The club’s official gathering — held via Zoom — featured interviews with Lieu, Allen, Bloom, Kuehl and Bonin.

The Pacific Palisades Democratic Club held its formal annual meeting on Sunday, Jan. 30, featuring a slate of politicians who will not be representing the area by the time the next general meeting is scheduled in early 2023.

With Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Assemblymember Richard Bloom and LA City Council Member Mike Bonin announcing they would not be campaigning to retain their roles in the November 2020 election, and U.S. Representative Ted Lieu’s district boundaries no longer containing Pacific Palisades, only one of the meeting’s five speakers was looking ahead to representing the club going into the next year: California State Senator Ben Allen.

Allen spoke to the club about legislative priorities for 2022 including his concern over the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) proposal to impose fees for the private use of rooftop solar panels.

According to Allen’s analysis, the CPUC’s argument was that “regular folks have been paying into the grid for years and years,” but comparably wealthy people who could afford the up-front cost of rooftop solar were taking advantage of a system that allowed them free energy.

Allen also acknowledged environmental issues associated with solar farms, compared to the efficiency advantage of utilities taking over solar power production.

“Quite frankly, I’m on the rooftop solar side,” Allen said. “I think we made commitments to people. I think that rooftop solar provides us with resiliency.”

The Senator said there were ways to increase efficiency in rooftop solar projects.

“Are there ways for us to slightly tweak the funding formula with solar?” Allen went on to add. “Yes, yes, there is. But I think this current proposal goes far too far in the direction of the utilities, and I’m very concerned about it.”

Among the other politicians who spoke at the Sunday meeting was Bonin, who had announced only a few days earlier that he was suspending his re-election campaign for his 11th District seat, representing the westside including Pacific Palisades, Venice, Brentwood, Westchester, Playa del Rey and other communities.

“I do want to remind folks, I’m not done until December, so I’ve got 10 more months of fighting for the things that you and I believe in,” Bonin said at the meeting.

Having dropped out of the race, Bonin recommended members of the PaliDems think critically about other candidates on the June primary ballot.

“Are they talking about ending homelessness — or are they talking about dealing with encampments? Are they talking about solving the problem — or are they talking about dealing with a symptom? Are they talking really about solving homelessness, which means bringing people inside — or are they talking about just making sure encampments are in certain places?” Bonin said. “Solving homelessness gets rid of encampments. Dealing with encampments means moving encampments to somebody else’s neighborhood. Bringing people inside with housing and services is a humane, compassionate, smart, effective and cost effective way to deal with homelessness. Spending tens of millions of dollars asking cops and sanitation officials to push people from your neighbor’s block to your block and back again, in this ridiculous game of Whack a Mole, makes the problem worse.”

Bonin also commented that it felt “very liberating to not be running for re-election,” and felt he was able to speak candidly.

He also said he was committed to staying involved in local issues after leaving office.

“When I’m done, I ain’t gonna become a lobbyist [and I] ain’t gonna fade away into obscurity,” Bonin said. “I am going to stay engaged and I will find new ways to make a difference … I have not been a typical elected official and I’m not going to be a typical ex-elected official, either.”

Kuehl, who has representing LA County’s Third Supervisorial District since 2014, used the meeting as another opportunity to decry the district’s new boundaries, which were altered in December to include more conservative areas of the San Fernando Valley.

Kuehl reiterated her stance that new district maps were politically motivated and again mentioned a candidate whose campaign was announced following new District boundaries. This time, she named that candidate as Bob Hertzberg, a moderate Democrat who lives in the San Fernando Valley.

“For instance, when Bob Hertzberg got in the race after this [map] changed, he said that he wanted to represent the Valley,” Kuehl, a Santa Monica resident, said. “That means that I think we should watch out — in terms of the other candidates who might be better for us on our side of the mountain.”

One club member asked Kuehl how new District boundaries would affect her policies and priorities.

“I’m worried — I have to tell you, I’m really worried,” Kuehl said, mentioning the work she’s done on permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals and criminal justice and bail reform.

“The District has become more moderate because of the additions of Chatsworth, Porter Ranch and various parts of the Valley. I think that was the intent,” she said. “I’m concerned about reform and I think we need to look very carefully at all the candidates looking to take my place and really choose them because they will continue the kind of reform that this club believes in.”

emily@smdp.com