Help Starts With A Home

November 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Juan Ortiz walked through the crowd Monday morning feeling emotional and grateful to be part of the ceremony opening of Teague Terrace, a new permanent supportive housing project.

Most of all, he was glad to have a place to call home.

Ortiz lives in one of 56 apartment units in the new housing complex in the border of Glassell Park and Eagle Rock, which actually opened its doors in August.

Lea este artículo en Español: Veteranos, Indigentes Y Personas de Bajos Recursos Encuentran Nuevo Hogar

Ortiz told EGP depression and other illnesses caused him to lose his home, bakery business and his family. He spent more than two years living on the streets of Long Beach, until a social worker helped him get back on his feet.

The approximately $18 million Teague Terrace is the second Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) community built by nonprofit developer Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (WORKS). The nonprofit partners with other groups to make sure people not only have a roof over their heads, but also receive the services they need to make the transition from homelessness to tenant.


Councilman Cedillo tours the new apartment of Ricky Shapley at Teague Terrace in Glassel Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Councilman Cedillo tours the new apartment of Ricky Shapley at Teague Terrace in Glassel Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“We are delighted that this permanent supportive housing is now doing what it was developed to do, house formerly homeless persons and other special needs populations, especially in a neighborhood that has seen the unprecedented impact of gentrification on all income categories,” said WORKS President Channa Grace Monday.

For Kathryne Church and Ricky Shapley, getting the keys to their fourth floor apartment has been  “unbelievable.” The couple said they had been living in their car for over a year before moving into Teague Terrace.

“I still can’t believe I have an apartment,” Church told EGP with a big smile. “We are very happy to have our home,” added Shapley.

Each of the apartments is furnished with a bed, sofa, refrigerator and stove. Tenants also received some pots and pans, toiletries and other basic amenities that people living on the streets often go without.

“It’s well said that the real works starts when somebody gets a house,” said Cesar Lopez, a team leader with Housing Works, a social service agency partnering with WORKS to provide on-site supportive and enrichment services.

From the moment people move in they need help with everything, from furniture to groceries, he explained. We teach them what to buy and what not to buy, Lopez said.

Most tenants receive some type of government aid or benefit, such as social security, disability insurance, Section 8 Housing Voucher or other stipend to help pay for their rent, he said.

As part of the transition from homeless to housed, social workers teach the new tenants how to manage their money, pay their rent and what they need to do tp keep their housing.

“They can live at Teague Terrace for as long as they like, as long as they abide by their lease agreement and stay current with updating their paperwork yearly with the Housing Authority,” Lopez explained.

Both Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis and L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo represent Northeast LA and both were on hand Monday for the development’s official opening blessing and ceremony.

Cedillo called the housing project elegant, well-built and something tenants can have pride in.

“I’m so excited to know that people are not only getting a roof over their heads but also of the quality of the commitment from nonprofits and social services to help [residents],” he said.

“We really need to call homelessness a state of emergency and stop acting as if it is a business,” said Cedillo, who back in September joined Mayor Eric Garcetti and six fellow council members to announce the city’s plan to dedicate $100 million to help reduce the number of homeless on city streets.

The homeless population in LA city and county has risen 12% since 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

“Homelessness has become a very important word in our vocabulary,” Sup. Solis told the crowd. “But we want to make affordable housing available for all people that need it in LA County.”

There’s a need for over 500 thousand affordable units in the county, including over 80 thousand needed to house the homeless, Solis said.

Permanent supportive housing projects like Teague Terrace are making a small but important dent in that number.

The facility houses 39 formerly homeless people including some veterans, people with developmental disabilities and people who are being helped by the Dept. of Health Services. The other sixteen residents are either low-income seniors or small families whose income is at or falls below he Area Median Income, which is $1,300 per month for a single individual, said Lopez.

Fifty-eight-year-old Ortiz told EGP he’s working on recovering from his depression and to be OK again.

“I’m very happy, there’s a lot of good people that help me.”


Twitter @jackiereporter

Man Pleads in Hit-and-Run Death of Bicyclist

October 8, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

A 21-year-old Los Angeles man pleaded no contest Monday to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for a crash that killed a bicyclist who was in a marked crosswalk in Highland Park.

Alexis Virto is set to be sentenced Nov. 5. Under the negotiated plea deal, additional counts of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage causing injury, driving with a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content causing injury and hit-and-run driving resulting in death or serious injury to another person are expected to be dismissed.

The June 26 pre-dawn collision killed 33-year-old cyclist Jose Luna

Investigators believe that Virto was driving between 60 mph and 80 mph, and said the impact of the 3 a.m. crash severed one of Luna’s legs. The defendant drove away with the victim on the vehicle’s hood for about 200 yards and later abandoned the car.

Police said Virto was still intoxicated at the time of his arrest several hours later. He was found sleeping on a bed with his girlfriend at a home about six blocks from the crash scene and had injuries consistent with the collision and windshield debris in his hair, according to investigators.

Hit-and-Runs Raise Street Safety Concerns

October 1, 2015 by · 3 Comments 

A new bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Monday could help solve many hit-and-run cases in California.

AB 8, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, calls for “yellow alerts” showing details about a fleeing vehicle — such as color, make, model and license plate number — to be displayed on digital freeway and street signs. Such alerts are already used during kidnappings.

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The practice could have been of use during two recent hit-and-runs in Highland Park where the suspects are still at large.

On Sunday around 1:30 a.m., a motorist crashed into the Highland Café on York Boulevard near Avenue 50. There were no injuries, but the café is still closed due to the extensive damage caused by the driver who managed to back his truck out of the building and flee the scene.

Participants at a vigil and march Friday - at the same crosswalk in Highland Park where a woman was struck and killed by a hit-and-run vehicle – demand justice and safer streets. (EGP photo by Jaccqueline Garcia)

Participants at a vigil and march Friday – at the same crosswalk in Highland Park where a woman was struck and killed by a hit-and-run vehicle – demand justice and safer streets. (EGP photo by Jaccqueline Garcia)

On Sept. 18, a woman was hit by a car while walking in a marked crosswalk on Figueroa Street at Avenue 54. The driver took off without stopping to render aid.

Fifty one-year old Yolanda Espinoza-Lugo died from her injuries two days later.

In some neighborhoods, people blame incidents like these on street conditions they claim are unsafe and allow people to speed. Slowing traffic will save lives, they say. Others claim too many hit-and-run drivers are never caught, making more people willing to risk trying to get away with their crime. They say you can’t blame street conditions for people deciding to speed, drive while intoxicated or not stopping if they hit someone.

Mobility is a hot button issue in Los Angeles. There are countless transportation studies and plans aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and autos. They include encouraging people to reduce driving speeds, moving people out of cars and on to public transportation, and making walking and cycling safer and user-friendly.

Every plan to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion or to allow more room for bicyclists has supporters and detractors that are passionate, and often unyielding, in their positions.

At a vigil and protest march last Friday marking the hit-and-run death of Espinoza-Lugo, Highland Park residents said they no longer just have to worry about gangs in the neighborhood, but more reckless drivers.

“Our streets are not at all safe,” said protesters gathered at the crosswalk where Espinoza-Lugo was struck.

“We want justice … they need to catch the man responsible,” Susana Salgado, friend of Espinoza-Lugo told EGP in Spanish.

Ricardo Rodriguez, a former co-worker of Espinoza-Lugo, called on the city to make improvements that will make streets safer for pedestrians. “We need flashing lights in the crosswalks, like the ones installed in more affluent areas like Glendale and Pasadena,” Rodriguez said.

Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council (HHPNC) President Monica Alcaraz told EGP the board has sent letters to the area’s councilman, Gil Cedillo, requesting safety improvements.

In June 2014, the HHPNC supported plans calls for installing bike lanes on Figueroa Street as part of the City’s Complete Streets proposal to improve transportation and “create safer, more accessible streets for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation passengers.”

Complete Streets calls for “road diets” that reduce the number of lanes available to drivers to make room for bike lanes.

In August, the neighborhood council voted to support the city council approved Mobility Plan 2035, a controversial transportation plan that calls for major changes to streets and transportation routes across the city. Proponents say the plan will improve traffic flow throughout the city and make streets safer and more attractive to people that want to commute on foot or by bike.

Both plans are facing challenges. The road diet part of the Complete Streets plan has been placed on hold and the Mobility Plan 2035 is facing a lawsuit by the Fix the City group which says the plan will add more pollution and cause more traffic.

Opponents to implementing a “road diet” along Figueroa in Highland Park and Cypress Park say it will make traffic in the area worse. Instead, they have proposed moving the bike lanes to adjacent streets with less traffic, a suggestion that has angered bike lane advocates.

According to data from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), traffic collisions involving pedestrians in the Northeast area have actually decreased this year, with 98 so far compared to 107 for the same period in 2014. The number of traffic collisions involving cyclists has also dropped, with year to date statistics showing a decrease from 96 in 2014 to 88 for the same timeframe in 2015.

The Highland Café has been closed since Sunday wheb a hit-and-run driver crashed into the building. (EGp photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The Highland Café has been closed since Sunday wheb a hit-and-run driver crashed into the building. (EGp photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The data is little comfort to people mourning the death of Espinoza-Lugo and a cyclist killed by a drunk driver on the corner of Pasadena Avenue and Figueroa Street back in June. The alleged drunk driver was caught hours later, at home, asleep in his bed. Three months later, Espinoza-Lugo died after being struck and carried 50 feet on the hood of a white 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer before she fell off as the driver steered around her and fled the scene. The driver is still at large.

Prosecuting hit-and-run cases is also challenging, according to Det. Felix Padilla with LAPD’s Central Traffic Division. In order to get a conviction, authorities must prove that the suspect was behind the wheel at the time of the incident, Padilla said, referring to cases where the driver flees the scene.

Padilla said having the vehicle’s license plate number can lead police to the car’s owner but it doesn’t prove who was behind the wheel at the time if the accident. “We [have to verify] with DNA tests or with the help of witnesses who saw the person driving the vehicle,” the detective said.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is working with local authorities on a study targeting corridors across L.A. with high collision numbers, including North Figueroa Street. The Vision Zero Program is looking for ways to reduce injuries and death from collisions down to zero, LADOT spokesperson Lisa Martellaro-Palmer told EGP.

The goal of the Vision Zero program is to promote smart behaviors and roadway design that anticipates mistakes so that collisions do not result in severe injury or death.

The plan is to eliminate traffic deaths in the city by 2025, Martellaro-Palmer said.

Earlier this year, the city council approved increasing standing rewards from $1,000 to $50,000 to generate leads to capture hit-and-run drivers.

“We shouldn’t have to put up $50,000 rewards to try to catch somebody,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto during a Monday press conference where he urged the governor to sign his “yellow alert” legislation. “We should give law enforcement tools to try to catch somebody by crowd-sourcing it, if you will.”

Councilman Cedillo, who has earned the wrath of bike lane advocates for halting plans to install bike lanes on Figueroa, has obtained funding for two crosswalk beacons along the Figueroa corridor in Highland Park. One will be placed on Avenue 60 and cost $65,000; the other will be placed on Avenue 55 and cost $85,000, according to Cedillo spokesman Fredy Ceja.

The funds are from Highway Safety Improvement program, which approved grants for 46 projects, including the two in Highland Park and two more in the Eagle Rock area, Ceja told EGP via email.

Funding for a full traffic signal at Avenue 51 and Figueroa, costing $300,000, has also been identified and should be received by January, said Ceja.


Today, Thursday at 7pm, the Highland Park neighborhood council will meet with LADOT representatives to discuss transportation issues along North Figueroa, specifically Avenue 51, 55, 56 and 59. The meeting will be held at the Highland Park Senior Center.


Twitter @jackieguzman

Cedillo Visits Lincoln Heights Seniors

September 24, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

It was billed as the unveiling of sidewalk repairs outside the Lincoln Heights Senior Center, but for seniors at the facility, Monday’s event was a chance to catch up with their local councilman, Gil Cedillo, and for the councilman to give seniors an unexpected gift.

“Viva Cedillo” read some of the large signs strategically placed around the center; words that were echoed in the seniors’ cheers welcoming the councilman to their regular hangout.

“My tio” (my uncle),  “My primo” (my cousin), Cedillo greeted seniors enthusiastically. The councilman says he feels at home when he’s there because some of the patrons remind him of his parents who recently passed away.

Cedillo told the audience he was “very excited to have the new sidewalk” completed because he knows how important it is to preventing accidents to seniors and children who use the walkway. Sidewalks can serve as a barrier from vehicles, he told the audience.

Councilman Cedillo surprises the seniors at the Lincoln Heights Senior Center Monday presenting them with a new 65-inch HD Television. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Councilman Cedillo surprises the seniors at the Lincoln Heights Senior Center Monday presenting them with a new 65-inch HD Television. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The repairs to the sidewalk, running from the Center’s northeast property line, south to Workman Street, wrapping around the facility to Daly Street, cost about $123,000, according to Yoo Bin Kim with the City’s Dept. of Engineering.

Cedillo told seniors the city has allocated $9.1 million in its 2015-2016 Fiscal Budget for repairs to sidewalk adjacent to city-owned facilities and his office has identified about $1.6 million in projects for the first district that he said would reduce safety hazards caused by overgrown tree roots, buckled sidewalks and uneven pavement.

While seniors praised the councilman for his work, they reminded him that there’s a lot more to do.

“The city is very dirty,” a woman said in Spanish. “People throw mattresses and big furniture outside and they are there for days, sometimes weeks,” she complained.

Agreeing more needs to be done, the councilman said he hopes the Bureau of Sanitation will soon start cleaning the entire city, “not only the Westside.”

“We are not satisfied with [Bureau of Sanitation], we brought the director [to] a hearing last week as we continue to push them to clean more,” Cedillo told EGP after the meeting, noting that the department had received an extra $15 million for street cleaning this year.

Some progress has been made, it is not enough, but we are on the right track, he added.

Seniors told the councilman the park and Senior Center need new exercise equipment; reserved for seniors parking signs; more trashcans and a fresh coat of paint.

It’s not Christmas yet, but I have a surprise for you, Cedillo said before leaving. His gift? A new large screen 62-inch HD television. “People won’t have to struggle anymore with that old TV,” said the councilman, pointing to an old, small screen TV in a corner of the room.

Cedillo said an Atwater area merchant had given his office a “good discount” and we were able to fulfill our commitment to get a new TV for the Center.

Government Projects Gone Awry? Blame Technology

September 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Traveling to and from our old office in Highland Park and our new space in Lincoln Heights, we could not help but notice how the trash, graffiti and dilapidated autos are again starting to build up.

What is it about governments, whether local, state or federal, that keeps them from paying proper attention to quality of life issues, and to so easily put aside initiatives to improve the same unless they’re being hammered?

It wasn’t too long ago that Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo expended a hefty sum from his office holder account to haul away tons of trash in his 1st district. At the time, he told residents that Bureau of Sanitation workers would no longer just pick up items called in for pick up, but also any other illegally dumped items nearby. He spearheaded a trash collection pilot program to haul away bulky items from inside residents’ homes.

Now we learn from residents that the bureaucracy – as it often does – is doing what it pleases, not what’s it’s promised.

For sometime, failures were blamed on not having enough money. (OK, they still do that).

These days, however, there is a growing trend to blame administrative and institutional failures on faulty technology.

Meanwhile, graffiti is not removed; trash and discarded sofas, mattresses and broken bookshelves pile up. And of course, there are the mounds of trash accumulating in many – mostly low-income neighborhoods in the city’s east, northeast and south area neighborhoods.

Yet, no one seems to be able to give a definitive answer as to why some areas are cleaned but not others. Why some neighborhoods have a 98% response rate and other calls for service languish for months, even years.

The technology is to blame – not humans – we’re repeatedly told.

From misreported fire department response times to police crime figure miscalculations: technology was to blame,

When students at Jordan High School in 2014 could not get their classes, wasting valuable days of schooling: technology was to blame.

When the DWP overbilled ratepayers by millions of dollars: technology was to blame.

And all the while, taxpayers are being asked to foot more money for road repairs, for new water mains to replace deteriorating pipes that spill thousands of gallons of water as residents struggle to conserve.

Technological analyses show where the money would be best spent. Really?

In the end, people choose and operate the technology. It’s their job to make sure that the systems operate properly before unleashing them on the public.

Maybe it’s time for more of these workers to take their eyes off their computer screens and start looking at the neighborhoods around them. It may not be state-of-the-art, but it may just work.


‘Ideas’ Could Spur More Affordable Housing

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo Tuesday proposed a series of ideas intended to boost the amount of affordable housing in Los Angeles, including allowing micro-apartments.

Cedillo introduced six motions aimed at quickening the pace at which affordable housing is built, pointed to a recent study that found the city needs 82,000 new units, which includes 57 percent that need to be affordable to people who are very-low and low-income.

This means that 10,250 units need to be built per year, with about half affordable, Cedillo said. However, city agencies in recent history have only been able to finance 1,200 affordable housing units annually during peak years, and are expected to only be able to finance about 500 units a year in the next five years, he said.

The six motions were introduced ahead of today’s Housing L.A. conference organized by the Building Industry Association of Southern California that includes panels on tackling the city’s “housing crisis,” and features Cedillo and Mayor Eric Garcetti as speakers.

In one motion, Cedillo is calling for a program that allows “micro- units” about 300 square feet to 500 square feet in size to be build in some parts of the city. Such units have a lower cost and could potentially be better for the environment, Cedillo’s motion said.

Another Cedillo motion calls for the city to look into preserving unapproved second units on single-family homes, also known as accessory dwelling units, and to research programs adopted in cities like Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Denver and Santa Cruz.

A third motion proposes to reducing the number of parking spaces developers are required to build if their projects is near public transit, suggesting that four parking spots be replaced with one shared parking space.

Cedillo also wants to identify city properties that can be used for building affordable housing, defer the payment of building fees and take steps to speed up the project approval process.

Cedillo Targets Funds to Slow Loss of Affordable Units

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

About $9 million in former redevelopment funds could be used to help keep rent and housing costs low for hundreds of residential units in the First City Council district represented by Gil Cedillo, who Tuesday asked his colleagues to support the plan.

More than 15,000 affordable units could be lost over the next five years due to the expiration of housing agreements that protect tenants living in affordable units, Cedillo said.

“So even if we build 10,000 new affordable units,” the city would still be short by about 5,000 units, he said.

“We can’t build our way out of this (housing) crisis,” and should also focus on preserving existing affordable housing, according to Cedillo.

His own district, which includes northeast Los Angeles, Chinatown, Westlake and Koreatown, could shed as many as 805 affordable units over the next three years, he said.

To keep these units affordable, Cedillo announced a plan Monday to subsidize some of these units using about $9 million available to his district through “excess bond proceeds” left over from the city’s former redevelopment agency.

The money will be used to persuade property owners to extend “housing covenants” that protect the affordability of units, even as “we commence upon our efforts to create a glut of housing in the city of Los Angeles so that we can put the pressure on to reduce the prices,” he said.

The proposal is expected to be discussed soon by the council’s Housing Committee, which Cedillo chairs.

Cedillo also said he hopes his district could set an example for other areas in the city, since a total of $84 million was made available citywide — divvied up among the city’s 15 council districts —when the former Community Redevelopment Agency was dissolved by the state in 2011.

Some funding from the redevelopment agency — which was tasked with improving “blighted” neighborhoods — was also used to ensure developers maintained a percentage of affordable units in their projects.

Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, which has been pushing for more affordable housing preservation, said that while there are various tactics to get property owners to extend housing covenants, “the bottom line here for most of these units is we need money, we need money to preserve these units.”

Unlike affordable housing units that are subsidized with federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dollars and come with protections against property owners evicting lower-income tenants, the redevelopment agency units “have no such protections,” Gross also noted.

“If the owner decides to get out of the units or get out of the program … when the restrictions are gone, it’s likely the tenants are gone as well,” he said.

Se Piden Fondos Para Mantener Viviendas Asequibles en Los Ángeles

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Alrededor de $9 millones en fondos de reurbanización antiguos podrían ser utilizados para ayudar a mantener los costos de alquiler y vivienda baja para cientos de unidades residenciales en el Primer Distrito representado por el Concejal Gil Cedillo, quien pidió el viernes a sus colegas apoyen el plan.

Más de 15,000 unidades asequibles podrían perderse en los próximos cinco años debido a la expiración de los acuerdos de vivienda que protegen a los inquilinos que viven en unidades asequibles, dijo Cedillo.

“Así que incluso si construimos 10,000 nuevas unidades asequibles” la ciudad todavía estaría corta por 5,000 unidades”, aseveró.

“No podemos construir nuestras formas para salir de esta crisis (de vivienda)”, y debemos también enfocarnos en preservar las viviendas asequibles existentes, afirmó Cedillo.

Su propio distrito, que incluye al noreste de Los Ángeles, Chinatown, Westlake y Koreatown, podrían deshacerse de hasta un máximo de 805 unidades asequibles en los próximos tres años, dijo.

Para mantener estas unidades asequibles, Cedillo anunció un plan para subsidiar algunas de estas unidades utilizando los casi $9 millones de dólares disponibles para su distrito a través de “excesos de bonos provenientes” que sobraron de la previa agencia de reurbanización de la ciudad.

El dinero será utilizado para convencer a los dueños de propiedades para extender “los pactos de vivienda” que protegen la asequibilidad de las unidades, incluso cuando “comencemos en nuestros esfuerzos para crear un exceso de oferta de vivienda en la ciudad de Los Ángeles para que podamos poner presión en la reducción de los precios”, dijo.

Se espera que la propuesta sea discutida pronto por el Comité de Vivienda, que preside Cedillo.

Cedillo también dijo que espera que su distrito pueda ser un ejemplo para otras zonas de la ciudad, ya que un total de $84 millones están disponibles en toda la ciudad—divididos entre los 15 distritos concejales—después que la agencia de reurbanización de la ciudad anterior fue disuelta por el estado en 2011.

Algunos fondos de la agencia de reurbanización—que se encarga de mejorar barrios “arruinados”—también fueron utilizados para asegurar que desarrolladores mantuvieran un porcentaje de unidades asequibles en sus proyectos.

Larry Gross, director ejecutivo de la Coalición para la Supervivencia Económica, que ha estado presionando para la conservación de la vivienda más asequible, dijo que aunque hay varias tácticas para hacer que los propietarios extiendan los convenios de viviendas, “la conclusión aquí para la mayoría de estas unidades es que necesitamos dinero, necesitamos dinero para preservar estas unidades”.

A diferencia de las unidades de vivienda asequibles que son subsidiados con dinero federal de Estados Unidos del Departamento de Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano y vienen con protecciones contra los propietarios que desalojen a los inquilinos de bajos ingresos, la agencia de reurbanización de unidades “no tiene tales protecciones”, añadió Gross.

“Si el propietario decide dejar las unidades o salir del programa… Cuando las restricciones se vayan, es probable que los inquilinos se vayan también”, dijo.


Special Olympics Athletes Help Open Lincoln Heights Summer Pool Program

June 11, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

The calendar may still say it’s spring, but at Downey Recreation Center in Lincoln Heights Monday, summer was in full swing with the start of the annual swim season and Operation Splash, a free summer swim program for low-income children and adults available at some City of Los Angeles public pools.

Lincoln Heights — a neighborhood on the city’s eastside — is one of several local hosts sites for next month’s 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles and on Monday some athletes competing in the Special Olympics were on hand to kickoff the free summer program.

Among them was Joshua Fontelera, a twenty-three-year-old athlete with autism who for the last 12 years has been a regular at city pools, taking full advantage of the city’s free swim programs. This summer he will be an alternate at the Special Olympics Games.

Children get ready to jump in the pool during the kick off event in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Children get ready to jump in the pool during the kick off event in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“I feel really good [being here] because I like to swim,” Fontelera told EGP as his mother proudly showed the gold medals he has won in past competitions. On Monday, he had the added job of leading the Pledge of Allegiance at the event.

Operation Splash —which runs from June to August — is a Kaiser Permanente program run in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and LA84 Foundation, a legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games.

“Operation Splash gives money to the pools so we can come here,” said Fontelera, adding that being in the pool is the “best therapy.”

Kaiser has given the L.A. Dept. of Recreation and Parks Aquatics Division a $240,000 grant to promote physical activity; another $85,000 was awarded by LA84 to help cover program costs at 34 public pools across the city.

“Last week we opened seven pools and on June 13, all 34 pools will be open,” recreation and parks General Manager Michael Shull said.

Lea este artículo en Español: Atletas de las Olimpiadas Especiales Inauguran Programa de Natación

The grants will pay for free swim lessons for 6,000 low-income children and adults, 780 Junior Lifeguard Training scholarships for youth ages 10-17 and for “Rethink Your Drink Campaign” ads to increase awareness about the link between sugary beverages and obesity.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4,000 people die from drowning each year: It is one of the leading unintentional but preventable causes of deaths in the U.S.

About 60% of African American children and 70% of Latino children don’t know how to swim, according to the USA Swimming Foundation.

Many people go to local pools and beaches to cool off during the summer, so it’s important to ensure that everyone is safe and learns to swim, said Gabriela Tovar, manager of grants and programs for LA84.

“With programs like ours, we hope to make changes to these statistics,” Tovar said, explaining LA84 has been funding city of L.A. programs “to provide swim lessons as well as introduce youth to swim team, dive, synchronized swimming and water polo” for 30 years.

Mothers like Fontini Revivo say the free programs are extremely important for all children, bit especially those with disabilities.

Not everyone can afford to have a pool at home, nor do they have the skills needed to teach children with disabilities, she said.

Revivo’s 14-year-old daughter Ariel will compete this summer at the Special Olympics in the free-style swimming category. “It is fabulous to have my daughter in the [free swim] programs because she doesn’t get to participate in a lot of regular activities,” the proud mother told EGP.

“Now the facility will be able to accommodate children with special needs” like her daughter, she said.

Ariel said she loves swimming because it gives her the chance “to be alone” and to at the same time “work with a team.”

On Monday, Councilman Gil Cedillo (CD-1) recalled going to the public pool while growing up on the eastside. “Back in my day, I think it was a quarter or a nickel to go into the pool at Costello” Recreation Center, he said. “For young people, it’s an incredible place to put all their energy, positively and constructively,” he said.

Joshua Fontelera, 23, proudly wears medals he has won in past competitions during Operation Splash kick-off event Monday. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Joshua Fontelera, 23, proudly wears medals he has won in past competitions during Operation Splash kick-off event Monday. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

There are still plenty of scholarships available for free lessons, according to Patricia Delgado,principal recreation supervisor I of the Aquatics Division with the Dept. of Recreation and Parks. “Registration will be conducted on June 14, 2015 at 10 am [at each pool site], sponsorships are available on a first come, first serve basis.”

Operation Splash is part of Kaiser Permamente’s Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) program, focused on reducing obesity in the community by encouraging more safe physical activity and healthy, affordable food.

The Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports competition for people with intellectual disabilities, will be held this year in the Los Angeles area from July 25 to Aug. 2.


East and Northeast L.A. area Operation Splash Public Pools:

Lincoln Heights: Downey Pool, 1775 N. Spring St., (323) 304-0828

Glassell Park Recreation Center: 3707 Verdugo Rd., (323) 226-1670

Highland Park Recreation Center: 6150 Piedmont Ave, (323) 226-1669

Eagle Rock: Yosemite Recreation Center, 1840 Yosemite Dr., (323) 226-1668

Boyle Heights: Pecan Pool, 120 S. Gless St., (323) 526-3042 and Roosevelt High School, 456 S. Matthews St., (213) 485-7391

East Los Angeles: Costello Recreation Center, 3121 E. Olympic Blvd. (323) 526-3073

El Sereno: Richard Alatorre Indoor pool, 4721 Klamath St., (323) 276-3042


For more information visit: or call (323) 906-7953.


Twitter @jackieguzman

Ground Broken On New Veteran Housing Project

May 21, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Just in time for Memorial Day, ground was broken on the site of a new project to house homeless veterans in Northeast Los Angeles.

The Marmion Way Apartments, located adjacent to the Heritage Square Gold Line Station in Cypress Park, will house 24 homeless veterans with special needs and 24 low-income families, with preference being given to the families of veterans.

“This is a very concrete way to bring our veterans home,” said Councilman Gil Cedillo (CD-1) last Friday morning during the groundbreaking ceremony for the project being built in his district.

The recent homeless count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found 2,991 homeless veterans, including 218 female veterans, living on the streets of Los Angeles. Of those, 203, including three of the female vets, live in the first district, which encompasses part of Northeast Los Angeles, Chinatown, University Park and MacArthur Park.

Councilman Gil Cedillo (CD-1) stated that 24 veterans and 24 low-income families will have housing by 2016 in Cypress Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Councilman Gil Cedillo (CD-1) stated that 24 veterans and 24 low-income families will have housing by 2016 in Cypress Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Also at Friday’s ceremony were the various partners working to bring the housing project to fruition: Affording housing developer Palm Communities; social service provider PATH Ventures; the Veterans Administration (VA) and the Los Angeles Housing Department.

Once built, the Marmion Way housing project, with subterranean parking, will include social service programs to support residents gain financial stability and to maintain their health. PATH Ventures, which will oversee the social service element, will offer a variety of literacy and skill building programs, such as computer training, adult education, money management. They will also provide nutrition and wellness programs, after-school programs, individual counseling and case management.

Veterans will have access to job training, veteran-specific legal assistance and healthcare services provide by the VA.

“When we build this, we will see less encampments. When we fill up the units, we will see less homeless,” said Cedillo, referring to growing number of homeless encampments in the city. “This is the solution,” Cedillo told the crowd of about at the event.

PATH Ventures Executive Director Amy Anderson told EGP they will use government subsidies to pay for the services being offered.

“Homeless veterans as a priority,” she said.

It was a sentiment echoed by Cedillo who said he has a bias for the men and women who place their lives on the line “to protect our quality of life.” They deserve “the very best that we have to offer for all their service and their commitment” from our government and the private sector, the councilman said.

The Marmion Way Apartments will be located at 3500 Marmion Way and are expected to open in October 2016.

A larger housing project planned for the first district in Highland Park is awaiting a judge’s approval, according to Cedillo. If approved, the 60-unit development will include housing for low-income families and veterans.

The controversial Highland Park Transit Village project, which would be built on two large public lots adjacent to the Gold Line stations in Highland Park, has been in the works for years. Residents and local businesses have complained the projects are too dense for the area, and will add to local traffic congestion and reduce parking in the area.

“A group of local residents challenged the adequacy of the city’s environmental review and at this point, a final ruling by the judge is pending,” explained Cedillo’s Senior Planning Deputy Gerald G. Gubatan.

The city favors building housing adjacent to transportation corridors, including rail lines.

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