Special Needs Youth ‘STAR’ In Bell Gardens

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

In a wheelchair, only able to control his eyes, mouth, and fingers, Ruben Martinez felt alone and misunderstood for most of his life. In desperation, he would day after day lock himself in his bedroom.

“You cant give up, you have to move forward,” Ruben’s mother Antonia Perez would tell her son.

Lea este artículo en Español: Jóvenes con Necesidades Especiales Conviven en Bell Gardens

Now 32-years-old, Ruben has come out of his shell, Perez says proudly, crediting a Bell Gardens program she helped create for his turn-around.

He used to be so shy and embarrassed he could not even order a meal at McDonalds, now he is working on his master’s degree, she told EGP Friday.

Sandra Leyva, right, coordinator for the Special Time for Adaptive Recreation (STAR) program, enjoys a game of bingo with STAR participants at the Bell Gardens Veterans Park Senior Center. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Sandra Leyva, right, coordinator for the Special Time for Adaptive Recreation (STAR) program, enjoys a game of bingo with STAR participants at the Bell Gardens Veterans Park Senior Center. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Perez said she did not want her son’s muscular dystrophy to define him, recalling how she made it a point to try and instill in him that he was not less than anyone else just because he suffered from a muscle disease that hindered his movement and weakened his musculoskeletal system.

But he needed more, she said.

The city offered recreational youth programs like soccer and football, but none specifically catered to children with special needs, the Bell Gardens residents said.

“It was like nobody cared about our children,” Perez said in Spanish, telling EGP that’s when she started advocating for Bell Gardens’ special needs community, eventually convincing the city council to support creation of a program for children with disabilities.

It’s been 20 years and the Special Time for Adaptive Recreation (STAR) program is still serving special needs children, teen and adults by giving them a place where they can take part in activities in an environment that encourages acceptance.

“Their condition shouldn’t matter, everyone should just see them as people,” Perez told EGP Friday during the group’s weekly program.

Participants of the Special Time for Adaptive Recreation (STAR) program meet every Friday at 4:30p.m. at the Bell Gardens Veterans Park Senior Center. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Participants of the Special Time for Adaptive Recreation (STAR) program meet every Friday at 4:30p.m. at the Bell Gardens Veterans Park Senior Center. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

STAR is handled like any other program offered by the city’s recreation department, explains Program Coordinator Sandra Leyva. The city uses the same staff that works on other park programs, but while no special training is required, everyone working with STAR is handpicked, according to Leyva.

There are currently about 17 or so special needs youth in the program, ranging from 9- to 32-year of age; Ruben is the oldest participant.

“It’s a unique program because it gives participants space to be themselves, they make friends and they learn to interact and socialize,” says Leyva.

“It has also serves as a support group for parents and participants,” she added.

Ruben witnessed that first hand, watching his mother take advantage of the opportunity to relax and unwind while he learned to relate to others and improve his self esteem.

“I feel like a mentor now,” Ruben told EGP, lightly holding the knob that controls his power wheelchair. “I feel like an inspiration for the younger kids to look up to.”

Like Ruben, 21-year-old Juan Torres also suffers from muscular dystrophy and by age 10 could no longer walk.

“I learned I’m not the only one with this condition,” said Juan as he looks around at the friends he has made since joining STAR. “I thought that for a very long time,” he said Friday, no longer believing his life revolves around his condition.

Last Friday, his focus was on playing Bingo. Sitting next to him was 12-year-old Antonio Franco, paying close attention to the numbers on the card in front of him.

“Bingo!” Antonio suddenly yelled excitedly.

Josefina Blancas, left, and her husband Epifanio Sanchez take their son Fredy Sanchez, center, to the STAR program offered in Bell Gardens. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez )

Josefina Blancas, left, and her husband Epifanio Sanchez take their son Fredy Sanchez, center, to the STAR program offered in Bell Gardens. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez )

“I love coming here,” he said, I’ve been coming since I was a little 1-year-old,” Antonio said as he put on the red Chivas hat he claimed as his prize.

“I made friends … I like this place … I like the people!”

Sitting next to her son, making sure he did not miss a number, Antonio’s mother Maria Mireles said the STAR program has helped her deal with raising a son with cerebral palsy, a permanent movement disorders that causes difficulty with sensation, vision, hearing, swallowing and speaking.

“Our children come together while we parents come to share” our experience, she said in Spanish, explaining the dual benefits of the program.

Nearby, some of the parents huddled together to give each other support and advice on raising a child with challenges other children may not have.

“We laugh, we cry, it’s like therapy because we’re all in the same boat,” says Angelica Cardenas, whose son has spinal bifida, a birth defect that prevents the child’s spinal cord from developing properly.

“The truth is we don’t know anything when we become mothers, but we have learned from each other,” she said.

Cardenas said she learned about the STAR program when her son was only a couple of months old and in the hospital. She recalled seeing a young girl with special needs who looked lonely and sad, and telling herself she never wanted her son to feel that way.

“Even though he was still very young, I wanted to learn from the moms and I wanted my son to be around children with different levels so he could see he can be different surrounded by others.”

Even though Fredy Sanchez was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes developmental and intellectual delays, his mother Josefina Blancas and her husband Epifanio Sanchez treated him like any other boy growing up.

“He plays basketball in Montebello, baseball in Downey and dances in Plaza Mexico,” his proud mother boasted as Fredy, 25, colored nearby.

The mothers help guide each other through the school system, ensuring their children receive the services they deserve. They share their experiences with programs like Make-a-Wish and The Starlight Foundation that provide special experiences for chronically ill children.

Most importantly, the group has become a second family.

“Our kids learn to love themselves, there is no discrimination, no bullying,” Cardenas said.

“There is a friendship, they invite each other to birthdays and learn to miss each other.”

The mother of a son with severe autism, who is non-verbal, told EGP he somehow knows Friday is a special day.

“As soon he sees us driving past a particular street, he gets emotional and excited,” she confided.

Some kids may at first feel out of their element, not knowing anyone, but that changes and most find STAR has had a lasting impact on their lives.

To outsiders, 15-year-old Jason Cruz looks like a typical teen, wearing punk rock t-shirt and a vest covered in pins and patches. Before joining STAR, Jason’s autism kept him from interacting with people. Now he plays upright bass and is in a psychobilly band.

“I got to meet new people,” Jason said Friday. “[STAR] helped me be the person I am today.”
Jocelyn Camacho also has autism. During a special Christmas program last year, dressed as Mrs. Claus and singing a song she wrote herself, the 14-year-old perfectly summed up why everyone likes the “very special program with very nice people.”

“They love me… they see I’m beautiful inside and out,” sang Camacho. “And I don’t even wear makeup.”

The STAR program meets every Friday from 4:30-6:30p.m at Bell Gardens Veterans Park. For more information, call (562) 334-1779.

Mentally Disabled Man Located

April 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A mentally disabled 18-year-old man was located safe after he went missing while on a school field trip in Bell Gardens today.

Victor Delgado had last been seen about 11:25 a.m. in a shopping center at 5800 E. Florence Ave. that includes a Ross Dress for Less store, according to Bell Gardens police.

Someone who saw news reports about the case spotted Delgado in Hawaiian Gardens and called sheriff’s deputies, police said.

It’s unclear how he made his way to Hawaiian Gardens.

Jury Reaches Mixed Verdict in Bell Gardens ‘Wife Kidnap’ Case

March 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A Bell Gardens man who was accused of abducting his former live-in girlfriend’s teenage daughter in Santa Ana and sexually assaulting her over 10 years, ultimately impregnating her, was acquitted Friday of kidnapping but convicted of committing lewd acts on a child.

The Fullerton jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of guilt on a rape charge against Isidro Medrano Garcia, 42, prompting prosecutors to drop that count.

Medrano will be sentenced April 15.

Garcia’s alleged victim, then 15, was reported missing in August 2004 by her mother, who suspected Garcia, her one-time live-in boyfriend, of abducting her daughter.

The mother also suspected at that time that Garcia had been sexually abusing the teen for about two months, according to police investigators.

Garcia met the girl in February 2004 and would buy her gifts and take her side when the teen quarreled with her mother, according to prosecutors.

Garcia is accused of molesting and kissing the girl between June and August 2004. He sexually assaulted the girl three different times and raped her once, prosecutors allege.

Garcia is accused of forcing his captive into marriage in 2007 and had a child with her in 2012.

His attorney contended that the girl had multiple chances to leave the defendant over the course of 10 years and go to authorities, but failed to do so.

The girl contacted her sister through Facebook on her birthday in April 2014, marking the first time her family had heard from her in years. A domestic dispute involving her and Garcia in Bell Gardens led to the suspect’s arrest, police said.

During the trial last month, Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael Leversen refused to grant the prosecution’s request to have former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour testify as an expert witness.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky argued that Smart’s abduction in Utah bore similarities to the alleged kidnapping in Garcia’s case. He argued that in both cases, the victims did not take advantage of multiple opportunities to escape their captors because of threats.

Defense attorney Seth Bank argued that Smart’s fear of the consequences of escaping were far more considerable. Smart testified that her abductors consistently threatened to kill her and her family if she tried to get away.

Smart’s story became the subject of a made-for-TV movie and she co-wrote a best-selling book about her experiences.

Smart said her experience was much like the alleged victim in Garcia’s case.

“She was being manipulated and held hostage by verbal chains as opposed to physical chains,” Smart testified out of the presence of the jury.

The threat of deportation and then later the fear of losing custody of her child were the prime discouragement from seeking escape, Smart testified.

Gateway Cities Want ‘Much Needed’ Light Rail

February 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Even though there is no station in Bell Gardens currently proposed for a light rail project that would connect riders from Downtown Los Angeles to Artesia, Mayor Pro Tem Pedro Aceituno recognizes the impact access to regional transit would have for a community that has far too long been isolated from the rest of the county.

His words came last week during a legislative briefing in Paramount where elected officials from across the southeast region pushed for funding a light rail project proposed by Eco-Rapid Transit, a joint powers authority made up of twelve cities and the Bob Hope Airport Authority.

“It is going to open doors,” Aceituno noted, pointing out the economic opportunities for his constituents. “This gives folks an opportunity to apply for jobs further away,” that otherwise they could not reach, he said.
Eco-Rapid’s rail system would run from Union Station to Artesia with stops in Vernon, Huntington Park, Bell, South Gate, Downey, Paramount and Bellflower.

“The current [transit] system has for far too long avoided the southeast,” said Assembly Speaker-Elect Anthony Rendon, whose 63rd district includes many southeast cities.

“The region is desperately in need of a rail service,” Rendon urged.

The communities along the proposed rail route are some of the densest areas in the region and would benefit greatly from the rail line being built, said representatives from the area one after the other.

Edgar Cisneros, who serves as a board member for the Montebello Unified School Board and as city manager for the city of Huntington Park, told EGP even the cities without a station within its borders would benefit. MUSD has schools in the cities of Bell Gardens, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Montebello, Monterey Park and Pico Rivera.

“Many kids aren’t walking to school, they have to rely on school buses,” he said. Regional transit is a “convenient and cheap way that allow parents to ride with their children.”

The southeast has not seen any new transit projects since 1995 when the Green Line opened. After decades on the shelf, Sen. Tony Mendoza said it’s time to make the rail project a reality.

“For many, the bus is the only means of transportation and this project will help families travel to the rest of the county,” Mendoza told EGP.

The proposed rail project would run from Union Station to the city of Artesia. (Eco Rapid Transit)

The proposed rail project would run from Union Station to the city of Artesia. (Eco Rapid Transit)

A recent Metro study found the proposed project would connect 4 million residents to regional transportation and have an estimated daily ridership of up to 80,000 people – more than any current or proposed light rail line in the Los Angeles area. If built, the Eco-Rapid rail project could create thousands of jobs for a region where the unemployment rate is a high as 16 percent in some areas, supporters said.

“The project will create economic development opportunities in and around each station,” Mendoza emphasized.
Diane Dubois, Director of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and councilwoman for the city of Lakewood, however, noted that finding funding could be a problem. With a price tag of $4 billion, it will take a lot more than the $240 million the agency has secured in Measure R funds.

Extending the voter-approved Measure R half-cent sales tax and new sales taxes is key to funding the project, said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. Gov. Brown recently approved a bill allowing Metro to ask voters for a tax increase, which could generate as much as a $120 billion.

On Thursday Metro approved $18 million of Measure R funding for the pre-development and planning of the light rail line.

“This investment of resources brings us closer to ensuring that the necessary funds are available to develop and build the light rail to completion,” Mendoza said in statement.

Mass transit projects ease the number of cars on the road, reducing the amount of road maintenance required over the years, pointed out Sen. James T. Bell, who serves as chair of the California State Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing. He told local elected officials to consider what the direct impact would be to each of the municipality’s general fund.

The longer Los Angeles County residents wait to address mass transit projects, the higher the cost will be, Bell said. “If we don’t act it doesn’t keep things the same, it makes it worse,” he said.

Mendoza asked the city leaders to begin educating their constituents on the need to pass a transit tax.
Using the Gold Line Extension as an example, Rendon described how the rail system helped connect eastside communities along the route to downtown.

As proposed, the southeast rail project would use the abandoned West Santa Ana Branch right-of-way. The goal is to complete the project by 2027, with subsequent links to Santa Clarita and possibly the High Speed Rail lines in Norwalk.

“This project will dramatically change mobility for an area that has waited for decades,” said Dubois.

Update: Feb. 26 11:40 a.m. included new funding approved by Metro; statement from Sen. Tony Mendoza.

Bell Gardens Shooting Victim ID’d

February 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Authorities Monday released the name of a man shot to death on a street in Bell Gardens.
He was 39-year-old Ivan Covarrubias, according to the coroner’s office.

The shooting in the 6300 block of Specht Avenue took place about 12:05 a.m. Tuesday, said sheriff’s Deputy Tony Moore.

The victim now identified as Covarrubias was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Moore added.

A motive for the killing was unknown. The sheriff’s department was assisting the Bell Gardens police in the investigation, Moore said.

Man Fatally Shot in Bell Gardens

February 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A man was shot to death on a street in Bell Gardens this morning, authorities said.

The shooting in the 6300 block of Specht Avenue took place about 12:05 a.m. Tuesday, said sheriff’s Deputy Tony Moore.

The victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Moore added. His name was withheld pending the notification of next of kin.

A motive for this killing was unknown. The sheriff’s department was assisting the Bell Gardens police in the investigation, Moore said.

The shooter remained at large. No suspect information was immediately available.

Anyone with information on this homicide was asked to call the sheriff’s homicide bureau at (323) 890-5500. All tips can be submitted anonymously.

Bell Gardens Forced to Sell Shopping Centers

February 4, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

Before Ross, Marshall’s, Starbucks and Petco opened their doors in Bell Gardens, the area around Florence Boulevard and Eastern Avenue was nothing more than a collection of vacant lots and rundown buildings.

Drugs and crime were prevalent in the area, which also happened to be home to one of the largest adult bookstores in the region. The city tried unsuccessfully for years to close the store down, but in the end, redevelopment money is what pushed out the store and it’s undesirable customers, Bell Gardens City Manager Phil Wagner told EGP.

Lea este artículo en Español: Bell Gardens es Forzada a Vender Centros Comerciales

Today, two busy shopping centers sit at the intersection of Florence and Firestone, drawing thousands of customers from Bell Gardens and surrounding cities to spend their money in the southeast city. It’s been a vast improvement on many fronts for the predominately working-class southeast city, from providing jobs to shopping convenience and revenue for city services.

But now, Bell Gardens is being forced to sell off the Los Jardines and Village Square Shopping Centers and to give 91% of the money generated from the sale to the state. It’s part of a negotiated settlement reached in the aftermath of Gov. Jerry Brown’s and State Legislators’ disbanding of the 400 or so redevelopment agencies across California.

For decades, redevelopment agencies (RDA) helped cities like Bell Gardens revitalize their communities by providing funds for projects ranging from affordable housing to commercial developments and government facilities. Funding for RDA came from loans from the cities themselves, bonds and property taxes generated by the agency’s investments.

“If you look at these shopping centers [in Bell Gardens] there’s a possibility none of these would be here without the RDA,” Wagner points out.

Facing a crippling budget deficit, the governor and state leaders in 2011 decided to eliminate all of California’s redevelopment agencies and keep the in state coffers. “With the stroke of a pen,” cities, already struggling with tight budgets due to the recession, saw their funds to combat blight wiped out, Wagner said.

Brown argued that the state could no longer afford to finance the agencies and insisted the money would be better spent on school districts and county services.

An audit at the time by State Controller John Chiang found widespread accounting and reporting discrepancies at 18 RDAs across the state, fueling support for shutting down locally run redevelopment agencies. The audit found examples of spending abuses and Chiang questioned the effectiveness of RDA’s mission to combat blight.

The policy shift stopped new money from coming in for redevelopment and required that any money still in the redevelopment agencies and city-owned properties purchased with redevelopment funds be liquidated and turned over to the state.

Local municipalities criticized the decision and tried to stop the change, but failed.

In the years since, cities across California have been negotiating with the Dept. of Finance – charged with reviewing any transactions by the now defunct RDAs – to protect their investments.

Finally, “we’ve had to bite the bullet,” City Attorney John W. Lam told EGP.

Bell Gardens must now sell seven of its RDA-owned properties, including the two shopping centers and a cell tower located on one of the properties.

The shopping centers and cell tower generate $250,000 annually in ground lease revenue for the city.

“That number may not sound like a lot, but for a city of our size that will have an impact to our services,” said Community Development Director Abel Avalos.

The Los Jardines Shopping Center, located in the 7000 block of Eastern Avenue in Bell Gardens, is home to dozens of stores that draw thousands of shoppers to the area. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The Los Jardines Shopping Center, located in the 7000 block of Eastern Avenue in Bell Gardens, is home to dozens of stores that draw thousands of shoppers to the area. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Wagner told EGP the damage could have been a lot worse; “in the millions” of dollars, he said.

At one point the firehouse, police department parking lot and neighborhood youth center were all on the chopping block. In the end it was determined those properties and two additional city-owned parking lots are for governmental use, exempting them from the sell-off.

“The best case scenario would have been to keep all the properties, but we believe we protected the majority of our assets.”

“I believe Bell Gardens was a model for redevelopment agencies,” Wagner said, calling the loss of funds a “great loss” to cities like Bell Gardens that used its funds as intended, to build much-needed affordable housing and to replace blighted areas with thriving businesses.

Primestor Inc. developed the Bell Gardens shopping centers and will have first dibs on purchasing the ground leases.

Wagner says the city has a good relationship with Primestor and is confident the developer will purchase the property.

Avalos told EGP the city has received a few informal inquiries about an RDA property on the 5000 block of Shull Street, which could be used for either light manufacturing or higher density housing. The remaining properties would be sold for commercial development, he added.

Bell Gardens will get just over 9 percent of the sales revenue, but will continue to receive sales tax and property tax. The money being lost could have gone back to the community, Lam said.

Any ambitious plans the city had for revitalization may no longer happen, cautions Avalos.
There’s no more money for affordable housing, stressed Lam.

According to Wagner, the city will also take a big financial hit on the $30 million it initially invested as seed money for the redevelopment agency back in the 1970s, since it doesn’t appear that the state will reimburse municipalities any time soon for their loans to the agencies. That money is owed to the local taxpayers, he said.

A little over half of the city’s initial investment has been paid back over the years, but there’s still about $14 million owed to the city’s General Fund, according to city Finance Director Will Kaholokula.

The interest they originally agreed to will also not be honored, instead capped at 10 percent.

“The governor said ‘sorry cities, too bad…you’ll get your money last,’” said Lam, explaining it could take 50 years for the state to pay the entire amount back.

Now the city is tasked with bringing in developers to privately fund projects.
According to Wagner, it’s something the city has done before and will do again.

“The loss of tax money developments will not stop Bell Gardens from attracting business to the city.”

—-

Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

Bell Gardens Walmart Closing

January 21, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

When a Walmart Neighborhood Market opened in Bell Gardens in 2012, a marching band led the grand opening ceremony. Local residents and city officials welcomed the retailer with open arms.

On Tuesday, just days following the company’s announcement that it would close 7 stores by the end of the month in Southern California, including the Bell Gardens store, loyal customers said they are not ready to say goodbye.

“I’m going to miss it,” said Maria Desiderio, 68. “It was so close to me I would walk here for my groceries.”

Lea este artículo en Español: Walmart de Bell Gardens Cierra sus Puertas

Walmart is closing 269 locations globally as part of a company-wide restructuring. In addition to Bell Gardens, local closures include stores in Long Beach, Altadena, Carson, Hawaiian Gardens, San Bernardino and Baldwin Hills and Chinatown, which closed Sunday.

The Bell Gardens Walmart location at the Los Jardines Shopping Center in the 6800 block of Eastern Avenue will close Jan. 28.

According to Walmart, most of the 90 part-time and full-time employees from the Bell Gardens store will be reassigned to a nearby location. Wal-Mart spokesperson Delia Garcia told EGP that there are four stores within 6 miles and Bell Gardens employees will receive preferential hiring at those locations.

A sign posted outside the Bell Gardens Walmart Neighborhood Market says will be closing next week. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A sign posted outside the Bell Gardens Walmart Neighborhood Market says will be closing next week. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Employees who have not been placed in new jobs by Feb. 10 will receive 60 days pay. If after that 60 days they still have not been placed in new jobs, they will receive a severance package equal to one week’s pay for every year they have been with the company, Garcia said.

News of the impending closure came as a surprise to Bell Gardens Community Development Director Abel Avalos who told EGP the city was not given any advanced notice.

“It wasn’t as if the store was underperforming,” Avalos said.

He emphasized that Walmart generated $35,000 in sales tax revenue annually for the city, calling the amount impressive given that most grocery items are not taxable.

“In no way should this reflect that this community could not support that store,” he stressed.

On Tuesday, lines at the store were long and shopping carts full as residents took advantage of the 25 percent closeout discounts being offered.

“They really had good prices and good people,” lamented Bell Gardens resident Rosa Alvarez, telling EGP she shopped there twice a week.

Garcia would not disclose finances for any individual store, but told EGP the Bell Gardens location had undergone the same scrutiny as all the other stores.

Closing stores is commonplace in the retail industry, she said, adding that Walmart has closed fewer stores than many of its competitors in recent years.

“Closing stores is never an easy decision, but it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future,” Wal-Mart Stores Inc. President/CEO Doug McMillon said in a press release. “It’s important to remember that we’ll open well more than 300 stores around the world next year. So we are committed to growing, but we are being disciplined about it.”

There’s a potential bright side to the situation for the city, Avalos told EGP.

When the Neighborhood Market opened three years ago the newly opened Bicycle Casino hotel was not a reality, he said.

“We can see this as an opportunity to reach out to [higher tax generating] retailers” who could see the advantages of being located so close to the hotel, Avalos said.

City staff has already reached out to Primestor – the property owner – to begin the process of looking for a business to take over the 30,000 square-foot site.

The location is comparable in size to the Ross and Marshalls stores located across the street from the shopping center. Both stores produce substantial sales tax revenue for the city; the Bicycle Casino is the city’s top sales tax generator.

Avalos noted the potential for possibly splitting the space to allow apparel companies and large chain restaurants like Home Town Buffet or Golden Corral to share the site.

“It comes down to finding a retailer that will fill the space and be a complimentary use,” he said.
Residents, however, point out that Walmart’s closing will reduce the number of grocery stores in the city down to two.

“I may just drive to another Walmart outside the city to get groceries,” said Alvarez in Spanish.

Bell Gardens Mayor Jennifer Rodriguez acknowledged that at just 2.5 square miles in size, the city doesn’t have the large plots of land big box retailers want, but proudly pointed out the number of national brand stores that can be found in the small blue-collar city. She does not expect the city to have trouble filling the vacancy.

“We are sad to see Walmart go, but sometimes change brings a new opportunity.”

—-

Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

Walmart Closes Seven SoCal Locations

January 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Seven Walmart stores in Southern California will be among 269 locations closed across the globe as part of a company-wide restructing, the discount retailer announced today.

“Actively managing our portfolio of assets is essential to maintaining healthy business,” Wal-Mart Stores Inc. President/CEO Doug McMillon.

“Closing stores is never an easy decision, but it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future. It’s important to remember that we’ll open well more than 300 stores around the world next year. So we are committed to growing, but we are being disciplined about it.”

About 16,000 employees are expected to be impacted by the closures.

There are nearly 11,600 Walmart stores around the world, ranging from smaller Walmart Express stores to Neighborhood Markets, Walmarts, Walmart Supercenters and Sam’s Club warehouse outlets.

Stores that will be closed in Southern California will be Walmarts at 151 E. Fifth St. in Long Beach, effective Jan. 28, and at 4101 Crenshaw Blvd. in Baldwin Hills, effective Sunday.

Five Walmart Neighborhood Markets will also be closed: 2408 Lincoln Ave., Altadena; 6820 Eastern Ave., Bell Gardens; 701 W. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Chinatown; 12120 Carson St., Hawaiian Gardens; and 2045 Highland Ave., San Bernardino.

Those five stores will close Jan. 28, with the exception of the Chinatown store, which will close Sunday.

Delia Garcia of Walmart said about 1,100 employees will be affected by the closure of the seven Southern California stores.

“For all associates, the goal is to support our associates throughout the transition and provide opportunities to transfer to nearby stores,” Garcia told City News Service.

She noted that most of the stores being closed are located within six miles of four other Walmart locations.

She also said that while the stores will be closing by Jan. 28, most employees will likely continue working until Feb. 10 while stores are dismantled and merchandise is removed.

Employees who have not been placed in new jobs by Feb. 10 will receive 60 days pay. If after that 60 days they still have not been placed in new jobs, they will receive a severance package equal to one week’s pay for every year they have been with the company, Garcia said.

Garcia also said seven new Walmart stores are expected to open in California over the next year, and two existing stores will be expanded – moves that are expected to create about 1,000 jobs.

Bell Gardens to Count Homeless

January 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Volunteers will be canvassing the city of Bell Gardens for homeless living on the streets, parks or cars as part of the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, officials announced.

City personnel, members of the police department, neighborhood watch and the police explorers will conduct the count Jan. 26 to assist the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

Volunteers will document the number of homeless persons they locate without making physical contact, according to the city. The goal is to obtain an estimate of the unsheltered population in the city.

When completed, the tally will be forwarded to LAHSA, which uses numbers to advocate for aid and measures to address the local homelessness in the community.

Bell Gardens Community Development Director Abel Avalos told EGP the last homeless count in the city by LAHSA in 2011 estimated 195 homeless persons.

Residents who are aware of specific locations where transients typically reside are asked to contact Officer Victor Ruiz of the Bell Gardens Police Department at vruiz@bgpd.org or by calling him at (562) 806-7600.

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