Continuing to respond to past criticism that the city had no real electorate and was therefore ripe for corruption, Vernon this week took another step toward making good on reforms promised as part of a 2011 deal to keep the mostly industrial city from being disincorporated by the State legislature.
State officials had questioned whether Vernon’s residents could truly function as an independent electorate, since most of the housing in the city was owned and heavily-subsidized by the city, making city officials the de facto landlord for almost all of Vernon’s residents and voters. As part of a deal with Sen. Kevin de Leon, who issued a set of mandates for the city in exchange for his opposition to AB 46, a bill that would have disincorporated Vernon, city officials agreed to bring rents up to market rate, which they have since done, and to look for ways to increase the number of residents in the city.
On Tuesday, hoping to double the city’s residential population, the city council adopted three resolutions aimed at clearing the way for building a new affordable housing project in the city. The council voted to amend the land use and housing elements of the city’s General Plan, and to amend the city’s Zoning Ordinance and Map. The amendments would have the added benefit of putting the city in compliance with a state law requiring that it accommodate emergency (homeless) shelters by right in at least one zone.
The proposed affordable residential project, to be constructed by a developer selected through a formal bidding process, will be built at 4675 52nd Drive, a 2.06-acre city-owned lot that is currently vacant.
The proposed gated community would be made up of two-story buildings and include 45 units — 9 one-bedroom units, 22 two-bedroom units and 14 three-bedroom units, according to the city’s staff report. The project’s proposal also includes a community building, an office for property managers and social service providers, a laundry room, computer lab, tot lot and onsite parking for residents.
Kevin Wilson, Vernon’s director of community services and water, told EGP the project would meet the criteria to expand the city’s voting population.
“It’s a doubling of the population, I think it goes a long ways towards meeting good governance and concerns that were raised by Sen. De Leon,” Wilson said.
The council also moved closer to approving development agreements with Meta Housing Corporation, which include the terms for the ground lease of the site, project schedule, construction, financing, income and affordability requirements, site management maintenance requirements and the right to remediate the project.
Wilson told EGP that the next step is for the city to formally adopt the ordinances, which will be presented at the next council meeting on March 5.
The developer will than submit an application for federal low-income housing tax credits. If approved, the ground lease will be finalized and plans for construction will be submitted.
“If everything is in order than we can enter into the ground lease agreement and the construction will begin, hopefully, early next year,” Wilson said
The lease on the property will take effect once the developer is ready to start building. The proposed lease is for 65-years with an option for an additional 10 years; rent for the developer is set at $1 a year.
Jon Goetz, who is providing legal assistance with the project, told the council the rent was based on an economic analysis that was performed for the city that looked at the economics of the project and the restrictions the affordable housing project has on the amount of rent that can be charged.
“This is the most at this time that could be afforded by the project,” Goetz said. “This is really the city’s assistance to the project, it’s providing both the use of the land and this low cost.”
Construction is expected to be completed by May 2015.
Nestled along the 5 and 710-Freeways, the City of Commerce already has a casino, a popular outdoor shopping mall and a strong industrial base that are the envy of other cities. However, “The Model City,” with a unique small town feel despite its densely urban backdrop, also has huge untapped potential, according to all six of the candidates running for one of three city council seats on the March 5 ballot.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Candidatos de Commerce se Dirigen a la Economía Local
With signs that the economy is improving locally as well as nationally, Commerce voters are facing a decision: elect council incumbents so they can continue where they left off, or vote for their challengers who say they have fresh ideas to bring to the table?
Incumbents Lilia Leon, who currently serves as mayor, and Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca del Rio, have each served more than two terms on the council. Ivan Altamirano, who was appointed to the city council last year to finish out the term of former councilman Robert Fierro, is trying to be elected for the first time. The three current council members are running as a slate.
Challengers Art Gonzalez, a Commerce business owner, and Jaime Valencia, an accounting associate in the city, are also running mates.
Educator Joanna Flores is running alone.
The six long-time residents, who all say they love and have benefitted from living in the city, agree on many topics, including protecting services provided to residents, especially youth, and prioritizing public safety. However, each believes they can do more than the others in the race to restore the city’s once thriving economy.
While the city’s budget is balanced, for the first time in 50 years Commerce was forced last year to lay off employees when California legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated redevelopment agencies across the state, including in Commerce. The city’s labor force also took a hit, agreeing to pass up salary increases to help the city balance its budget and to avoid even more layoffs.
Last November, voters approved Measure AA, a half-cent sales tax increase which is estimated to bring in $4.5 to $5 million a year for infrastructure and facility maintenance. During a recent candidates forum, Baca del Rio, Gonzalez and Valencia said they opposed Measure AA, placed on the ballot by the city council.
Valencia said a tax measure should have been a last choice, not a first choice. Baca del Rio said she opposed it because the state was proposing a sales tax increase at the same time, but she did not vote to keep it off the ballot. Gonzalez is now calling for an oversight committee to be created to ensure funds are spent as promised to voters.
And while Gonzalez and Altamirano each say they bring a wealth of practical knowledge as business owners, they have competing visions.
Altamirano said the city’s stalled Urban Entertainment Center development — a multi-acre project located between the Citadel Outlet and Commerce Casino that has been in the conceptual and planning phase since the 1990s—should include open space and stunning Las Vegas-style waterfalls which will motivate drivers to get off the freeway and take a closer look.
Gonzalez, on the other hand, says every bit of space should be maximized for retail and parking, to bring more revenue to the city. “That’s what the city needs,” he told EGP.
Valencia, who says he is also an independent business consultant, says improving the local economy is one of the main reasons he is running.
“I think that Commerce has so much potential, so many empty lots to build here… It should be so [simple and] eye opening to create jobs here …” said Valencia, sounding bewildered as to why that hasn’t happened.
At a Feb. 11th candidate forum hosted by the local chamber of commerce, a number of questions targeted specific spending decisions and future budget decisions. Candidates were not required to answer every question, and in one case, only Leon defended a city council perk. “We’re on call 24-7…I think you should be able to use a city car,” she said, explaining she doesn’t take the city car home and only uses it for official business.
Asked whether the city should pay for Miss Commerce’s attire for events where she represents the city, both Gonzalez and Flores said eliminating the allowance would save the city money. “If you can’t afford to buy clothes, you shouldn’t attend any event,” Gonzalez said, prompting a gasp from someone in the audience.
Altamirano and Baca del Rio defended the city’s spending of more than $20,000 on a consultant hired to help motivate staff and with strategic planning, saying it was less expensive than the seminars staff previously attended. Gonzalez, Flores and Valencia disagreed. “Their salary should be enough motivation,” Valencia said.
Leon says the city council has been thinking “outside the box” and reaching out to businesses for help funding the community events residents “deserve.”
“We went to Camp Commerce,” Leon said about one outreach effort. “They [business owners] were so impressed they gave us $5,000.”
The city is also working on developing an apprenticeship program with the goal of creating jobs, she said.
Flores,said the city must create an economic development plan that outlines ways to bring new businesses to the city, reform business taxes and invest in technology to help prospective businesses more easily navigate the city’s website.
Both Flores and Gonzalez pointed to the city’s “archaic” business codes as a major barrier to attracting new businesses. Both advocated for business code reforms.
Altamirano, who takes credit for creating the new Citadel Express bus that takes consumers from major retail destinations to the Citadel and other stops, said he wants to expand the bus service to bring tourists from major hotels and Disneyland to the Commerce Casino and the Citadel Outlets.
Baca Del Rio said the city is currently working on finding a site for a train engine hood-technology manufacturing business that will offer entry-level jobs to residents. It is unclear if Baca Del Rio is opposed to other kinds of businesses coming in, however, in her campaign statement, she said the city council plans to move forward with environmental efforts, “such as the implementing of the no truck idling ordinance and green zone policy to protect our residents from negative polluting entities.”
The Candidates Forum presented by the Commerce Industrial Council and the League of Woman Voters is broadcasting continuously on Commerce’s Cable Channels 3 and 6 until Election Day.
For more information on the candidates, read their statements on the sample ballot at http://ca-commerce.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/1039
In need of a bigger space and room to grow, the East Los Angeles Youth Activities League Center, has moved from Esteban Torres High School, where it was located for the last three years, to the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Sub Station in City Terrace.
The Youth Activities Center (YAL) is an after-school youth program for children ages 7 to 17, and is open Monday through Thursday from 2-6 p.m. In addition to offering free homework assistance and access to computers, the center also offers leadership classes, Zumba, Yoga, and Baile Folklórico dance classes among other programs.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Centro Juvenil de Actividades Abre en City Terrace
The move to the 4,500 square-foot sub station will make it easier for YAL to expand its programs and serve more families, according to the sheriff’s department.
“As leaders in the community, it has become imperative that we reach out to our youth with new and innovative intervention and prevention programs. This new center will provide the youth in the community with a safe, supportive haven for counseling, educational tutoring and after-school recreational programs,” said Sheriff Baca, at YAL’s grand opening ceremony on Feb. 16.
Supervisor Gloria Molina said local residents advocated for the East L.A. Sheriff’s Sub Station to help with community policing efforts. “…This activity center will provide East L.A. youth with a safe place to learn and play – right in the heart of their neighborhood.”
The new location is the result of a collaborative effort between the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station, the City Terrace Coordinating Council, the Federation de Clubes Zacatecanos and local businesses.
“What an opportunity for our youth on the Eastside and in City Terrace,” said Congressman Xavier Becerra, who attended the grand opening. “The Youth Activities League Center will be a safe space during after school hours to help keep our kids learning, engaged, off the streets and making good choices. We need partners like the Sheriff’s Department in our neighborhoods that recognize that it is up to all of us to look after the future of our communities,” he said in a written statement.
YAL is a prevention and intervention program that seeks to give at-risk youth a safe environment and alternatives to drugs and gangs. Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar said he benefited from programs like YAL while growing up on the eastside. Youth Program Coordinator Connie Cervantes said they want the word to spread in the community that the services offered by the Sheriffs are free and are a positive outlet for young people to engage in after they get out of school.
She said a lot of the crimes involving school-aged youth occur during the hours of 3p.m. and 6p.m., when school is out but parents are not home yet.
She added that they also hope the effort will change the perspective of East LA area youth who see law enforcement as being bad, “as guys who arrest your dad or your brother,” and help them see the good side of the deputies.
The YAL Center is located at the East LA Sheriff’s Sub Station: 4100 City Terrace Dr., in unincorporated East Los Angeles. For more information, contact Cervantes at (323)267-3560.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a $1.6 million settlement with 47 companies for contamination at the Operating Industries Inc. (OII) Superfund site in Monterey Park.
Each company was responsible for sending a relatively small volume, between 4,200 and 110,000 gallons, of liquid hazardous waste to the landfill near the Pomona (60) Freeway during decades of operation, according to the agency.
Landfill operations began at the site by the owners, Monterey Park Disposal Co., in 1948. OII bought the site in the 1950s and continued disposal operations for almost three decades, the EPA said.
Nearly 4,000 companies dumped millions of gallons of commercial, residential, and industrial wastes during those years, about 300 million gallons of which were liquid industrial wastes. These wastes contaminated the air, groundwater, and soil, posed a fire risk, and threatened the health of nearby residents, the agency stated.
The settlement is the last EPA expects to sign for the site, paving the way for the location to be restored to productive use. Over the last 25 years, EPA has secured $600 million worth of cash and commitments for cleanup work from the parties responsible for contamination at the site, the agency said.
“With this final settlement for the OII landfill, we’ve reached a key milestone,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Now we are working with the responsible parties to ensure that a portion of the site can be developed for the benefit of the local economy.”
Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country. A Superfund listing clears the way for the EPA to investigate and clean up the sites using federal funding.
Acclaimed author Rudolfo Anaya’s classic novel “Bless Me, Ultima” comes to life in a new family movie opening nationwide on Friday. The film stars award-winning veteran actress Miriam Colon and introduces audiences to new 12-year-old actor, Luke Ganalon, and is written and directed by Carl Franklin, known for “One False Move” and “Devil In A Blue Dress.”
Many consider Anaya to be among the U.S.’s best writers.
Executive Producer Christy Walton read the highly praised book over 25 years ago and said she always felt it would make a great film. “I’m proud to say that “Bless Me, Ultima” is a wonderful movie as well as a wonderful book,” Walton said.
“Bless Me, Ultima” is a magical coming-of-age story about Antonio (Luke Ganalon), a young boy growing up in New Mexico during World War II. When a mysterious curandera (natural healer), Ultima, comes to live with his family, she teaches him about the power of the spirit world. Through a series of strange events, Antonio grapples with questions about his own destiny, good vs. evil, and ultimately how to reconcile Ultima’s powers and his parents’ (Dolores Heredia & Benito Martinez) beliefs.
Antonio’s father is from a farming family connected to the earth, while his mother’s family is connected to the sky and the stars. These dual beliefs are what drive Antonio to find his place in the world.
The movie is one of the few dramatic films produced this year that the whole family can enjoy. From youngsters to grandparents, “Bless Me, Ultima” is a movie for families to watch together in theatres. There’s action, adventure, and laughs as the audience is transported to life in the mid-1940s. Set in New Mexico’s majestic landscape, the movie reflects not only the area’s natural beauty, but also presents entertaining characters in this small town arena. Antonio attends a one-room school with a rag-tag group of youngsters, each with their own personality – and nickname. His friends include “Vitamin Kid,” “Bones,” and the big kid, “Horse.” The local priest, the town’s bartender, and the three sisters who are believed to be witches – all add to this colorful tale.
The World and I Magazine had this to say about the novel: “One of the great works of Chicano literature. Young people will be enchanted and adults will recognize its depths of meaning, its haunting cultural lyricism. No reader can ask for anything more.”
“Bless Me, Ultima,” the movie, brings the same level of enchantment to the movie screen.
“Bless Me, Ultima” opens Feb. 22nd in select theatres nationwide. For local theaters and times, go to Fandango.com or Movietickets.com.
The film is rated PG 13. For more information: BlessMeUltima.com
Distributed by Latino Print Network
Today, Thursday Feb. 21
3-4pm—Beverly Hospital Community Health Lectures: Managing Urinary Incontinence. Guest speaker, Jennifer Liu, M.D. Free admission, Hospital: 309 W. Beverly Blvd., Montebello, 90640. For more information, contact Alice Baldwin at (323) 725-5033 or visit http://www.beverly.org .
5:30pm—Go Red For Women at the 5th Annual Heart Walk in Montebello, sponsored by Soroptimist International of Montebello & American Heart Association. Participants will walk from Montebello City Hall to the Senior Citizen Center on Whittier Blvd and Taylor Ave. Donation: $5 per walker. Montebello Bus Lines will shuttle walkers from the senior center to city hall at 4:45 p.m. For more information, call Christina Alatorre (323) 726-0327.
6-9pm—Week One LAPD Northeast Division’s Community Police Academy. 10-week program runs through May 2nd. Topics: gang enforcement, identity theft, homicide investigations and SWAT. Classes on Thursdays at the Northeast Police Station: 3353 N. San Fernando Rd, LA 90065. For more information or to enroll, contact Sgt. Arellano at (323) 344-5712.
Friday, Feb. 22
7-11pm—Pan American Bank Hosts Casino Night Fundraiser for the LA Chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Assoc. Great night of gaming, eating & networking. Proceeds benefit youth scholarships, training, and community outreach. Tickets: $35 each or $300 for 10; available online at http://nlpoa2013.eventbrite.com/. Pan American is located 3626 E. First St, LA 90063. For more information, call John Yateem at (213) 605-5411 or email Lupe.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, Feb. 23
9am-3pm—Used Oil and Electronic Waste Collection Event at the Eagle Rock Recreation Center. Residents can discard used oil & oil filters, electronic waste such as TVs, monitors, computers, VCRs, stereos, and cell phones. The center is located at 1100 Eagle Vista Dr. LA 90041. For more information, call 1(800) 98-TOXIC or go to www.lacitysan.org.
9:30–11am—Presentation On Proposed Los Angeles River Recreational Zone Program. The city of L.A. & Councilman Ed P. Reyes are seeking comments on the DRAFT Report for the program. Location: Dickerson Employee Benefits Conference Room: 1918 Riverside Dr. LA 90039. A second presentation will be made at the Ad Hoc River Committee meeting on Mon., Feb. 25 at 3pm, City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., 10th Floor, LA 90012. Report & PowerPoint presentation can be found at www.lariver.org. For more information, call (213) 473-7001.
10am—Xipe Totex 33rd Celebration for Cuauhtemoc Aztec Dance Ceremony at Mexico Park/El Parque de Mexico, N. Main Street & Mission Road in Lincoln Heights. Cuauhtemoc was the 11th & last leader of the Aztec resistance 1521. His spirit is venerated through sacred ritual dances that have been traditionally passed down through generations. Free admission. For more information, call (714) 365-2549.
Monday, Feb. 25
6pm— Celebrate Dr. Seuss’s Birthday at a City of Commerce Library with fun, stories, refreshments & special guest readers. Events today at Central Library, 5655 Jillson St.; Feb. 26 at Atlantic Library, 2269 S. Atlantic Blvd; Feb.27 at Greenwood Library, 6134 Greenwood Ave., and Feb. 28 at Bristow Park Library, 1466 McDonnel Ave. All programs at 6pm. For more information, visit www.cocpl.org or call the Central Library at (323) 722-660.
7pm—L.A. Council District 1 Candidate Forum at Sacred Heart High School. Candidates Jose Gardea, Gil Cedillo, Jesse Rosas & William Rodriguez-Morrison will answer questions regarding the Lincoln Heights Community. Sacred Heart Auditorium: 2821 Baldwin St., LA (Lincoln Heights) 90031. For more information, contact Robert Vega at (323) 574-1063.
Tuesday, Feb. 26
4:30-6:30pm—Eastside Transit Orientated Development Open House at the Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center. Learn about project sites at your own pace & engage in one-on-one dialogues with other participants. The center is located at1600 E. 4th St., LA 90033
6:30-7:45pm—Celebrate African-American History Month at the Montebello Library Lots of surprises and chances to win prizes. The library is located at 1550 W. Beverly Blvd. Montebello, 90640. For more information, call (323) 722-6551.
Wednesday, Feb. 27
4pm—Annual MUSD Spelling Bee at Montebello Intermediate. Students from grades 4th-6th compete for prizes & chance to represent MUSD at the LA County Level Spelling Bee on March 27. Admission is free. School is located is at 600 W. Whittier Blvd, Montebello 90640. For more information, contact MUSD at (323) 887-7900.
5:30-7:30pm—LBCGLA Spanish Business Training Program: Make your business more successful & profitable with help from this 5-week program (meets every Wednesday). Latino Business Chamber of Greater Los Angeles is located at 634 S. Spring St. LA 90014. Register by calling (323) 264-9020.
7pm—Eagle Rock “State of the Town” Address, hosted by The Eagle Rock Association (TERA). Councilman Jose Huizar will be the featured speaker. Location: The Center for the Arts Eagle Rock, 2225 Colorado Blvd. LA 90041. For more information, call (323) 254-5295.
The Bell Gardens City Council has approved a request from the police department to purchase permanent license plate readers to assist them in solving crimes.
Six permanent license plate readers will be installed at the intersections of Garfield and Eastern and at Eastern and Watcher, where they will read the license plates of cars driving through the intersections.
Bell Gardens Police Department’s Traffic Sgt. Efren Aguirre told EGP the license plate readers will help police track cars coming in and out of the city.
The readers automatically search the DMV’s computer system as a car drives by to determine if the vehicle has been reported involved in a crime. The readers will send a photograph of each vehicle and the accompanying information to a dispatch center for review.
The purpose is to recognize any type of vehicle involved in a crime, spot stolen cars, wanted vehicles, or cars being investigated, said Aguirre.
The city council voted during the Feb. 11 meeting to waive the formal bid process and authorized the police department to purchase six fixed automatic license plate readers from PIPS Technologies using funds from a $100,000 grant the city received from the Homeland Security Grant Funding Program in August 2012.
According to Aguirre, the project must first be approved by the County, but he anticipates the license plate readers will be in place within two months.
The Bell Gardens Police Department currently has two mobile license plate readers affixed to police cars.
(CNS) -A 3-year-old boy was hospitalized in critical condition from a hit-and-run crash early Saturday morning in Boyle Heights. LA police say the hit-and-run motorist in a black 1993 Honda Civic ran a stop sign about 2:10 am on southbound Cornwell Street at Sheridan Street and broadsided a 2-thousand Toyota Echo with three people in it. The Toyota struck a street pole and the child was ejected from its rear passenger seat. The driver of the Honda continued south on Cornwell Street.
Gang Member Convicted In Deputy’s Murder
(CNS) – A gang member was convicted late last week of first-degree murder for supplying a fellow gangster with the gun that was used to kill an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, who was ambushed in front of his Cypress Park home as he was preparing to leave for work in August 2008.
Jurors deliberated about 2 1/2 hours before finding 22-year-old Jose Renteria guilty in the Aug. 2, 2008, slaying of Juan Abel Escalante, along with an attempted murder charge involving a May 15, 2007, shooting of a man who survived. Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation that Escalante’s killing was carried out to further the activities of a criminal street gang, along with an allegation that Renteria had personally used an SKS rifle during the attempted murder.
Renteria is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 65 years to life, when he is sentenced March 4, according to Deputy District Attorney Phillip Stirling.
(CNS) – A 16-year-old boy was shot to death in an apparent gang attack last Saturday in Highland Park, according to police.
It happened about 8:45 p.m. Saturday in the 100 block of North Avenue 51, according to Officer Cleon Joseph of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Officers patrolling the area near North Avenue 52 and Figueroa Street heard multiple gunshots and when they responded to the scene, they discovered an unresponsive male on the ground. The boy was pronounced dead at the scene, Joseph said.
Detectives believe two suspects approached the victim and shot him, then fled the scene in a dark-colored mid-size vehicle. “The motive for this homicide appears to be gang-related,” Joseph said.
Authorities urged anyone with information regarding this shooting death to contact LAPD Northeast homicide detectives at (323) 344-5744 or 1-877-LAPD-24-7.