Breves de la Comunidad

June 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


Un hombre de 33 años, residente de Commerce, murió cuando su motocicleta chocó con una Toyota Tacoma 2000 en Long Beach el lunes alrededor de las 10pm, dijo la policía.

El accidente ocurrió en la calle Séptima y la avenida Newport, informó la policía de Long Beach.

El hombre quien iba en una Harley-Davidson 2008 murió en la escena y su nombre no fue revelado en espera de la notificación de sus parientes. El conductor de la Toyota es un residente de Long Beach de 70 años, dijo la policía.

Quien tenga información sobre el accidente puede llamar al (562) 570-7355.

Eagle Rock

La votación para escoger los diseños de arte que adornarán 15 cajas de utilidades de la calle Figueroa, Yosemite Drive y los bulevares Eagle Rock y Colorado ya esta abierto desde hoy hasta el primero de julio.

Los votantes pueden escoger hasta cinco diseños visitando:

Measure AA Paying Off In Commerce

June 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

While many southeast Los Angeles County cities are struggling to find funds to address aging infrastructure, the City of Commerce will be using a projected surplus and over $5 million in other monies to pay for a variety of citywide enhancements, maintenance and capital improvement projects.

The City Council Tuesday approved a $58.8 million budget for 2016-2017 that included $58.2 million in dedicated spending, leaving Commerce with a projected $630,000 surplus, $417,000 of which will be used to pay for things like park programs, increasing the children’s library budget, a children’s faire, and new full-time positions and animal control services.

“If we didn’t have that money we would be digging into the pockets of the general fund right now,” Rifa said.

When the Great Recession hit and state lawmakers closed down redevelopment agencies  – tax increment financing used to combat urban decay – to try to shore up California’s massive budget shortfall, Commerce turned to voters and asked them to approve a half-cent sales tax increase to fund city services.

The Commerce City Council approves $58.8 M Budget for 2016-17 during Tuesday’s meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The Commerce City Council approves $58.8 M Budget for 2016-17 during Tuesday’s meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“Measure AA has made all the difference in significant capital improvement projects to address aging infrastructure,” according to Rifa.

Since approved in 2012, Measure AA has generated over $1 million annually to help pay for city employees, public safety, parks, libraries and other city services. For the last couple of years, revenue from the special sales tax has been used to pay for sidewalk repairs and improvements at the senior center and city parks.

“Those Measure AA funds have been so helpful,” commented Mayor Pro Tem Tina de Baca Tuesday before voting to approve the budget.

During the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year, Measure AA revenue will be used to fund various planning initiatives, the implementation of the green zone action plan and other services.

“Hopefully, the residents will see the benefits of that up close,” said Maryam Babaki, director of public works and development services.

Another major source of revenue for the city this year comes from the first installment of an RDA loan repayment. Unlike other neighboring cities that were forced to sell RDA-owned properties or pay millions in settlements, Commerce is receiving $4.2 million in funds from the state.

The funds will be used for one-time department upgrades, including equipment replacement at parks, an internship program, Citadel bus route, curb painting, street and alley repair and youth sports uniforms.

The city also plans to allocate $500,000 from the repayment fund to the city’s Other Post Employment Benefits trust, used to address pension obligations; $1 million will be set aside in the facilities upgrade holding account and another $1 million will be allocated to the city water fund.

Many neighboring cities have struggled to pay for much needed repairs for their aging city-owned water systems, but Commerce is investing in its city-owned asset.

“You can only take care of it for so long before you ultimately have to replace it,” explained Rifa, adding that Commerce has already increased rates to pay for repairs and maintenance.

The city is anticipating a $333,000 surplus in its 2015-16 fiscal budget, which will be used for capital improvements at parks, libraries, city hall and community services, such as new computers, passenger vans, air hockey tables, fitness equipment, a dog drinking fountain, pool tables, and a vehicle for the food distribution program.

Rifa credits The Commerce Casino, Citadel Outlets and Measure AA for Commerce’s financial health.

“Without those three things, we would be in a whole lot of hurt right now,” he said.

Gas Line Damaged in Commerce

June 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Repairs were completed in 24-hours on an 8-inch gas line that was damaged by a work crew in Commerce, authorities said Monday.

A work crew using excavation equipment struck the main distribution line at 11 p.m. Saturday near the 7100 block of Sycamore Street between Vail and Tanager avenues, said SoCalGas spokesman Sergio Jimenez.

SoCalGas crews shut down the flow of gas at 5:30 p.m. and repairs were completed at 11 p.m. Sunday, Jimenez said.

Until the gas flow was stopped, Metrolink’s Orange County and 91/Perris Valley lines were suspended, said Metrolink spokesman Scott Johnson.

Passengers were bused between Union Station and Norwalk, with service delays of up to one hour, Johnson said.

The tracks were reopened at 6:30 p.m. Sunday after the gas flow was stopped, officials said.

Commerce Council Votes on Retail Ctr Project Tuesday

June 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Commerce City Council is expected to vote June 7 on whether or not to allow construction of the Commerce Retail Center Project on Washington Boulevard. The proposed development will include a “Big Box” store, with a Walmart store being the expected tenant.

The proposed project runs along Washington, from the 710 Freeway to Atlantic Boulevard, and from Washington Boulevard to Sheila Street. It includes a 122,450-square-foot “Major Anchor” retail store, with adjoining restaurants and other retail spaces.

Opponents to the Walmart store told EGP they are organizing to voice their concerns against the project.

“We reject the whole project,” Mark Lopez, director of Commerce-based East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ) told EGP Tuesday.

First, this is a contaminated site that has not been fully cleaned, and second, the location collides with the I-710 Corridor Project, he said.

Others in the community, however, see the development, and a Walmart store in particular, as positive for the local economy.

In a letter to EGP, Ken Merriam, director of Commerce-based Mohave Foods, writes that the “majority of the residents and businesses in Commerce support retail progress in the City of Commerce and the jobs and tax revenue that a retail complex of this magnitude would generate for the city.”

He goes on to point out that many of the jobs created by the development will go to local residents, adding that the revenue generated would “provide an increase in critically needed public services like police and fire protections to its residents and businesses.”

The voting will take place during the regular bimonthly City Council meeting at City Hall. People interested in providing input will be able to speak during the public comment at the start of the meeting, 6:30pm.

Stolen Trailer Found in Commerce

May 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Police searched Tuesday for five men suspected of stealing thousands of Dell laptop computers worth as much as $4 million in an armed robbery at a warehouse in the Harbor Gateway area.

The thefts at a warehouse in the 19200 block of South Western Avenue occurred about 11:30 a.m. Friday, said Officer Mike Lopez, a Los Angeles police spokesman. Five male suspects, four of whom were masked, were involved in the heist, during which a security guard was held at gunpoint, he said.

The guard at the warehouse was zip-tied and the bandits drove two trucks onto the property, hooked up two trailers containing a more than 7,600 laptops and drove off, police said.

One of the trailers was found empty Saturday morning in Commerce, LAPD Capt Gary Walters told ABC7.

Anyone with information on the thefts that could help LAPD Commercial Auto Theft detectives was asked to call (818) 832-7500.

Demands to Expand Exide Test Area Grow

May 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

At the first public hearing since the governor signed legislation to appropriate $176.6 million for the testing and cleanup of residential properties surrounding the now shuttered Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon, residents were not jumping for joy or thanking state regulators. Instead, they were tired, frustrated and irked that testing for lead has not been expanded further into east and southeast L.A.

A number of residents testified in support of extending the 1.7-mile cleanup zone to 4.5 miles, getting support from DTSC’s Exide Community Advisory Committee, which voted last Thursday to recommend expanding the testing area and to appoint an independent third party to oversee the cleanup.

It is not clear what practical impact the vote will have, but in a statement to EGP, the Department of Toxic Substances Control explained that the agency had set the 1.7 mile testing boundary based on preliminary analysis of soil data, which found that lead emissions from Exide may have traveled 1.3 to 1.7 miles from the facility.

“DTSC appreciates the input of the committee, which was set up to advise DTSC as we move forward,” the agency’s statement says.

Clara Solis lives just outside the 1.7 testing area: Last week she presented DTSC with a petition signed by area residents demanding the testing area be expanded.

“You really don’t know what you are doing because you haven’t tested those areas,” said the East Los Angeles resident.

Rachel Vermillion, who frequents public hearings for the SR-710 extension project, complained her community is constantly bypassed.

A study released last month by the Department of Public Health found that children who live near the Vernon plant have higher levels of lead in their blood.

According to the study, 3.58 percent of young children who live within a mile of the plant had 4.5 micrograms of lead in their blood; children living 1 to 4.5 miles from the plant had 2.41 to 4.5 micrograms or higher levels of lead. According to the Center for Disease Control even low levels of lead can affect IQ and academic achievement. The agency believes there are no safe blood lead level for children.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee, center, discusses blood lead levels during a meeting April 28 in Commerce.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

DTSC Director Barbara Lee, center, discusses blood lead levels during a meeting April 28 in Commerce. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Of the 10,000 or so properties in that preliminary investigation area, 213 properties have already been cleaned. State funds will be used to test all 10,000 properties and to clean the 2,500 homes with the highest levels of lead.

Jim Wells, technical advisor to DTSC’s Exide Community Advisory Group, previously stated he believes the contamination goes beyond the 1.7 miles boundary. That would mean millions of people at risk and tens of thousands of additional properties contaminated.

“…To better understand what the conditions really are,” more “robust” data must be collected, Wells said.

One Bell Gardens High School student wanted to know if schools were informed that the area has one of the highest number of children with lead in their blood.

Boyle Heights resident Joe Gonzalez accused DTSC of “minimizing the amount of blood that’s safe in the body.

“The safe level of lead in the body is zero,” he said.

Huntington Park resident Maria Kennedy is a member of Communities for a Better Environment.

She told the committee she felt DTSC was downplaying the Dept. of Public Health’s blood level report. “Homes should be tested for lead regardless if Exide is responsible,” she said. “We should be thinking about the high levels of lead in children and secure funding” to handle the problem, Kennedy said.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee responded that the state has stepped up to the plate, approving a multi-million dollar funding plan. Lee said she needs to demonstrate those funds are being used properly before attempting to secure more money.

“The state has never put forward that kind of money, it’s going to keep us busy for the next couple of years,” she added.

But Teresa Marquez of Boyle Heights feels money should not be the concern.

“We may not have the money but we need to know” the extent of the problem, she said. “How can you get more money if you can’t prove the need?”

Contamination must surely reach Bell Gardens, said Xugo Lujan with East Yards for Environmental Justice. “It’s not like it reaches Atlantic and drops to the floor,” he said pointing to the map. Jorge Lara, another Bell Gardens student demanded to know if homes outside the 1.7-mile radius would be tested. He never got an answer.

Noel Pimentel of Commerce said the city’s residents who were incorporated into the testing area last summer are still waiting for test results.

Commerce Councilwoman Oralia Rebollo asked Lee why homes with young children and pregnant women are no longer considered first priority given the agency’s previous assertions that they would be a top priority for cleanup even if their soil tested less than 1000 ppm.

“We’re confused and residents are upset,” she complained. “They were told they would be priority one and now they are being told they are priority two.”

Lee did not directly respond but assured that the agency plans to decontaminate 2,500 homes with lead levels of 1,000 ppm or higher.

Dozens of Commerce families signed up to have their blood tested for lead during a ‘Cinco de Mayo’ event at Bristow Park Sunday.   (City of Commerce)

Dozens of Commerce families signed up to have their blood tested for lead during a ‘Cinco de Mayo’ event at Bristow Park Sunday.
(City of Commerce)

According to Lee, DTSC is developing a new system to prioritize properties for cleanup. Lee said DTSC does take the risk of exposure into consideration.

“There’s just too many in one bin,” she pointed out, hedging her remarks.

Not satisfied with Lee’s response, Rebollo pushed the director to explain how the agency plans to address possible contamination at schools.

Schools have not tested as high as residential properties, responded Lee.

Testing results will be available to schools in the coming weeks, and could be made public if the school district approves, according to Su Patel, DTSC site project manager.

“I find it contradictory that you say children are a priority when you don’t have a plan in place for schools,” criticized Rebollo.

Lee reiterated that expanding the testing area from 200 homes to 10,000 properties requires a change in the three-bin prioritization process.

“We need more bins,” she said. “We can’t have 2,000 in first place because we won’t know where to start.”

Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yards and the advisory group’s community chairperson, closed the nearly four-hour long meeting by saying elected officials and state regulators must understand there is still a long way to go.

“There seems to be a growing frustration during meetings that comes from folks taking credit when the cameras show up, when we get the money, but when there is critique, those folks want to act” like everything they are hearing is new.

Firefighters Battle Stubborn Fire in Commerce

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Dozens of firefighters spent more than an hour battling a stubborn fire at a single-story commercial building in Commerce.

Flames burned through the roof of the building in the 4000 block of East Washington Boulevard before 55 firefighters snuffed it out, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Richard Licon said.

No one was inside when the fire broke out about 2:50 p.m. on April 21, according to Licon, and no one was hurt. Knockdown was declared at 4:03 p.m. later that day, the fire department reported.

Other businesses attached to the burned 10,000-square-foot structure, where diesel engines were repaired and assembled, were undamaged, Licon said.

The Vernon Fire Department sent one engine company to the scene to assist in the firefight, Licon said.

Video from the scene showed firefighters on the scorched building’s roof, which was partially covered in white flame-dousing foam.

Exide: From Brownfield to Classroom

April 28, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

East and southeast Los Angeles County area residents could soon be trained to test for environmental damages like those in their own backyard.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control plans in coming months to roll out a job and development training program open to residents living in the areas impacted by lead contamination from the now shuttered Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon.

“This is truly a unique program and a first for DTSC,” says Ana Mascarenas, assistant director for environmental justice and tribal affairs for DTSC. For once, the “local community can benefit directly and be a part of restorative justice,” Mascarenas told EGP.

The $176.6 million Exide cleanup package signed by Gov. Brown last week includes $1.2 million to train local groups and residents in skills required to take part in the testing and cleanup process.

DTSC, the state regulatory agency overseeing the Exide cleanup, is currently consulting with experts in the job-training field to develop its program, and they will solicit input from the community during an Exide Advisory Committee meeting being held today.

Mascarenas told EGP that DTSC plans to model its program after the California Environmental Protection Agency’s, CalEPA, Brownfields Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program, which has prepared local residents to clean up contaminated properties while at the same time preparing them for careers in environmental remediation.

“We want this program to prepare residents for green jobs that will help to immediately clean up the neighborhood, while providing a long term [positive] impact for the community’s economy,” Mascarenas said.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago’s 53rd District includes many of the communities polluted by Exide, and he is the author of the bill funding the Exide cleanup and training program. He told EGP that creating jobs in the state’s third poorest district was an important consideration.

“The least the state can do is offer jobs to the community it dumped on for decades,” he said.

“The community is in desperate need of jobs and must be cleaned up,” he said, explaining the dual benefit to communities like Boyle Heights and Vernon.

The idea to include a clause promoting the use of local businesses and to give local residents the skills needed to be part of the decontamination effort is the results of hours spent listening to constituents testify at Exide-related public hearings, explained Santiago.

“When money is expended, I want to make sure it is expended in the impacted district and used to provide local jobs,” he told EGP.

While details for the training program are still in the works, it’s likely those who sign up will have to commit 12 to 16 weeks to the program, which will include lead awareness classes, certifications and exposure to tools used for remediation.

“These certificates will not be exclusive to just Exide,” said Mascarenas, “they can apply these skills to DTSC cleanup sites across the state.”

Steven Gendel of ThermoFisher Scientific shows eastside residents how to use a portable analyzer to test soil samples.  (Department of Toxic Substances Control)

Steven Gendel of ThermoFisher Scientific shows eastside residents how to use a portable analyzer to test soil samples. (Department of Toxic Substances Control)

Completing the training, however, is not a guarantee for employment, emphasized DTSC, although DTSC and state legislators will stress the importance of hiring those trained through the program to the contractors hired to cleanup residential properties, clarified Mascarenas.

Mark Lopez, executive director for East Yards for Environmental Justice, told EGP the community wants reassurance local hiring is not just promoted but required.

East Yards, together with other community activists, have drafted language detailing their ideal local hire and workforce development program, including a demand that at least 50 percent of all jobs created directly or indirectly by the cleanup effort be performed by local hires, with 20 percent specifically set aside for low-income residents.

Training will vary by position. Some groups will simply be trained to do outreach, something DTSC has been doing for months.

Members of East Yards, for example, have already been going door to door in the communities surrounding the Exide plant to get the access agreements needed to test for lead.

“We want to understand the intimate details involved with the clean up so that we can communicate that to the community,” explained Lopez explained.

Lopez told EGP he would like to see students from the YouthBuild Charter Schools in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles benefit from the program. As a dropout recovery school, students at YouthBuild often suffer from learning disabilities, circumstances surrounding violence and issues that can be correlated to exposure to lead, he pointed out DTSC expects to have cleaned up 250 homes by June, using funds previously obtained from Exide and the state. The agency is waiting on the results of a still to be conducted environmental impact report before it continues with the cleanup of 2,500 additional homes, hopefully beginning sometime next spring.

Over 40 eastside residents have already been trained and certified to operate the XRF devices being used to sample soil on properties near Exide.

DTSC says it wants to have hundreds of local residents trained and ready to start when remediation, which could take at last two years, gets underway. Soil testing will continue in the meantime, Mascarenas said.

The Exide plant was permanently closed March 2015 after operating for decades on a temporary permit, even after repeatedly being found to have exposed more than 100,000 people to dangerous levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals and collecting dozens of hazardous waste violations.

“In many ways, this will help to remediate the damage done to the community,” acknowledges Lopez.

Railway Offering $5,000 Reward in Commerce Vandalism Case

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

BNSF Railway is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for vandalism on BNSF property.

At approximately 7:15 p.m. on April 12, a suspect was seen vandalizing BNSF property, in the 2500 block of S. Atlantic Blvd. in Commerce, according the company’s reward announcement.

The suspect was caught on videotape, and is described as white female between 23-25 years old, 5’, 3” with brown hair and hazel eyes. She was wearing a black tank top and green paints, and had tattoo writing on her right shoulder.

Trespassing on railroad property is against federal and state law, BNSF said in written statement.  Tampering with or destroying railroad property is not only illegal, but dangerous, the company added.

Persons with information should contact the BNSF Crime Tip Hotline at 800-832-5452.

Huntington Park Police Shoot, Wound Man In Commerce

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Huntington Park police officers on surveillance shot and wounded a man in Commerce when he approached their unmarked car, pulled a handgun from his waistband and pointed it at an officer, authorities said April 15.

The officer involved shooting took place at 9:45 p.m. Friday, in the 2500 block of Leo Avenue, according to Deputy Lisa Jansen.

“Two Huntington Park police officers were conducting a surveillance at the location regarding a past murder that occurred in the city of Huntington Park,” Jansen said.

Both officers were sitting in an unmarked car when a suspect not related to the surveillance “approached the vehicle on the driver’s door and retrieved a handgun from his waistband. The officer on the driver’s side lowered the window as both officers identified themselves as police officers,” she said.

“Both officers fired their weapons at the suspect striking him multiple times in the upper torso,” Jansen said. His handgun was retrieved at the scene.

The suspect was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition, Jansen said.

Sheriff’s homicide detectives were assisting Huntington Park police with the investigation, she added.

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