April 16, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

Community News

Rat Buster!
79-year-old twins, Marjorie and Margaret Barthel are being sued for $500,000 by their next-door neighbors, Scott and Liz Denham. They bought the house last year for $1.8 million at 1014 Fiske Street without the disclosure that the sisters allegedly kept thousands of rats as pets inside their home. The story came to light in an article the L.A. Weekly ran on July 30.

Rats were fed in the home at 1018 Fiske Street where Marjorie and Margaret Bethel lived, creating a health risk for the Denhams next door and their two small children.

Denham claims his two young children could not play outside because of the infestation and has recorded home videos of the rats and placed them on YouTube. They filed a lawsuit against the sisters demanding the home be exterminated, former owner Natalie Garner, Sotheby’s agent Barbara Boyle and her boss, Frances Symons, Jr. for alleged non-disclosure when they sold the home to the Denhams.

Louis Rico, owner of Rat Busters, attests to seeing the sisters feed the rats dog food. “I saw them feeding the rodents in pans on the ground. They watched as the rodents ate,†Rico said. He was called to find the cause of the infestation at the Denham’s home. The previous owner, Natalie Garner, had also called him to the home.

“Because rats are nocturnal, it is rare to see them during the daytime. Which means they are being forced to feed during the day because there is no space for them to sleep in.â€

It is believed that the Barthel’s home may have released an alleged half-million rats into the area.  “They reproduce rapidly,†said Rico. “One pair can produce over a thousand in a year.†Rico rodent-proofed the home, but that didn’t stop them from using the walls between them as a walkway, and entering the Denhams’ yard at will.

Since Denham reported the rat infestation, the Barthel’s’ home has undergone a massive extermination. Attic Busters was then contracted to clean up the mess.

“My recommendation was to gut the house,†said Attic Busters owner, Gary James. “It was cheaper to gut the house than to clean it.†The sisters contracted solely for the removal of the carcasses following the tenting. “The situation was nasty,†said James who went into the home to evaluate. “When you can smell urine outside the house, it’s pretty bad,†he said. But he was not prepared for this. With three masks layered on his face, he was unable to proceed into the home without becoming overwhelmed by the odor. “Ten steps into the house and I had to turn around and leave. It took three times for me to get a good evaluation.†One of the sisters was waiting for him outside the house.

“My eyes were burning,†he said. “I was getting sick.†A veteran of vector clean up for many years, he was stunned. “The furniture was chewed through. It was broad daylight and patches of rodents were everywhere. They were not afraid of us. James dispatched his crew to follow up after the extermination.

Four men wearing special suits and masks were assigned to haul out the critters. “They just sprayed a chlorine bleach solution on every square inch,†he said. He described a scene out of a Stephen King movie. His men pulled over a hundred rats from the mattress. There were nests in the kitchen drawers, sofas, everywhere. They cleaned the dead animals from the attic, the sub-area below the house and the living area. Virtually thousands of animals were pulled from the premises.

“We have a 10-foot van; it was about two thirds full in the cargo area,†said James. “My guys, they were traumatized. I had dreams. This was the worst job we have ever done,†he said.

With Rico’s testimony, the Denhams have settled out of court with Garner and the Sotheby’s agents.

State Farm Insurance is bankrolling the sisters on their homeowners’ insurance policy. A settlement was turned down because of the Denhams’ demand for a permanent injunction against the Barthel’s not to harbor rats.

A Gateway Plan
Temescal Gateway Park and Temescal Canyon Conference and Retreat Center are undergoing a facelift. The 160-acre park, part of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy( SMMC), is seeking a vision for the park’s future.

Temescal Gateway Park and the Temescal Canyon Conference and Retreat Center will receive a new plan for the future.

SMMC Executive Director Joe Edmiston is asking for participation from stakeholders to create a public works plan for the California Coastal Commission to review. The Conservancy will host public meetings for community members and interested parties to address the issues.

Some stakeholders include The Temescal Canyon Association, Friends of Temescal Canyon and the Pacific Palisades Historical Society.

The Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority, which oversees the SMMC operations, has hired environmental and engineering firm Dudek to help develop the plan. The firm has worked with the MRCA on many projects in the past and is currently working on the Malibu Parks Public Access Enhancement Plan and the King Gillette Ranch.

Somoza Takes the Reins
Just four months ago, Fern Somoza took a chance and applied for a position at the school she fell in love with 14 years ago. Despite her reservations in May, Somoza was named the principal of Paul Revere Charter Middle School on July 1 after being one of two candidates asked back for a second interview.

Since receiving her degree in English and her teaching certificate from Cal State Northridge in 1974, Somoza has been a teacher, a career advisor, a mentor program coordinator and assistant principal, demonstrating a longtime commitment to education. Commuting from West Hills, the new principal is looking to settle in, observe the school and understand the communal concerns before any changes are made.

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