August 28, 2014 Issue

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County to Honor Ruben Salazar Friday

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A special ceremony will be held Friday Aug. 29 in East Los Angeles to honor slain journalist Ruben Salazar, whose “life and death have became emblematic of the Chicano Rights movement of the 1970s, according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Aug. 29 marks the 44th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium. Salazar, a KMEX and L.A. Times journalist, was shot and killed at age 42 while covering the anti-war protest.

The ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. at Salazar Park in unincorporated East Los Angeles. Molina and the Department of Parks and Recreation will unveil a plaque that will detail Salazar’s legacy and stand as a lasting tribute at the popular community gathering place that has borne his name since it was renamed for Salazar in 1970.

“Ruben Salazar was a gifted chronicler and advocate who dedicated his talents to sharing with the world what it meant to be Mexican-American in a transformative time and place,” said Molina in a written statement. “His contributions made him an icon in the community — and although his life was cut tragically short, his legacy lives on in the people influenced, inspired and touched by his work.”

Immediately following the ceremony, the award-winning documentary “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle” will be shown inside the gymnasium at the park, located at 3864 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90023. First aired on PBS in April, Phillip Rodriguez’s film chronicles Salazar’s eventful life and landmark career, then examines the mysterious circumstances surrounding his killing.

“Ruben Salazar Park holds a special place in the heart of the communities it serves, and a big part of that is the man for whom it is named,” said Department of Parks and Recreation Director Russ Guiney. “We are honored by this opportunity to pay tribute to him, as well as raise new awareness about the history he documented, participated in and helped create.”


Cedillo Inaugurates New Field Office, New Music Fest

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Councilman Gilbert Cedillo welcomed stakeholders in the First Council District to his new field office in Highland Park last Friday.

The outdoor evening affair included the requisite ribbon cutting ceremony, along with live Latin Jazz by Robert Incelli Band, food and cake.

Located in the landmark Highland Park Masonic Temple, the “official “ opening was delayed to allow time for Judson Studios to complete the installation of glass windows in keeping with the structure’s history.

The event also served as the official kick off to Cedillo’s 1st Annual Latin Jazz & Music Festival Saturday and Sunday at Sycamore Grove Park in Highland Park. Thousands of people attended the festival where they were treated to the rhythm of bands such as Poncho Sanchez, Chicano Batman and many others.

Cedillo said the festival had its own “Highland Park vibe,” and could be the start of Northeast Los Angeles becoming the city’s number one art and entertainment attraction.

Councilmember Gil Cedillo, center, cuts  ribbon in front of his Highland Park office on Friday. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Councilmember Gil Cedillo, center, cuts ribbon in front of his Highland Park office on Friday. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Boyle Heights Marijuana Farmers Market Could Face Injuction

August 28, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge said Wednesday she was inclined to issue a preliminary injunction aimed at closing a medical marijuana “farmers market” that opened over the Fourth of July weekend.

The big-box pot shop in the California Heritage Market – 1500 Esperanza St. in Boyle Heights – was billed as a way to buy discount marijuana from a variety of growers and cut out the middle man in the burgeoning, quasi-legal marijuana business.

Judge Joanne O’Donnell said she wanted to look deeper into the case before firming up her tentative ruling. She did not give an indication of when that might be.

The farmers market run by the West Coast Collective, which attracted local news crews, ordered closed July 15 by O’Donnell.

Wednesday’s hearing concerned whether a preliminary injunction should be issued against the collective or just the farmers market, pending a trial.

City Attorney Mike Feuer said the operation violated Proposition D, which limits the number of legal dispensaries allowed in the city, and is an unauthorized and un-permitted use of the property on Esperanza Street. He also claims the operation creates a public nuisance due to traffic and large crowds, creating safety hazards and blocking access to nearby properties.

Many pot sellers have rejected most local ordinances aimed at putting them out of business, saying municipal government officials cannot tailor state law to suit them.

Attorney David Welch, representing the West Coast Collective, suggested to O’Donnell that she should consider keeping the temporary restraining order in effect and give his client’s managers time to comply with the electronic fingerprinting requirements through a process known as Live Scan.

He said one manager waited months for the LAPD to handle a fingerprint application.

Welch said that, while O’Donnell’s final decision would set up a trial, a ruling on a preliminary injunction could be appealed. He said her tentative ruling included favorable findings regarding the collective’s farmer’s market.

Assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg said the collective’s managers knew they had to comply with the fingerprinting law and should not be given any leeway now.

“They want to, at the 11th hour, ask for retroactive compliance,” Greenberg said.

She said the requirements for giving police fingerprints was neither “minor” nor “trivial,” but instead part of the entire series of steps the collective needed to take to operate under the law.

County ‘Concierge’ to Assist Entrepreneurs

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(CNS)––The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted this month to create a one-stop shop to help small business owners navigate the requirements for permits and county contracts.

Supervisor Don Knabe recommended establishing what he dubbed the Small Business Concierge.

“Small businesses are a vital sector of the Los Angeles county economy,” Knabe said. “Starting a small business, as well as keeping one in business, can be an incredibly challenging endeavor.”

The Office of Small Business will be consolidated within the Department of Consumer Affairs, pending a report back by the county’s chief executive officer.

In May, CEO William Fujioka offered a set of suggestions to help small businesses, including a web portal geared toward business owners.

“Small businesses have created over 60 percent of the new jobs in this country,” Knabe said. “We need to be sure we are doing whatever we can do to make it easy for them to get started.”

Bell Gardens Library Expands Hours

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Effective Sept. 2 the County of Los Angeles Public Library will restore service hours at the Bell Gardens Library that were previously reduced in 2009.

The restoration is made possible after L.A. County Supervisors approved to increase the library budget by $3.6 million. The increase in hours will allow library staff to provide additional services and programs to patrons.

The new service hours are Tuesday through Thursday 10a.m. to 7p.m., Friday 10a.m. to 6p.m. and Saturday 10a.m. to 5p.m. The library will remain closed Sundays and Mondays.



Metrolink Train Strikes Man in Boyle Heights

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(CNS)––A male was struck and killed by a Riverside-bound Metrolink train in Boyle Heights Monday, authorities said.

The deceased’s age was not immediately available, said Officer Jane Kim of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relations Section.

The victim was struck around 4:25 p.m. near the Fourth Street bridge over the Los Angeles River by Train 404 on the Riverside Line, which operates between Union Station and downtown Riverside, Metrolink’s Jeff Lustgarten said.

He was pronounced dead at the scene, Lustgarten said.

None of the the 399 passengers aboard the train was injured, according to Lustgarten, who said they were transferred to the next Riverside-bound train, which pulled alongside Train 404 to allow the stranded riders to board.

Seniors Feel They Were Duped Into Attending Senior Center Meeting

August 28, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

It was advertised as a meeting to discuss how to spend money earmarked for improvements to the Highland Park Senior Center, but according to seniors at the meeting, the proposed changes have nothing to with them or what they need.

Hosted by Los Angeles Council District 14 and the Dept. of Recreations and Parks, Monday’s meeting quickly dissolved into confusion, followed by anger, when seniors learned that the improvements would not be made to the interior of their center, but to the area surrounding the center.

At issue was how to best spend $214,000 in funding at the center located where Figueroa Street and York Boulevard converge. To the frustration of the 50 or so people, mostly seniors, at the meeting, staff representing Councilman Jose Huizar and parks and recreation told the group they were not there to discuss problems with toilets or furniture upgrades, but about adding improvements to the exterior such as outdoor exercise equipment.

CD-14 staffer Nate Hayward, right, explains plans for upgrades to Highland Park Senior Center. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

CD-14 staffer Nate Hayward, right, explains plans for upgrades to Highland Park Senior Center. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

“Why do we want fitness equipment if the toilets don’t work?” responded one angry seniors

It was a sentiment echoed by others, including several seniors who said they don’t use the area now and have no plans to in the future, even if improvements are made.

Proposed upgrades could also include new outdoor benches, landscaping and an area for a Christmas tree lighting. The plan also includes replacing half the parking lot located adjacent to York and Figueroa with green space.

“We are looking to have an area [that’s] less of a parking lot and more of a park for people to walk around,” explained CD-14 staffer Nate Hayward. “There will also be a location for monument signs and the name of the park,” added Androohy Avenessian, parks and recreation architectural associate.

None of the ideas, however, generated much interest among the seniors who were more focused on how they were “deceived” into attending the meeting than giving input, which they made clear by refusing to draw what they would like to see on maps of the park set out by the city.

Why are we here, the seniors repeatedly questioned. This meeting isn’t about helping seniors, it’s about the larger community and should have been advertised that way, several people said.

In reality, none of the funds are going to be used for upgrades to the “deteriorating” center, or its woefully inadequate programs for seniors, several people lamented.

“Why do you use the name of the senior center [to discuss] improvements that we won’t use?” said another upset senior after viewing satellite images showing only the northeast side of the park, an area adjacent to a newly opened Starbucks.

“Is it for the seniors or for the Highland Park community?” another senior wanted to know.

Hearing that Starbucks and the property’s owner donated $20,000 each – $40,000 in total – of the $214,000 to be spent on upgrades only seemed to further convince the unhappy gathering that the plan all along was to make improvements that would benefit the Starbucks location, which several media outlets recently dubbed the most “depressing” Starbucks in the coffee chain.

“We are saying that this is not for our benefit, this is [for] a business. They want more money” to make the area around them more attractive, said Irene Carrillo, who has been going to the center for 15 years.

“They rent [the senior center area] for a church, now the Starbucks [because] they need beautification, they rent it to the Christmas tree sales people, and what do we get?” she questioned speakers angrily.

Dan Mellankoff owns the property where the Starbucks is located. He told EGP that he agrees with the seniors and thinks “It’s good that they address their concerns because that means that [the area] will be better.”

Earlier this year, Huizar announced that he had secured a $150,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) under his Clean Streets initiative to fix the Highland Park Senior Center and area surrounding it. Another $15,000 was added from Quimby development and a donation of $9,000 was given by HBO’s “Togetherness,” a TV series that films regularly in Northeast L.A. The $40,000 donation from Starbucks and Mellankoff was added to the revenue.

People often have different visions about how funds should be spent, and that’s why districts hold these types of meetings, Huizar spokesman Rick Coca told EGP about the need for the meeting.

“Look at York Park, people asked for it and they got it,” said Coca. “It is very important to notice the improvements that have been done,” he said. “People need to talk so we can hear them,” he added.

Which is exactly what seniors attempted to do Monday.

When are you going to fix the floors, paint, replace broken chairs and renovate the kitchen, they wanted to know. Make it easier for seniors with mobility problems to get inside, they said, only to be told that those discussions would have to take place at another time.

Tina Hamilton has been going to the Highland Park Senior Center for 25 years and told EGP that the money available should be used to fix the interior of the center. “We have people in walkers, we need the fitness equipment to do leg exercise, but [in] here,” not 200 feet away, she said.

Garvanza resident Charles Miller said seniors need a “safe drop off” point and people who use public transportation need safe sidewalks. A reasonable amount of the money should be spent to improve the accessibility of the center, Miller said. “We asked Starbucks for a concession to fix that area and to help us fix it,” he said.

Responding to the dust up, Huizar, who was not at the meeting, told EGP via email that there are plans to make many of the upgrades seniors are requesting.

“In my short time as their representative since redistricting, my office has brought a renewed focus to bring much-needed improvements to the Highland Park Senior Center,” the councilman said. He cited repairs that have resulted in seniors no longer having to “dodge dangerous cracks and uneven sidewalks.”

Huizar said he plans to work with seniors and the community at large “to bring necessary upgrades, such as remodeling the bathrooms, building ADA ramps and an access walkway to the center itself.”

He said his office will work with seniors to indentify problems and provide for the other areas at the center not covered by the current funding guidelines.

Twitter @jackieguzman

Monterey Park Adds E-Cigarettes to Smoking Ban

August 28, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Even though he considers himself an advocate of the e-cigarette lifestyle, Andy Han, owner of the Vape Unit in Monterey Park, says he agrees with the city’s recent approval of a ban on “vaping” in public spaces such as city parks, restaurants and bars.

“You shouldn’t vape where you’re not allowed to smoke,” said Han, quickly adding that he disagrees with perceptions that electronic cigarettes contain the same health risks as traditional cigarettes.

“Vaping is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle,” said Han, his personal vaporizer in his hand. “I like to promote it as an alternative to smoking a cigarette.”

E-cigarette manufacturers and sellers often tout e-cigarettes as a tool to help people kick the smoking habit, however the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health agencies have yet to embrace that claim.

An American Heart Association policy statement released Sunday said it is reasonable for health officials to support the use of e-cigarettes to help quit smoking after failing using other cessation methods. However, the association also points out that while “e-cigarette aerosol is likely to be much less toxic than cigarette smoking, the products are unregulated, may contain low levels of toxic chemicals and have not been proven cessation devices.”

Vape Unit owner Andy Han uses his electronic-cigarette at his Monterey Park shop Tuesday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Vape Unit owner Andy Han uses his electronic-cigarette at his Monterey Park shop Tuesday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Traditional cigarettes contain tobacco and require a smoker to exhale the nicotine-laden smoke produced when lit into the air. Battery-operated e-cigarettes, on the other hand, turn chemicals such as nicotine into water vapor before it is exhaled.

Before voting, the council heard from speakers urging them to ban vaping in public.

Miguel Olivares, an outreach specialist for the Glendale Adventist Medical Center, told the council e-cigarette manufacturers are targeting youth with flavors like bubble gum and chocolate.

He said studies are finding that e-cigarettes still contain a health risk and should not be labeled as an alternative to smoking cigarettes.

“We’re seeing a lot of renormalizing for smoking,” Olivarez said about the growing popularity of vaping in public.

State law already bans the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and the FDA is proposing to label e-cigarettes as tobacco products in order to extend its regulatory authority. The FDA could also limit the way e-cigarettes are marketed and require health warnings, similar to tobacco products.

Nonetheless, opponents say easy access to e-cigarettes could lead young people to try other tobacco products, including cigarettes.

To prove his point, one vocal resident asked the council to smell the flavorings used in e-cigarettes.

“Look how delicious that smells,” he said. “That’s why people think it’s healthy.”

Monty Messex, director of the Tobacco Control and Prevention Program for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said e-cigarettes appeal to children and teens and claimed there has been a dramatic increase in the use by youth and young adults

“Although e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes possess harmful risks,” Messex told the council. “Vapor found to contain toxic chemicals that could trigger asthma and coughing.”

Councilwoman Teresa Real Sebastian, holding up her asthma inhaler, said smoking is something that she is very much opposed to.

“I was one of those people that were fooled,” she said. “When e-cigarettes started coming out I thought they didn’t have nicotine because that’s the way they were promoted.”

There were no speakers at the meeting against the amendment.

On Tuesday, Han told EGP he had heard a public vaping ban could be in the works, but did not realize the measure had already been approved or know the exact details.

Open for about a year and a half and located just a few blocks from East Los Angeles College, the Vape Unit sells e-cigarettes and related products to both long-time smokers and younger people just getting started.

But Han doesn’t think tighter restrictions will keep young people from smoking. “It’s something you can’t stop,” he said, pointing out that cigarette smokers can be found everywhere, despite restrictions on where you can smoke and on how the product can be marketed.

“I would rather see them vaping than smoking,” said Han, who like many e-cigarette proponents believes vape pens can help ease smokers off nicotine.

According to Han, he used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day before switching to vapor pens, which incorporate flavors that he says makes vaping “relaxing.”

“There has been a lot of success stories out of this store,” he said, referring to customers he claims have significantly cut their nicotine habit since switching to vaping.

Blowing a puff of vapor into a napkin to demonstrate that unlike cigarettes, no tar remnants are left behind when vaping, Han told EGP fears about secondhand vapor are unfounded.

Vaping in public places like restaurants could be a  “nuisance” to others, acknowledges Han,  but he thinks changing where vaping takes place is the best solution.

Han told EGP he wants to change the perception of the lifestyle and make it “more classy.” Opening more “vapor lounges” could help encourage e-cigarette smokers to vape in more appropriate venues, where they can still have conversations with friends.

“We’re working on a movement to make it acceptable to the masses,” Han said.

Monterey Park joins Los Angeles and a number of other cities that have responded to the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes by amending bans on smoking in public to include the devices. The city council also voted last week to require retailers selling e-cigarettes to apply for a tobacco license.

Voting unanimously, council members said the ban addresses public fears that exposure to secondhand smoke or vapor from e-cigarettes is a health risk.

Metro Narrows Routes for Gold Line East Down to Two

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Metro officials have released tentative plans for an extension of light rail passenger train service to east of Los Angeles, and now cities along the possible routes are closely dissecting the $15 million draft environmental report to determine how their cities will be impacted.

At issue is extending the southern leg of the Gold Line, which now runs from Union Station through Boyle Heights to a temporary terminus at East Los Angeles.

The comprehensive Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIS/EIR) for the Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2, released Friday by Metro identifies two possible extensions: along the Pomona (60) Freeway east to South El Monte, or on pylons above Garfield Avenue and then east next to Washington Boulevard to Whittier.

The Gold Line environmental review cautions that both the Route 60 and the Whittier options would involve extensive bridges and viaducts. Neighborhood character might be changed, Metro warns, by long viaducts needed along Garfield, if the Whittier branch is chosen.

The Route 60 option would cost $1.2 billion, and Whittier would cost $1.9 billion. Measure R sales tax revenues would fund most of it, but Metro officials hope for federal money to both speed up the project, and pay for it.

Seeing the potential for added revenue and traffic easing, cities along the two routes, including Commerce, Monterey Park and Montebello, have been lobbying their preference for in hopes of getting their favored route into the review plan, four years in the making.

The regional nature of the project prompted several cities to form coalitions to push their preferred route, which in the case of Montebello and Monterey Park is Route 60, along the Pomona 60 Freeway.

According to the report, Route 60 would be 6.9 miles in length, and requires the demolition of eight businesses, but no homes.

In contrast, the Washington Boulevard alignment, favored by the Commerce and Whittier, would require the removal of 58 businesses and 9 homes along the 9.5 miles route.

But Whittier-area cities note the Washington Boulevard alignment would serve more people than what one city manager called another disconnected train above a freeway, like the unattractive Green Line route. Metro estimates 19,900 daily boardings for the proposed train to Whittier, versus 16,700 for the proposed train on pylons straddling the 60 Freeway.

“What the eastside needs is public transportation that can take people from where they live to where they work; to connect residents to jobs,” said former Pico Rivera Mayor and current Councilman Gustavo V. Camacho, last year. “Because this alignment is envisioned to run right through the heart of the County’s industrial center, along Washington Blvd., we see this route as the best way to shorten the distance from people’s door steps to the front door of their work.”

The proposed extension of the southern leg of the Gold Line will soon connect to the Expo Line to Santa Monica, and Metro has discussed plans for through passenger trains between East L.A. and the beach using the new tunnel now under construction downtown and the Civic Center, the “Regional Connector.”

The same tunnel will connect the Blue Line to Long Beach with the northern leg of the Gold Line, which is being extended east from Sierra Madre to Azusa, and eventually to Montclair.

Metro’s board of directors is expected to decide in November which of the four options — that also include a no build alternative and an option to improve existing freeways, streets and bus transportation — as well as the Route 60 and Washington Boulevard alternatives, to advance for further study.

The environmental study for the Gold Line extension can be found at Open houses will be held on the alternatives in    September in Montebello, Pico Rivera, South El Monte and Whittier.


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