolls and decided to acquire the Marquez Lot. Without focusing on public safety or the environment, DWP settled on the Marquez Lot primarily because of its “lowest overall cost.” Remarkably, in a 1969 Site Selection Report, DWP partially attributed the lot’s “remarkably low” land value to its being “within a known unstable area.” Undeterred by the site’s geological problems, DWP initiated condemnation proceedings to obtain the land by force when purchase negotiations apparently failed.
In 1971, DWP applied for a Conditional Use Permit from the City Planning Department to allow construction of a distributing-station on the residential-zoned lot. At the time, the CUP was quietly approved without the benefit of today’s broad array of environmental protection laws and regulations. Regardless, DWP ultimately shelved the project for nearly four decades, and the Marquez Lot remained undeveloped. Meanwhile, the surrounding residential area flourished, as did Marquez Charter next door.
In 2010, DWP renewed its interest in building a second distributing station in addition to the existing one in the Palisades Village area. DWP re-evaluated whether the Marquez Lot was still preferable or if a better site for the proposed distributing-station existed. DWP started preparing an “Addendum” to its original 1969 Site Selection Report and retained outside environmental consultants to prepare a parallel “Comparative Site Evaluation.” Completed in 2011, the studies confirmed the many environmental and safety problems regarding the Marquez Lot raised by the community since the February Town Hall.
These 2011 site selection and evaluation studies further identified a new preferred site for the proposed distributing station – an approximately 1.2 acre L-shaped property located at the southwestern tip of Topanga State Park and that wraps around Fire Station 23. Accordingly, DWP preliminarily inquired with State Parks about acquiring the land. DWP also consulted certain “individuals of influence around the Fire Station Site.” DWP’s trail of internal correspondence suggests that, upon encountering their resistance, DWP redirected its focus to the Marquez Lot, likely in hopes of garnering more support for putting the proposed distributing station there instead.
Known for its academic excellence, extra-curricular enrichment, and generous parent involvement and contributions, Marquez Charter is truly a gem within LAUSD. It is an award-winning California Distinguished Honor School with an API Score of 900+. It is one of only two public elementary schools in the Pacific Palisades, serving all areas west of Temescal Canyon, including Marquez Knolls, Highlands, Las Casas flats, Pacific View Estates, Castellemare, and Bienvenida Bluffs.
Many young families specifically move to Pacific Palisades in order for their children to attend Marquez Charter. In addition, approximately 20% of the students choose to come from other areas of Los Angeles to attend Marquez Charter.
Despite the current state and local educational budget crisis, the school has managed to maintain a high level of performance. This is due in large part to the active involvement of Marquez Charter parents who, for example, raised approximately $580,000 for the school in the 2010-2011 school year.
The “Coalition of Palisadians to Keep Marquez Charter Safe” (a.k.a. the “Keep Marquez Safe Coalition” or the “Coalition”) is a group of past, present and future parents of Marquez Charter as well as local residents – many of them professionals including doctors, lawyers, finance professionals and business owners – who feel adamantly about keeping Marquez Charter and the surrounding area safe for children and everyone in the community.