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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Blogger turned Activist in an attempt to prevent his town from ending up an eyesore, like most of suburban USA

From: Meril, Rick
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 6:34 PM
To: Mayor of Calabasas
Subject: RE: save calabasas from turning into an ugly eyesore

James……………….I applaud your historical efforts,,,,,,and also am a realist to know that much of the 40% saved land was deemed to steep or too difficult to build on, not because everyone on the Calabasas Board was an altruist about saving open space

,,,,,,,I am a 16 year resident in Calabasas myself and saw how outside folks from the West Side(Rob Reiner and pals), etc, etc came forth to fight for Ahmason, well outside their neighborhoods…………………We need that type LARGE AND IN CHARGE effort spearheaded by you and colleagues

The Malibu Canyon corridor is more than just a Calabasas neighborhood,,,,,,,,,,,,,It can and should be a full L.A. effort to keep as green as possible…………..

Malibu State Park............the Malibu Canyon roadway should reflect the same beauty as the Park itself

I am not just sounding off,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,attaching testimonials, opinions, legal precedent examples of what a united opposition to "development as usual" can accomplish…………..

In my business, it is not just good enough to say that I set a sales $$ record selling FRIENDS, 2.5 MEN, BIG BANG THEORY AND ELLEN DEGENERES TO TV STATIONS ACROSS AMERICA……………My Boss wants to know what I am going to do tomorrow to earn my keep……………..

Respectively, your historical record is applauded,,,,,,,,,,,,,,today and tomorrow you and colleagues as elected leaders have a new game to play in,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and score runs in………………finding creative ways to keep Malibu Canyon green!

I am trying to encourage action above and beyond………………Ahmason was thought to be a lost cause,,,,,,,,,,,,the land behind the fire station at Mureau and Malibu Canyon could have gone to development,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but neither did,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,CANDIDLY, NOT DUE TO CALABASAS EFFORT ONLY,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


If you let us vote on a moratorium, I am fully confident that residents would vote to halt the proposed building.

There was never a piece of land that was made into a Park or Wilderness(regardless of how hard developers fought it at the time of creation) that was ever seen as a mistake 10, 20, 50 and 100 years later………….Ever, anywhere in America.



From: James; Mayor of Calabasas
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 6:10 PM
To: Meril, Rick
Subject: Re: save calabasas from turning into an ugly eyesore

Dear Rick:

1.  I served on the City Council during the time period when we did in fact win the very uphill battles against Ahmanson Ranch, Soka University, and many other proposed developments.  I am well aware of the need to preserve open space, having spent my entire life in this region.  No one supports the concept of "open space" more than I, who co-authored and was the primary sponsor of the Open Space Initiative of 2005, the Historic Preservation Ordinance of 2008, and the Open Space Initiative of 2015 (which will appear on your ballot in the Calabasas Municipal Elections later this year.  Since 2003, I have also served as the City Council's liaison with respect to open space acquisition, (e.g., overseeing the acquisition of hundreds of acres of additional land for open space protection).

2.  To the extent possible, I have always supported the conversion of as much land as possible to permanent open space.  Fully 43% of all territory within our 14 square mile land mass is now permanent open space, a marked increase since incorporation in 1991.

3.  The foregoing having been said, the City has no mechanism by which to convert every remaining parcel of land to open space, especially where pre-existing zonings and entitlements are already in place (many pre-dating cityhood).  That being said, I am willing to entertain any realistic means of adding to our open space inventory, should you have any specific proposals in mind.

Mayor Pro Tem
City of Calabasas
From: Meril, Rick 
To: Calabasas Town Council
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 4:56 PMTo:
Subject: FW: save calabasas from turning into an ugly eyesore

Fred and Mary Sue........................

To follow up further after my meeting with Fred and my correspondence with the two of you, "Food for thought" below..................At this point in the life curve of Calabasas, it is my opinion(and if put to a vote across Calabasas, my guess, the likely opinion of most) that
the 5, 6, 7 or however many remaining open space parcels should not be developed...............

That in fact, a concerted(more than cursory and more than just once) effort to reach out to the local, state and Environmental Groups that saved Ahmanson Ranch, the property behind the Fire House at the juncture of Malibu Canyon and Mureau Road, etc, etc be undertaken to ensure that the "common interest in these lands take precedence over long-term private use.....That in fact the Village of Calabasas should invok the principle of jus publicum — that these remaining open space parcels are of so common a nature they defy private ownership!!!

As I have reiterated to you, from my "perch", if in fact you(and all of us who live in this part of the Valley) are truly committed to having Calabasas(Agoura, Oak Park, Westlake Village) stand out as truly "green" and differentiated from the ugly, over developed and eyesore balance of the San Fernando Valley, it is time to open your eyes to beauty and not just short term balance sheet metrics...................

We are fortunate to live in an affluent region that can do things somewhat differently from the older towns in the region whose leaders allowed a pell mell sell off of land and allow a hodge-poge rubble to take over the land.

Once again, appreciate your time and consideration on this important issue.

Not everything goes back solely to a balance sheet................My 40 years of work experience in simultaneously generating healthy financial returns right alongside esthetically pleasing
products saids, YES YOU CAN SAVE OUR OPEN SPACE,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,IF YOU TRULY WANT TO.


Rick Meril
Calabasas Resident

MALIBU CANYON PARK …………………The remaining open parcels coming off the 101 Freeway straight across to the Pacific Coast Hwy should remain Open Space----we should be marketing Calabasas as the GATEWAY TO THE SANTA MONICA NATIONAL PARK, NOT PROMOTING IT AS A HOTEL AND CAR DEALERSHIP DESTINATION,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,WHEN SO MUCH OF THAT ALREADY EXISTS WITHIN MINUTES OF CALABASAS ALREADY

The California Supreme Court, invoking the Public Trust Doctrine, ruled against Los Angeles and for the lake, extending the state’s public trust authority to the control of water diversions from non-navigable tributaries of a navigable lake. The decision asserted that common interest in some resources take precedence over long-term private use and invoked the principle of jus publicum — that certain resources are of so common a nature they defy private ownership. It was a triumphant expansion of existing case law, building on the 1971 California state Supreme Court case of Marks v. Whitney, which determined that public trust values included not only tidelands, lakes, rivers, and riverbeds, but also wildlife habitat, recreational value, and the sheer beauty of place.

The nineteenth-century oyster wars were not won in the courtroom alone, nor was the shoreline of Chicago, Mono Lake, or the Waiahole Ditch. They were all preceded by the public protest of “commoners” demanding that government exercise its public trust mandate. It’s important to realize that public trust litigation is unlikely to succeed in the absence of community activism and public education. As public trust legal scholar Michael Warburton notes, “The Doctrine is too valuable a public resource to leave with the legal profession, particularly at a time when so few of my colleagues are defending public interests and resources are being privatized on a truly massive scale.”

And why shouldn’t a broad spectrum of protestors come out to protest the rampant enclosure of the commons that is unfolding today? It seems to me that this doctrine, and the whole notion of an expanded commons, should be able to transcend the traditional right-left, public-private divisions that have long plagued debate over property and the commons. We’re talking here about things that people of any and all political persuasions must value — air, water, privacy, silence, knowledge, sunlight, soil, and the essential inviolability of childhood.

In this regard it would be wise to view the Public Trust Doctrine as more than a legal construct, for it is also a philosophy, a way of thinking that sees the public good as an ideal to be pursued. Does not the fate of humanity lie, as it always has, in our care of the commons?


From: Rick Meril []
Sent: Friday, July 03, 2015 9:44 PM
To: Calabasas Town Council
Subject: It is not too late to re-evaluate and reach the conclusion that the 5 remaining parcels of land now zoned for developemt are more valuable to Calabasas as open space


Wanted to thank you again for engaging me in conversation regarding the undeveloped land parcels currently tabbed for developement in Calabasas.............Understanding and digesting all that you commented on, I ask that you consider the following before greenlighting development on either side of the gas station on Malibu Canyon

Burlington, Vermont did a deep dive into the benefits of development versus the benefits of open space to their city.............Many of their findings echo some of my commentary to you this afternoon regarding not feeling that at this point in the Calabasas life curve, development is not the positive course of action that it might have been 10, 15 and 20 years ago--In fact, it might be a negative both in the short and long term for area residents.

I quote from their findings:

Studies in nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut show that on average, the residential property tax rate is higher in towns and cities with more residents, commercial and industrial property and jobs, and lower in places where there are more acres of open land per capita. Why? “Cows don’t go to school” is an old adage that explains most of why residential development often is a net loss for municipalities. The average homeowner will often pay less in annual property taxes than the cost of schooling his or her children alone for that same period, much less the additional costs of police and fire services, snow removal, sewer and water projects, etc. Plus, as a community grows, the per person cost of providing services has actually been found to increase.

 As towns that were once small enough to need only part volunteer or part time public safety forces upgrade to full page 9 Open Space Protection Plan Value “What is the value of peace of mind? of clean air? of quiet times? of watching a tree grow? of hearing a heron or a flock of geese? of clean water? Thank you.” “Open space is an acknowledgment and recognition of our necessary and sacred relationship with the planet. Without it we ultimately wither and die.” “Open space is important for getting in touch with yourself and with nature and for quiet exercise and the appreciation of beauty.” “The value of [open space] is huge. Protecting and increasing natural areas increases home values, keeps people living here, and raises the quality of life.” 

. Giving land conservation a high priority encourages more cost-ef priority encourages more cost-efficient ficient development development 3. Communities with well thought-out land protection programs may improve their protection programs may improve their bond ratings and become a more attractive place for businesses Q: What is the value of open space to you? --Some responses from Burlington residents A: time, as small unpaved roads are converted to paved roads or highways, or as development branches into previously unserviced areas, public services are forced to spend proportionately more just to keep up. Retail or industrial development, once thought to be tax-positive for cities and towns, may also bring the need for more public safety, transportation, and other services, due in part to their direct use needs, but also due to a high correlation between these types of development with increased residential development -- homes following jobs...which accounts for why even towns with higher percentages of retail and industrial tax bases often have higher tax burden than those with less.

. Open space increases property values and the desirability of cities and towns “Economic growth and development must take place, and be maintained over time, within the limits set by ecology in the broadest sense--by the interrelations of human beings and their works, the biosphere and the physical and chemical laws that govern it...It follows that environmental protection and economic development are complementary rather than antagonistic processes.” --William D. Ruckelshaus, 

“Toward a Sustainable World” As early as the 1850’s, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted justified the purchase of land for New York’s Central Park by noting that the rising value of adjacent property would produce enough in taxes to pay for the park. By 1864, Olmsted could document a $55,880 net return in annual taxes over what the city was paying in interest for land and improvements. By 1873, the park + which until then had cost approximately $14 million + was responsible for an extra $5.24 million in taxes each year.

 Between 1980 and 1990, the percentage of Denver residents who said they would pay more to live near a greenbelt or park rose from 16 percent to 48 percent. In a June 1995 article from the journal Planning, William Lucy and David Phillips expose the reality that suburbs are increasingly facing the same decline, and for the same reasons, that cities have been experiencing for some time. “Decline” was measured in this study as a reduction in the median family income. The housing ages, consumers demand newer and larger units, changes make older neighborhoods less attractive, and investment declines. They also explore the question of why some cities and suburbs in the D.C. area did not decline, or at least not as rapidly as others. Their conclusion was that combination of good planning, transit and preservation were keys to the winners’ success. - the winner’s maintained a sense of place. 

One particular case in point was the town of Greenbelt, notable for its park and greenway systems. Despite the fact that between 1960 & 1990 the percentage of renters in the community increased dramatically (from two in five to four in five), that the town tripled in size, and nine of its neighboring communities’ median income rate dropped between 20 and 42%, Greenbelt’s dropped only 3.6% in that time. Cities such as Portland, Minneapolis, Toronto, and more recently Chattanooga, that are often studied as good examples, are doing the same things, avoiding sprawl by creating healthy city centers and investing public funds to protect natural resources in and around the city. 

A recent article in the Burlington Free Press reported that visitors now pump more than $3 billion into Vermont’s economy. The University of Vermont recently completed a study of tourism and the economy of Vermont. This study concluded that “Vermont has become one of the most travelexpenditure-dependent economies in the United States in the 1990s.” 24 A 1991 survey by the Division of Economics in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes that wildliferelated recreation is one of the most popular forms of recreation in the United States, boasting annual participation at 109 million, 3 million more than total attendance for all major league baseball, football, basketball and hockey games in the U.S

. Natural areas, scenic and historic landscapes, and recreation in nature are growing tourism niches, and investment in the protection of these resources is good business practice. Conversely, taking these assets for granted can have devastating effects on an economy

Fred, thanks for doing some further thinking on all of this and I wish you and family
a very happy 4th.

Rick(while not an actual "Village resident", as concerned as anyone within the city limits
of the future look, feel and economic value of our beautiful part of Los Angeles.



From: rick meril [] 
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2015 10:16 PM
To: Calabasas Town Council
Subject: degradation of our quality of life


 In the classic1982 Star Trek film, THE WRATH OF KHAN, the iconic Mr. Spock(Leonard Nimoy) says: "Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,,,,,,,,,with  Capt. Kirk(William Shatner) responding,,,,,"Or the one."
; The June 4, 2015 Acorn Newspaper article entitlted: "Calabasas leaders navigate choppy financial waters"has me truly concerned that in fact "the needs of the few",,,,,,,,,or possibly even" the needs of the one" are trumping the quality of life "needs of the many."

 Are we looking to create another Auto Mall 10 minutes down the road from the gargantuan 1000 Oaks Auto Mall...........Why is there a need to do that in Calabasas?............And if the car of your choice is not in 1000 Oaks, Keyes on Van Nuys Blvd exists as a "Disneyworld" destination for your auto needs.

; Are the neighborhoods surrounding the 1000 Oaks Auto Mall and Van Nuys Blvd Auto Bazaar been enhanced by Auto Dealerships? ,,,,,,,,,,,,Or conversely, have they drowned both in esthetic and home owner value by "tearing down paradise and putting in a parking lot?"

 Will semi rural and narrow Calabasas Road and Malibu Canyon, the Gateway to the San Fernando Mountains National Park be enhanced by multiple car dealerships and hotels when Occupancy rates clearly state we have too many hotels now?.... Will the additional traffic from additional car dealerships and hotels add further to the malaise that exists at rush hour daily off of Mureau Road onto Calabasas Road,,,,,,,,,,,and during a good part of the day on Malibu Canyon Road starting at the Malibu Canyon/Agoura Road traffic light intersection(the intersection where the ugly and failing Strip Mall  abuts the Albertsons Supermarket and McDonalds?

   If we had a public referendum on the above questions, I am confident that the residents of Calabasas would reject more hotels and car dealerships,,,,,,,,,,And if that meant either
  spending less on other projects or voting to contribute additional $$ for what a majority of residents really wanted, people would believe this the better paradigm for our Village
  to follow.

; Calabasas resident Carl Ehrlich recently noted in his Letter to the Editor in the June 11 Acorn newspaper that over the past two years, the average occupancy rate of the exisitng hotels in Calabasas was under 60%, an average of 176 unused rooms during 2013 and 2014.

; Can we have a public election on this issue and halt the proposed Car and Hotel building in the most rural part of our Village so that the people can be heard,,,,,,,,,,,,,"the many", "not the few",,,,,,,,,,,,,,and certainly, "not the one!"

; Rick Meril
; Calabasas resident

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