Bell Gardens Workshop Offers ‘Deferred Action’ Help

August 23, 2012 by · 3 Comments 


EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou

Hundreds of young people from local communities and even as far as Bakersfield, many with their passports in hand, pored over application forms at a Bell Gardens workshop held last Friday to help them apply for work permits and temporary relief from being deported.

The free workshop for undocumented immigrants held at Ross Hall in Bell Gardens offered help on filling out the USCIS forms, one-on-one consultations with lawyers, and a mobile computer lab.

The event was the fourth of its kind hosted by the Southeast Leadership Network. One of the workshops was held last Saturday in Boyle Heights.

Another workshop will be held this Friday at Ross Hall in Bell Gardens (6662 Loveland Street, Bell Gardens, CA 90201) from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The event will also be streamed online at www.ustream.tv/channel/southeastleadership

El Sereno Group Seeks to Renovate Caltrans Bungalows

August 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

For more than 40 years, eight bungalows located behind a community arts space in El Sereno have stood abandoned by Caltrans, the owner of the property.

Over time, neglect of the bungalows has fostered illegal activities, including drug use and gang violence, endangering the neighborhood, says El Sereno native Iris De Anda.

Now, the El Sereno Bungalow Collective, an offshoot of the adjacent Eastside Café, a volunteer organization hoping to become a co-op, plans to remedy the situation by raising funds to convert the empty buildings into a larger arts space for local residents.

“We have to reclaim them as if they were ours already,” Angela Flores, a spokesperson for the collective told EGP.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Colectiva en El Sereno Desea Renovar Casitas Abandonadas

The collective has spent the last six years organizing volunteers and trying to raise the funds needed to renovate the bungalows. But before the group could apply for grant funding, they had to first get permission from Caltrans, said Hector Flores, a collective member. To prepare for those conversations, the group, assisted by students from California State University, Los Angeles, spent three years gathering feedback from the local community. According to Flores, they presented over 500 surveys to Caltrans, which he said show that residents overwhelmingly want a safe after-school space for their children.

Eastside Café hopes to renovate the 8 abandoned bungalows behind it, owned by Caltrans, into a community arts space. EGP photo by Ileana Najarro

Flores told EGP that Caltrans ultimately supported the group’s efforts on two conditions: “it’s not used as a residential space and [Caltrans] could not provide any money.”

However, on the heels of a report published Monday by the California Bureau of State Audits on the status of the Caltrans properties running along the proposed extension routes, the agency was unwilling to confirm their support for the bungalow project.

According to the report, Caltrans “passed up roughly $22 million in rental income for these properties between July 1, 2007, and December 31, 2011, because of poor management.”

“Caltrans understands that its management of the ‘710 properties’ has been poor and unacceptable,” Matt Rocco, a Caltrans spokesperson wrote to EGP in an email. “To improve our stewardship of these properties, Caltrans is taking immediate corrective actions in line with the State Auditor’s report.”

The collective has received an $8,500 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation last year. They are required to raise a matching amount. If raised, the money will be used for historic reports on the bungalows, architectural blueprints, and future community planning sessions, the group said.

The matching portion of the grant is the incentive behind a fundraising campaign launched Monday on Indiegogo, an online fundraising site, collective member Joe Parker told EGP.

“One of the strengths of the Zapatista movement, which we’re known by, is to use the Internet to grow support, large networks of support,” Parker said.

The group hopes to raise $10,000 by Sept. 20 through local, national and international donations made online — making the bungalow project one of the largest endeavors undertaken by the Eastside Café, Angela said, which currently does not have nonprofit status.

This boarded up house on Alomita St. is currently in discussion between Caltrans and Eastside Café for community use. EGP photo by Ileana Najarro

To increase their chances of meeting the goal, Angela coordinated a short film for the group’s campaign page in which the collective explains its mission and provides background on the Eastside Café. As explained in the film, the group hopes to convert each bungalow into community art spaces, which could include a film production room, a multi-purpose performing arts room and a kitchen to teach sustainable cooking classes.

The group’s main concern, however, continues to be with the proposed 710 freeway extension project.

According to Hector and Parker, a Caltrans representative a few months ago told them that the transportation agency hopes to complete the environmental impact report on the underground alternative route in a year or so: the results of the EIR could impact any future development of the bungalows, they said. Hector, however, added that “Caltrans must adhere to the Roberti Bill” which states that if the property isn’t used as initially intended, then it must be sold at a reduced price. The bill may not apply, however, should the freeway project see completion, and Caltrans uses the bungalows for something else.

Caltrans tried to demolish the bungalows in the 1990s with support from some local residents, according to Parker. However, a greater majority of locals filed for a court injunction to keep the bungalows standing, he said.

De Anda, also a collective member, said that the community in El Sereno, including around the Eastside Café, does not approve of any extension project that threatens the bungalows’ future.

“Since it’s a low-income community, I think they think it’s easy to try and squeeze it by us, but there are a lot of residents that are very vigilant and have a lot of love for this place, and they’re the ones that stand up in making sure that the 710 doesn’t proceed,” De Anda said.

Angela says Caltrans’ has a responsibility to support the collective’s efforts: “They have to consider [a renovation] because they’ve left it abandoned for so many years and they need to listen to the community.”

Driver’s Licenses Possible for California ‘Dreamers’

August 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Update: Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo is now working on legislation to help deferred action beneficiaries qualify for a driver’s license, Cedillo’s Communications Director Conrado Terrazas, told EGP on Aug. 24.

Updated story, published Aug. 30: California ‘Dreamers’ May Get Licenses

State Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo is working with Gov. Jerry Brown’s office and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to administratively allow undocumented youth who are granted deferred action status under a new federal program to apply for driver’s licenses, according to Conrado Terrazas, communications director for Cedillo’s Los Angeles office.

Cedillo is not drafting legislation, Terrazas clarified. “The Governor has said he will not sign a bill that includes all undocumented immigrants,” Terrazas told EGP on Tuesday.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Beneficiarios de Acción Diferida en California Podrían Ser Elegibles para Licencias de Conducir

In a written statement, Cedillo said approval by the governor and the DMV could benefit up to 350,000 immigrants eligible for deferred action.

“We will continue working with all parties to hammer out the details to make this is a reality including carrying legislation if that is required,” Cedillo stated. “Granting the right to apply for a California driver’s license for those granted deferred action is the first step in my efforts to secure the right to apply for drivers licenses for all undocumented residents,” he added.

“This is a huge victory not only for myself but for the members of the community at large who have been waiting for a long time for the right to apply for a California driver’s license,” Cedillo said.

Excitement over the newly instituted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which will allow eligible applicants to receive a work permit, caused many to assume they would also be eligible for driver’s licenses. But some states, like Arizona and Nebraska, have already announced they will prohibit these soon to be newly classified undocumented immigrants from receiving driver’s licenses in those states.

The California DMV, however, issued a statement saying it appears that deferred action beneficiaries will be eligible for California driver’s licenses, “but it remains uncertain whether clarifying legislation or regulations will be necessary.”

“This is because under current state regulations, only certain types of federal immigration documents support the issuance of a California driver’s license. Further state legislative or regulatory clarification may be needed if the federal government’s new deferral program results in the issuance of new or different immigration documents,” said DMV Public Affairs Officer Armando E. Botello in a statement.

The State Legislature has approved bills by Cedillo that would make it legal for undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license, only to have them vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, according to Terrazas.

One of his bills, SB 60 was signed by then-Governor Gray Davis, but repealed by Schwarzenegger before the law went into effect.

Golden Gate Theatre Reborn as Pharmacy

August 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A historic theatre in unincorporated East Los Angeles that had been neglected and vacant for years, this week reopened as a national retail pharmacy.

The opening of the drug store at the site of the one time theater was not without controversy.  Some eastside residents, led by the environmental activists group, Mothers of East Los Angeles, MELA, were strongly opposed to the Golden Gate Theatre being used as a CVS pharmacy, wanting instead for the property to be as a cultural arts center or charter school.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Teatro Golden Gate Renace como Farmacia y Tienda

MELA members and supporters attended planning meetings to oppose requests for construction permits and a liquor license, and even offered a substitute proposal, created by Barrio Planners Inc., to reuse the building as a theatre and to rebuild another building demolished after the Northridge earthquake. The plan was ambitious, costly and maintained many of the historical elements of the building, but lacked a funding source.

The store’s first day in business was on Aug. 26. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Others in the community, however, cited the need for a business that would create jobs, and said they were tired of the building be closed up and an eyesore in the community.

On Tuesday, MELA Executive Director Diana del Pozo-Mora visited the new pharmacy; it was a bittersweet experience, she said.

“Honestly, I think they did a really good job … of course it’s not what we would have liked to see … but I like what I see,” del Pozo-Mora said.

The quantities of alcohol for sale was not “overbearing,” she added. MELA had opposed the sale of alcohol at the site.

Del Pozo-Mora said the building’s interior was not a surprise because it had been described in the remodeling plans, but seeing it in person, she could not help but wonder what it would have been like if their proposal had materialized.

“The Vega Building is lost … we see a parking lot now,” she said.

Del Pozo Mora said she was at the CVS for an hour and didn’t observe anyone purchasing alcohol, she noted that the new store has a good selection of refrigerated food items. People can pick up a sandwich during their lunch hour, she said.

“I’m happy to see it being utilized, the community using it,” she said.

The theatre feels compact but maybe her perspective is skewed because she was a child when she visited the theatre previously, she said.

County Supervisor Gloria Molina supported the project despite pressure from MELA and community members. Molina said the Golden Gate Theatre is a “good example of adaptive reuse done correctly.”

“L.A. County insisted that the developer, the Charles Company, keep the building’s historic architecture intact – and they did – plus this CVS will provide enhanced patient counseling in their pharmacy. We kept the beauty of the building while bringing yet another retail option to East Los Angeles.We simultaneously brought this vacant building back to life while preserving its historic elements. It’s a win-win,” Molina said in a statement on Tuesday.

The executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, Linda Dishman, plans to visit the theatre in the near future, but noted there were several proposals presented over the years to demolish the building.

“The LA Conservancy is pleased CVS was willing to work with the theatre and not demolish it,” Dishman told EGP.

The Conservancy’s goal was to retain the building’s listing in the National Register of Historic Places, and it does retain its listing, she said.

Dishman said she was glad the building is still standing and it will be become part of the community. “Hopefully people will come in and start asking questions and become more interested in historic preservation,” she said.

Murder Victim’s Family Asks Public to Help Police

August 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The family of a 23-year-old man who was shot to death Dec. 3 in East Los Angeles, on Monday ask for the public to help bring Gabriel Espitia’s murderer to justice.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Buscan Asesino que Mató a un Hombre en el Este de Los Ángeles

“My brother was left for dead in an alley on a cold December night and the suspect does not need to be walking as a free man with the rest of our society. This can happen to anybody, anybody who has children, brothers, cousins who are invited to a social gathering. We just need to bring him to justice and have closure for our family,” said Desire Kwan, Espitia’s sister.

On Monday, Aug. 20, the family of murder victim Gabriel Espitia asked the public to help bring his murderer to justice. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

On Monday, Aug. 20, the family of murder victim Gabriel Espitia asked the public to help bring his murderer to justice. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Jessica Espitia described her son as a good son, a big brother to two sisters, and a person who “had a really big heart.”

“He was not a gang member at all, don’t let looks fool you, or his family, he was a church member, attended Door of Hope Ministries, went to school and things. He is really loved and really missed,” she said.

Gabriel Espitia was at a party with school friends when he got into an altercation with the suspect, according to his family.

Sheriff’s Homicide Detective Adan Torres said Espitia was leaving the party on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 at around 10:30pm when he was confronted by the suspect.

“This person confronted Gabriel in an alley in the 5000 block of Olympic Boulevard in East Los Angeles where he shot Gabriel several times. Gabriel was pronounced dead at the scene,” Torres said. “We really don’t have any additional information on this guy except the vehicle description and the composite sketch.”

Torres also said witnesses described the suspect as a senior in high school, or having just graduated. “Before the shooting he was also seen with two other male Hispanics, who were very young of age, like maybe junior high or grade school,” he said.

The suspect is described as a male Hispanic with light complexion, wearing a beanie with earflaps and strings, possibly between the ages of 18 and 23-years-old, about 5’8”, thin and athletic. He was seen driving a white 1998 or 1999 4-door white Nissan Maxima.

Gabriel’s father, Juan Manuel Espitia, said his son was a good person who worked two jobs.

“What we want is the name of this person, if someone knows him [please come forward],” he said in Spanish.

Anyone with any information regarding the shooting death is asked to call the Sheriff’s detectives at (323) 890-5500, or Crime Stoppers at (800) 222- TIPS.

Candidates Address Eastside Residents in Mayoral Forum

August 23, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

Four candidates vying to be Los Angeles’ next mayor participated in a mayoral candidate forum in Boyle Heights on Aug. 16. The event, presented by Ya Basta and the East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, included the participation of City Hall veteran Councilwoman Jan Perry, radio broadcaster and lawyer Kevin James, former Villaraigosa aide Emanuel Pleitez and activist Deacon Alexander.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Candidatos a la Alcaldía de Los Ángeles Abordan Temas en un Foro en Boyle Heights

About 100 people attended the forum that took place early in the campaign/election cycle, the filing period for which is still some time away, and the primary race not until March 5, 2013.

Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilmember Eric Garcetti (CD-13), who have also announced they are running for mayor, and widely considered to be among the front runners, did not attend the forum.

Forum moderator, Art Camarillo of Glassell Park, asked the participants for their views on a variety of issues, from pension reform to the Mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles School, and the Gang Reduction Youth Development program, among other issues.

All agreed that some form of pension reform is need.

Mayoral hopefuls Kevin James, Jan Perry, Emanuel Pleitez and Deacon Alexander answered questions from the moderator, and later from the public. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

James, a former Asst. U.S. Attorney and former television and radio broadcaster, said Los Angeles is on the verge of bankruptcy and givebacks from current pension recipients, for example, need to be negotiated in order to avoid fiscal insolvency.

“My opponents don’t have the guts to take the issue to court, like it happened in San Diego and San Jose. I can guarantee you, there isn’t a judge in California who will say we have to pay our pensions before police and fire employees [salaries] in the City of Los Angeles,” he said.

Perry, who has represented Council District 9 for 11 years, said it is “easy to talk about pension reform with people who have not been hired yet.” Beside reducing pension benefits and amounts for new city hires, she said the age to qualify for pensions also needs to be increased, and the total amount individuals can qualify needs to be reduced as well.

“We will have to continue to negotiate with all unions—and all the unions must be treated the same. Some unions are treated differently than others and that creates an imbalance,” Perry said.

Pleitez, who is Chief Strategy Officer at technology company Spokeo, said city employees need to contribute more to their retirement and “all options are on the table.”

“If we do have to declare bankruptcy… someone’s got to do it,” Pleitez said, noting he was not interested in being a popular politician.

Alexander, who also identified himself as a Skid Row resident and former member of the Black Panthers, said he is a retired union carpenter and supports labor unions. He said a better alternative to closing the city’s deficit would be for the city to stop giving away millions of dollars to developers.

“Union jobs is how we make it out of the ghetto, that’s how we get into the so-called ‘working class.’ It’s through union work,” Alexander said.

Responding to a question regarding the Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) program that provides gang intervention and prevention services, Pleitez said he supports it and disclosed that he is chair of a non-profit that receives some GRYD funds. James and Perry also said they support the program, while Alexander said it is “a way for a few of our friends to get paid” and he said he would terminate it.

Perry and James said they support the Partnership for Los Angeles School, a non-profit created by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to turn around the worse performing schools in LAUSD. Alexander, however, was more neutral explaining the program has helped schools in Watts but he doesn’t support schools being “put into private hands.” Pleitez was the only candidate who said the Partnership was “not necessary,” his response elicited applause from members of Ya Basta, which has been working to remove Roosevelt High School from the Partnership’s management.

Ya Basta was formed roughly a year ago, the group’s name is not an acronym. “It means ‘we had enough,’ of all this stuff the politicians do to us,” Art Pulido, president of Ya Basta told EGP. The group wants government accountability in order to improve conditions in East and Northeast Los Angeles communities.

Ya Basta is planning a city attorney candidate forum; current City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich who made an unsuccessful bid for the County D.A. nomination, attended the candidates forum held at La Casa del Mexicano.

To learn more about the candidates, visit their websites: http://kevinjamesformayor.com/; http://www.janperry.com/; http://www.pleitezforla.com/; Alexander does not have a website.

To sign-up for Ya Basta’s distribution list, email joseaguilarcd14@hotmail.com

August, 23 2012 Issue

August 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Former Artists Building Becomes Medical Offices

August 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The colorfully tiled two-story building that was used for decades as the headquarters of the Self Help Graphics and Arts, a center for Chicano artists, has a new lease on life. The building is now home to a physical therapy office, specializing in worker’s compensation patients. Remodeling for a medical clinic is also underway at the site.

The building located on E. Cesar Chavez Avenue was purchased by Atlantis Health Management, Inc. President Alejandro de Hoyos in Aug. 2011 for $1.2 million and has undergone some extensive renovations.

Atlantis Health Management, Inc. is relocating operations from their 3rd Street location, in East LA, to the new site, according to de Hoyos.

De Hoyos said the building allows them to offer all their services under one roof, which was becoming a challenge at their soon to be former site.

The first story of the building is now split into two. The physical therapy office is open accepting seeing patients, while the clinic, which will house orthopedic surgeons, is currently under construction. Casa Puebla, a former tenant on the bottom floor, moved out in June, De Hoyos said.

The top floor will be used as office space and as a rental hall for events such as Quinceañeras and other parties, he said.

One section of the bottom floor of the former Self-Help Graphics & Arts building is now a physical therapy office. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Dr. Hoyos admits he knew nothing about the building’ s history or the controversy surrounding it when he bid on the property. It was not until the property was in escrow that he learned about the building’s history, he said.

Built in 1927, the facility was for a long time home to Self Help Graphics & Arts, an eastside Chicano arts institution— until the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese on behalf of the order of nuns that had allowed the artists to use the space rent-free for decades sold it. Unable to pay the new market rate rent, Self Help Graphics & Art moved to E. 1st Street in Boyle Heights.

“When people come, they say ‘I cannot believe it’s the same place,’” De Hoyos said about the improvements to the building.

De Hoyos says he wants to keep the building’s exterior the same, and make it a clean and nice facility for his clients.

De Hoyos was born in Ensenada, Mexico, and while he has lived in the Los Angeles area for decades, he says he is not a “Chicano.”

Nonetheless, the longstanding use of the building by Chicano artists is something he would like to see continue. De Hoyos says he would like to see shows, performances, gallery exhibits and even Christmas parties held in the upstairs hall.

De Hoyos is no stranger to the entertainment industry; he is a producer and actor. He is also an entrepreneur. He has a translation company that specializes in interpreting for doctors, which is how he eventually became interested in health management.

Injured workers who are using Worker’s Compensation often don’t get treated properly, not by their employers nor by some of the doctors who treat them, De Hoyos told EGP; that is why keeping the building presentable and giving his clients quality and professional care is so important to him, he said.

“I want people to see that this is something good for the community,” he said.

In 2011, the former Self Help Graphics and Art Building was determined eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources. However, the building was determined as a historic resource “based on its cultural, not architectural, significance, setting an important precedent,” the LA Conservancy states on its website.

Montebello Golf Course For Sale?

August 23, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

Though it has been proposed in the past, especially during cash-strapped times, Montebello city officials have always been reluctant to part with its golf course on a hill, with its popularly-used banquet hall located ideally off the 60 freeway.

The Montebello city council was scheduled to consider a proposal by an interested buyer in closed session yesterday after press time.

The company, Dae Yang USA, Inc., sent an “unsolicited” proposal to the city, Planning Director Michael Huntley said. The city was not seeking buyers, but “because of difficult financial times, we have to evaluate all opportunities,” he said. Wednesday night would be the first time the council could give direction on the proposal.

Montebello could use the quick cash. The city council approved a balanced budget this year, but its success is dependent on borrowing from its self-insurance fund, normally reserved to cover claims and liabilities. While the city believes it is able to make back enough money by the end of the year to pay for its expenses, city staff is regularly monitoring city funds.

Still, officials say revenue from the golf course, though not ideal in recent years, seems to be on its way up. The golf course appears to be “doing better than it has [in the] past several years,” Interim City Administrator and Finance Director Francesca Tucker-Schuyler told EGP earlier this month.

The sale of the golf course has been proposed in the past as a way to bring in revenue, but past councils have always turned away buyers. The golf course is “considered somewhat of a sacred cow… with this particular piece of property, again it’s the Montebello country club. I believe the council feels it’s an important asset and is something that should be maintained by the city,” said Huntley.

Councilman Jack Hadjinian also seemed uneasy with the proposal and said he would not be looking forward to “the idea of selling” the golf course, adding, “there are better options to entertain” for bringing in revenue.

Huizar Takes Stand on SR-710 Extension Options

August 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Councilman Jose Huizar last week called on the Los Angeles City Council to oppose any 710 freeway extension route option that negatively affects communities, according to a news release.

“As a Metro Board member, I voted against moving the current EIR forward since it lacked a clear plan of action and a designated route,” Huizar said.

He added that current ambiguity over which route to use is “causing fear and confusion for many local residents” and that the project must identify one potential route to compare to the no build option and multi-modal options.

In his resolution, Huizar calls on the Council to oppose newly defined routes and any above-ground options stating that they would “destroy historic buildings and neighborhoods, increase traffic congestion and cause irreparable harm to tens of thousands of people.”

Huizar also asked of Metro to hold a community outreach meeting on September 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Highland Park Senior Center to provide residents and stakeholders with a greater understanding of the EIR process, the studies being conducted and a timeline.

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