Homeless Shelters Open During Stormy Weather

March 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a reminder to the homeless Monday that winter shelters offer expanded hours during stormy weather.

Shelters typically open at 5 p.m. and close in the mornings, but during heavy rains, cold temperatures or high winds, the shelters generally stay open around the clock.

To find the nearest winter shelter and instructions about when and how to gain admittance, call 211. The operator can also provide information about additional overflow shelters opened due to the inclement weather, but are not listed on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority website.

A list of the regular winter shelters, as well as information about pick- up locations, can be found at http://www.lahsa.org/ces/winter-shelter/home.

City officials “are doing everything possible to keep residents safe during the El Nino winter weather,” according to Garcetti.

The Los Angeles fire and police departments have also been working to evacuate known flood areas in advance of storms, he said.

L.A. 311 El Niño Service Goes 24-Hour

January 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Angelenos needing El Niño related service can now call the city’s 311 information line 24 hours a day for assistance, announced Councilman Jose Huizar who introduced the motion authorizing the service expansion during heavy storms.

Residents are encouraged to call 311 if they see or experience any El Niño related issues, such as power outages, downed powerlines, blocked storm drains, flooding or traffic lights going out.

The city offers an emergency alert notifications via text message, voice message, or email by registering with Notify LA.

Heavy Rains Pound Southland

January 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The second significant Pacific storm of the season barreled into Southern California Wednesday, bringing with it strong winds that felled trees, heavy rains that inundated roads and freeways and downpours that prompted mud to flow into homes in Pasadena.

The storm system, which was actually the third to hit the region in three days, is part of what forecasters call a “conveyor belt” of storms typical of an El Nino pattern of repeated rain events over a series of days — saturating hillsides and slowly elevating the risk of flooding and mudslides.

Lea este artículo en Español: Fuertes Lluvias Golpean al Sur de California

While rain fell sporadically much of the morning, major downpours were reported around midday, particularly soaking the Sun Valley area, where the northbound Golden State (5) Freeway flooded, forcing the closure of all but one lane as crews worked to clear drains. Traffic backed up for miles as motorists crawled through the flooded area.

Street flooding has been a nightmare for motorists during both storm systems, hitting several local areas particularly hard Tuesday.

North Broadway in Lincoln Heights was just one of many streets in the region overwhelmed by intense rainfall from the second of four El Nino storms this week.

Two men help push a stalled car out of the flooded intersection of North Broadway and Avenue 21.

Two men help push a stalled car out of the flooded intersection of North Broadway and Avenue 21.

Heavy rain rushing down Avenue 24 flooded the intersection at North Broadway, causing at least one driver to call for help when she was forced to exit the vehicle when it stalled in the deluge and water pushed against the car’s doors.

A group of good Samaritans pushed the car out of the roadway just minutes before police and fire units arrived on the scene.

Just a few blocks away, firefighters had to rescue motorists in a car caught in the flooding on Avenue 26 at the low point below the Gold Line Bridge next to the Cypress Park/Lincoln Heights Station.

It was a scene played out across the basin, with some areas even harder hit.

By mid-morning, the Sepulveda Basin area began flooding, and a series of streets were blocked as water levels rose. One motorist driving a Mini Cooper found himself trapped when water rose up to the car’s doors. The man crawled out of the car and waded to safety without assistance from rescue crews.

The flooding resulted in multiple street closures near the basin. Closures were still in place Wednesday.

In Vernon, severe weather struck late Tuesday afternoon, ripping material off the roof of one building and shattering windows in several others near Loma Vista Avenue and 49th Street.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Robbie Munroe said several reports were made about a weak tornado in the area. Vernon police said witnesses said a tornado caused the destruction. Meteorologists have since characterized the weather event as a “gustnado” or “downburst,” both of which can be the result of unusually strong wind.

An El Niño storm-driven funnel-shaped cloud caused extensive damage to a number of Vernon businesses and parked vehicles.

An El Niño storm-driven funnel-shaped cloud caused extensive damage to a number of Vernon businesses and parked vehicles.

The damage to family-owned furniture manufacturer Arely’s Furniture was so severe it was red-tagged.
“Rainfall rates between one-quarter and one-half of an inch per hour have been observed,” according to the

National Weather Service, which noted that “widespread roadway flooding” was to be expected across the county, along with minor flash flooding with mud and debris flows across the burn areas…”

“Rainfall rates this high have the potential to cause flash flooding and mud and debris flows,” forecasters said. “Showers are expected to continue Thursday and possibly into early Friday.”

Fuertes Lluvias Golpean al Sur de California

January 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

La segunda tormenta de la temporada en el sur de California ocurrió el miércoles, trayendo consigo fuertes vientos que derribaron árboles, fuertes lluvias que inundaron carreteras y autopistas y aguaceros que provocaron que el lodo invadiera hogares en Pasadena.

El sistema de tormentas, que en realidad fue el tercero en golpear la región en tres días, es parte de lo que los analistas llaman una “cinta transportadora” de tormentas típicas de un patrón de El Niño con eventos de lluvia repetidas durante una serie de días.

Read this article in English: Heavy Rains Pound Southland

Mientras la lluvia caía esporádicamente gran parte de la mañana del miércoles, se registraron importantes aguaceros alrededor del mediodía, sobre todo en el área de Sun Valley, donde la autopista 5 en dirección al norte se vio inundada por algunas horas, lo que obligó el cierre de todos menos un carril mientras los equipos trabajaron para limpiar los desagües.

La calle North Broadway en Lincoln Heights fue sólo una de las muchas calles de la región abrumada por intensas lluvias de la segunda de las cuatro tormentas de El Niño esta semana.

Las fuertes lluvias inundaron la intersección de la Avenida 24 y North Broadway el martes, causando al menos que una conductora pidiera ayuda cuando se vio obligada a salir de su vehículo cuando este quedo estancado en el diluvio.

Una porción del techo de El Pollo Loco en Lincoln Heights se desprendió por la lluvia. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

Una porción del techo de El Pollo Loco en Lincoln Heights se desprendió por la lluvia. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

El restaurante de comida rápida El Pollo Loco en la Avenida 22 y North Broadway se vio afectado cuando la lluvia causó que el techo goteara severamente hasta que una porción se desprendió y el restaurante tuvo que cancelar sus operaciones.

A pocas cuadras de distancia, los bomberos tuvieron que rescatar a personas en un coche atrapado en la inundación en la Avenida 26 en el punto más bajo del puente de la Línea Dorada junto a la estación Cypress Park/Lincoln Heights.

La inundación provocó múltiples cierres de calles.

El martes la lluvia comenzó a llenar el río de Los Ángeles. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

El martes la lluvia comenzó a llenar el río de Los Ángeles. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Grand Jury: Plans for Homeless ‘Grossly Inadequate’

January 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

City and county agencies need to do more to help the thousands of people in the Los Angeles area who lack shelter during this winter’s El Nino storms, the county’s civil grand jury concluded in a report released Wednesday.

The panel’s report says plans submitted last fall by the area’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, are “unconscionable and grossly inadequate” in sheltering those who are forced to live on the streets.
The grand jury is “very concerned that the 2,772 shelter and surge capacity beds planned by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is just a fraction of the number necessary to shelter homeless people in severe weather,” the report states.

The panel recommended that the county and its 88 cities relax building and health codes to make more facilities available to shelter people who are homeless. It also suggested that funds be made available for supplies and equipment that give “minimal sheltering for homeless people who cannot be accommodated in shelters so that they might survive the rainstorms to come.”

The grand jury sent out surveys asking cities to detail their El Nino preparation plans, with Los Angeles responding that the city has 25,686 people who are homeless, 17,687 of whom are without shelter. There were 2,239 beds available in the city at the time of the survey, which needed to be submitted in November, according to the report.

Other cities were also surveyed, including Lancaster, Long Beach, Burbank, West Covina and Pasadena.
The greater Los Angeles area has an estimated 44,000 homeless people.

Vicki Curry, spokeswoman for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, said the report “underscores” the mayor’s own concerns and he will “take its recommendations into consideration as the city continues to address the needs of our homeless residents during these harsh winter months.”

The city recently increased the number of shelter beds by 50 percent and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has create a map of homeless encampments that can be used during the storms, Curry said.

City and county officials said Wednesday they are focused on doing outreach to encourage people living on the streets — whether in cars, makeshift structures or tents — to use additional shelters that were made available in anticipation of the heavy rains.

County officials said there are 2,000 winter shelters, plus another 1,131 beds at seven additional shelters.

Despite the outreach efforts, the majority of the added beds are still available, according to county officials.

If there is a need to accommodate more people, more city and county buildings, such as recreation and parks facilities, can be converted into shelters, officials said.

Prepared for these Wet Winter Days?

January 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The City and County of Los Angeles are working diligently to inform the community about the preparations that can be taken during these stormy days.

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is informing the L.A.’s homeless population of the pending inclement weather, in an effort to keep them safe and dry.

Each geographical division of the LAPD has identified homeless encampments that are in areas subject to flooding, according to a press release sent to the media.

“Officers are out on foot, advising the homeless of the possible flood danger, as well as passing out flyers with locations of available shelters and property storage options,” stated LAPD.

 

Heavy rain flooded streets in Lincoln Heights Tuesday, causing some traffic incidents. (Photo by Nancy Martinez)

Heavy rain flooded streets in Lincoln Heights Tuesday, causing some traffic incidents. (Photo by Nancy Martinez)

 

Signs are posted, warning that heavy rain can cause floodwaters to rise, and public address systems are being utilized to ensure everyone hears the important information.

LAPD informed that if the Los Angeles Fire Department determines there is a predicted or anticipated rainfall within 24 hours, a Rain Notification Tracking Form must be completed, signed by a Watch Commander and forwarded to LAPD’s Real-Time Analysis & Critical Response Division. That form includes the date, time, location and method used for all notifications.

LAFD is Providing Sandbags

The Los Angeles area is periodically subject to floods that result in property damage. The potential for mudslides and debris flow is greatly increased near recent wildfires. Los Angeles residents—especially those in foothill and low-lying communities, are encouraged to prepare their properties in advance of coming rainstorms.

In an effort to help, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) works closely with the Department of General Services and has ordered more than 200,000 ready-to-fill sandbags, made available at all Neighborhood Fire Stations (Please note that residents are welcomed to no more than 25 bags).

LAFD also works very closely with the Bureau of Street Services and has ordered more than 250 tons of sand made available at several fire stations and convenient community locations.

These are some of the locations where residents can pick up their sand bags:

  • Fire Station 44 (Cypress Park), 1410 Cypress Ave., (213) 485-6244
  • Fire Station 42 (Eagle Rock), 2035 Colorado Blvd., (323) 254-5195
  • Fire Station 2 (Boyle Heights), CD 14 Office, 2130 E. 1st St., (323) 526-9332 .
  • Fire Station 42 (Eagle Rock), CD 14 Office, 2035 Colorado Blvd., (323) 254-5195
  • Fire Station 44 (Cypress Park), 1410 Cypress Ave, (213) 485-6244
  • Fire Station 47 (El Sereno), 4575 Huntington Dr South, (213) 485-6247

It is quite normal for potholes to form during heavy rain seasons. To report any new or existing potholes call 3-1-1.

More El Niño preparedness and emergency information can be obtained at the following websites:

LAFD sand bags pick up: http://www.lafd.org/news/lafd-provides-sandbags-homeowners-1

The City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department

Breaking El Niño emergency information

El Niño preparedness information website: http://www.elninola.com

7 Temporary Shelters Opened in County-Owned Gyms

January 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

With a series of storms in the forecast this week, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority announced Monday the opening of seven temporary shelters to augment facilities it already operates.

Most of the authority’s winter shelters, which are located throughout the county, opened in November and December, and have beds for about 2,000 people. The additional seven locations will be able to temporarily house 1,131 people, according to the authority.

Four of the additional shelters will open tonight, while three more will open tomorrow night. Information on locations and transportation to reach them is available at www.lahsa.org or by calling 211.

The additional shelters are located in county-owned gymnasiums.

Sheriff’s and Housing Authority officials have been reaching out to homeless people living in riverbeds and flood-control channels to warn them about the impending rain and encouraging them to take advantage of the shelters, according to the authority.

Prompted by the storms, Los Angeles County’s health officer has declared a cold weather alert for mountain areas and the Antelope Valley, where the wind chill could drop below freezing.

The alert for county mountains will be in effect through Friday, while the alert will be in effect through Wednesday in the Antelope Valley.

“Children, the elderly and people with disabilities or special medical needs are especially vulnerable during such cold snaps,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer. “There are places where people can go to stay warn, such as shelters or other public facilities.”

Cold weather precautions include:
— dressing in layers of warm clothing;
— protecting extremities by wearing a hat, scarf and gloves;
— not leaving pets outdoors overnight;
— if outdoor generators are used, placing them at least 10 feet away from doors and windows to avoid exhaust gases entering the home; and
— installing carbon monoxide detectors.

 

Las Historias que Hicieron Titulares en 2015

December 31, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

La cuenta regresiva ha comenzado: Fuera lo viejo y que venga lo nuevo!

Bueno, no del todo.

2015 puede estar llegando a su fin, pero algunas de las historias que fueron nuestros titulares en repetidas ocasiones este año seguramente regresarán en el 2016; algunas de ellas con una venganza.

Desde el escándalo de la contaminación tóxica Exide a la amenaza de El Niño, al creciente número de indigentes, el aumento de los alquileres y los números elevados de la delincuencia, la batalla para cerrar la brecha de transporte de la autopista 710 a 210 y las demandas de salarios más altos, EGP predice que estos temas seguirán siendo titulares en 2016.

Read this article in English: The Stories that Made Headlines in 2015

Las historias no están en espera, siguen evolucionando.

Los economistas dicen que más personas están trabajando y la economía se ha recuperado, pero también hay una creciente cantidad de datos que muestran que muchas más personas están sin hogar en la actualidad y un menor número de personas pueden comprar una casa o pagar alquileres exorbitantes.

El Escándalo de Contaminación de Exide

Ninguna historia en nuestras páginas recibió más cobertura que la batalla por la justicia ambiental de parte de residentes locales y activistas para cerrar Exide Technologies en Vernon.

Después de años de violaciones de residuos peligrosos, los residentes de las comunidades del este y del sureste en marzo se alegraron con la noticia de que Exide—una compañía de reciclaje de baterías de plomo y ácido—finalmente se cerrará de forma permanente. Con el fin de evitar el enjuiciamiento penal federal, la empresa accedió a cerrar de manera permanente y pagar millones de dólares en multas y para la limpieza de instalaciones y propiedades en zonas contaminadas por las emisiones de los alrededores.

¿Qué sigue?: Los exámenes y limpieza de propiedades en las comunidades aledañas como Boyle Heights, Este de Los Ángeles, Bell, Huntington Park, Maywood y Commerce todavía está en marcha por el Departamento de Control de Sustancias Tóxicas. Hasta 10.000 hogares pueden requerir descontaminación. Un comité asesor de la comunidad está “supervisando” el proceso, incluyendo la extracción y el transporte del suelo contaminado a otro lugar.

 

Crimen en el Noreste de Los Ángeles

También haciendo varios titulares en el 2015 fue la guerra de pandillas en el noreste de Los Ángeles, que se tradujo en numerosos tiroteos, generando temor en la comunidad.

La policía de Los Ángeles de la División Noreste asistieron a una reunión de la comunidad a principios de año, donde le dijeron a los residentes que la policía de Los Ángeles ha aumentado las patrullas e intensificado la aplicación de los mandatos judiciales para obtener el control de la violencia en las calles.

La violencia de las pandillas se ha calmado, pero otros delitos violentos, entre ellos el asesinato de dos jóvenes cuyos cuerpos fueron encontrados en el Parque Debs, múltiples ataques de apuñalamientos y la gentrificación en la calle Figueroa tomó su lugar en los titulares. Las muertes de choque y huida también aumentaron, incrementando la guerra por la instalación de carriles de bicicletas, que según defensores son la mejor manera de reducir la velocidad del tráfico y aumentar la seguridad de los peatones. Los opositores cuestionan su afirmación, diciendo que los carriles de bicicleta no detendrán a alguien que conduce bajo la influencia o huye cuando golpea a alguien. También dicen que los carriles de bicicleta solo creará más tráfico y disminuirá el valioso estacionamiento en la calle.

¿Qué sigue?: Activistas de bicicletas dicen que continuarán presionando al concejal local Gil Cedillo, y a la ciudad de Los Ángeles para adoptar su plan de “ruta de [bicicletas]” en Highland Park. Cedillo ha propuesto otras estrategias, como la adición de más semáforos y señales en la zona. La batalla continuará.

Esperanza Lugo fue una de las tres víctimas que fue atropellada por un vehículo que se dio a la fuga. (EGP archivos)

Esperanza Lugo fue una de las tres víctimas que fue atropellada por un vehículo que se dio a la fuga. (EGP archivos)

 

La Crisis de la Falta de Vivienda

A lo largo de 2015, la ciudad y el condado de Los Ángeles han seguido informando acerca del número creciente de personas sin hogar y hablan de la necesidad de gastar millones de dólares para aumentar las viviendas transitorias y permanentes y los servicios de salud mental.

Los residentes en varias comunidades se han quejado de que la falta de vivienda es un problema y han pedido a las autoridades locales que muevan a los indigentes—por la fuerza si es necesario—fuera de sus vecindarios.

Aunque algunos apuntan a los indigentes como los culpables de un aumento del crimen, la salud y las condiciones de insalubridad, deterioro y una serie de otros problemas, los defensores de los indigentes luchan por más servicios para ayudarles.

Más de 25.000 personas están sin hogar en la ciudad de Los Ángeles, según el último recuento de 2015 por la Autoridad de Servicios para Desamparados de Los Ángeles (LAHSA). En el condado, la falta de vivienda ha aumentado 12%desde el conteo de 2013, de 39.461 a 44.359 personas sin hogar.

En septiembre, el alcalde Eric Garcetti y los miembros del consejo de la ciudad declararon “estado de emergencia en la falta de vivienda” y comprometieron $100 millones para proporcionar vivienda permanente y transitoria a los necesitados.

A principios de este mes, funcionarios de la ciudad apartaron $12,4 millones para ayudar a albergar a las personas sin hogar y proporcionar más refugio temporal durante las tormentas de El Niño que se esperan este invierno.

photo 2

Más de 25.000 personas están sin hogar en la ciudad de Los Ángeles, según el último recuento de 2015 por la Autoridad de Servicios para Desamparados de Los Ángeles. (EGP archivo)

La financiación, propuesta por Garcetti y aprobado por el Ayuntamiento, incluye $10 millones para subsidios de “Realojamiento Rápido” para casi 1.000 indigentes para ayudarles con los costos del alquiler o la mudanza.

Los fondos restantes incrementarán camas en albergues de este invierno en más de un 50 por ciento—un total de 1.300. Estas camas se destinarán a los que viven en el lecho del río de Los Ángeles en Tujunga y Arroyo Seco.

A nivel del Condado, los supervisores la semana pasada aprobaron $5 millones de fondos de la Iniciativa de Prevención de Desamparados que se destinará a la ampliación de los programas que ayudan a disminuir la falta de vivienda entre los jóvenes en el condado de Los Ángeles.

El Condado está elaborando un conjunto de estrategias para reducir la falta de vivienda por medio de un proceso de planificación intensiva, conocido como la Iniciativa de Indigentes, que incluirá recomendaciones para establecer un Centro de Recursos para Jóvenes en Edad de Transición.

Aproximadamente 1,7 millones de jóvenes que huyen de sus hogares menores de 18 años, viven en el condado de Los Ángeles, según la Alianza Nacional para Terminar la Indigencia. El 25% de los ex jóvenes huérfanos habían estado sin hogar al menos una noche dentro de 2,5 a 4 años después de dejar el sistema de cuidado de crianza.

¿Qué sigue?: Con la amenaza de El Niño que se avecina, los defensores de personas sin hogar se esfuerzan por aumentar el número de camas en albergues disponibles de este invierno. Un refugio temporal abierto en la iglesia All Saints Episcopal en Highland Park es una instalación de ese tipo que probablemente recibirán fondos de emergencia a pesar de no cumplir con los estándares normales de LAHSA. Algunas ciudades están considerando permitir a las personas que viven en sus autos estacionarse en las instalaciones de la ciudad durante la noche, y hacer otros cambios.

 

La Amenaza de El Niño

Los funcionarios federales, estatales y locales se han estado preparando agresivamente para las fuertes lluvias de El Niño que se esperan golpeen el Sur de California este invierno. En los últimos años, El Niño causó un embotellamiento de tráfico, barrios que se inundaron, derribó líneas eléctricas y dañó viviendas por la lluvia que golpeó durante días sin cesar. Ciudades en la cuenca han estado evaluando las necesidades de infraestructura y hacen reparaciones para evitar daños de la tormenta.

Encabezando la lista de los preparativos de la región ha sido la limpieza de cuencas de escombros y desagües pluviales para prevenir inundaciones.

A principios de este mes, la Agencia Federal de Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA) dio a conocer un plan de respuesta a desastres para la temporada de tormenta.

Commerce y otras ciudades han establecido estrategias para la comunicación con los residentes y negocios en el caso de una emergencia, y están animando a la gente a inscribirse para sus notificaciones del sistema de alerta.

Bell Gardens envío a los residentes “consejos” para la preparación de El Niño.

Montebello y Commerce han entregado un gran número de sacos de arena a los residentes locales.

¿Qué sigue?: Los municipios locales continuarán monitoreando las áreas propensas a las inundaciones, la limpieza de los desagües pluviales y la distribución de sacos de arena para los negocios y residentes. Se espera que la tormenta golpee a finales del invierno. El Condado de Los Ángeles ha establecido consejos de seguridad disponibles en www.lacounty.gov/elnino.

 

El Debate de la SR-710

Durante más de seis décadas, la batalla sobre cómo cerrar la brecha de 4,5 millas entre el terminal de la autopista SR-710 Long Beach en Alhambra y el norte de la autopista 210 Foothill en Pasadena ha dividido a las comunidades a lo largo de la ruta, de Commerce a La Cañada.

La transitada autopista 710 es una pesadilla de transporte para pasajeros y vehículos comerciales de la zona, y los residentes que viven en las comunidades adyacentes.

Personas protestan en contra de la extensión de la autopista 710. (EGP archivo)

Personas protestan en contra de la extensión de la autopista 710. (EGP archivo)

Caltrans y Metro dio a conocer un proyecto de Informe de Impacto Ambiental/Declaración de Impacto Ambiental (DEIR/EIS) en marzo sobre cinco posibles alternativas para cerrar la brecha, que incluyen: la opción de “no construir”; un sistema de gestión del tráfico; una línea de autobús rápido, un tren ligero y un túnel de autopista de 6 millas.

Varios grupos han pedido desechar el informe, después de meses de reuniones y comentarios del público, y empezar de nuevo. Otros han dicho que la larga demora es una racista injusticia ambiental, obligando a personas de bajos ingresos, en su mayoría latinos al descubierto la peor parte de los altos niveles de contaminación, mientras que las comunidades más ricas evitan llevar a su parte de la carga.

¿Qué sigue?: La información de comentarios recibidos durante las audiencias públicas en todo el año serán utilizadas para preparar el documento ambiental final junto con la alternativa preferida de las agencias. Podemos esperar que el debate continúe y las maniobras políticas aparezcan de todos los lados del problema.

The Stories That Made Headlines In 2015

December 31, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The count down has started: Out with the old and in with the new!
Well, not quite.
2015 may be coming to a close but some of the stories that repeatedly made our headlines this year are sure to be back in 2016; some with a vengeance.
From the Exide toxic pollution scandal to the threat of El Nino, to the growing number of homeless, rising rents and crime numbers, the battle to close the 710 to 210 transportation gap and demands for higher wages, EGP predicts these issues will continue to grab headlines in 2016.
Not because movement on the stories are at a standstill, but because they continue to evolve.
Economists say more people are working and the economy has recovered, but there’s also an increasing amount of data showing many more people are now homeless and fewer people are able to buy a home or afford skyrocketing rents.

Exide Contamination Scandal
No story on our pages received more coverage than the battle by local residents and environmental justice activists to shut down Vernon-based Exide Technologies.
After years of hazardous waste violations, residents in East and Southeast communities in March rejoiced at the news that Exide – a lead-acid, battery recycler – would finally be closed permanently. In order to avoid federal criminal prosecution, the company agreed to close down permanently and pay millions of dollars in fines and for the cleanup of facility and any properties in surrounding areas contaminated by its emissions.
What’s Next: Testing and cleanup of properties in the surrounding communities of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Bell, Huntington Park, Maywood and Commerce is still underway by the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Up to 10,000 homes may require decontamination. A community advisory committee is “overseeing” the process, including the removal and transportation of the tainted soil to another location.

 A crew from the Department of Toxic Substances Control collect samples of dirt for testing. (EGP photo archives)

A crew from the Department of Toxic Substances Control collect samples of dirt for testing. (EGP photo archives)

Crime In Northeast Los Angeles
Also making multiple headlines in 2015 was the gang war in Northeast Los Angeles that resulted in numerous shootings and widespread fear in the community.
Los Angeles police from the Northeast Division attended a community meeting earlier in the year where they told residents that the LAPD had increased patrols and stepped up enforcement of gang injunctions to get control of the street violence.
The gang violence did quiet down, but other violent crimes, including the murder of two young girls whose bodies were found in Debs Park, multiple stabbing attacks and gentrifying Figueroa Street took its place in the headlines. Hit-and-run deaths also increased, heating up the war over bike lanes, which advocates claim are the best way to slow down traffic and increase pedestrian safety. Opponents dispute their claim, saying bike lanes will not stop someone from driving under the influence or taking off when they hit someone. They also say the bike lanes will just create more traffic jams and decrease valuable street parking.
What’s Next: Bicycle activists say they will continue to pressure the local Councilman, Gil Cedillo, and the city of Los Angeles to adopt their “road diet” plan in Highland Park. Cedillo has proposed other strategies, such as adding more traffic lights and signs in the area. The battle will continue.

A vigil is held for a victim of a hit-and-run in Highland Park. (EGP photo archives)

A vigil is held for a victim of a hit-and-run in Highland Park. (EGP photo archives)

The Homeless Crisis
Throughout 2015, the city and county of Los Angeles have continued to report growing numbers of homeless and to talk about the need to spend millions of dollars to increase transitional and permanent housing and mental health services.
Residents in several communities have complained that homelessness is a problem in their neighborhood and have called on local officials to move transients — forcibly is necessary – out of their neighborhood.
While some point to the homeless as the blame for an increase crime, health and unsanitary conditions, blight and a host of other problems, advocates for the homeless fought efforts to criminalize the homeless and pushed for more services to assist them.
More than 25,000 people are homeless within the city of Los Angeles, according to the latest 2015 count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Countywide, homelessness has risen 12 percent since 2013’s count, from 39,461 to 44,359 people homeless.
In September, Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of the city council declared “a state of emergency on homelessness” and committed $100 million to provide permanent and transitional housing to those in need.
Earlier this month, city officials set aside $12.4 million to help house the homeless and provide more temporary shelter during El Nino storms expected this winter.
The funding, proposed by Garcetti and approved by the City Council, includes $10 million for “rapid re-housing” subsidies for nearly 1,000 transients to help them with rent or move-in costs.
The remaining funds will increase shelter beds this winter by more than 50 percent – to a total of 1,300. These beds will be targeted to those living in the Los Angeles River bed and the Tujunga and Arroyo Seco washes.
At the County level, supervisors last week approved $5 million of Homeless Prevention Initiative funds be set aside for the expansion of programs that help decrease homelessness among youth in Los Angeles County.
The County is now drafting a set of strategies to reduce homelessness through an intensive, inclusive planning process known as the Homeless Initiative, which will include recommendations to establish a Transition Age Youth Resources Center.
Approximately 1.7 million runaways or homeless youth under the age of 18 live in Los Angeles County, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Twenty-five percent of former foster youth reported they had been homeless at least one night within 2.5 to 4 years after leaving the foster care system.
Last week city and county officials jointly announced expansion of the County’s SMART team model — known as MET in the County — which according to Sup. Hilda Solis “effectively diverts mentally ill individuals from the criminal justice system and into treatment programs with the potential of helping many turn their lives around.”
What’s Next: With the threat of El Nino looming larger every day, homeless advocates are scrambling to increase the number of shelter beds available this winter. A temporary shelter opened at All Saints Episcopal Church in Highland Park is one such facility that will likely receive emergency funding despite not meeting the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s normal standards. Some cities are considering allowing people living in campers to park overnight at city-run facilities, and other changes.

Los Angeles has experienced an increase in homeless living on the streets. (EGP photo archives)

Los Angeles has experienced an increase in homeless living on the streets. (EGP photo archives)

The Threat of El Niño
Federal, state and local officials have been aggressively preparing for El Niño heavy rains that are expected to hit the Southland this winter. In years past, El Niño weather caused traffic gridlock, neighborhoods to be flooded, toppled power lines and damaged homes with the pounding rain for days without end. Cities across the basin have been assessing infrastructure needs and making repairs to avoid storm damage.
Topping the list of preparations across the region has been the clearing of debris flood basins and storm drains.
Earlier this month the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a disaster response plan for severe storm weather.
Commerce and several other cities have set up strategies for communicating with residents and business in the event of an emergency, are encouraging people to sign up for their Alert system notifications.
Bell Gardens is sending residents “tips” for preparing for El Nino.
Montebello and Commerce have each handed out a large number of sandbags to local residents.
What’s Next: Local municipalities will continue monitoring areas prone to flooding, clearing out storm drains and distributing sandbags to businesses and residents. The storms are expected to hit in late winter. Los Angeles County has set up safety tips available at www.lacounty.gov/elnino

The SR-710 Debate
For more than six decades, the battle over how to close the 4.5 mile gap between the terminus of SR-710 Long Beach freeway in Alhambra and the northbound Foothill 210 Freeway in Pasadena has divided communities all along the route, from Commerce to La Canada.
The heavily traveled 710 Freeway is a transportation nightmare for commuters and commercial vehicles in the area, and residents living in adjacent communities.
Caltrans and Metro released a draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (DEIR/EIS) in March on five possible alternatives for closing the gap, they include: a “no build” option; a traffic management system; a rapid bus line, a light rail and a 6-mile freeway tunnel.
Several groups have called for scrapping the report, after months of meeting and public comment, and starting over. Others have called the long delay a racist, environmental injustice, forcing low-income, mostly Latinos to bare  the brunt of high levels of pollution while allowing more affluent communities to avoid carrying their share of the burden.
What’s Next: Information from comments received during public hearings throughout the year will be used to prepare the final environmental document along with the agencies’ preferred alternative. We can expect to see ongoing debate and political maneuvering from all sides of the issue.

 An  SR710 North public hearing gets heated. (EGP photo archives)

An SR710 North public hearing gets heated. (EGP photo archives)

El Niño: Getting L.A. Ready

December 17, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

This week’s freezing temperatures and forecasted rain are a chilly reminder that heavy El Niño storms are on their way.
From authorizing emergency funding to shelter the homeless to clearing debris from storm drains and catch basins, the City of Los Angeles has intensified efforts to minimize the damage that too often comes with severe weather conditions.
Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expect El Niño to occur between December 2015 and February 2016. That coincides with the Los Angeles region’s rainy season.
In October, an unexpectedly heavy downpour caused flash flooding in Boyle Heights, leaving over a dozen cars underwater and at least one basement flooded. Storm drains were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of water, made worse by debris, including a mattress left by the curb that clogged the drain, Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation said at the time.
In anticipation of more of the same, the city’s public works department has been clearing debris from storm drains and working with the County to ensure the region’s flood management systems are ready for severe weather conditions.
To keep trash from falling over or overfilled trash bins from clogging storm drains, sanitation bureau officials are considering delaying trash pick up when heavy rain is expected.
Los Angeles has also set up a website – www.elninola.com – where residents can get tips on how to prepare for El Niño as well as report problems such as fallen trees or clogged storm drains, and get breaking emergency information.
Recognizing that California’s historic drought has left many hillsides parched and barren of vegetation, the city is warning residents in those areas that the land may be unable to absorb large amounts of rain, increasing the chance of flooding and mudslides.
That’s what happened this past Sunday night, when a 35-mile stretch of the northbound Golden State 5 Freeway near Castaic was closed for four hours after a fast moving storm caused mudslides in the area, according to the California Highway Patrol.
According to city officials, city workers have been cleaning out the city’s 40,000 catch basins and 70 debris basins, a process that will continue throughout the rainy season.
Yet, despite all the planning, disasters can still happen.
Last Friday, the Los Angeles Fire Department announced it has teamed up with county firefighters to provide emergency monetary help to disaster victims.
Under the Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program, local firefighters can provide “on-the-spot aid” to families and individuals who suffer substantial property loss, like a fire, earthquake or flooding.
LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas told EGP, SAVE is intended to offer a little immediate assistance through the first hours following a disaster in the form of a $100 MasterCard.
The card is intended to help victims pay for a place to spend the night or to buy clothes or food, Terrazas explained. “Anytime there’s 25 percent in [property] damage, we will provide the card,” he said.
If more funding becomes available, the amount on the cards might be increased, the chief said.
Residents worried about flooding can go to their local fire station to get sandbags and sand. LAFD has 200,000 sandbags and 250 tons of sand available, according to the fire department.
Last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the major wireless service providers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, to share their networks in the aftermath of an emergency—enabling voice and data traffic to be carried on any functioning network, “regardless of a customer’s service provider.”
“This El Niño is expected to be the strongest on record, and we must be ready for everything that comes with heavy rain,” said Garcetti in his announcement. “I’m making sure the City of Los Angeles is prepared for whatever El Niño may bring, and I encourage all Angelenos to do the same for their homes and families.”
Last week, FEMA Region 9 office released a Severe El Niño Disaster Response Plan for California, Arizona and Nevada. The agency predicts debris flows, or mudslides and landslides will be common in burn scarred areas.
The impending severe weather conditions have also raised concerns for the city’s homeless population. Councilmembers Gil Cedillo (CD-1) and Jose Huizar (CD-14) are pushing to increase the number of homeless shelters in their districts.
On Tuesday, Cedillo asked the city’s Dept. of Recreation and Parks to open the currently vacant, city-owned Bridewell Armory in Highland Park as a temporary winter shelter.
“With the low temperatures and the El Nino approaching, we hope to use that location as a shelter,” Cedillo spokesman Fredy Ceja told EGP.
“During the 1987 El Niño, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a program to open California National Guard armories during the cold weather” if there is a shortage of shelter space; Cedillo is asking the city to do the same.
Last week, the City Council approved a motion by Councilmembers Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD-8) to release $12.4 in emergency homeless relief funding to open more shelters, which could include the Armory.
City officials are urging Angelenos to stay alert by registering for the city’s mass emergency notification system at www.NotifyLA.org. People who register will receive information via voice, text or email message alerts if their designated geographic area is impacted by an emergency.
Residents and stakeholders are also being encouraged to report blocked storm drains or other flood control problems by using the MyLA311 app or calling 311.

Follow these L.A. County Emergency Safety Tips
—Monitor radio and TV news closely for information about weather conditions, flooding in your area and safety precautions being advised.
—Be prepared to leave immediately if an evacuation is ordered. Have alternate evacuation routes out of your neighborhood.
—Stay away from flood channels and flowing rivers. You could be knocked off your feet in as little as six inches of water.
—Don’t try to cross flooded areas and never enter moving water. Turn around—don’t drown.
—If your home has been flooded, protect your family’s health by cleaning up right away. Throw out foods and medicines that may have been affected.
—Stay away from steep slopes that may become unstable when saturated.
—Never touch a downed power line, which can cause serious injury or death. Call 9-1-1 to report it.
—Look for tilted trees, telephone poles, fences or walls, and for new holes or bare spots on hillsides.
—If trapped in your vehicle, stay with it. If possible, relocate to the hood if water continues to rise.
—Be alert when driving. Roads may become blocked or closed due to hazards.
—Report small problems as soon as they occur so they don’t turn into bigger problems. 

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