Sunday, June 22, 2014

Record Number of Local Children Crossing Border Into West Hills

By Sherman Farralone, Quilt staff


Dozens of children from Canoga Park have been swarming the Shoup Avenue border into the tony West Hills area of the West San Fernando Valley, overwhelming parks, summer programs, swimming pools, and also tables at that Taco Bell / Pizza Hut restaurant on Saticoy and Fallbrook, according to reports.

The unprecedented escalation in the number of children - some younger than twelve years old - who have been crossing West Hills’ eastern border has become an increasing concern for local residents.

At an emergency meeting of the West Hills Neighborhood Council held on Saturday evening at the Stonefire Grill, council president Bob Rawlins accused Canoga Park’s local government of “actively encouraging children to leave their communities” and travel west - through a concerted word-of-mouth campaign, handbills dispersed at last week’s ‘Third Thursday’ Art Walk event and even misleading online ads.

“We can’t-- we won’t be the West Valley’s dumping ground for other parents’ bored, sweaty children. Not with the property taxes we pay,” he announced to murmurs of agreement. “For God’s sake, we get enough people from Canoga Park visiting West Hills as it is with the damn Walmart here!”

Fancy-schmancy West Hills eatery; the site of last night's emergency meeting of the
West Hills Neighborhood Council. There were many loud, angry voices, and that was
before they got the check and started arguing over who ordered what. Staff photo.
Reached at home by phone, Canoga Park Friendly Neighborhood Council member Hal Plummer admitted he sees nothing wrong in parents "being proactive by suggesting their kids seek out a better summer for themselves” in the neighboring community to the west, but notes that there are plenty of activities in Canoga Park to occupy children.

"We've got Lanark Park and there’s a pool there, I understand,” he said. “And Valerio Street which, while not closed to traffic, everyone uses as a public recreational space - I had to drive around a bounce house set up in the middle of the road there last night. Oh, and we’ve got that little playground up at Parthenia and International. Once the homeless contingent clears out each morning, I presume it’s reasonably safe for kids to play there.

When pressed for specifics regarding the role the CPFNC is rumored to have played in the recent surge, however, the councilman grew irate and vehemently denied any involvement. 

"Why on earth would we encourage our own kids to leave the area?" he asked. "And this thing about paid ads! Ridiculous!”

Paid advertisement.
Others insist that many of the non-area children seen in West Hills aren’t from Canoga Park but rather are residents of communities located further east such as Winnetka and beyond. 

“Some of these kids are making the trip all the way from Reseda,” insists West Hills resident Bill Lowthert, who says two unaccompanied tweens crashed his 6-year old daughter’s birthday party at Taxco Trails Park when the cake and ice cream was about to be served.  “That they’re not stopped somewhere between DeSoto and Shoup makes Canoga Park complicit in allowing them to get here, if you ask me.”

With its lush green lawn and toddler-friendly playground, Taxco Trails Park has become a
popular destination spot for both invited and uninvited birthday party guests. Staff photo.
Meanwhile, back at the restaurant, tempers continued to flare.

“This is getting out of control,” said Foster Tripp III of Rock Ridge Terrace. “I was up at the Lazy J [Ranch Park] the other day practicing my golf swing and a child that I certainly didn’t recognize ran by me kicking a soccer ball. A soccer ball! It completely threw off my rhythm.”

“That’s nothing. I turned my sprinkler on the front lawn yesterday morning before I went out to get my hair done and when I came back that afternoon, there were two kids running around under it,” added Celia Kelsey of Easthaven Lane. “I don’t know who those kids belonged to.”

The meeting went on well on past dinner and into coffee and pie as over fifty West Hills citizens took the podium to air their grievances and describe their own horrific experiences with unchaperoned youngsters allegedly from Canoga Park.

“One of them tagged my dog!” exclaimed Joyce Chadsey, though it was later revealed that her purebred Bichon Frisé was merely marked by spray-paint blowback when he lifted his leg on a bus bench that a non-resident young man was in the middle of defacing.

Shoup Avenue: the Canoga Park/West Hills border. Some residents feel
the crosswalk "encourages" non-residents to cross the street. Staff photo.
“The bottom line is we just don’t have the resources nor certainly the obligation to accommodate all of these children. I’m sorry if Canoga Park miscalculated when they submitted their 2014 summer budget to the LA Parks Department, but that’s not our problem," the council president declared, retaking the lectern near the end of the meeting. "We only have so many free juice boxes to give away, folks. We have a finite number of leathercraft wallet kits, and they’re for pre-enrolled Little Twig campers, not just anyone who shows up at Shadow Ranch Park’s multi-purpose room!”

The meeting adjourned at ten p.m. after a resolution was proposed to put unchaperoned non-West Hills children onto buses headed for the Tennis & Swim Center in Calabasas. It passed unanimously. “Oh, hell, let Calabasas deal with them," Rawlins shrugged. "They’ve got the serious money around here anyway.”

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