Veteran Monument Tagging: Ultimate Disrespect

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s a sad sign of the times, the careless damage caused by graffiti vandals who care more about the thrill of tagging highly visible places than the damage they cause to respected landmarks and symbols of culture and community pride.

Last Friday, the Facebook page “You Know You Are From East LA if:” posted a photo of the heavily graffiti-tagged Mexican-American All Wars Memorial, a highly respected monument in Boyle Heights.

Read this article in Spanish: Voluntarios Limpian Monumento en Cinco Puntos Después de Ser Vandalizado

Comments to the post inspired a group of outraged East Los Angeles residents and veteran supporters to take action into their own hands. They feared the city would take too long to clean the monument located at Cinco Puntos, the place where East Cesar Chavez Avenue, Lorena Street and three other streets intersect.

(Courtesy of Rocio Molina)

East L.A. residents gathered Saturday and Sunday to clean up the Mexican-Åmerican All Wars Memorial in Boyle Heights that had been heavily tagged. (Courtesy of Rocio Molina)

The memorial is dedicated to Mexican American veterans – dead and alive – who have served in any branch of the Armed Services. It’s the site of an annual 24-hour Memorial Day vigil where veterans and others stand watch in respect for the country’s fallen heroes.

“It’s very upsetting and disrespectful that people do this! Everything has a limit,” volunteer Rocio Molina told EGP.

About a dozen people spent Saturday and Sunday cleaning the monument: They brought their own cleaning and paint supplies to remove the “atrocity” caused by one of the area’s many tagging crews, sometime around Aug. 20.

“Veterans have done so much for the country and to see something like this, it hits your pride,” said Molina.

Tony Zapata, commander of the Veterans for Foreign War Post 4696, told EGP they offered to reimburse the volunteers for the cost of material but they didn’t accept it. “They just organized and cleaned it up,” he said proudly. “It is great to see the community getting together for a good cause,” added the Navy veteran.

Courtesy of Rocio Molina)

(Courtesy of Rocio Molina)

 

East L.A. Barricade Ends in Arrest

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A sheriff’s SWAT team fired tear gas into an East L.A. residence Tuesday and flushed out an armed suspected gang member who had been barricaded inside for some six hours, authorities said.

The suspect was forced out of the residence around 12:25 a.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Kelvin Moody said. No injuries were reported, he said.

The suspect and another male were spotted by patrolling members of an anti-gang unit Monday, but both fled before detectives could speak to them, said Deputy Mike Barraza.

The suspect ran into a residence in the 4300 block of Folsom Street around 6 p.m., Barraza said. The other male who fled was detained, he said.

The sheriff’s special weapons unit was sent to the scene around 9:45 p.m. Monday, Barraza said, adding that occupants of the targeted residence were safely evacuated. Surrounding residences were evacuated as well, according to reports from the scene.

710 DEIR Flawed, Says County Health Official

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

East Los Angeles resident and business owner Amaury Reducindo has attended his fair share of meetings about the State Route 710 North project. It’s a project he says always leads to his neighbors fighting over the freeway tunnel and light rail train alternatives proposed to improve traffic in the region.

“It seems we are being herded to pick the better choice when we should be asking for the best choice,” he said Monday during a meeting at the East Los Angeles Library.

“Lets return to the drawing board and look for something that is really going to benefit us,” Reducindo said.

He was not alone, a dozen speakers expressed frustration over proposals they claim will displace more homes and businesses in a community already divided by more than its share of freeways and the Metro Gold Line.

A map depicts the path of the proposed Light Rail Train alternative for the SR710 North Project, which travels  7.5 miles from Pasadena to East Los Angeles. (Metro)

A map depicts the path of the proposed Light Rail Train alternative for the SR710 North Project, which travels 7.5 miles from Pasadena to East Los Angeles. (Metro)

Sup. Hilda Solis hosted the meeting, which included health experts advising the 60 or so attendees they should also be worried about issues that could harm their health.

Dr. Cyrus Rangan, director of the Toxicology and Environmental Assessment Bureau for the County Public Health Department, said Metro’s Draft Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (DIR/EIS) does not adequately address the transportation project’s impact on public health. His unexpected assessment came just two days before the end of the public comment period for the environmental document.

It was the first time a county official had made such a declarative statement criticizing the report since its release in March.

From particle pollution and radioactive substances to noise and ground vibrations, the DEIR “does not address these exposures adequately to our satisfaction,” he said frankly.

Rangan and Andrea Hricko, a professor of clinical preventive medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine, detailed their concerns with the state mandated document that is supposed to describe the impact each alternative will have on the environment.

“Due to the complexity of this extremely technical EIR document, I instructed both the Department of Public Works and Department of Public Health to review the document and submit letters specific to their respective areas of expertise,” Solis told EGP in a statement.

The supervisor, however, did not say whether she agrees with the health experts’ concerns or if she too would like to see the EIR redone.

Hricko said a major flaw of the DEIR is that it failed to include information about the project’s role in completing the plan for “goods movement” started decades ago when the freeway was first built.

“By ignoring this, they [Metro] are actually being very deceptive,” she said.

For years, critics of the freeway expansion, first as a surface freeway and now possibly a tunnel, have argued that financial interests tied to the movement of goods from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are at the center of efforts to extend the freeway, thereby closing the transportation gap for trucks headed north.

That goal would be met at the expense of the environment and public health, they claim.

Health experts have long said that large numbers of trucks moving goods come with their own set of potential health risks.

Rangan and Hricko agree.

Rangan said county health officials would be submitting a document outlining the department’s many health concerns. Hricko said she and other USC professors would be doing the same.

“Metro must redo the study,” Hricko said emphatically. At the very least, “if the light rail were chosen, then Metro and Caltrans must do an EIR just for that alternative,” she emphasized.

Eastside resident takes notes during a discussion with health experts Monday on the SR710 North project’s draft environmental impact report at the East Los Angeles Library. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Eastside resident takes notes during a discussion with health experts Monday on the SR710 North project’s draft environmental impact report at the East Los Angeles Library. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Metro looks forward to reading the comments formally submitted before the comment period closed, agency spokesman Paul Gonzales told EGP in a statement.

“After that, Caltrans will review the comments and questions and respond as warranted,” he said.

The long battle did not originally include East L.A. An alternative for a light rail traveling on an elevated track through East L.A. was added in 2012, bringing eastside residents into the conversation that until then had for the most part been taking place in more affluent communities. As proposed, the light rail would go underground in those cities: South Pasadena, San Marino and La Cañada, leaving eastside residents to feel they will again be forced to bare the brunt of the region’s transportations needs.

In desperation, many people have decided to support the tunnel option because they want to keep the light rail out of their backyards, some speakers said.

“We have been taken by surprise,” said Reducindo. “The fact is that we are not well informed and [are just now] learning more and more about the real impact this project will have on our residents and community.”

If she had to choose just one option, Sonia Fernandez said it would be the tunnel because it’s “the one with the lowest impact to our community.” She accused Metro of not consulting with the East L.A. community before proposing alternatives that will greatly affect the area.

At previous meetings conducted by Metro, eastside residents said they are fed up with the “plague” of pollution and health issues their predominately Latino neighborhood has been forced to endure for the benefit of the region. They said they are tired of the dangerous toxic emissions from heavily traveled freeways in their area.

“I don’t think they take into account the health issues in the area,” said Rachel Vermillion, who lives a stone’s throw from the 710 freeway. “We have cases of asthma, autism and diabetes in the area.”

Residents have even gone as far as accusing Metro and Caltrans of environmental racism.

“For many years our community has been ignored, not just over health but cultural and environmental injustices,” Fernandez said.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who represents the unincorporated areas of East L.A. and surrounding communities in the 40th district, previously told EGP the light rail alternative is one more example of a minority community being sacrificed to appease neighborhoods that are more affluent.

“While the light rail is being proposed under the guise of a regional solution, the fact is it is nothing more than an irresponsible and unconscionable response to the more influential areas opposing the logical completion of the 710 Freeway,” she told EGP in a statement.

Doelorez Huerta, an environmental activist in the area, gave Solis’ staff a stack of petitions Monday she said were signed by hundreds of residents. The petitions ask for Metro and Caltrans to hold more public meetings in East Los Angeles in hope that the process will be reset to the scoping phase.

“No tunnel, no train, no way,” she said. “Lets start this over and include East L.A. from the start.”

CHP Investigates East L.A. Hit-and-Run

July 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

California Highway Patrol officers were searching Thursday for a hit-and-run driver who seriously injured a pedestrian in East Los Angeles.

The pedestrian, whose name was not released, was struck by a vehicle shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday, on Herbert Avenue in East Los Angeles, according to CHP Officer Patrick Kimball. The driver then fled the scene.

The pedestrian suffered broken bones, including broken legs, and was taken to County-USC Medical Center for treatment by paramedics, according to CHP Officer Tony Polizzi.

The pedestrian’s gender, age and condition were not immediately available, Polizzi said.

‘East LA Interchange’ Film Documents Boyle Heights’ Evolution

July 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “All roads lead to Rome.”

In Los Angeles, “All freeways lead to East Los Angeles.”

That’s the foundation behind a full-length documentary making its world preview Sunday at the Downtown Film Festival L.A.

Located at the intersection of the 101 Hollywood, 5 Santa Ana, 5 Golden State, 10 San Bernardino and 60 Pomona freeways, Boyle Heights is just east of Downtown Los Angeles.

Eight years in the making, “East LA Interchange” a new documentary from Bluewater Media, chronicles the working-class area’s change from a multiethnic Los Angeles neighborhood to one that is predominately Latino and its thrust into becoming the center of Mexican-American culture and political activism in the United States in order to survive.

Boyle Heights was once home to Japanese, Russians, Jews, Italians and other ethnic groups, many of them immigrants, as well as long-established Mexican American families. There was a harmony to their co-existence; remnants of which can still be found in the buildings, landmarks and the people who left, but continue to return to this day.

People like will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas.

“I came back because I am who I am because of the community I grew up in,” says the musical performer whose nonprofit foundation supports a variety of programs in Boyle Height.

Xavi Moreno is featured in East LA Interchange, a new documentary directed by Betsy Kahlin, making its world premier July 26 at the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles.  (© 2015 Chris Chew/Bluewater Media)

Xavi Moreno is featured in East LA Interchange, a new documentary directed by Betsy Kahlin, making its world premier July 26 at the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles. (© 2015 Chris Chew/Bluewater Media)

But few things can escape the ravages of time unscathed. Survival takes dedication and action.

That’s been the history of Boyle Heights and the story documented in East LA Interchange.

Using old video footage, photographs, headlines from newspapers like the Eastside Sun and on-screen interviews, the film examines how the Boyle Heights neighborhood found its political voice in its fight against the building of the largest freeway interchange system in the nation: A system that bisected the neighborhood’s physical landscape but not its sense of community.

The documentary also examines how residents are continuing their political struggle today, organizing against a new era of issues, speaking out for their rights as a predominately Latino, working-class, immigrant, community.

But with the higher cost of living and pressure on land values, the question remains: Can Boyle Heights survive the next round of challenges from environmental pollution, industrialization, development and gentrification?

It’s a scenario being played out in urban areas all across the country.

“East LA Interchange provides a compelling look at what the future of what America can be if communities like Boyle Heights work together to secure our nation’s pledge of providing justice for all,” say the film’s producers.

The film, executive produced and directed by Betsy Kahlin, features narration by actor Danny Trejo (Machete) and interviews with will.i.am (The Black Eyed Peas), Father Greg Boyle (Homeboy Industries), and actress and author Josefina López (Real Women Have Curves), as well as an original song by Raul Pacheco (Ozomatli).

“Boyle Heights stands for what we could become if we stood against forgetting that we belong to each other,” says Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries

East LA Interchange premiers this Sunday, July 26 during the Downtown Film Festival L.A. www.dffla.org/. It will screen at 3 p.m. at the Regent Theater: 448 S. Main Street, Los Angeles 90013.

Watch the Trailer featuring will.i.am: https://youtu.be/9Z2FYuL0Zgg

 

 

Fire Damages East L.A. Business

July 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

 A fire damaged a commercial building in East Los Angeles Wednesday, authorities said.

Firefighters sent to the 3900 block of Cesar Chavez Avenue at 5:56 a.m. extinguished the flames in 19 minutes, the Los Angeles County Fire Department reported. No injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Chicana Service Action Center: So Disappointing If It’s All True

July 9, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

Reports Wednesday that administrators at a venerable charitable organization have strayed far from the organization’s mission to help the disenfranchised in Latino neighborhoods are hard to take.

Top executives of the Chicana Service Action Center are being accused by Los Angeles County prosecutors of embezzling taxpayer funds through a billing scam that allegedly allowed them to skim off more than $8.5 million to enrich themselves with fancy homes, cars, expensive trips, and other luxuries.

This is particularly devastating news to the women still alive who decades ago struggled mightily to get the organization off the ground so it could help empower Latinas by giving them job training and other resources as a way out of poverty and sometimes an escape from domestic abuse.

Francisca Flores, Chicana Action Service Action Center’s first Executive Director (not the president or CEO), was a dedicated leader who did without and lived in a small apartment on Mott Street in East Los Angeles so that other women would have a chance at a better life. The same can be said for the assistant director, who lived in an apartment in the San Fernando Valley, as well as  and many of the organization’s Latina board of directors who were deeply dedicated to the mission of helping women to help themselves and heir families.

Over the years, some of our nonprofit community based organizations have expanded and gained greater expertise, becoming large organizations with multi-million dollar budgets. Many of them are doing important and good work, helping people who have few resources to help themselves.

Sadly, however, today we see a growing trend in nonprofit community groups of blurring the lines between the needs of the community and the personal needs and egos of the organization’s staff and high powered boards of directors. The lines between investor owned corporations and public benefit community-based corporations and organizations have been clouded by the quest for personal power and financial gain and public image.

We’ve observed too many of our new generation of community leaders turn from being selfless to being selfish, which may be the case at the Chicana Service Action Center.

We have all heard of nonprofit executives and others who serve the public say they are entitled to big salaries and perks comparable to those in the private sector: We say, then go work in private industry.

We deeply hope, whether the allegations are proved true or not, that other charitable organizations and community groups will see this as a warning not to lose their sense of mission and dedication to community, or to become blinded by the profligate ways that access to large amounts of money can inspire.

Don’t get us wrong, we fully understand that this is not a phenomena unique to Latinos, but at this Hispanic, family-owned publication, it just hurts more.

 

Update: Corrected Francisco Flores to Francisca Flores.

Sheriffs’ Seize Over 1,000 Lbs. of Illegal Fireworks Near East L.A. Homes

July 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Deputies with the East Los Angeles Station seized between 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of illegal fireworks and 49 explosive-type fireworks, also described as “M-80’s” late Thursday night, the Sheriff’s Dept. Reported today.

Joseph Valencia, 46, and Daniel Guerrero, 44, were arrested for illegal possession of explosives and being in possession of dangerous fireworks without a permit, authorities said.

Deputies said they were patrolling the area of the 5200 block of Repetto Street when they observed Valencia selling illegal fireworks to another male Hispanic from a parked vehicle. Upon closer investigation, they found that Valencia only lived a few properties away, and when they searched the residence they discovered between 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of illegal fireworks and 49 explosive-type fireworks (M-80’s).

The illegal fireworks were taken to a local fire house and the explosive-type fireworks were turned over to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Arson and Explosives Detail personnel for proper disposal.

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s East Los Angeles Station at (323) 264-4151. If you prefer to provide information anonymously, you may call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing (800) 222-TIPS (8477), or texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.

East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station polices the Cities of Commerce, Cudahy, and Maywood, and the unincorporated communities of Belvedere Gardens, City Terrace, Eastmont, East Los Angeles, Saybrook Park, and Union Pacific.

 

 

Why Always Us? Ask East L.A. Residents

June 25, 2015 by · 4 Comments 

Angered by the possibility of another transportation project devastating their community, dozens of eastside residents expressed their opposition to a SR-710 North alternative they believe would once again require East Los Angeles to pay a high price for what is a regional problem.

“For decades, we have been the dumping grounds for the problems of other communities,” said Clara Solis Saturday during a Metro meeting in East L.A.

“Now we’re being asked once again to sacrifice for the greater good,” she said in disbelief.

[Read an introduction to the SR-710 North project here]
[Read about health concerns  http://egpnews.com/2015/06/health-concerns-weigh-heavy-on-east-l-a-residents/

It soon became clear that the majority of East L.A. residents at the meeting at Griffith Middle School believe the light rail train (LRT) alternative will disrupt a community already divide and surrounded by transportation projects.

Longtime East Los Angeles resident Margarita Sanchez, pictured left, scolds Metro officials for a SR-710 alternative she belives will devastate her community during a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Longtime East Los Angeles resident Margarita Sanchez, pictured left, scolds Metro officials for a SR-710 alternative she belives will devastate her community during a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“East L.A. has taken their burden, they have taken a fair share of projects,” said Jeffrey Hernandez, referring to the 60 (Pomona) 5 (Santa Ana/Golden State) and 710 (Long Beach) freeways and Metro Gold Line that were built to benefit traffic in the region but have splintered the eastside community.

Many said they prefer a tunnel over an elevated light rail train that would stay above ground through East L.A., but go underground in more affluent communities, such as South Pasadena, San Marino and La Canada.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard calls the light rail alternative an example of “environmental racism.”

“While the light rail is being proposed under the guise of a regional solution, the fact is it is nothing more than an irresponsible and unconscionable response to the more influential areas opposing the logical completion of the 710 Freeway,” she told EGP in a statement.

“Unfortunately, this light rail alternative is one more example of a minority community being sacrificed to appease more affluent neighborhoods.”

A similar statement from Roybal-Allard was read during Saturday’s meeting, drawing loud cheers from residents, heartened to hear an elected official speak so strongly in support of their community. Roybal-Allard represents East Los Angeles and Commerce, also located adjacent to the 710 freeway.

[Read her Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard’s full statement here]

The meeting was at times rowdy, as residents and business owners, often speaking loudly and passionately, demanded Metro officials give them a chance to be heard: something they said the agency failed to do during earlier scoping process.

When Metro officials refused to allow speakers who had gone over their allotted two minutes to keep speaking, the crowd at times responded angrily.

“Why not? Of course you can extend the amount of time,” one woman yelled out from the audience. Two minutes, “is not enough [time] for what we have to say.”

According to the Draft Environmental report, building the light rail would force the removal of 15 businesses.

“We in East L.A. have made a sacrifice to relieve traffic, we don’t need another Gold Line,” said Lily Hernandez. “What we need is jobs, we need progress and this alternative is going to hinder that,” Hernandez said.

Business owner Tony DeMarco, representing the Whittier Boulevard Merchants Association, said he believed the EIR/EIS process has been flawed since before it was expanded into East L.A.

“They should have allowed East L.A. to be in the discussion when there was 100 alternatives, not just when there’s 5 left.”

“The rich communities have had years to study this,” echoed Margarita Sanchez, a longtime East L.A resident. “You have the nerve to bring this to our community at the last minute.”

“It’s kind of like a take it or leave it attitude,” DeMarco said.

Many of those who oppose the light rail favor another controversial alternative.

“If you’re to give us what we need, give us a tunnel,” David Ibarra said defiantly.

However, Mark Lopez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice warned attendees not to be so quick to support the tunnel.

“East L.A. was so late in the process, [it’s] a tactic used to instigate more support for the tunnel project,” he told EGP.

A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)

A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)

“We need to get back to the scoping, not picking an alternative,” he said.

Dr. Tom Williams, a Sierra Club member and El Sereno resident, said he opposes all current alternatives. He said a community group is getting ready to submit yet another community alternative. In May, the cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena gave their support to the Beyond the 710 coalition’s “6th alternative,” not in the Draft EIR.

The plan calls for expanding public transportation, building a four-lane boulevard, and more pedestrian- and bike-friendly paths to reduce traffic congestion in the western San Gabriel Valley. Construction ends south of those cities. The 710 Coalition — which includes several cities and communities along the 710 freeway that favor the tunnel alternative — criticized the new initiative as too late in the game and just a guise for tunnel opponents to “undermine Metro’s ongoing DEIR/EIS process, which took four years to be reviewed, processed and released.”

On Saturday, County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the community must continue to make sure their voices are heard during the review process. She agreed that more information about the impact to the region is warranted.

“As I have stated in more than one occasion, I do not believe that the East LA community has enough information about the health impacts of the different options for the 710 N. extension,” she told EGP in an email; stopping short of answering if she agrees with Roybal-Allard that the light rail train is another example of environmental racism.

“I do not see any of the alternatives as a natural choice, especially when considering the health, development, and economic impacts to those in my district,” Solis said. “I will continue to push Metro and Caltrans to be inclusive, transparent and responsive, until we have all the information we need to make a choice that helps … all residents of Los Angeles County.”

For East L.A. Chamber of Commerce Executive Board Member Eddie Torres, the choice is clear. He says his Chamber, the Whittier Merchants, Maravilla Business Improvement Assoc. and new East Los Angeles Advisory Board all support the tunnel alternative.

“We surveyed people leaving the meeting and about 80% said they want the tunnel, not a light rail, he told EGP. “ We’re hearing that Solis says we don’t want either, but that’s not true,” he said.

“Congresswoman Roybal-Allard has it right, she knows the community, she knows what we need and supports us.”

Health Concerns Weigh Heavy on East L.A. Residents

June 25, 2015 by · 5 Comments 

At a meeting in East Los Angeles Saturday, resident after resident voiced concern that a “plague” of pollution and health issues could rain down on their predominately Latino neighborhoods if they are forced to endure more light rail construction.

Their comments came during a public hearing at Griffith Middle School on Metro’s draft environmental report and study on alternatives for closing the gap between the Long Beach (710) and Pasadena (210) freeways.

[Read an introduction to the SR-710 project here]

Earlier that week, Martha Hernandez attended a meeting at Centro Maravilla in East L.A. with USC-Medical Center doctors who explained the substantial health risks tied to pollution.

“We were told air pollution causes asthma, diabetes, autism, and other illnesses,” she told EGP in Spanish.

A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)

A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)

Like Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, many people at the meeting believe they are the victims of environmental racism and injustice, and were given little say on a project that could tear up their community.

[Read her full statement here]

“I’ve had enough of those who want to continue taking advantage of East L.A. because we are Latinos,” said Carmen Gonzalez, who lives near Mednik and Third Street, where a light rail station would be built if this option is selected.

Speakers said past transportation projects have already left them exposed to high levels of toxic pollution.

“I have asthma and it’s harder for me to play football,” said Garfield High School student Timothy Williams.

“Think about the health of our children, emissions affect our community,” another speaker said.

“Air quality hasn’t been studied yet” but should be before anything is decided, said eastside resident Lili Hernandez.

Lea este artículo en Español: SR-710: Residentes del Este de Los Ángeles Preocupados por Su Salud

Living in an area with high levels of traffic pollution can lead to serious illnesses, according to a recent infographic, Living Near Busy Roads or Traffic Pollution, shared by the USC Environmental Health Center.

The infographic shows that women who are pregnant are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, giving birth to low-weight and/or premature babies, who in turn have higher levels of behavior or learning problems and autism; smaller lungs, asthma, ear, nose, throat infections and obesity. In adults, long-term exposure to pollution can lead to higher levels of heart disease, stroke, lung problems, memory loss and a shorter life span, the report found.

“We have schools, parks, the senior apartments and businesses” close to where they want to build the light rail, and there’s no doubt that’s harmful, Gonzalez told EGP in Spanish.

Before the meeting started, stakeholders were able to review maps and other documents pertaining to the five alternatives under consideration in the Draft EIR. They also had the chance to grill Metro staff about the plans.

One group of women directed their frustration at a Metro representative, questioning him about a now retired Metro employee’s assertion that metal scrapings from the elevated train – two stories high in some sections – would be released into the air and breathed in by unsuspecting residents.

Rudy Torres owns a business in East Los Angeles and says he supports the building of a 710 tunnel. He says, “It is the only [option] that doesn’t put a burden on East L.A. and cost life.”

The East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce is actively fighting the light rail option, which they say will do nothing to relieve traffic on the 710 Freeway but will disrupt life on the eastside. The business group says a tunnel connecting the 710 to the 210 Freeway is a better solution for traffic reduction that will not be as harmful to the East L.A. community. “It will improve the flow of traffic and decrease traffic on surface streets north of Valley Boulevard, therefore reducing pollution in our local communities,” the Chamber states.

A little further south on the 710 corridor is the City of Commerce. The city’s residents on a daily basis experience the impact of diesel exhaust from the nearly 47,000 trucks that travel the 710 freeway everyday, and as many as 1,000 trucks an hour on the city’s main streets.

The daily exposure to high levels of exhaust causing pollution has raised Commerce residents’ risk for cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Last October, Commerce approved a resolution strongly supporting the effort to close the 4.5-mile gap “as soon as possible.” City officials believe completion of the freeway will alleviate traffic in local neighborhoods, generate economic development and create jobs in the region.

On Tuesday, Commerce unveiled one of the 20 the new “No Idling” signs that will be placed throughout the city targeting truck drivers who leave their engines running while stopped in the city.

Mayor Lilia Leon calls closing the 710 a much-needed regional effort to improve transportation. “Because there is not a connector, everybody ends up in Commerce,” Leon said. “If there was one, probably they would keep going on the 710,” she told EGP. “I’m sure it will alleviate the traffic flow,” she said.

Councilman Jose Huizar (CD14), who represents El Sereno, an L.A. neighborhood that has for decades been at the forefront of efforts to block the 710 expansions, disagrees.

On his website he states that he strongly opposes the 710 freeway expansion and believes a “multi-modal approach” — which could includes things like street light synchronization and dedicated bus lanes — is the better alternative to alleviate traffic.

“I oppose any option that disrupts the community of El Sereno or brings additional traffic to the area. The five alternatives in the Draft 710 EIR fall woefully short in my opinion,” Huizar told EGP via email.

“Working with local stakeholders and community groups, my office has begun the process of asking El Sereno and the surrounding communities a question that no one has asked them up until now: What do they want? What traffic improvements can we make locally that help, serve and advance the community of El Sereno?” Huizar said.

The councilman hosted a meeting on the SR-710 alternatives in El Sereno last week, which according to his spokesperson Rick Coca was “well-attended.” The “focus was entirely on truly listening to local residents to get their feedback – something that has been lacking in this process,” said Coca.

Metro held a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles to allow eastside residents a chance to provide testimony on the SR-710 North project.(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Metro held a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles to allow eastside residents a chance to provide testimony on the SR-710 North project.(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

If the light rail train is constructed, 15 businesses will have to be moved and the new East LA Civic Center Plaza would be replaced with a train station. About 155 employees would lose their jobs according to the website East LA Against Injustice and Racism. Nueva Maravilla Public Housing and Kipp Raices Charter School—which will open in the fall—could also be taken.

Several residents told Metro that more studies and health assessments must be made before they reach a decision.

In the past “People proposed a lot of ideas that were ignored said East L.A. resident Luis Garcia.

The deadline to submit comments has been extended until August 5th.

 

Comments will be accepted by mail addressed to Garret Damrath, Caltrans Division 7, Division of Environmental Planning, 100 South Main Street MS-16, Los Angeles CA 90012

The full study is available at 

http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis

The document can be viewed at the Caltrans District Office, 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

To read more about the SR-710, go to www.EGPNews.com.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

 

 

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