You Don’t Know Jack

In 1943, today’s Swarthmore business block was a dirt field. Kids from the neighborhood would play baseball there. Cars would barrel down Monument, leaving the kids in a trail of dust. Jack Allen was one of those kids.

I met with Jack two weeks before he submitted his Caruso project appeal, and I have spent the past few months talking with him about the project, his values and his extensive knowledge of Pacific Palisades history.

Jack moved here as a youngster and has lived in town, mostly, ever since. He has been involved in almost every defining issue in our community’s history since the 1970s: the 20-year No Oil! campaign that banned drilling along the Palisades coast; the 30-ft. height limits for buildings along Sunset; creating the Palisades Specific Plan; and the “Don’t Mall the Palisades” fight that saved the historic Business Block building (now known for Starbucks and Café Vida) from becoming a shopping center. He has also fought the state’s stop-sign cameras in Temescal Canyon and helped achieve the ban on gas-powered leaf blowers with Joan Graves. Along the way, he supported a skate park at the Recreation Center and a controversial sports field at Calvary Christian School that provides space for AYSO games. “Whatever’s good for kids, that’s what matters to me,” Jack has said.

A former Beverly Hills City Attorney, Jack served for years on the Community Council, the Civic League, PRIDE and other organizations. He is lauded both locally and citywide as a voracious researcher who always does his homework and articulates his position with laser accuracy. He is a quiet, effective protector of our town’s spirit.

Jack has been Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 23 almost since Camp Josepho was gifted to the Boy Scouts. Thousands of kids call him a mentor. His four kids grew up here, and his grandson is an Eagle Scout in Troop 23.

Oh, and he nearly sued to stop Caruso’s Palisades Village project.

In the eyes of many residents, Jack’s fight against something so popular in the community seemed selfish and spiteful. They responded with attacks, both online and in the town’s weekly newspaper, that were hurtful, personal and vicious. Their actions represented an unraveling of the very fabric Jack had so passionately helped knit over the decades.

Although I did not completely agree with Jack’s methods, I came to understand that there is one man in our community fully dedicated to protecting the fragile, miraculous beauty and small-town sensibility we have here. That’s Jack Allen. He has seen, as he calls it, our “veritable cul-de-sac at the far end of the great city of Los Angeles” since the 1940s. Although the buildings and people may change, what he cherishes will hopefully persist. We could all benefit by continuing his work with the same commitment.

I am relieved that Jack and Rick Caruso were able to eventually compromise to protect our culture while allowing growth and change. But more importantly, I feel honored to know this amazing and dedicated warrior of our community.

Jack, thank you for your lifetime of work for my town.

By Lou Kamer
Special to the Palisades News

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