Sun, May

Friday Night Lighting


ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - It was a big disappointment that the local elected officials from the County, Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, and the City, Councilmember Nithya V. Raman were unable to attend the swearing-in of the newly elected Studio City Neighborhood Council on Wednesday night.  

The meeting turnout was no better than the recent election turnout, and since the city has not figured out how to restore virtual testimony, the NC brand is being tested.  

Still, never discount local power and moral authority. That would be a huge mistake. The President of the council noted the absence of the electeds mentioned.


So, why, praytell is this man smiling?  It's the council president Paul Krekorian of CD2 who is now on extended recess along with his colleagues.  Still, what is so funny?



Answer: He dumped all the baddies from CD2 onto Nithya Raman.  Rather, someone did.  "Hi, Karo!" 

Sacred Ground:

The grounds of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur were first home to a Native American tribe known as the Esselen. It is a very serene and energized place atop the bluffs along the Pacific coast with strong spiritual vibrations. 

The young 30-year-old Army psychiatrists and their wives were not exactly embraced by the quasi-hippie-looking characters who were hanging around on the deck at Esalen in the summer of1969. 

Esalen had only been founded by Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962, so the place was still emerging. Their joint intention was to support alternative methods for exploring human consciousness, what Aldous Huxley described as "human potentialities."

Translation: Psychedelics.

It's not clear how "army shrinks" fit into that space, but my mother who was telling me the story recently, said she wasn't sure if it was the experimental nature of the work at Esalen that they were discussing or the authoritative nature of my father and his colleague, Ben, that caused the disruption.  But it got a little testy.

The Army shrinks had each been drafted while in medical school and after their residencies found themselves in Monterey, California at Fort Ord, dressed in green US Army uniforms like the ones Larry Hagman and Major Healey would wear in the television show, "I Dream of Jeannie." 

Their main job as Amy shrinks was to decide who was crazy enough to NOT go to Viet Nam and who was crazy enough to go.  Yikes.  

My mother said that during this particular visit, an "odd bird" of a guy with a camera was fastidiously taking her picture.  Eventually, it annoyed her enough that she politely asked him to stop, and he agreed.

"Then, your father and Ben got into a big argument with them,"  she told me.

"Ha! At the spiritual healing sanctuary?" I quipped, "Was this all over some guy taking your picture?"  

"No," my mother explained, "I don't think they liked the idea of Army psychiatrists asking a lot of questions."

Would love to see those pictures. 


You, people, are crazy:

I was happy to see that Fran Drescher, who is admirably calling out her adversaries, put the highly tone-deaf, Bob Iger of the mouse house  [NYSE: DIS], on mega blast this week in a Hollywood Reporter interview,

“There he is, sitting in his designer clothes and just got on his private jet at the billionaire’s camp, telling us we’re unrealistic when he’s making $78,000 a day. How do you deal with someone like that who’s so tone-deaf? Are you an ignoramus? I don’t understand. We need someone with character and courage to go into those boardrooms and say, ‘Listen, we’re doing this all wrong. Why are we doing this anyway? We’re in business with these people. They are who we are building our business off of.’”

 ‘Listen, we’re doing this all wrong. Why are we doing this anyway?

One could ask that very same question to the sweeping board of thirty-five Harvard-Westlake School Trustees listed in their 2022 990.   The list of important alumni from Harvard- Westlake... is huge  (RECORD SCRATCH) 

Smart Speaker:  Actually, not the alumni today.  Today,  we celebrate more than the usual list of impressive alumni, led by the US Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti.  Today we celebrate the folks who make everything and anything... possible.  

The believers in the vision. Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing the Trustees of Harvard Westlake and "The City and County and Army Corp of Engineers."

Possunt quia posse videntur. Translated typically as "They can because they think they can."

Richard Commons, President $830,000

David Weil, CFO. $361,000

Edward Hiu, CAO. $332,000

James De Matte, $302,000

Laura Davidson Ross, $283,000

David Ruben, $260,000

Jonathan Wimbish, $254,000

And the latest crop of volunteers are the Trustees... [Light Show]

Alan Wilson, Chair

Wendy Wachtell

William Barnum

John Weissenbach

Mark Attanasio

Robert Beyer

Peter Bing

Jae Min Chang

Jean-Marc Chapus

Diana Chen

Bradford Edgerton

Jane Eisner

Javier Ferreira

David Fisher

Eric Garen

Joni Hamilton

Jeffrey Harleston

Philip Holthouse

James Feldman Horn (left 6/22)

Jean Kaplan 

Stephen Keck

Robert Kotick

Jaime Lee

Alan Levy

Robert Malone

Charles Munger

Alfred Osborne

Anthony Pritzker

Spencer Rascoff

Deborah Reed

Alison Ressler 

Michael Segal

Melanie Staggs

The RT REV John Taylor

Charles Thornton

Shirley Wang 

Trustees are annually required to acknowledge and confirm compliance with the school's conflict of interest policy.  A conflict of interest policy is provided annually to each trustee who signs that they have read and understand the conflict of interest policy and agree to comply with it. 

Trustees also agree to provide any supplemental information if conflicts reported in the statement materially change. When a conflict of interest occurs, the board chair ensures the conflicted party is excused from discussion or voting on the matter found to be a conflict.

The school is a qualified school exempt from federal income and California franchise taxes under the provisions of 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code and 23701(d) of the California revenue and taxation code.Smart Speaker: 

The school pays no city tax, right?

No word as to whether Studio City residents will be forced to pay homage to the school's hallowed crest:

Lion insignia (heraldic lion). Fleur-de-lis. Shields or crests with figurative elements contained therein or superimposed thereon. Banners.

A second translation for the school's motto is "...they are able because they appear to be able."  


Early Action may be Actionable: 
One question that lingered at the City, County, and US Army Corp of Engineers joint River authority meeting, would anyone be able to stop the elite private school's momentum? 

River Park would “transform” the property into an athletic, recreational, and park center that would be used by the school... and public."

Smart Speaker:  Be specific.

Get him out of here. 

Harvard-Westlake School, an independent, coeducational day school serving students in grades 7-12, seeks to construct the Harvard-Westlake River Park on 16 acres of land owned by the school and one acre leased from the Los Angeles County Flood Control District. 

This caught the attention of residents because Mark Pestrella is a decent guy who runs public works for the County of Los Angeles.

I wondered if he was going to notice that this project has very little public benefit to Studio City residents, despite the near-constant advertisement of the wild and false narrative.  That the whole point of this River Park is what they left out of the name. Why not call it the oversized Private Athletic Complex? 

So, when I read that…

“The joint city/county LA River Cooperation Committee carefully reviewed the River Parks’ many community and environmental benefits, and we’re grateful that they have recommended our school’s project for development,” as reported by Rick Commons, president of Harvard-Westlake, I was actually confused.

I wondered if Nithya Raman and Lindsey Horvath, who are out on strike, had noticed that instead of either LA County Flood Control District, the City of LA, or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in this case, the site will be wholly operated and maintained by Harvard-Westlake School.  

To the extent that permission is extended to Harvard-Westlake, the School is promising to maintain the landscaping on the Zev Greenway adjacent to the site.   

Harvard-Westlake will have security guards onsite all day, every day, and the number of guards will vary depending on time of day and level of site activity.  Mayer Brown Police. 

I had questions about general liability for accidents/incidents occurring within the project limits.

Answer: As 94% of the project site is privately owned by Harvard-Westlake School (the remaining 6% is leased by the School from the LA County Flood Control District), liability will be borne by the school. 

Smart Speaker:  Leased? 

Another speaker became focused on the county land and how this supposed "lease" works and wondered if there was or is a planned RFP as is required in California when public land is transferred.  

The project is at an early phase and the school says it will ensure that the project is in compliance with major region-wide priorities, including the city’s Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan and Landscape Guidelines. 

Smart Speaker: Excellent. What about local priorities?

Get him out of here. 

Like if it is true that the site plan was reviewed with emergency response agencies... could our beloved Fire Station 78, be conflicted or in conflict?   

How so?

It is my understanding that the school seeks a 350-car underground parking garage to accommodate the stadium that they are planning next door to the fire station at our choke point.  

Smart Speaker:  Will department officials will be given exclusive carte blanche entry passes, along with the small list of private groups, none of which according to an authoritative speaker, are based in Studio City? 

The public would have daily access to the tennis courts as well as all other facilities when not in use by the school. 

More information at LACityEthics

Putting for par: 

Dear Ms. Villasenor, 

Hope all is well and that the entire Harvard-Westlake community is finding a way to stay cool with the current set of swimming pool assets.   

By way of introduction, I am Eric Preven a local writer-producer as well as a daily swimmer.  Enayat, the former security guard at the Sportsmen's Lodge called me an "excellent swimmer" before attempting to throw me out of the pool, as I was a local resident, but not a paying guest.  I got it straightened out with Steve Scheck the big cheese and Enayat and I were married in April. Jk.  But he was a good man.  And we are all bereft that those craven bastards at Midwood are attempting to force something very large into our quiet place. 

I was informed that a letter went out to alumni and Friends of the school from Rick Commons that included a set of crisp talking points and a build-a-bear advocacy letter component for the upcoming RiverPark project.  

I am writing in the hopes of obtaining a copy of that letter, to assist me in my effort to right size a possible contribution to the project.  My plan is to piece together a letter to the Planning Department with my level of support and I would like to choose from among the sharp comments offered by Mr. Commons, as I draft my historic letter.  

When I poked around the HW site I was unable to find the letter or the email-building program but did come across the advancement team's splash page.  Everybody in the pool, indeed!

There, I noted specific opportunities for donor recognition to River Park and became energized and aroused to get more involved in my community. 

Could you possibly share in more detail which specific areas of the future facilities have been earmarked for donor recognition? I read that there will be a donor wall in the Center (gymnasium) lobby to recognize donors of $250,000 and above. Excellent. Is there a mockup?

Respectfully, what about smaller donors? Is there a $25,000 locker room opportunity or is that just creepy?  How about a $2,500 swim pass program for the excellent swimmer community? jk srsly

And do you happen to know if the plans for the 80,000 square foot 30-foot tall athletic structure have been finalized, yet?  I want to disclose, to me it seems... huge.  

I worked for the better part of a decade at Studio 11 on the NBC lot in Burbank. The mid-sized sound stage in which we produced the soap opera "Santa Barbara" was approximately 20,000 square feet. You are planning something 4 x the size!

I mention this because an 80,000-square-foot structure could provide numerous donor recognition features, but why not bust a move and consider a set of state-of-the-art nightly light shows on both the east and western walls of the project, beaming donors' names in giant Hollywood Sign-style lettering?  Not, nightly, but certainly Friday Night Lights!

Also, what level of donation do you anticipate will secure an ordinary member of the public with a 91604 address a swim pass to enter early in the morning hours or very late at night? Where do you plan to find lifeguards? Ambassador Garcetti is moving ahead with visas...

Will both the current Olympic-sized pool on campus, the one that was imported from Italy with a young Karo Torossian drooling to take a dip  - and the exciting and excessive new pool be opened concurrently? 

Will the new pool also pass through the Panama Canal as the previous one did? 

Will the current city attorney permit city council members to protest additional imported pools?

Finally, is there a list of generous donors to the River Park project to date?

I respectfully request this information for two legitimate reasons: 1,  so that we in the community may all send thank you notes, where appropriate, and, 2, so that we may scan for any possible conflicts of interest.  

One thing is certain, any generous donations deserve the commensurate amount of recognition from the community beneficiaries including gratitude and other feelings, too. 

Warm regards, 

Eric Preven



In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on the Island of Elba and headed back to France in a bid to regain power. 'Able was I ere I saw Elba. ' Supposedly Napoleon said this palindrome to Barry Edward O'Meara who was his physician during his captivity on the island of Saint Helena.

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions of Mr. Preven are not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)