Residents of Playa Vista, the upscale planned Westside community, say they moved there nearly seven years ago because of its amenities, living within a self-contained community and the idea that they would be living in a safe neighborhood.
But after a rash of property crimes in the affluent community in recent months, homeowners and renters are up in arms and are demanding that the homeowners association and the police department take action.
Approximately 250 Playa Vista residents attended a community meeting January 28th to air their grievances to representatives from Playa Vista, the Los Angeles Police Department and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office.
Detective Nina Serna, LAPD Pacific division’s burglary and theft coordinator, answered questions from the concerned homeowners and sought to assure them that the police department was patrolling their neighborhood and was aware of the burglaries that have taken place in recent weeks.
Serna mentioned a group of burglars who had allegedly been committing similar crimes in the San Fernando Valley and believes that their pattern was comparable to the residential crimes that Playa Vista has recently seen.
“They are generally hitting high-end communities here and in the Valley,” Serna noted. “Fortunately, the information that we have is that they have left Los Angeles because they know that they’re wanted. So that’s good news.”
Several residents complained that police have not responded in a professional manner when they are called and have ignored them when they lodged complaints and delivered to the Pacific division station what they feel is evidence of a crime.
Rosendahl said that he has talked with Capt. Joseph Hiltner, the commander at Pacific division, and police have assured him that they are patrolling the residential neighborhood.
“We should be focused on safety issues, and any strategy that deals with safety,” said Rosendahl.
A subtext to the meeting was the confusion of whether the neighborhood’s streets are dedicated — a term that refers to whether a private developer has obtained all necessary permits, including right-of-ways for all roads in a development, from the city government.
A property owner may also be required to make improvements to a community, such as street widening and sidewalk, gutter and curb installation.
“The Playa Vista folks need to dedicate the streets to the city,” Rosendahl stated. The councilman said that police and fire know where the streets are located and law enforcement does patrol the neighborhood. “But in the long run, the dedication of the streets will guarantee those protections,” Rosendahl added.
Randy Johnson, president of the Playa Vista Parks and Landscape Corporation, interjected that the streets had been turned over to the city.
“Bill, the streets have already been dedicated,” said Johnson, who was immediately and loudly contradicted by audience members who argued that their avenues and roads were not official.
“We recorded maps five years ago,” Johnson argued.
Michelle Vargas, a public affairs specialist with the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, said that based on how her agency views street dedication, Playa Vista’s infrastructure is dedicated.
“According to the definition that is used by the Bureau of Sanitation of the Public Works Department, all of Playa Vista’s streets are dedicated,” Vargas told The Argonaut.
Rosendahl talked with Playa Capital President Steve Soboroff the day after the neighborhood meeting and both pledged to do what they could to explore whether there are any remaining bureaucratic protocols involved in getting the streets dedicated.
“We are all in sync on getting a roadmap to getting our streets officially turned over (to the city),” Soboroff told The Argonaut. “I’m confident that we’ll see progress on this very soon.”
Soboroff pointed out that it was a matter of coordinating with various city agencies regarding any red tape that might exist regarding Playa Vista’s streets.
“But all of the city services are being provided, no question about it,” he said.
Jim Fisher, the assistant general manager for the Department of Transportation, confirmed that Playa Vista’s roads are dedicated, but have not been accepted as yet by city officials.
“Some of the required road work and development have not been completed,” Fisher said.
For Nancy Beecham, who lives on Pacific Promenade, the recent burglaries and difficulties with street traffic and parking have caused her to get a bit sour on life in Playa Vista.
“We have been having this same problem since I moved here,” said Beecham, who works for ABC and has lived at Playa Vista since 2004. “I believe that our streets will never get turned over to the city.”
Beecham says that she and many of her neighbors have been forced to watch helplessly while vehicles park on Playa Vista’s streets for days on end without fear that they will be ticketed, and they’ve received a less than cordial response from Playa Vista officials when they report residential crimes that have been committed.
Forming a Neighborhood Watch was also a topic of discussion. Cindi Hench, the new president of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa del Rey who has been involved in Neighborhood Watch for many years, talked about the importance of neighbors banding together to help deter crime.
Hench said that there were striking similarities to what occurred in her hillside Westchester community of Kentwood several years ago and what had recently happened in Playa Vista.
“When we moved in [to Kentwood], we thought that we were moving into Mayberry,” she recalled. “We felt safe and thought that we would never be victims.”
“I’m a big supporter of Neighborhood Watch,” Rosendahl said. “Most of my communities have a Neighborhood Watch that is very proactive in working with our great men and women at LAPD, and that is something that should be considered at Playa Vista.”
Several homeowners said that they have purchased surveillance equipment and have also initiated a Web site, www.playavistahomeowner.com/, where residents can notify each other of break-ins or other crimes that have occurred.
Rosendahl pledged that he would have answers for Playa Vista residents this month about the status of their streets.