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Sunday, December 02, 2018

FAQ to an Insurance Company Rep After the Fire

November, 2018

The Conejo Valley and Santa Monica Mountains just went through the most catastrophic fires in California History. The Woolsey Fire may have a lasting affect on the cost and availability of getting insurance in "High Fire Severity Areas". asks a few questions of Andy Geeson, Geeson Insurance.

AHP: Are you able to write new policies in the burn areas?   

Andy: The carriers are slowly lifting their moratoriums now, so yes, we are now able to write new policies in many of the burn areas.  

AHP: Do you know what long-term effects the fires may have on policies?  Rate increases, surcharge changes?  

Andy: Not exactly sure yet, but I’m assuming the obvious – that areas that were tough to insure before will be even more challenging, and that rates are not headed south.  Between Santa Rosa and Ventura last year, then Redding, Paradise, and our Woolsey fire this year, the carriers are taking tremendous claims losses in CA.  I am not expecting my job to get easier going forward, and I expect that homeowners insurance eligibility will be an even more key component of sales transactions going forward.  That all said, I think there will be companies still willing to insure, and over time, competition will drive the prices back to a reasonable level.  Heck, there’s not much left to burn around here for a while, right? 

AHP: What is the diff between "replacement cost" coverage and "guaranteed replacement cost" coverage?  

Andy: Replacement cost coverage is an agreed upon estimate of what it would cost to replace a home’s structure.  It is the limit stated as Coverage A on most homeowners policies.  If a policy provides guaranteed replacement cost, regardless of the coverage limit stated as Coverage A, the company guarantees that they will fully replace the home’s structure, regardless of cost.  Most GRP policies will require that the insurer do their appraisal after binding, and they reserve the right to then adjust (and charge appropriately for) their Coverage A limit.  If a home is properly insured, this feature should be fairly irrelevant, since most standard policies automatically provide extended coverage above and beyond the Cov A limit; From what I’ve seen extended 

AHP: Are deductibles applied in a natural disaster - State/Federal Emergency or otherwise?  

Andy: Generally speaking, yes, absolutely.  Some carriers have chosen to waive the deductible on a Loss of Use only claim (hotel and meals while the insured is displaced during a mandatory evacuation), but generally, a deductible is coverage ranges from a minimum 10% (on State Farm’s policies) to a max of 100% on a Chubb policy.  NatGen Premier – a carrier we use often – provides GRP on any home with a coverage A limit of $750K or above.always applied.  Policyholders should expect this.

If you have any other questions for Andy,  please leave a comment!


Posted at 6:20:48 PM
Comments: 0

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Deborah Klein Lopez


Neigh...borhood News:  What are your primary goals and objectives for the City?

Lopez: I grew up in Agoura Hills and benefited from the best our town has to offer: access to open space, great public schools, and a safe, caring community. My husband and I returned to raise our family here so that our children could benefit from the same opportunities I had growing up. But as we know, the qualities we love about our town require constant vigilance, and I have been working for decades to protect and improve our community.


Growing up at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains shaped my core values which would carry over into my adult identity and activism. An avid hiker who has traversed nearly every trail in the Santa Monica Mountains including the 65-mile Backbone Trail, I became an outspoken advocate for the preservation of open space and native habitat and for making sure our footprint on this earth is as light as possible. My dedication was noticed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and I was appointed to serve as a Director on the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains. My sacred time in the mountains has given me an intimate and unique understanding of their fragility if we aren’t faithful stewards.

I want to bring this vision to the City Council so that our decisions can be viewed through this environmental lens. Any development must come with an obligation to respect the community and its guidelines. For me, the presence of the Santa Monica Mountains, visible from virtually every point in the city, is the guide. We should consider only developments that preserve ridgelines and night skies, that incorporate the natural landforms vs. grading them flat, that consider traffic impacts and how to mitigate them for their projects, etc.

Environmental sustainability is also about initiatives beyond brick and mortar buildings: ensuring our wildlife can thrive in its native habitat, making sure our residents have access to clean energy, adapting to new business models that reduce commuting and our carbon footprint, etc.


I am a product of the Las Virgenes Unified School District. My parents moved here when I was 12 years old for the great schools, and I attended Lindero Canyon Middle School and Agoura High School. Decades later, my children have benefited from the same strong public school system, a reason that many families continue to settle here.

Strong city-school partnerships are essential for our community. They keep our neighborhoods healthy and our property values high. But the school environment has changed greatly over the past decade in terms of funding, safety, traffic and more. With children currently in school, I have an intimate understanding of contemporary issues, as I’ve contributed at the highest levels of school site leadership as Parent Faculty Club President at Yerba Buena Elementary, Lindero Canyon Middle School and Agoura High School. In addition, I served as the campaign manager of Measure E, a parcel tax measure that secured $27 million in stable funding for our schools, which would earn me the 2017 Friend of Education Award from the Las Virgenes Educators Association. I have cultivated strong relationships with our school district officials and will continue to build on our well-established city-school partnerships in every way.


I’ve been approached many times to run based on my long record of leadership and public service, but my tipping point came when the three Councilmen lined up behind the developer of the massive, out-of-character Cornerstone development last year. They decided on a narrow 3-2 vote to refuse to order an updated environmental impact report despite powerful arguments and impassioned testimony from the community. Many of us felt that Cornerstone was not representative the vision of Agoura Hills or of the Specific Plan, but our voices were ignored and it was only a costly citizen-funded lawsuit that curtailed the project. This cannot happen again.

I felt that Cornerstone was indicative of a larger issue: that fewer and fewer voices around the community were being heard. In my leadership roles, my top priority has always been to engage people and get them invested through one-on-one meetings, events, social media and active-listening campaigns. Our city can – and must – do the same.

We must modernize the ways we reach out to residents so that we can meet them where they are at. It’s time to employ new strategies to expand public outreach so that people feel invited and invested in their community. Regular newsletters that explain upcoming agendas, social media use and in-person events are just some ways to better include residents in the conversation about our city workings. I bring this to the table as the next generation of Agoura Hills leadership.

NN: Do you want to see the City aligned with California's more progressive values? If not, why, and if so, In what way?

Lopez: I believe the priorities I detailed above reflect our State’s goals, and this is where my experience with State Senator Henry Stern is an advantage. I was the Senator’s very first campaign staffer, stayed with him through Election Day, and worked in the District office as well. This gave me an intimate understanding of how state action impacts local policy. It is a partnership that will ensure our local voices are heard at the state level.

Who do you see as your primary opponent and how will you govern differently than you see that person governing?

I don't see this as a contest against any opponent. For me, this campaign is the beginning of a continuing conversation and exchange of ideas between me, as your elected representative, and the people of our city, moving forward together. The best decisions are made when government and the people work together, seeking public input at the beginning of the processes, not at the end when it’s too late to make a difference.

That said, there is one big difference between myself and my fellow candidates: the partnerships I’ve made and the strong endorsements that reflect that. I am the only candidate endorsed by our first mayor and former State Assemblywoman and Senator, Fran Pavley. In addition, I am supported by trusted leaders like Congressman Ted Lieu, State Senator Henry Stern, Mayor Pro Tem Linda Northrup, Councilwoman Illece Buckley Weber, many former mayors, all five school board members and hundreds more. I am endorsed by the Sierra Club, the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and the National Women’s Political Caucus. These endorsements show recognition of partnerships and decades of hard work in the community. I would come to the dais with these relationships already in place. I’m ready to serve!

NN: Anything you'd like to add?


  • I moved to Agoura (pre-“Hills”) in 1980, before the city was incorporated.
  • I have hiked nearly every trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, including the 65-mile Backbone Trail. I’ve climbed to the peak of Ladyface many times.
  • I have been married for 24 years to Fabricio and we have three children. My older daughter Amanda is studying Environmental Science and Policy and University of Maryland. My younger daughter Izzy is an equestrian and rides with Katy Rishoff weekly in Old Agoura. My son Marcus is an accomplished jazz piano player. My parents still live in Agoura Hills in the house I grew up in, close to where we live.
deborah klein lopez
Posted at 12:41:30 PM
Comments: 0

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Buck Wicall Remembered

There is no person who better embodied the Conejo Valley heritage than Buck Wicall.  Calabasas and Agoura Hills history is part backstage Hollywood, and part cowboy culture;  Buck had one Western boot in each world. 

Buck grew up in 1940's San Fernando Valley.  He worked for the studios as a stunt double.  Rubbing elbows with the likes of Ronald Reagan and other cowboys turned actors,  Buck took a shine to the horses and dabbled in breeding Quarter Horses on his Agoura ranch.

In the mid-1960's, Buck opened his West Valley Feed in Calabasas.  The Agoura Hills store followed.  Buck's regular customers were like actors in a reality show, each episode featuring "Adventures in horse-Keeping".  Buck was the virtual producer and the keeper of the archives of past episodes.  There was never any shortage of hilarious material, as any horse owner can attest.

Buck's generosity was legendary.  Some of his often told stories were about life with Manalo, the black bull given to him by the entertainer Charro.  Charro saved the calf from the butcher,  and raised him at her Bel Aire estate.  When Manalo was too big to hide him from her neighbors, she entrusted Buck with his care.  

Buck gave back in spades all the support given to him by the equestrian community.  

Buck left us JUNE 4, 2018.  ETI Corral 36 is hoping the City of Agoura Hills will allow the Old Agoura Park equestrian arena to bear a plaque honoring Buck Wicall.  The chapter of the equestrian organization would like to call the arena "Wicall Arena."  If you like the idea of the Wicall Arena, please leave a comment.

Posted at 2:19:45 PM
Comments: 4

Wednesday, May 02, 2018


CONTACT: Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, National Wildlife Federation (209) 620-6271

May 3, 2018 - Los Angeles—The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announced last
week that the Project Report and the Environmental Document have been completed for the wildlife
crossing at Liberty Canyon over U.S. Highway 101, marking a major milestone for the initiative. The
project now moves into final design and engineering (the “blueprints” phase) and is slated to begin
construction in late 2020.
The planned wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon is a public/private partnership between Caltrans, the
National Park Service (NPS), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the Santa Monica Mountains
Conservancy, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Mountains
Recreation and Conservation Authority, the California State Coastal Conservancy and The Santa Monica
Mountains Fund.
The project responds to more than two decades of NPS research on the conservation needs of LA’s
mountain lions and ecosystems and advances long-standing local efforts to establish habitat
connectivity for wildlife across U.S. Highway 101. “The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and
Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority applaud Caltrans’ work in completing this
environmental review, a critical phase in making a safe passage for wildlife across the 101 and delivering
on our 30 plus years of work to preserve habitat linkages,” said Rorie Skei, Chief Deputy Director of
the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
The public support for this wildlife crossing, which will potentially be the largest of its type in the world,
the first of its kind in California, and which will serve as a visionary model for urban wildlife
conservation, has proven unprecedented. A total of 8,859 comments were received in response to the
draft Environmental Document, with only 15 opposed. Comments in favor came from a diverse group of
constituents, including a letter from the eight previous mayors of the City of Agoura Hills, Los Angeles
County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the California Turtle and Tortoise Club, actress Carolyn Hennesy (of
Cougar Town fame), and the Monrovia High School Environmental Club.
A collaboration by experts, public agencies, conservation organizations and community partners, along
with public input, proved key to achieving this significant milestone. Ongoing active support and
participation from the early stages of the project came from elected officials such as California State
Senator Fran Pavley, (retired) and California Assemblymember Richard Bloom, along with the newly
elected California State Senator Henry Stern. “A project this unique and of such considerable size and
scope always has a wide diversity of opinions and ideas—this process has helped create the best
possible solution for area wildlife that also meets the needs of the local community,” said Senator Fran
Pavley. “We thank everybody who participated in the public process, which ultimately made this project

This milestone was also completed as a result of funding from NWF’s #SaveLACougars fundraising
campaign, which also enjoys widespread support with donations from across the country and the globe.
“Our sincerest thanks to the more than 1,500 people and organizations who have contributed to the
#SaveLACougars campaign to date, such as the California State Coastal Conservancy, Annenberg
Foundation and Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which helped fund this integral environmental
document,” said Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, California Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife
Federation, who leads the #SaveLACougars campaign. “When we started this campaign a few years ago,
the crossing was just an idea and had no funding attached to the project. With the generous donations
of our supporters, we have raised over $3.7 million, have achieved every fundraising target to date and
know this trend will continue as we work to achieve our goal of $10 million by the end of this year to
keep Caltrans on schedule.”
#SaveLACougars is primarily seeking private philanthropic dollars, although public dollars earmarked for
conservation have been, and will continue to be, sought. The campaign is not seeking to divert state
transportation or other taxpayer funds from needs such as schools, hospitals, bridges, or road repairs.
In addition, a separate and recently released report published in March of 2018 summarizes the
recommendations from some of the world’s foremost experts on wildlife connectivity and crossing
structures and combines them with landscape characteristics and wildlife data to prioritize locations for
wildlife crossings. The experts’ findings noted that the site at Liberty Canyon provided the best location
in that region for improving connectivity and an overpass structure the best solution for serving the
broadest range of species.
Research by the National Park Service has shown that mountain lions could face extinction in the Santa
Monica Mountains within 50 years because of a fragmented landscape. "Twenty years of research
shows that the biggest conservation challenge facing the Santa Monica Mountains is isolation by roads
and development," said David Szymanski, Superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National
Recreation Area. "This forward-looking project will help to end the isolation and reconnect natural
habitat on both sides of the highway."
For more information or to donate to the project visit
For the recently released Environmental Document visit Caltrans’ project site at
About The National Wildlife Federation
One of the oldest and largest conservation groups in the country, the National Wildlife Federation with
its over six million supporters nationwide is a strong voice for wildlife, dedicated to protecting wildlife
and habitat, as well as inspiring young people today to become conservation-minded adults. Visit for more information.

Posted at 12:46:15 AM
Comments: 0

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cornerstone - Post March 13th hearing update
The CEQA Hearing re Cornerstone went very well today.  
Update: March 13th 2018    Cornerstone lawsuit court report.
GIVE ROUND 1 to STACK & CNPS!   Round 2 set for May 22.
A very promising day in court today for STACK supporters and CNPS.  Our legal team did a brilliant job arguing the facts of the case in front of Judge Strobel who clearly agreed with us on two of the three important topics of today's hearing, Tribal and Natural Resources (a big deal) and Attorney General Notification (legal wrangling); today’s third issue, water quality / hydrology, was a draw in our opinion.
May 22 will continue with native species, air quality and more.
No formal ruling was issued today. A formal ruling from the court will be issued after May 22nd.
Today’s outcome validates that a community can come together and make a difference.
For those of you seeking more details, Judge Strobel’s preliminary ruling (for today) is available here.
Click to view related property
Posted at 12:29:06 AM
Comments: 0

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Horse Community Herds Together as SoCal Burns

Los Angeles/Ventura County Fires  December 7, 2017

I don't generally go out of my way to speak with my neighbor.  We are from different sides of the track:  She with her leafblower, me with my aversion to the ruckus.  Yet, the fires have me concerned about our horses - she who does not have a trailer may need a hand given that half of Los Angeles County is on fire.   
"I'm worried about the fires," I say as I ride by on my horse.  
"Me too," she replies.
"I've hooked up my trailer in case WE need to evacuate," I reassure her as I klippity-klop along.  
A common sense of responsibility breaks the ice.

It is no coincidence that the areas of LA and Ventura counties plagued by the most out-of-control wildfires are all equestrian zoned.   Where horses are kept, drought-stricken fire fuel is found.  And horse people are helping each other in selfless ways.

Just as the most massive fire, nearly 100,000 acres as I write, was burning Santa Paula and Ojai, and another fire was raging in the Shadow Hills, Sunland area, my Equestrian Trials International Corral #36 was convening for their annual Holiday Party at Saddle Peak Lodge in Monte Nido.   Some of the would-be revelers were noticeably absent. 
"Dan is transporting horses from the fire zone",   "Julian is putting out hot-spots in Kagel Canyon".  "Victoria is at Pierce College volunteering to help horse burn victims." 
Was I the only one at the party feeling guilty that I wasn't out there hauling horses from the fire zones?

I have "liked" many Facebook pages devoted to the equestrian lifestyle.  I am "friends" with enough horse owners to be our own country.  I see post after post after post of people offering to take-in evacuated horses; folks are opening their hearts and homes to virtual strangers that have in common the concern for an animal's well-being.   Donations are pouring in to the various sites hoping to help victims with relocation and medical expenses - many of them say they exclusively help the displaced and injured horses.

The tragedy of the fires hit the equestrian community the hardest.  The support amongst the herd of horse owners towards each other is humanity at it's finest.  


Posted at 10:55:36 PM
Comments: 0

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Immigratoin Policy and Your Ranch

Who is harvesting your grapes or citrus or avocados?  Besides yourself, who is cleaning your horse stalls?  Many horse or farm property owners say that good help is hard to find.   

Recent changes to immigration policy were promised to create jobs for American workers based on a belief that those entering the country illegally or legally were saturating the job market. According to PEW Research Center, there are not enough workers to fill these jobs.  The pay is low, the work grueling.  In the agriculture business, immigrants make up the majority of hirees. 

The proponents of Senate Bill 54 say it is needed for humanitarian reasons.  SB 54 has the support of law enforcement who say it maintains trust and the level of crime reporting.  It would expand so-called sanctuary city policies, prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes. This bill is hoped to result in fewer deportations and keep families together.  At the time of this writing, the Bill passed the Senate and is under review by the Appropriations Committee of the State Legislature.

Some say the bill falls short of protecting migrant workers. What is missing from the bill are protections to ensure that they are not overworked and underpaid,  that they receive breaks and days off, and that they are provided safe and sanitary work conditions.  Existing labor laws may fill that purpose,  yet undocumented workers are vulnerable to exploitation.

What are an employer's responsibilities when hiring a housekeeper or a horse groom, for example?  They must ask a prospective worker for their Form I-9. An employer may be subject to fines or jail time if they do not verify an employee's employment authorization and withhold unemployment and disability taxes from wages.  If a prospective worker has a temporary visa, the employer can sponsor that person for "green card" or lawful permanent residence in the US.  Meanwhile, if ICE comes knocking on your door, you can decline to provide information about your employees.  Without a warrant signed by a Federal or State court, an ICE agent is not authorized to come onto your property.

Contributor for this article: Vanessa Frank, Immigration Attorney
City of Ventura  805 641-9300

Posted at 12:22:44 PM
Comments: 0

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