Topanga Before Today

Pablo CapraBy Pablo Capra      September 17, 2021

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Topanga Before Today
Atomics International The atomic power reactor (left foreground) has been operating for two years providing heat for production of 15,335,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in the Edison steam-generating plant (Steam cloud in background).
July 2, 1959, Topanga Journal—In nearby Santa Susana record steam heat was produced by the Atomics International Sodium Reactor Experiment station at Southern California Edison Co. steam generating plant attaining a temperature of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The power reactor, atop the Santa Susana Mountains, has been operating for 2-years, and provided heat for production of 15,335,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in the Edison installation shown at the right. Atomics International is a division of North American Aviation Inc., adjacent to the Rocketdyne Plant at Canoga Park. The record heat peak of 1008 represents an outstanding advance in the production of electricity through atomic power. [From Wikipedia, “Santa Susana Field Laboratory”:] The Sodium Reactor Experiment-SRE was an experimental nuclear reactor that operated at the site from 1957 to 1964 and was the first commercial power plant in the world to experience a core meltdown [in July 1959!]. There was a decades-long cover-up of the incident by the U.S. Department of Energy. The operation predated environmental regulation, so early disposal techniques are not recorded in detail. Thousands of pounds of sodium coolant from the time of the meltdown are not yet accounted for. The reactor and support systems were removed in 1981 and the building torn down in 1999. “Malibu ‘Assured’ Reactor Safe” December 27, 1962, Topanga Journal—Scientists contacted by Allen Benson, vice-president of the Malibu-Topanga Civic Association, have stated that Malibu residents need not fear any danger arising from radioactivity from the nuclear power reactor planned for Malibu [“fronting on the Pacific Ocean and backing a half mile into Corral Canyon”] by the Los Angeles City Department of Water and Power. Benson reports that both Dr. Ernest C. Anderson and Robert Brasier of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico, have assured him that “possibility of an explosion is nil,” “danger of radioactivity is well-controlled,” and “Malibu has nothing whatever to worry about as far as safety is concerned.” Dr. Anderson states that the Atomic Energy Commission goes out of its way to enforce stringent safety rules and nuclear reactors have proved to be among the safest devices ever invented. Brasier corroborated Dr. Anderson’s statements. Benson’s report forms part of a coordinated plan adopted by leaders of Malibu civic groups to investigate the implications of the DWP’s project. Henry Guttman, president of the Malibu Township Council, will study plans for the landscaping and recreational use of the 305-acre site; Al Brewer of the Malibu Community Organization’s Freeway Committee will consider the relationship of the proposed plant and possible freeway routes; while Richard Mason, president of the MTCA, will coordinate the study.
‘The Destruction of Pine Tree Circle’
Letter to the Editor, April 19,1962,
Topanga Journal

Dear Sir:
I wish to protest the growing trend toward Uglification of Topanga. I don’t know what the owner of Pine Tree Circle is up to, but I can’t imagine anything else more beautiful or spiritually satisfying, not even a Bank, than the circle of beautiful old trees, which in a matter of hours was turned into a scene of utter desolation.

It may be possible to excuse the destruction of natural beauty on business property in the name of “Progress and Free Enterprise,” but what ails the Church to cut down a handsome example of God’s own handiwork, a mountain lilac, to put up an ugly wooden cross resting on a base of fake rockwork. Perhaps it is properly symbolic of man’s drive to do away with Nature altogether and leave only his own shoddy mark.

Perhaps others who are responsible for progress and beautification of Topanga will take a look at these latest sad examples of man’s so-called creativity, and have some second thoughts.
Sincerely,
Phylliss Graham
21058 W. Hillside, Topanga
‘Malibu Stirred by Freeway Reports’
December 27.1962, Topanga Journal—Even while the issues raised by the various proposals for routing the Malibu Freeway between Malibu Canyon and the county line remain unsolved, a new set of proposals, this time covering the gap between Santa Monica and Malibu Beach, seems likely to intensify the bitter feeling between the State Highway Division and residents of Malibu.

Entitled “Route 60 Freeway Reconnaissance Study in the Santa Monica Bay Area,” and subtitled “An Investigation of the Feasibility of a Joint Highway-Recreational Facility Between the City of Santa Monica and the Community of Malibu Beach,” a study just released by the state engineers proposes three alternative routes, all of them highly controversial.

The most expensive of the three plans, but the one most likely to gain acceptance among citizens of Malibu, is a proposal that the freeway between Santa Monica and Malibu Beach run along “either a continuous bridge or a landfill located between 1,000 feet and one-half mile offshore.” This would have the effect of creating a lagoon between the natural shoreline and the causeway which could be used as a yachting harbor and for other recreational purposes. Where the offshore freeway ran along a fill, a new beach would be created on the ocean side which would be available to fill the needs of the thousands of bathers who have been trying to crowd themselves into the few natural beaches now left unfenced along Pacific Coast Highway.

The report notes that construction costs of the offshore freeway would be considerably higher than any of the land routes would involve, but this would be partly compensated by an absence of right-of-way costs.
Next most costly would be an inland route by which the freeway would lie on top of the bluffs and the mountainsides overlooking the ocean. Construction costs would be high but its main disadvantage “is that it would require extensive right-of-way in a well-developed residential area which would result in exceptionally high right-of-way costs.” Large cuts and fills would be required but beach residences and commercial property along Pacific Coast Highway could be bypassed.

The third proposal, termed the “onshore route,” is one never before made publicly. Under this plan, the freeway would run along state-owned lands bordering the mean high-tide line. Since this would destroy the present beaches, new ones, would be created on the sea side of the freeway and the new eight-lane freeway on the other with all access to the ocean cut off. The report suggests that “this location more nearly, satisfies requirements of the proposed ‘Pacific International Scenic Drive’ of which the new freeway will probably be an integral part.” Construction costs would not be excessive and there would be little in the way of right-of-way costs.
Publication of the reconnaissance study brought an Immediate and violent reaction from the Malibu Community Organizations Freeway committee, formed to fight any proposed freeway routes which they believe would cut up their community in such a way as to destroy its essential character.
According to A. F. Brewer, president of the committee, his group will give its “unqualified approval’’ to the offshore route but must oppose the other two suggestions. The “onshore” route, in particular, he characterized as “utterly reprehensible” and an attempt by the state to seize without compensation some millions of dollars’ worth of beach property. Owners of beach houses on Pacific Coast Highway would still have their buildings but they would be rendered virtually valueless.
He protested that the report would raise a public storm that would make the bitter controversy over freeway routes west of Malibu Canyon “look like nothing.”
Pablo Capra

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September 17, 2021

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