Showdown in Ramirez Canyon


Tensions increased last week between Ramirez Canyon residents and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, drawing in sheriff’s deputies on Sunday to supervise a protest by residents over another private, catered function at the Streisand Center for Conservancy Studies.

The residents are seeking a court order to stop the weddings and parties at the Streisand center. Residents say the functions are ruining their canyon because they bring noise and traffic into the community almost every weekend.

The center rents out its facilities to raise money for environmental programs at the center, and to pay for the maintenance of the grounds of Barbra Streisand’s former estate, which she donated to the state agency in 1993.

Recently, the residents hired security guards, posting them at the gates to the private community, to record the names and license plate numbers of visitors.

Conservancy Director Joe Edmiston, appearing at the last City Council meeting on a related matter, complained that residents are creating a public policy issue. If the residents obtained visitors’ names and license plate numbers, they could get private information about them, he said.

But resident Ruth White said the guards were hired to count the visitors and cars so residents could try to substantiate the claim in their lawsuit that Ramirez Canyon Road is being overburdened by the conservancy.

“They didn’t want us counting cars,” she said. Center visitors park outside the canyon and are shuttled in by van.

Last week, the center hosted three events, each of which drew at least 150 guests. At an Oct. 14 event, White said, a number of rangers from state parks appeared at the gate and attempted to restrain the guards from counting visitors. White said that Edmiston, dressed in his ranger uniform, issued tickets to the guards. Residents at the gate, she said, became angry and yelled at the rangers for interfering with the guards’ duties.

All the while, she said, “a humongous number of cars were coming in.”

Ramirez residents were so “riled up,” she said, that a demonstration was planned for Oct. 18 when another event would take place at the center. Residents were told not to block the shuttle vans and to keep the demonstration peaceful. White said residents were so angry that, “Under the circumstances, the neighborhood behaved very well.”

Sheriff’s Capt. Bill McSweeney said Edmiston asked him to have sheriff’s deputies present at the protest. McSweeney said he had not heard any reports of the protest getting out hand. He said he hoped the residents and the conservancy could work out their differences.

“It’s a lousy use of police resources to baby-sit up there every weekend,” he said, but in the meantime, “we’ll do our best to get the Hatfields and the McCoys to get along.”