Bruce Schwartz Named Pacific Palisades Citizen of the Year

By Laurel Busby
Staff Writer

It isn’t easy for Bruce Schwartz to talk about being selected as this year’s Pacific Palisades Citizen of the Year.

He jokes that the community council must have run out of candidates and that “all I did was pick up a little garbage and plant a few flowers.”

But his contributions to the community have actually been numerous, including working on cleanup and safety issues with the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, acting as both a member and current president of the community beautification organization P.R.I.D.E. and spearheading varied landscaping projects around town. He even won a Golden Sparkplug award in 2012 for his Safety on Sunset campaign, which installed warning signs about the dangers of texting and driving.

As former Citizen of the Year and current council vice chair George Wolfberg said, “Bruce is a selfless community volunteer, working on countless initiatives. . . . As we were preparing to announce this award, he was planting even more flowers in a forlorn median on West Channel Road …. He was an easy and popular choice for Citizen of the Year.”

Bruce Schwartz was selected Pacific Palisades Citizen of the Year. Photo: Bart Bartholomew

Once Schwartz starts talking about some of these projects, his embarrassment fades, and his passion for beautifying the commu- nity shines. His landscaping work in particular was easy to see this summer when driving past the two medians on Sunset at Chautauqua with their colorful annuals or along Sunset near Vons and PCH, where he tackled an unsightly and smelly bus stop.

“The bus stop was horrible for years and years,” Schwartz said. He took charge of changing that and found that its upgrade also changed the attitude of those who used the stop, including the homeless, varied bus riders and the drivers.“Horticultural therapy is good for people. When they see flowers and see colors, it’s good for them. . . . That bus stop has been a motivation for people. Just because it’s cleaned up, they respect it more.”

If Schwartz could do so, he would like to spread this initiative throughout Los Angeles by leading a force of homeless people to landscape 100 more bus stops. “That’s the kind of thing I would like to see happen,” said Schwartz, a realtor at Palisades Realty since 2002. “That’s the skill-set that I bring to the task force.”

With the Task Force, Schwartz, who moved to the Palisades in 2000, has worked not only on cleaning up abandoned encampments, but also on coordinating the acquisition of “Restricted Entry, Very High Fire Severity Zone” signs that helped reduce fire danger on the bluffs by allowing police to immediately disperse encampments.

Task Force President Doug McCormick said, “Bruce has been an inspiration to the Task Force from the very first meeting.” Once he learned how critical the signs would be to preventing fires, he “worked on the complicated, time-consuming tasks of getting the signs authorized, raising funds to pay for them, and ensuring they were installed. The Task Force would not be where it is without Bruce.”

Community service initiatives like this have been a life-long endeavor for Schwartz, who began one as a teen, just after graduating from Hamilton High School in 1975. As part of then-L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley’s new Neighborhood Gardens and Farms program, the city’s first foray into neighborhood gardens, he helped create several vibrant community gardens still in use today, such as Ocean View Farms on Centinela.

At the time, Schwartz was also attending Santa Monica College part-time, but in 1979, he was hired to be an agricultural consultant in Kern County, where he worked for 20 years on soil testing, formulating fertilizers and other agricultural endeavors. During those years, he often spent his mornings visiting fields to check the status of crops, and he continues this stewardship in miniature today by regularly checking the flowers’ health in his local landscaping projects.

“I just believe in giving back,” said Schwartz, whose mother, Rachel, also lives in the Palisades. “You live in a beautiful community; you help keep it clean. You try to be involved.” He noted that numerous people and organizations throughout the Palisades have motivated him, including P.R.I.D.E.’s Kurt Toppel and Wally Miller. “It’s important that new people also invest in the future. If people read this article and are inspired, that’s good news.”

The Community Council will honor Schwartz, Sparkplug Winners and Pride of the Palisades on December 14 at Gladstones.

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