With No Interest from Retailers, Montebello Approves Dialysis Clinic for Vacant Lot

April 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A dialysis center could soon be built on a vacant city-owned property in the outskirts of Montebello, now that the city council has approved a modification to the plan for a mixed-use development that failed to attract commercial retailers, cutting the amount of revenue the city and the developer hoped to generate from the investment.

Construction of a dialysis center on 100 W. Washington Blvd could begin as early as Late Spring 2013. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The Olson Company won a bid in 2006 to build 60 residential condominiums and a 7,600 square foot commercial retail and restaurant building on the vacant lot located at 100 W. Washington Blvd. As the project progressed, the developer purchased two-thirds of the lot for nearly $1.2 million and built the residential component of the property, which is now all occupied.

However, the commercial component failed to generate interest during the troubled housing market and the peak of the recession. Around 2007, The Olson Company asked the city to be released from its obligation to build a commercial component on the property, leaving part of the site vacant for years and the city without the revenue stream it had hope to get from the deal. The city expected the development to generate sales tax and other revenue for Montebello

The city has spent the last five years marketing the lot and had two perspective buyers last year. However, DaVita, a dialysis service provider, and Market Street Development LLC offered the city two times the amount offered by a prospective buyer with retail interests.  The dialysis center guaranteed to move forward with the project to build a medical center and bring jobs to the city, said Montebello Director of Planning and Community Development Michael Huntley.

DaVita and Market Street Development LLC now want to build a one-story, 8,975 square foot medical office building at the location and the city council held a public hearing on the modification request during its March 27 meeting. The new plan calls for reducing the number of proposed parking spaces from 45 to 36.

“The enlargement of the building and the reduction in parking is what necessitates the approval of the proposed modification,” Montebello Planning Manager Ariel Socarras told the council.

“There is a lot of pluses with this [facility] coming into town rather than leaving this location empty,” said Councilman Art Barajas.

In December 2012, the city approved the application by DaVita and the developers to buy the property for $850,000, as long as the applicant obtains the proper land use entitlements. The developer was given two years to complete their plans or risks having the city reacquire the property.

“The price they offered was very attractive,” said Councilman Jack Hadjinian.

In addition to the purchase price, the proposed medical center will provide more revenue to the city through business license fees, increased property taxes and building permit fees, than a commercial developing, according to a city staff report.

As an added bonus, DaVita has stated they will give priority to qualified Montebello residents who apply to work at the facility, according to Barajas.

The vacant lot is located on the southeast gateway point into the city, across from Pico Rivera and Commerce. According to city officials, the location’s close proximity to a shopping center in Pico Rivera, which includes a Walmart, Chili’s, Walgreens and other retail outlets and restaurants, made the location less attractive to retailers.

City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman told the council that the city had made a significant effort to try and realize the retail component of the plan, including reaching out to markets, restaurants and retailers.

“Because of its unique size and location there wasn’t that level of attention for those types of uses,” Alvarez-Glasman said.

Hadjinian told the council that he talked to several developers and retailers but the site was “inferior to them,” he said. The size of the lot, the amount of traffic, the density or how desolate the area was prevented companies from being interested in the corner lot, he added.

The development will have no fiscal impact on the city since all construction and related costs will be paid for by DaVita and the developer, according the city.

The council also ruled that the modification to the planned development had no significant impact on the environment and agreed that there was no new traffic impacts or mediations than those from the original environmental report adopted on June 28, 2006.

“Due to the unique characteristics of the dialysis center the reduction in parking spaces was warranted,” said Socarres. He told the council that dialysis patients often do not drive themselves and due to the length of the procedure they are often just dropped off.

A Traffic and Parking Demand Study outlines the center’s plan to have 2-3 spaces for loading, approximately 8 spaces for patients, 8 spaces for employees and provide 4 spaces of guest parking for the residential project.

“The 36 parking spaces provided will satisfactorily meet the parking demands of the proposed dialysis center and satisfy the parking requirements of the original approval for the planned development,” Socarras said.

The modification was approved with a 3-1 vote, with Mayor Christina Cortez voting against the proposal. Mayor Pro Tem William M. Molinari recused himself before the public hearing because his home is within 500 feet of the property.

“We all desperately wanted to see something very vibrant on that corner, unfortunately we are in the situation that we are in because we sometimes don’t work as quickly as we should and this is an example of that,” Cortez said before the vote.

Councilman Frank A. Gomez applauded the efforts of the city’s planning division and told the council that finding a commercial retailer was not prevented by city codes or working diligently enough.

“Bottom line its location, location, location,” Gomez said. “That place is not amenable for whatever one wants to dream about to put there. It’s situated poorly and I think those who know more about real estate know that it’s not a profit-making venue.”

The city originally purchased the property in early 2003 to hopes of redeveloping the land after they demolished the Bahia Lodge Hotel on the property, which had been declared a “public nuisance” by the city.

“We helped turn around this part of the city,” Huntley said. “We have done what we said we were going to do.”

Construction of the project is expected to begin as early as late spring.

Suspect Barricades Himself Outside Highland Park Market

April 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A man, believed to have a rifle, was arrested Wednesday after he barricaded himself in an RV outside the Highland Park Food 4 Less during an argument with an employee.

A man was arrested outside the Highland Park Food 4 Less after barricading himself in an RV in the parking lot. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Officers received a call around 11 a.m. of a suspect who had barricaded himself in an RV in the parking lot of the Highland Park Food 4 Less on Figueroa, near Avenue 50.

According to authorities, a female store employee made the call after getting into a verbal altercation with the suspect when she was putting shopping carts away. At one point the male suspect went back into his RV and stepped out with what the employee believed to be a rifle, said LAPD Senior Lead Officer Mark Allen.

When police arrived on the scene they locked down the parking lot and told employees and customers to stay inside the grocery store.

Ultimately police officers were able to make contact with the suspect inside his RV.

About 45 minutes later the suspect began to cooperate and stepped out of the RV. He was taken into custody without further incident, Allen said.

Although no rifle was found, police did find an air soft rifle replica, which Allen said could make someone believe the suspect was armed.

The suspect, whose name was not immediately released, was taken into custody and booked on charges of making terrorist threats, and potentially faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon, according to police.


Neighborhood Council Fails to Act on Wyvernwood, Amid Intimidation Claims

April 4, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

A group, whose purpose is to make government more accountable to residents and increase civic participation, has declined to take a stand on a mammoth development project in the eastside community of Boyle Heights.

Citing threats and contentious divisions in the community on the issue, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council (BHNC) last week decided to indefinitely postpone an advisory vote on the $2 billion Wyvernwood redevelopment that proposes over the next 10 years to replace housing now at the site with a high-rise mixed-used community surrounded by spacious green lawns.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Concejo Vecinal No Votará Acerca de Proyecto de Wyvernwood

The redevelopment plan has pitted residents and members of the surrounding community, as well as a number of outside groups against one another, with each side claiming their position will make for a better quality of life in Boyle Heights. Emotions are running high, as are the accusations and claims of ulterior motives and conflicts of interest.

The privately owned 70-acre community currently has less than half the number of housing units being  proposed. Local and national groups, including the LA Conservancy, the local authority on historic preservation, are encouraging Wyvernwood’s preservation.

Supporters of The New Wyvernwood, as the redevelopment project is being called, include several non-profit and labor groups that have expressed support for the owner’s, Fifteen Group’s, Boyle Heights Jobs Collaborative, which calls for hiring local residents to work on the project. Other backers of the development say they want the modern facilities and amenities proposed in the development plans.

Opponents contend the Fifteen Group’s proposal will destroy the community by bringing too much density, and eliminating valuable green space and affordable housing that opponents say are in short supply.

One of the primary functions of Los Angeles’ neighborhood council system is to review land use issues in their jurisdictions, and to make recommendations on behalf of local stakeholders.

BHNC President Edward Padilla told EGP however, that board members thought it would be difficult for the neighborhood council to accurately reflect the feelings of the community at large on the Wyvernwood issue, so they don’t plan to vote on the matter.

Padilla also noted that members of the council have reported “verbal attacks” by both supporters and opponents of the project. Board members were instructed to report the harassment to Empower LA, which oversees neighborhood councils, he said.

“I personally have received numerous calls and emails on this… at least one board member believes damage was caused to their personal vehicle in relation to this. This is still under investigation, however,” he said.

Padilla said the neighborhood council is not shirking its duties by not taking a position on the biggest development in the area in years, and still serves as a valuable link between the city and residents. He said the neighborhood council is promoting a “more vibrant community” through its relationship with city officials.

“The BHNC is providing an open line of communication for the community with government by having regular meetings where important issues like this can be heard, and feedback coming from these meetings goes directly to the respective government agencies that need to know the community’s position,” Padilla said.

He also noted that City Councilman José Huizar, who represents Boyle Heights, has already held a forum where members of the community were able to express their views.

“The BHNC taking a position vote on this now would have essentially been advisory, but the outcome of a vote from BHNC would not necessarily make for a ‘more vibrant’ community given that the community itself is so divided on the issue,” Padilla said.

He encouraged local stakeholders to submit their comments directly to Councilman Huizar, who has long expressed opposition to the project.

Over 200 signatures were submitted on the Internet site Change.org in favor of “saving” Wyvernwood from the proposed development that will take a decade to complete.

On the other hand, many Boyle Heights residents have expressed “how important the proposed project is to improving decaying properties while creating jobs,” Padilla said.

El Comité de la Esperanza, and groups like the LA Conservancy and the East Los Angeles Community Corporation, opposes the redevelopment project, and says they are happy that the neighborhood council will for now not be taking a stand on the project

Leonardo Lopez, El Comité president, called the council’s decision not to vote a victory. He said he was not opposed to them taking a vote at their last meeting, but did not press the issue since the group had previously voted to support the project. That vote was nullified on the grounds that proper notification had not been provided to the public.

Both sides have expressed concerns over the credibility of the vote, should the council take one in the future.

“Fifteen 15 Group’s Steven Fink said since several board member’s have been accused of having conflicts of interest on the issue, taking a vote (with those accused) would discredit the BHNC in the community,” Padilla said.

The BHNC does not have jurisdiction, nor is it privy to conflicts of interest, Padilla said. Board members are supposed to recuse themselves from votes where they have a conflict.

Only one BHNC board member recused himself from the Wyvernwood issue after Fifteen Group “sent a letter to his employer which either threatened or initiated legal action for events unrelated to any BHNC work,” Padilla told EGP.

Randy James, a spokesperson for Fifteen Group, told EGP the Jan. 31 letter in question made no reference to the BHNC board member employed by the East Los Angeles Community Corporation, instead it accused the organization of spreading “inflammatory” and “untrue” information regarding the development.

BHNC Secretary Margarita Amador has also been accused of being an employee of Fifteen Group, but according to an email to EGP from James, “She has had no financial connection, or any other formal connection, to Fifteen Group since leaving the company in early February of 2011.”

Former BHNC member and Fifteen Group employee Courtney Jacobs relocated out of state last year and is no longer a member of the neighborhood council, James told EGP about another of the persons accused of a having a conflict of interest.

“There are no employees of Fifteen Group on the BHNC,” James said.

It was the BHNC decision not to hold a second vote on the Wyvernwood project, James said.

For updates visit BHNC.net

Empower LA and Margarita Amador did not respond to requests for interviews by time of publication.


Concejo Vecinal No Votará Acerca de Proyecto de Wyvernwood

April 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Un grupo, cuyo propósito es hacer que el gobierno municipal sea más responsable ante los residentes y aumentar la participación ciudadana, se ha negado a tomar una posición sobre un proyecto de desarrollo de gran escala en la comunidad de Boyle Heights.

Citando acoso y divisiones polémicas en la comunidad, el Concejo Vecinal de Boyle Heights (Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, o BHNC) la semana pasada decidió posponer indefinidamente una votación consultiva sobre el proyecto de desarrollo de $2 billones de Wyvernwood. El Nuevo Wyvernwood se propone ser construido durante 10 años para reemplazar los apartamentos actuales con una comunidad de rascacielos de uso mixto, rodeada de amplias zonas verdes.

Read this story IN ENGLISH:  Neighborhood Council Fails to Act on Wyvernwood, Amid Intimidation Claims

El plan de construcción ha causado divisiones entre los residentes y miembros de la comunidad que lo rodea, cada parte afirmaba su posición resultará una mejor calidad de vida en Boyle Heights. Las emociones están estallando, al igual que las denuncias y los reclamos de motivos ocultos y conflictos de interés.

La propiedad residencial de 70-acres actualmente cuenta con menos de la mitad del número de viviendas propuestas. Los grupos locales y nacionales, incluyendo LA Conservancy, la autoridad local sobre la preservación histórica, están abogando por la conservación de Wyvernwood.

Los partidarios de El Nuevo Wyvernwood, incluyen varias organizaciones sin fines de lucro y grupos de trabajo que han expresado su apoyo al propietario, Fifteen Group, por su compromiso de empleos “Boyle Heights Jobs Collaborative”, que exige la contratación de residentes locales para trabajar en el proyecto. Otros partidarios del desarrollo dicen que quieren las instalaciones modernas y los nuevos servicios propuestos en los planes de desarrollo.

Los opositores sostienen que la propuesta del Fifteen Group destruirá la comunidad al traer demasiada densidad, y eliminará un valioso espacio verde y viviendas que actualmente están alquiladas a un abajo precio debido al control de renta.

Una de las funciones principales del sistema de concejos vecinales de Los Ángeles es revisar los temas de uso de terrenos en sus jurisdicciones, y hacer recomendaciones a favor de las partes interesadas locales.

Sin embargo, el presidente del BHNC Edward Padilla dijo a EGP que los miembros del consejo piensan que sería una obra difícil que la junta vecinal pueda reflejar con precisión los sentimientos de la comunidad en general sobre el tema Wyvernwood, por lo que no van a votar sobre el asunto.

Padilla también señaló que los miembros del consejo han reportado “ataques verbales” de los partidarios y opositores del proyecto. Los miembros del consejo fueron instruidos a reportar el acoso a Empower LA, el departamento municipal que supervisa los consejos de vecinos, él dijo.

“Yo personalmente he recibido numerosas llamadas y correos electrónicos sobre esto… [y] por lo menos un miembro de la junta cree que daños a su auto fueron causados en relación con esto. Sin embargo, esto sigue bajo investigación,” él dijo.

Padilla dijo que la junta vecinal no está eludiendo sus obligaciones al no tomar una posición sobre el mayor desarrollo de la zona en los últimos años, y dice que cumple su deber como un enlace valioso entre la ciudad y los residentes.

“El BHNC está proporcionando una línea abierta de comunicación entre la comunidad y el gobierno al tener reuniones periódicas donde las cuestiones importantes de este tipo pueden ser escuchadas, y los comentarios que provienen de estas reuniones van directamente a las agencias gubernamentales respectivas que necesitan saber la posición de la comunidad,” Padilla dijo.

También señaló que el concejal José Huizar, quien representa a Boyle Heights, ya ha realizado un foro donde los miembros de la comunidad pudieron expresar sus puntos de vista.

“Una votación por el BHNC para determinar una posición ahora sería esencialmente solo consultiva, pero el resultado de una votación del BHNC no necesariamente haría a la comunidad ‘más vibrante’ dado que la comunidad está muy dividida sobre el tema”, dijo Padilla.

Padilla alentó a los interesados locales a presentar sus observaciones directamente al Concejal Huizar.

Más de 200 firmas se presentaron en el sito de Internet Change.org a favor de “salvar” Wyvernwood del propuesto desarrollo que demolería los edificios actuales. Por otra parte, muchos residentes de Boyle Heights han expresado “la importancia del propuesto proyecto para mejorar las propiedades en descomposición y al mismo tiempo crear empleos”, dijo Padilla.

El Comité de la Esperanza, y sus simpatizantes LA Conservancy y East Los Angeles Community Corporation entre otros, se opone al proyecto de reurbanización.

Leonardo López, presidente del comité, calificó la decisión del Consejo a no votar, cómo una victoria. López dijo que no se oponía a una votación en la última reunión, pero tampoco no insistió en que hubiera un voto.

El BHNC anteriormente había votado a favor de apoyar el proyecto pero ese voto fue anulado debido a la falta de notificación al público acerca del lugar de la reunión.

Ambas partes han expresado su preocupación por la credibilidad de la votación, si el consejo decide someterse a un voto en un futuro, dijo Padilla.

“Steven Fink de Fifteen Grupo dijo que porque varios miembros de la junta han sido acusados de tener conflictos de interés en el tema, una votación (con los acusados) desacreditaría al BHNC en la comunidad”, explicó Padilla.

El BHNC no tiene jurisdicción, ni sabe de los conflictos de interés, dijo Padilla, explicando que se supone que los miembros del concejo que tienen un conflicto se deben excluir de la votación.

Según Padilla, solo un miembro del BHNC se excluyó de la votación después que Fifteen Group envió una carta a su empleador.

El portavoz de Fifteen Group, Randy James, dijo a EGP que la compañía envió una carta el 31 de enero al East Los Angeles Community Corporation acusando a la organización de la difusión de la información “inflamatoria” y “falsa” con respecto al desarrollo, pero no nombro al miembro de la junta de BHNC.

James también dijo que no hay empleados ni personas con relación financiera con Fifteen Group en el concejo.

Para obtener información actualizada, visite BHNC.net

Empower LA no respondió a las solicitudes de entrevistas antes de la fecha de publicación.


Northeast LA Residents Debate Merits of Bike Lanes

April 4, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council is scheduled to hear a presentation tonight by the Department of Transportation on proposed bike lanes in Northeast Los Angeles.

The bike lanes are part of the city’s 2010 Bicycle Plan that aims to promote cycling, improve the health of Angelenos and make streets safer for cyclists across the city.

The neighborhood council is in the process of deciding whether it will support or oppose the bike lanes, which would replace vehicle lanes on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock and Highland Park, HHPNC member Teri Bonsell told EGP.

Before they decide, however, the council wants to know more about where the stakeholders they represent stand on the proposal.

At a March 27 public meeting on the proposal, an overwhelming majority of the 100 or so attendees who identified themselves as Northeast LA residents, said putting in the bike lanes is a good idea.

Ninety-two comment cards were submitted, and 73 percent supported the bike lanes while only 27 were opposed, Councilman Jose Huizar’s spokesman Rick Coca told EGP about the town hall meeting at Occidental College.

Thirty-one people spoke in favor of the plan, and only 8 were opposed, he added.

“If this were an election, this would have been a landslide,” Coca said.

The Colorado Boulevard Bike Lane plan calls for taking one of the three lanes in each direction of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, now dedicated to vehicles, and converting to them to bicycle lanes, he told EGP. That would still leave two lanes in each direction for cars, Coca said.

While some Highland Park residents have expressed concern that the change could impact traffic on York Boulevard, Coca says those fears are unfounded, noting that there are already bike lanes on York. He added that North Figueroa Street will not be affected by the changes on Colorado, but did say that Figueroa is a candidate for bike lanes.

AB 2245, passed by state lawmakers, exempts bike lane proposals from having to go through the exhaustive environmental studies required for many other types of planning and transportation projects, according to Coca.

Late last month, Metro launched an advertising campaign to inform the public that cyclists have the same rights as vehicles on the streets, and to remind them that cyclists sometimes need to ride in the middle of a lane to navigate safely. Adding designated bike lanes will make cycling safer, according to the city’s bicycle plan.

Responding this week to inquiries from EGP, both the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce and the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce said they have not yet taken a formal stand on the bike lanes, which if installed could affect vehicle traffic in commercial areas, but both groups are considering taking a stand.

Businesses along Colorado could be impacted by traffic, Eagle Rock Chamber President Michael Noguera told EGP.

Many of the chamber’s members are concerned that replacing a lane for cars in each direction for one for bicycles will cause major traffic delays, especially when the State Route 2-Glendale and State Route 134-Ventura freeways are backed up, Noguera said.

“Put yellow cones up… do a survey, see how many bicycles do travel down Colorado,” said Noguera, explaining he would prefer a temporary pilot program to study the impact on traffic and to see if there really is a need for the bike lanes.

Noguera said he personally doesn’t feel many cyclists use Colorado, since there is no destination, like a beach or the zoo, at either end of Colorado. Putting in the lanes will just cause traffic to be bumper to bumper, he said.

The department of transportation, however, says the bicycle lanes are not just to accommodate people already riding bikes to get around, but also to make cycling a more attractive alternative form of transportation in the city.

While proponents of the bike lane conversion greatly out numbered their opposition at last week’s meeting, local cyclists were nonetheless taken aback by the protests. Flying Pigeon LA, a bike shop located on York Boulevard, captured anti-cyclist signs at the meeting on video and blamed some local media outlets for stirring up local residents.

A flyer delivered to area residents, quotes one local monthly puclication as saying: “Bike extremists to rule the roads” and “commuters will be gridlocked daily.”

“If we stay home and let the bike lane haters have their way, our streets can stay scary and dangerous car-only places. If we mobilize, our streets can also become safer, more livable, and better for local walk-up business foot traffic,” Flying Pigeon owner Josef Bray-Ali wrote on his blog, encouraging cyclists to attend today’s meeting.

The neighborhood council meeting is open to the public and residents interested in listening to the Dept. of Transportation presentation are invited to attend, Bosnell said. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Highland Park Senior Center, located at 6152 N Figueroa St., Los Angeles, 90042.

Read the 2010 Bicycle Plan at http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2010/10-2385-S2_MISC_07-11-2011.pdf

City of Commerce Projects 300K Budget Surplus

April 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

While the numbers are still preliminary, the City of Commerce is projecting a budget surplus for the first time in years.

Current projections do not include revenues generated from Measure AA, a voter-approved half-cent sales tax increase that took effect on April 1. City staff will update the budget in upcoming months.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, however, Commerce Finance Director Vilko Domic advised caution regarding the $300,000 surplus in the city’s $52 million budget, reminding the city council that it may not be the right time to expand services.

During the last four years, the city was faced with deficits which forced $6 million in cuts to operations as well as labor concessions that included a two years early retirement program, a 2% wage reduction for full-time employees, and cuts to the number of hours worked by part-time employees.

The Measure AA sales tax increase was conceived as a way to bring in revenue to pay for infrastructure improvements and facility maintenance. It is projected to bring in $4 – $5 million each year.

The city will begin work to consider whether the sales-tax funds will be directed to the General Fund or be managed in a parallel track. Workshops later this month will set parameters for the advisory panel’s role and for spending the Measure AA revenues, Domic said.

“It is my hope that the City Council will adopt criteria that will allocate a majority of the funds towards one-time, capital improvement type projects as opposed to the enhancement of current programs and/or services,” Domic stated in the April 2 Agenda Report.

At this time last year, the council was asked to cut $4 million from the budget, in the four years prior they were aske to make $6 million in operational cuts, Domic explained. Loss of revenues due to the dissolution of redevelopment agency had put a strain on the city’s finances.

This is the first time in years that the city’s projected expenditures are slightly less than the projected costs.

The surplus is credited to a slight increase in sales tax, hotel tax, casino revenues, and other revenue sources.

However, anticipated revenues sources in several areas may be updated depending on actual receipts, like those projected for property taxes and sales tax revenue. Domic also said he needs to look into the possible growth from the Citadel Outlets expansion later this year.

Labor negotiations will also begin this month and could affect the budget. During closed session, the council approved selection of a labor negotiator.

During the meeting, the council also approved a resolution accepting a real estate donation from BNSF Railway Company. The property is a lot behind the City Hall North Annex that will be used to link the North Annex parking lot to the City Hall west parking lot.

According to the Agenda Report, the city would only pay a $2,000 processing fee and closing costs. Environmental assessments have been conducted on the lot and there don’t appear to be any obvious contamination issues, the report states.

The final 2013-2014 budget is expected to be approved in June, according to Domic.

The council meeting also put into effect the March 19 reorganization of the City Council. Joe Aguilar is now mayor, while former Mayor Lilia Leon is now Mayor Pro Tem.

The meeting was adjourned in memory of Alfredo Vela, a 35-year IT city employee, who recently passed away unexpectedly.


Citing Billing Problems, County Won’t Renew Contracts with Chicana Services Action Center

April 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

An organization providing services for the homeless, unemployed and victims of domestic violence fought today to renew its contracts with Los Angeles County but found itself lacking support because of past misbillings.

Supervisor Gloria Molina gave the Chicana Services Action Center — which she said had been a county contractor for more than 35 years – credit for jumpstarting her political career.

“I would not have the opportunity to sit on this board if it were not for the CSAC,” Molina said, acknowledging the “many leaders of the Chicano movement” in the audience.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Condado No Renueva sus Contratos con un Centro en el Este de Los Ángeles

In the 1970s, the group empowered women who “had not yet found our voice,” she said and when Molina ran for the Assembly in 1982, center members joined her in walking her district precinct by precinct.

“If they disappear, so will the empowerment of many, many young women,” Molina said.

The Department of Social Services let contracts with the center for domestic violence and homeless services to lapse in the last several months and disqualified it from other programs, according to Molina.

Molina acknowledged that the organization had had “its share of challenges” related to Community Service Block Grants, citing “fiscal and administrative challenges,” but said it had reimbursed the county for disallowed costs and made other changes.

“They corrected all of their problems. And, more importantly, they paid back all the money,” Molina said.

About 25 people spoke on behalf of the center, including its Chief Executive Officer Sophia Esparza, who acknowledged “significant problems” and said those responsible had been terminated.

“We want to continue to be a partner,” Esparza said.

Molina urged her colleagues to extend a contract with the contract to provide job placement and training services under the General Relief Opportunities to Grow program.

However, in a rare occurrence, none of her fellow supervisors was willing to second her motion.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, as chair of the board, called twice for a second, while the rest of the board sat silently in what seemed a rebuke.

“Item number 14 dies for the lack of a second,” Ridley-Thomas said before moving on.

The board voted next on extending $4.1 million in jobs services contracts to four other organizations. The vote was 4-1, with Molina casting the no vote.

“I vote no because it excludes the Chicana Service Action Center,” Molina said.

Department of Social Services representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Salazar Park Senior Recognized for Three Decades of Service

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(Courtesy of Salazar Park)

A volunteer at Salazar Park who is in her 80s was honored last week by the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation and the Friends of Salazar Park for her 35 years of service to the facility.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Sénior del Parque Salazar es Reconocida por Tres Décadas de Servicio

Gaby Salazar, an active volunteer at the park’s Senior Center, helped start the park’s aerobics program more than two decades ago, at one time serving as one of the instructors. She is no longer an instructor, but still takes part in aerobics classes several days a week, according to Chris Mojica, another long time park volunteer.

“Gaby has helped out in a lot of areas, always giving her time to make sure the seniors have good and successful programs,” Mojica told EGP.

“She [to this day] continues to volunteer for the Friends activities, luncheons and fundraisers,” Anthony Montanez, a member of the park’s staff told EGP via email.

Salazar was presented with a certificate recognizing her more than three decades as a park volunteer.

Editorial Cartoon

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