Exide Taint Blows Over to City of Commerce

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The City of Commerce had joined a long list of communities affected by lead contamination from a Vernon-based battery recycling plant permanently closed in March for hazardous waste violations.

The disturbing news was announced last week by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which said it used wind pattern modeling to add Commerce to the soil sampling target zone. Five to 10,000 properties could be contaminated with lead from the Exide Technologies plant, according to state toxic chemical regulators.

Exide’s troubling history of toxic chemical air emissions and hazardous waste violations has sparked outrage and protests in an area that runs from Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and several Vernon-adjacent Southeast cities.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, pictured center, demands that cleanup of lead contaminated homes begin immediately after learning testing will expand to Commerce. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, pictured center, demands that cleanup of lead contaminated homes begin immediately after learning testing will expand to Commerce. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa told EGP said they are in the “very early stages” of understanding the “scope and extent” of the damage in Commerce, but said city staff and the city council will do everything within their jurisdiction to address the problem.

“We are working really hard and the council is very concerned,” Rifa said. “This is something new for all of us … We don’t want to overstate or play down the problem.”

Like Vernon, Commerce is also an industrial city, the biggest difference Commerce has over 13,000 residents compared to about 200 Vernon residents.

News that toxic pollution from Exide had made its way to homes in Commerce caught many in the city by surprise.

City Planner Jose Jimenez told EGP he attended a public meeting in Boyle Heights Aug. 13 and there was no discussion of possible lead contamination in Commerce.

Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca del Rio attended last week’s meeting and told EGP she was taken aback by the news.

She said Vernon needs to revise its policies regarding the types of businesses is allows to operate in that city because they not only impact Vernon, but other communities as well.

Del Rio said she is committed to working on the issue with representatives from all the affected areas.

Last Friday, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who represents Commerce, issued a statement demanding the immediate cleanup of contaminated properties and for DTSC to not spend more time on site testing.

“This contamination is now more widespread and my first concern is with the immediate health of citizens in the City of Commerce, especially our most vulnerable, such as pregnant women and young children who may come in contact with contamination in their yards or at the playground,” Garcia said.

“The continued testing is expensive and continues to only reaffirm what the scientific models show to be the likely spread of the contaminant,” she added.

But according to DTSC spokesperson Sandy Nax, additional testing is needed to identify the locations of lead deposits and concentrations before cleanup can begin.

“Testing also helps with prioritizing cleanup of properties with the highest contamination,” he told EGP.

The northern part of the Union Pacific Railyard is believed to be most affected, Rifa said. The city council has schedule the issue for discussion at its Sept. 8 meeting. DTSC will brief the council on the results of their findings and answer questions, he said.

In the meantime, Garcia’s office reported that DTSC is working on a letter/email that in the next few days will be sent to residents in the impacted area.

“This letter/ email will just explain what is currently going on and what the next steps are,” states Garcia’s office.

With the information being so fresh, city staff told EGP many residents and business owners may not yet be aware of the latest findings.

“I haven’t heard from any business owner” as of yet, Deputy City Administrator Fernando Mendoza told EGP.

“In talking with our Environmental Health and Safety team, we haven’t received any notification from a regulator about possible effect on our business,” Commerce-based Unified Grocers spokesperson Paul Dingsdale told EGP. “We would not anticipate any issues, based on our team’s review.”

Eddie Tafoya, executive director of the city’s Chamber of Commerce Industrial Council, told EGP Tuesday they had only just recently heard the news and are still getting caught up on the issue.

While many in the city expressed surprise over the latest DTSC pronouncements, Commerce is not new to the controversy. In 2013, the city council sent a letter to Vernon requesting they close the plant, but according to Rifa, they never received a response.

The issue could be tricky for Commerce, which also has a large industrial base and is home to one of the busiest railyards in the country, two known sources of pollution.

Unlike Vernon, however, residents in the city have a strong history of pushing environmental concerns, such as pushing to stop trains from idling near homes and most recently a ban on idling by large trucks in order to decrease the harmful effects of diesel emissions to residents and workers in the city.

Baca del Rio said she is expecting to get funding as soon as possible to clean the contamination. “Just because we are minorities that doesn’t mean [big corporations] can come and pollute our city.”

Garcia said she is committed to work with Commerce, residents, the advisory board and DTSC to keep the public informed about “this hazard and the health screenings needed” to move the community forward.

Due to privacy and confidentiality concerns, DTSC will not release information about private property owners and residents, including who is being tested or the results, stated Garcia.

Rifa encouraged those who may be concerned to visit their doctor and to be tested for lead. Following other simple directions, such as removing shoes before entering a house, also makes sense, Rifa said.

“The test will show whether the level is above the Centers for Disease Control’s acceptable limits, and whether medical attention is needed,” said Rifa.

 

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is still testing the blood-lead levels of residents near the Exide facility. Those interested can sign up for the testing at www.bloodleadtesting.com or by calling toll-free:1-844-888-2290. 

 

Angry Residents Decry Handling of Exide Cleanup

August 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Fuming over news that as many as 10,000 homes could be contaminated with lead spewed from the now closed Exide Technologies plant in Vernon, hundreds of people on Thursday demanded state regulators immediately begin clean up of what could turn out to be the biggest “environmental clean up and public health disasters in California history.

“If you can’t handle the problem get out of the way and let federal government step in,” insisted Terry Cano, a resident of Boyle Heights whose home was found to have higher than safe levels of lead but has not yet been decontaminated.

“I don’t care where it came from, just clean it up,” she said angrily during a public meeting of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) community advisory group in Huntington Park at the Salt Lake Park Community Center.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (pictured second to right) demands that clean up of lead contaminated homes begin immediately. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (pictured second to right) demands that clean up of lead contaminated homes begin immediately. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

DTSC revealed just over a week ago that the agency had expanded soil sampling for lead to a larger geographical area and the tests revealed much higher numbers of property contaminated with the toxic chemical than previously believed.

“We have preliminarily estimated the number of residential properties potentially affected could be five to six thousand, or as high as nine to 10 thousand,” Lee said. “It is certainly a large extent of impact.”

Angry residents living within the contamination zone — from Huntington Park, Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles and other communities near the former lead-battery recycling and smelting plant packed — packed the advisory committee meeting and loudly demanded the state agency admit its failures and speed up the clean up.

DTSC will use $7 million it received from the state Thursday to swiftly clean homes with lead levels above 1,000 parts per million, agency Director Barbara Lee told the loud crowd Thursday.

The state’s money will be added to the $9 million Exide was forced to place in a community trust fund as part of an agreement to avoid federal criminal prosecution for its illegal handling of hazardous waste.

Lee said half of the funds would be used to conduct additional testing in the expanded zone, which will now include Commerce as well as Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park.

The comments struck a nerve with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia who represents Commerce.

“We don’t need testing, we just need to clean up,” she said. “Three million [dollars] should not be going to testing!”

Several members of the community advisory committee, which is supposed to be providing input and oversight for the clean up process, also expressed distrust in DTSC’s ability to handle the cleanup.

“We don’t want you to be sorry,” a visibly agitated Teresa Marquez said. “Its time for the governor to know, its time for Obama to know.”

Hundreds of angry residents attended the DTSC advisory meeting in Huntington Park Thursday regarding the extent of Exide's lead contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Hundreds of angry residents attended the DTSC advisory meeting in Huntington Park Thursday regarding the extent of Exide’s lead contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

It’s time for California to declare a state of emergency and for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to step in and coordinate a mass evacuation from homes, some speakers said.

Exposure to lead has been linked to learning disabilities and birth defects. Children are especially at risk because they play in the dirt, according to health and environment experts.

The $9 million Exide set aside was to pay for the cleanup of 219 homes north and south of the plant. So far, lead-tainted soil has been removed from 146 homes. An additional 146 homes were tested in an area beyond the initial scoping area to determine the extent of Exide’s contamination.

Media reports have placed the cost between $150 million to $200 million. According to Lee, DTSC is working to secure funds for the expanded residential cleanup.

DTSC Chief of Permitting Rizgar Ghazi explained the cost to clean up the Exide plant site would cost the company $26 million.

“Leave Exide the way it is, use that money to clean up the community,” demanded Miguel Alfaro of Boyle Heights. “Leave the building up as an example of your lack of enforcement.”

12 Arrests Made in Commerce Checkpoint

August 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A DUI/Drivers License Checkpoint in Commerce led to 12 arrests including two motorists driving under the influence

Over 2,500 vehicles drove through the checkpoint and 1,748 drivers were stopped, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Arrests included one drivers suspected to be under the influence of drugs another suspected of being under the influence of drugs and alcohol and one illegal possession of narcotics. Other arrests included allowing an unlicensed driver to drive, 8 motorists driving with a suspended or without a license.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), checkpoints have been showsn to lower lower DUI deaths and injuries.

Commerce; Limpiando por una Causa

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

El sábado por la mañana voluntarios limpiarán las calles de Commerce para recaudar dinero para diferentes causas, desde equipos deportivos a programas para adolescentes de la ciudad,  y al mismo tiempo demostrando su orgullo cívico en el proceso.

Alrededor de 200 voluntarios ganarán $100 cada uno por limpiar graffiti, recortar árboles y recoger la basura de algunas de las calles más concurridas y dañadas de la ciudad, según Steve Craig, presidente y CEO de Craig Realty Group, propietario y operador de las tiendas Citadel Outlets y anfitrión del Quinto Día Anual de Limpieza en Commerce.

Read this article in English: Commerce; Cleaning Up for a Cause

El dinero se destinará a algún equipo u organización designada por el voluntario, siempre y cuando ellos trabajen las horas requeridas de 6am a 1pm.

El supervisor de deportes de la ciudad de Commerce Frank García esta encargado de la coordinación de voluntarios jóvenes para la limpieza el sábado. Él le dijo a EGP que el dinero que ganan los voluntarios en muchos aspectos los beneficia directamente, a través de programas juveniles y equipos deportivos.

Vanessa Pérez con el Centro de Adolescentes en Commerce está de acuerdo.

“Muchos niños [de Commerce] son de familias de bajos ingresos y no pueden pagar los $250” que cuesta el campamento de una semana en el norte de California, explicó. “Así que esto es una gran ayuda para nuestra recaudación de fondos”, permitiendo que más niños asistan, le dijo a EGP. El centro inscribió a 15 voluntarios para el sábado.

El entrenador del equipo de natación Kevin Larson dice que los programas acuáticos de la ciudad enviarán un equipo de voluntarios como lo hacen cada año. “El dinero que recibimos, lo usamos para viajar”, le dijo a EGP.

Larson apoya al programa de limpieza, viéndolo como una forma de ayudar a la ciudad, mientras que este incentiva a la juventud local.

Esa fue la idea de Craig cuando propuso por primera vez el evento en 2011. Dijo que su objetivo era motivar a las generaciones más jóvenes – la generación del milenio- para que cuiden su comunidad.

“Nuestra esperanza es que los jóvenes participantes se vayan con un mayor sentido de orgullo por su ciudad y el deseo de hacer una contribución positiva a su futuro”, agregó.

Desde entonces, el programa ha crecido de un pequeño grupo limpiando cerca de Citadel Outlets a un esfuerzo de toda la ciudad con muchos programas de jóvenes y negocios locales donando su tiempo, trabajo y materiales.

Orgullosas voluntarias participan limpiando las calles de Commerce durante el Día Anual de Limpieza en el 2014. (Citadel Outlets)

Orgullosas voluntarias participan limpiando las calles de Commerce durante el Día Anual de Limpieza en el 2014. (Citadel Outlets)

Aunque los negocios y los individuos son bienvenidos a participar, sólo los voluntarios vinculados a los grupos locales y organizaciones ganarán la donación de $100 por su participación, de acuerdo con Traci Markel, directora de marketing de Citadel.

“Las empresas que donan tiempo o trabajo recibirán reconocimiento público y las gracias de parte de la Ciudad de Commerce en la reunión del consejo, y un agradecimiento en los anuncios de pantallas LED de Citadel Outlets”, agregó.

Los voluntarios limpiarán las calles cercanas a Citadel Outlets, en los vecindarios cercanos, así como frente a las tiendas y estructuras públicas.

Se llevará a cabo limpieza de césped, extracción de maleza, recorte o eliminación de árboles muertos, limpieza de escombros de los desagües de caminos y pintura en las aceras de las calles.

A principios del verano, Craig llevó a un equipo de inspectores de la ciudad para identificar calles en alta necesidad de reparación.

El martes, el Concejo de la Ciudad aprobó hasta $15,000 para ayudar a cubrir el costo de $30,000 para el trabajo de estiércol liquido y redefinición de líneas en la carretera de la Avenida Camfield al lado norte de Citadel. El consejo mencionó que el trabajo aborda algunas de las necesidades de infraestructura en el Plan de Gestión de Pavimento de Commerce, y proporciona un beneficio importante para la ciudad.

Ben’s Asphalt, que ha trabajado con la ciudad antes, donará el trabajo y proporcionará los materiales a costos directos. Citadel cubrirá el costo restante.

Markel dijo que el trabajo de estiércol liquido y redefinición se llevará a cabo durante dos fines de semana consecutivos, a partir de agosto 8-9 y concluyendo en agosto 15 y 16.

Es realmente maravilloso ver a un líder empresarial local reunir a la comunidad en conjunto para invertir de nuevo en la ciudad, dijo la alcaldesa de Commerce Lilia R. León.

“Cada año, Steve Craig predica con el ejemplo—recoge una pala y trabaja duro junto a nuestros adolescentes locales en proyectos que limpian nuestras calles”, dijo León. “A través de este evento no sólo vemos mejoras estéticas en la ciudad en que vivimos y trabajamos, pero un cambio en la mentalidad de nuestros jóvenes ciudadanos”, añadió.

Otros patrocinadores locales incluyen Hillyard, Waste Management y Servicios CAM.

Todavía se anima a los voluntarios a inscribirse. Los jóvenes voluntarios individuales de 18 años y menos, y organizaciones de jóvenes estarán coordinados a través de la Ciudad de Commerce. Las organizaciones y los equipos se seleccionan en base a quien llegue primero.

Para obtener más información, póngase en contacto con García vía email a:  frankg@ci.commerce.ca.us.

Los negocios locales, voluntarios adultos, y cualquier persona interesados en donar para el Quinto Día Anual de Limpieza en Commerce deben contactar a Traci Markel en traci@citadeloutlets.com.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

New Commerce Budget Expands Programs

July 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

For the third year running, the Commerce City Council has approved a new fiscal year budget that’s not only balanced but also has a small surplus.

The council July 7 voted unanimously to approve a 2015-2016 General Fund budget of $56 million that includes some added spending for popular programs as well as funds for one-time capital outlays. A decision on approximately $10 million on other operating budget expenditures – including the use of $1 million in Measure A and $6 million in transportation funds was delayed pending additional information.

Higher than initially anticipated revenue bumped the city’s surplus to $414,000, more than the $250,000 initially projected. City councilmembers, however, voted to use $301,000 of the revenue for a variety of expenditures ranging from adding a second Citadel Job Fair to adding a part-time library literacy clerk and Aquatorium Fitness Center attendant. Also approved was $9,800 to pay for an additional day of pre-school program at each park; $6,000 to cover traveling expenses for the girls’ soccer team; $15,000 for adaptive aquatics swim lessons; $10,250 for the Water Polo entry fees/expenses; $2,000 to expand the Halloween program to include Dia de los Muertos and $4,000 for Commerce’s boxing program.

City Council votes unanimously to approve the budget for the fiscal year 2015-2016. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

City Council votes unanimously to approve the budget for the fiscal year 2015-2016. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

City Administrator Jorge Rifa said his budget priorities were focused on four spending areas for the upcoming fiscal year: public safety at the Citadel; reorganization of the community services department to enhance code enforcement; a fair pay and benefits package for city employees; and re-allocation of water lease revenues from the General Fund to the Water Utility Fund.

In Commerce, the libraries are a major source of civic pride and an important community resource. Library Director Beatriz Sarmiento told EGP that adding a part-time literacy clerk was greatly needed and will go a long way to help the department run more smoothly. “It’s like an office job, that person will have to answer phones, help the public, help plan events and be at the [library] counter when needed,” Sarmiento said.

Mayor Lilia Leon thanked city staff for months of hard work preparing the budget. Leon said the combination of meetings and workshops and feedback from the different departments heads helped identify revenue and highlight what is most needed and wanted in the community.

“I appreciate all the department heads for bringing up the needs and coming together and making sure we can provide” as much as possible, Leon said.

Nuevo Presupuesto de Commerce Expande Programas

July 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Por tercer año consecutivo, el Consejo de la Ciudad de Commerce aprobó un nuevo presupuesto del año fiscal que no sólo está equilibrado, pero también tiene superávit.

El 7 de julio el consejo votó por unanimidad para aprobar un presupuesto de $56 millones de dólares del Fondo General 2015-2016, que incluye algunos gastos adicionales para los programas populares, así como fondos para los gastos de capital de una sola vez.

Read this article in English: New Commerce Budget Expands Programs

La decisión de aproximadamente $10 millones de dólares en otros gastos del presupuesto operativo – incluyendo $1 millón en la Medida A y $6 millones en fondos de transporte se retrasó hasta proveer información pendiente.

Los ingresos previstos inicialmente toparon el superávit de la ciudad a $414,000 dólares, superior a los $250,000 dólares proyectados inicialmente. Concejales de la ciudad, sin embargo, votaron a favor de utilizar $301.000 dólares de los ingresos para una variedad de gastos que van desde la adición de una segunda Feria de Trabajo a la adición de un empleado a tiempo parcial en la oficina de la biblioteca y un asistente en el Centro de Ejercicios.

El Consejo de la ciudad de Commerce aprobó el presupuesto anual el 7 de julio. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

El Consejo de la ciudad de Commerce aprobó el presupuesto anual el 7 de julio. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

También se aprobaron $9,800 dólares para pagar por un día adicional del programa preescolar en cada parque; $6,000 dólares para cubrir los gastos de viaje para el equipo de fútbol de niñas; $15,000 dólares para el deporte acuático de clases de natación de adaptación; $10,250 dólares para los derechos de inscripción/gastos de Waterpolo; $2,000 dólares para expandir el programa de Halloween para incluir el evento de Día de los Muertos y $4,000 dólares para el programa de boxeo de Commerce.

El administrador de la Ciudad Jorge Rifa dijo que sus prioridades presupuestarias se centraron en cuatro áreas de gasto para el próximo año fiscal: la seguridad pública en Citadel; reorganización del departamento de servicios de la comunidad para mejorar la aplicación del código; un paquete de remuneración y beneficios justos para los empleados de la ciudad; y la reasignación de ingresos por arrendamiento de agua provenientes del Fondo General al Fondo de Servicio de Agua.

En Commerce, las bibliotecas son una importante fuente de orgullo cívico y un importante recurso de la comunidad. La directora de la Biblioteca Beatriz Sarmiento le dijo a EGP que la adición de un empleado en la oficina de alfabetización a tiempo parcial es muy necesaria y que ayudará con el tiempo en la carrera del departamento para que funcione mejor.

“Es como un trabajo de oficina, esa persona tendrá que contestar teléfonos, ayudar al público, ayudar a planear eventos y estar en el mostrador [de la Biblioteca] cuando sea necesario”, dijo Sarmiento.

La alcaldesa Lilia León agradeció al personal de la ciudad por los meses de trabajo duro para preparar el presupuesto. León dijo que la combinación de reuniones y talleres y la retroalimentación de los diferentes jefes departamentos ayudó a identificar y resaltar lo que más se necesita y quiere en la comunidad.

“Agradezco a todos los jefes de departamento por presentar las necesidades y unirnos y asegurarnos de que podemos proveer” tanto como sea posible, dijo León.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

Commerce Hit By Fallout From Freeway Fire Closure

July 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s happened again.

Traffic on City of Commerce streets was backed up for more than a day following the closure of a freeway that runs through the city.

A grass and trash fire late Monday night at a homeless encampment in a riverbed near the Santa Ana (5) Freeway at Slauson Avenue prompted officials to shut down southbound lanes on the freeway while Caltrans crews worked to repair the damage to the freeway caused by the fire. Only one lane was reopened Tuesday, forcing trucks and cars to use local streets to try to get around the traffic nightmare.

All lanes were reopened about 1 p.m. Wednesday, 36 hours after the closure.

Traffic on Telegraph Road and Washington Boulevard, both major thoroughfares that travel through the city and parallel the Santa Ana Freeway, was almost at a standstill for much of Tuesday and the Wednesday morning rush hour, blocking access to local homes and businesses.

The streets of Commerce were congested this week following the closure of the Santa Ana Freeway due to a fire.  (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The streets of Commerce were congested this week following the closure of the Santa Ana Freeway due to a fire. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Commerce residents said it was a struggle to get around their city. Some said it took them 15 minutes just to cross one block.

“It’s taken people up to an hour to drive from Veterans Park to the Commerce City Council” meeting at City Hall, Commerce resident Gloria Nezahualcoyotl told EGP.

It might have been better to “just stay at home while there’s chaos in the city,” added another resident.

It was really bad on Washington where there’s already construction going on, said Carmen Marquez. “It’s a disaster,” she said. “Wherever you turn [there] is so much traffic.”

According to CHP Officer Patrick Kimball, the fire was reported about 11:30 p.m. Monday in the Rio Hondo near Slauson Avenue.

Firefighters extinguished the flames in about an hour and 15 minutes, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Michael Pittman“It was a grass and trash fire,” Pittman said. “It was definitely dry down there.” There were no injuries, Pittman said.

A SigAlert was issued at 11:56 p.m. Monday, shutting down both the northbound and southbound sides of the Santa Ana Freeway at Slauson Avenue, the CHP reported.

Two northbound lanes were reopened about 2:30 a.m. and one southbound lane was reopened about 6:15 a.m., the CHP reported.

Caltrans engineers were sent to check the integrity of the roadway, said CHP Officer Tony Polizzi.

Freeway Closed in Commerce Due to Riverbed Fire

July 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A grass and trash fire overnight in a riverbed near the Santa Ana (5) Freeway in the Commerce area prompted officials to order lane closures while crews worked to inspect the roadway for damage.

The fire was reported about 11:30 p.m. Monday in the Rio Hondo near Slauson Avenue, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Firefighters extinguished the flames in about an hour and 15 minutes, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Michael Pittman.

“It was a grass and trash fire,” Pittman said. “It was definitely dry down there.”

There were no injuries, Pittman said.

A SigAlert was issued at 11:56 p.m. Monday, shutting down both the northbound and southbound sides of the 5 Freeway at Slauson Avenue, the CHP reported.

Two northbound lanes were reopened about 2:30 a.m. and one southbound lane was reopened about 6:15 a.m., the CHP reported.

Caltrans engineers were sent to check the integrity of the roadway, said CHP Officer Tony Polizzi.

Update: Man On Bike Shot, Killed In Commerce

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Sheriff Homicide detectives are investigating a shooting death early Tuesday morning in Commerce, authorities said.

The body of 19-year-old Bryan Hernandez was found near the intersection of Eastern Avenue and East 61st Street around 2:50 a.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Richard Westin said.

According to the preliminary investigation, Hernandez was riding a bicycle when he was shot, said coroner’s Chief Craig Harvey.

Authorities said a motive was not immediately known but they would be reviewing surveillance cameras in the area to try and identify the assailant.

Streets in the area near Eastern and Peach Street and Slauson were closed off for hours to traffic as sheriff deputies investigated the crime scene.

Anyone who might have been in the area or who has information about the crime is urged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500 or Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

Caltrans to Pay Commerce for Access to Bandini Park During Freeway Widening

May 28, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Commerce city officials have agreed to allow Caltrans to move forward with a widening project on the 710 Freeway that will temporarily close off a section of Bandini Park starting sometime in 2017.

Last week, the city council unanimously approved a motion to grant the California Department of Transportation aerial and construction easements in Bandini Park to allow the transportation agency to continue work on the I-710 Long Life Pavement Rehabilitation Project, which is intended to “increase the safety of travel,” according to city staff.

Lea este artículo en Español: Caltrans Paga a Commerce para Accesar al Parque Bandini

Commerce Director of Public Works Maryam Babaki told the council during its May 19 meeting that this I-710 widening project is not the same as the I-710 North widening project that will add more lanes to the freeway. “This is about widening the shoulders” along the freeway to improve road surface and safety, Babaki explained.

Google Maps aerial image of 1-710 freeway bridge next to Bandini Park. (Google)

Google Maps aerial image of 1-710 freeway bridge next to Bandini Park. (Google)

The project has been in the works for several years but it wasn’t until within the last year that negotiations between Caltrans and the city started to make progress.

“It started out kind of a muck,” said Mayor Lilia Leon, reminding the council that Caltrans “wasn’t going to work with us.” Leon thanked Babaki and her staff for negotiating the agreement under which Caltrans will pay the city $650,000 for the cost of the work and the value of the easements, funds that the city can use to make improvements.

The project calls for widening the existing I-710 bridge 35 ft. next to Bandini Park and 35 ft. next to the Union Pacific rail yard; a 3.5 foot crash barrier and 14-foot high sound walls to prevent noise and debris from landing in the park will also be constructed.

The Easement Agreement gives Caltrans temporary access during the construction phase and a permanent easement to locate the base of the support column in Bandini Park. Caltrans will also be given “air rights” for the bridge overhang.

Commerce residents were not happy about the project when they were first informed years ago of Caltrans’ plans for the busy park. They were worried construction would lead to more pollution and that sediment from the construction would ruin park facilities like the multipurpose courts and softball field.

Residents living in the adjacent Ayers, Bedesson and Connor area — often referred to as the ABC community — were worried that debris, vehicles, or even parts of the planned sound wall and crash barrier could fall into the park if there was a major accident. They also feared construction would increase traffic, pushing more cars and trucks off the freeway and into their neighborhoods.

As with any construction project there could be negative impacts, Babaki told EGP. The park’s popular basketball courts, for example, will not be open during the two-month construction of the sound walls, she said. But Babaki also said the city has negotiated terms that will reduce the project time line and the amount of traffic on city streets significantly from what was originally proposed.

Caltrans will spend nearly $1 million to build the sound walls before construction begins along the backside of Ayers Avenue and Leonis Street on the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) side. Caltrans also agreed to give ABC residents two weeks notice before any construction activity begins.

“Caltrans has agreed to stage their construction and route their trucks through Union Pacific property,” minimizing the impact  to businesses and/or residents, Babaki told EGP in an email.

She also said Caltrans has made arrangements to use the Union Pacific access road behind the ABC neighborhood to access the bridge and the park, she said.

While the council stated approval of the terms of the agreement, there remains some reservation about the impact construction will have on park programs. “What will happen with the sports programs? Has that been considered?” Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca Del Rio asked the public works director.

Babaki responded that since construction will not begin until 2017 there is still time to think about a strategy for moving programs and informing residents.

The 2014 start date was pushed back to 2017 as part of an agreement Caltrans reached with Union Pacific to alleviate impacts to the rail yard, which according to Caltrans Project Manager Diaa Yassin had been underestimated by the transportation agency.

“At first, we had programmed $5 million for right of way impacts on the business,” but in reality the total cost is about $55 million, Yassin said.

“We were talking about monster numbers, we underestimated how the railroad operates,” he said. “Union Pacific runs 25 percent of goods in the U.S.” through its rail yards and they are going to need two years “to reconfigure some of their facility in order to avoid interruption” while Caltrans is working, he explained.

“We have to wait for them to finish their work so we can start ours,” Yassin said.

Babaki said construction at the park will take two months but the entire project could take up to two years to complete.

The city is preliminarily considering using part of the $650,000 it gets from Caltrans to refurbish the basketball courts and for new lighting and landscaping.

According to Caltrans, the roadway rehabilitation will result in better ride quality and reduce future maintenance, minimizing traffic delays, costs and impacts on surrounding communities and the environment.

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