A ceremony was held last week in Highland Park to inaugurate the installation of a new traffic signal on Figueroa Street at Avenue 55, where residents have complained of speeding drivers and unsafe conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.
First District Councilman Gil Cedillo represents the area and was joined at the May 13 installation ceremony by students, teachers and parents from Monte Vista Elementary School.
The new traffic signal is part of his effort to improve public safety in the district, Cedillo said.
“Accidents happen, there’s no question about it,” the councilman told the group. That’s why “we want to make a safe [North Figueroa] corridor,” he added.
Traffic safety on Figueroa is a hot button issue in Highland Park.
Lea este artículo en Español: La Seguridad del Tránsito Continúa Siendo un Problema para Cedillo
Some have sought to blame Cedillo personally for fatal accidents along the commercial corridor, such as those involving a speeding driver who struck Yolanda Espinoza Lugo in a marked crosswalk on Figueroa and Avenue 24, then sped away, and another involving a 17-year-old student from Montebello who was fatally hit by a city-operated semi-truck near his Highland Park school.
But according to Cedillo, since taking office in 2013 he has been actively working with the city’s transportation department to install safety enhancements – such as the traffic lights between Avenue 50 and Avenue 60 that give pedestrians more to time to cross the street and now the signal on Avenue 55.
Another traffic signal is coming soon to Avenue 51 and rectangular rapid crosswalk beacons will be installed on Avenues 35, 41 and 60, according to Cedillo’s Communications Director Fredy Ceja.
“As the local government, public safety is our number one obligation,” Cedillo said last week.
Highland Park resident Jessica Sevillano is the mother of one of the second-graders at the ceremony. She told EGP she thinks Cedillo is doing a good job, but added he could have made the improvements a long time ago and prevented some of the tragedies.
“There have been too many accidents,” she said in Spanish, pointing out that her mother was nearly hit while crossing the street with her son.
“Maybe he has too much work and he didn’t notice before, but this light is much needed,” she told EGP.
Traffic safety work has been done as fast as possible, counters Cedillo’s chief of staff Arturo Chavez. He told EGP that from planning to installation, a new traffic light usually takes two years: “We did it in nine months,” he said about the signal on Avenue 55. “But when accidents happen, there’s nothing that anyone can do to prevent them. A light is not going to prevent them, a crosswalk is not going to prevent them,” he said.
It’s the same point the councilman made an article published by EGP earlier this year. Cedillo told EGP people must take responsibility for their actions. You cannot drink and drive or be texting while driving or walking, he said, explaining that distracted motorists and pedestrians are a safety hazard.
While Cedillo supporters tout his efforts to improve the district, citing his work to clean areas filled with debris and to remove bulky items and make streets safer, others complain that he’s more interested in what big donors to his campaign want. They say he needs to be more hands on and visible.
A local bike activist who often takes to social media to launch barrages of criticism at Cedillo, particularly on traffic safety, has decided to challenge the councilman in the next election. Josef Bray-Ali owns the Flying Pigeon bike shop in Cypress Park and says he has decided to turn his anger into activism.
About two weeks ago, Bray-Ali, 37, filed with the LA City Ethics Commission to start fundraising as a candidate for CD-1 in the March 2017 Primary Election. He hopes to open his campaign office a few doors down from his store by the end of the month.
According to Bray-Ali, he tried for nearly two years to meet directly with Cedillo to discuss the safe-street plan, but could never get past his staff.
“I went from the chief of staff to the field rep to receptionist, and I wouldn’t pass from there,” he told EGP Monday. “We have become a bunch of nobodies in our own neighborhoods,” he complained.
Among his chief complaints was the councilman’s decision to halt plans to build dedicated bike lanes along Figueroa. The proposed “road-diet” would have run from Colorado Boulevard to San Fernando Road. It was shortened to run between York and San Fernando but was eventually completely cancelled per Cedillo’s request to LADOT, according to Bray-Ali.
“There’s a lot of negative emotions that I have towards him as a politician because of the fight that we put to try to get the bike lane along Figueroa,” Bray-Ali said, “and the councilman stopped this project for reasons that are not clear.”
While running for city council, Cedillo expressed support for the road diet, dedicated bike lane plan. But after taking office and holding community meetings on the topic, he dropped his support for the plan, citing the complaints of people who travel the corridor and businesses along the route that reducing lanes for cars will cause traffic tie-ups and increase emergency response times.
Bray-Ali’s and other bike lane supporters’ social media postings, using the hashtags #chaleconCedillo and #RoadKillGil, have blamed the councilman’s cancellation of bike lanes for accidents along Figueroa and in some cases for accidents in other parts of the district.
Chavez calls the postings offensive. He said a road diet alone would not stop people from speeding and questioned why for some people a road diet is a better solution than a street light.
Bray-Ali said the bike route is not his only reason for running for office. He says he wants to build stronger neighborhoods that are more connected.
“I want small incremental growth instead of the big buildings,” he said, emphasizing that renting and buying property nowadays has become almost impossible for residents of the area.
“What are we doing that is failing? Why were generations earlier getting property and we can’t?” he questioned, calling Cedillo’s representation of the district “incompetent.”
The problem of housing affordability, however, is a citywide issue. The city council is considering charging developers fees to pay for more affordable housing or to require that their projects include set-asides for those types of units.
Last August Cedillo announced a plan to use about $9 million available to his district through “excess bond proceeds” left over from the city’s former redevelopment agency, to subsidize some of the 15,000 affordable housing units in danger of being removed from the housing market.
“We are really doing a great job in this area and we are cleaning it up like we committed and making it safer,” Cedillo told EGP.
“Sometimes people who don’t live in our district want to come and criticize us.”
The Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services Center in Highland Park announced a $50,000 grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation to support their mission to educate and treat juvenile offenders and at-risk youth.
“We are grateful for the S. Mark Taper Foundation’s investment in this agency, which will have a lasting effect on the entire community,” said Sil Orlando, executive director of OYHFS.
“The S. Mark Taper Foundation’s continued support of our programs has benefited many people in the community as we work to accomplish our mission.”
Optimist operates residential care facilities, four group homes, a charter school for probation and foster youth, mental health programs and a foster care and adoption agency. The agency serves over 550 children and families daily.
The S. Mark Taper Foundation is a private family foundation incorporated in 1989, dedicated to enhancing the community by supporting nonprofit organizations.
More than 1,300 marijuana plants and a cache of firearms and ammunition were seized and two brothers arrested this morning when Los Angeles police served warrants at three locations, two in northeast Los Angeles and the other in Sylmar.
The warrants were served about 6 a.m. in the 800 block of Terrace 49 in Mount Washington, the 6000 block of Tipton Way in Highland Park and the 13000 block of Bradley Avenue in Sylmar, according to Officer Matt Ludwig of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relations Section.
The arrests and seizure were announced at a news conference at the LAPD’s Northeast Station.
Various types of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition, were seized along with about $4,500 in cash from the Mount Washington address, Ludwig said.
The seized marijuana had an approximate street value of $500,000, police said.
Livio Scagliotti, 49, was arrested at the Tipton Avenue location on suspicion of evading arrest, possession of armor piercing ammunition and possession of illegal firearms and Manuel Scagliotti, 44, was arrested at the Terrace 49 location on suspicion of burglary, Ludwig said.
Both men, who are brothers, were wanted in connection with an illegal marijuana cultivation operation that spanned about five year, police said.
Investigators allege the marijuana was grown for street sales and possibly for sales to legal pot dispensaries.
Livio Scagliotti was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail and Manuel Scagliotti in lieu of $85,000, according to sheriff’s online inmate records.
It’s been one year since a small neighborhood park opened to the public in Highland Park.
Located on the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 50, York Park was designed with input from the community.
There are not many parks or open spaces in the neighborhood, so people were excited when the park opened. At the grand opening, children could be seen running around, enjoying everything the park has to offer.
At just one-third of an acre in size, the park still attracts a lot of people. A year of use, however, has led some park-goers to now say there are issues with the design. They say there are things not needed in a child-friendly park, and believe it could be made better.
The park was designed as part of the York Vision Plan, a blueprint for improving York Boulevard for residents, businesses, walkers, bicyclists and commuters.
A committee of volunteers worked with Councilman Jose Huizar’s Office on the plan. They held meetings in the community to find out what people in the area wanted most, and a park made the list.
EGP recently sat down with some park-users to discuss their views on the final design and found opinions are split.
Gloria Hernandez, a mother of three young children, visited the park for the first time with her sister. She looked around and said she doesn’t “adore” its layout.
“This reminds me of the park at home except this one has fewer things, but more colorful” she said. “Where are the swings?”
Highland Park resident Maria Ramirez said she brings her two children to the park almost every day after school. She also wishes the park had swings.
“That exercise area is not needed, it’s a park, not a gym,” she complained. “Instead of that area being for machines it should’ve been swings,” she told EGP. “My children have gotten hurt using the machines,” she explained.
Father of three, Jose Sanchez, disagrees. “I like the exercise machines,” he said. “I get to exercise while watching my children,” he added. “This park is too small for swings.”
Several people said they believe the space for the park’ small amphitheater could have been put to better use.
Yolanda Nogueira’s family has owned the brick building across from the park since 1964. She was on the committee that helped design the park. According to Noguiera, city engineers took the committee’s ideas and came up with 8 possible designs for the community to vote on.
“We voted on the swings, we definitely wanted swings in this small park,” she told EGP, agreeing with current park-users who want to see them added.
“There was certain equipment we voted on that didn’t get put in,” but should have, said Noguiera.
EGP reached out to Councilman Huizar to ask if changes could be made at the park, such as adding swings.
The councilman told EGP he is not aware of any big concerns about the park design. He pointed out that several workshops were held to give the community a chance to share their ideas. “We also had the survey where people got to vote for their favorite design after we had an idea of what it would be like,” the councilman said.
“So, the community designed the park, it was for the community.”
Creating a park on the site of a former gas station was challenging and pricey, Huizar stressed.
“When I first heard the community wanted the park there at first I thought, ‘Wow, this may not be possible.’ I realized it was going to be pricey and we would have a long process to building everything,” the councilman told EGP.
The councilman donated money from his discretionary funds to hire a grant writer to apply for Proposition 84 state park funding, which was received.
“Yes, we are open to new ideas but we do have to keep in mind that it will cost.” Huizar said.
“We [would just] have to figure out where the money would come from.”
Gisela Jimenez is a senior at Academia Avance Charter School in Highland Park. She is interning at Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews as part of the school’s “Work Educational Experience Project.”
Sat. March 19
12 Noon-4pm—Re-dedication Ceremony & Block Party for the Quetzalcoatl Mural in Highland Park. Speakers, Music, Poets. Ceremonial blessing by XIPE TOTEc; Charlie Fisher Historian, LA Poet Luareate & Award Winning author Luis Rodriguez. Free Admission. Location: 6037 N. Figueroa St & Ave. 61 (rear Parking Lot. For more info, call Anthony 909-232-7050.
A single-vehicle rollover crash on the Arroyo Seco Parkway in Highland Park seriously injured an 8-year-old boy and a 25-year-old woman Sunday and temporarily shut down all three southbound lanes of Route 110, authorities said.
The crash was reported about 1:30 p.m. near York Boulevard, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Both victims were taken to a hospital, said Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
One lane was reopened about 40 minutes after the crash was reported, according to the CHP.
The Arroyo Seco Parkway or State Route 110 is hailed as the first freeway of the west and a vital artery that connects Los Angeles to Pasadena. Despite being seen as an engineering feat in the 1940’s, today its design is considered outdated, and to many, a winding series of safety hazards.
“We have to understand that when it was built, cars were not going that fast. Old Model T’s would usually get up to 30 mph at the max,” said Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents some of the communities adjacent to Arroyo Seco Parkway.
The safety concerns experienced today can be seen at hairpin exits like the one at Avenue 43, which inspired a group of local residents to start a petition drive in December 2014 to urge Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leòn to secure state funding for Caltrans — the state agency charged with maintaining freeways and highways — to make improvements and add more exits to the parkway to make it safer.
“I know there are concerns about it and heard about it at different meetings,” acknowledges Cedillo, who adds that management of the parkway is not the city of Los Angeles’ responsibility, but the state’s.
“I’ve taken these concerns to the senator [Kevin de Leon] who is very powerful and can have an impact and influence on those matters.” Cedillo told EGP.
There has been some action by Caltrans to make the Arroyo Seco Parkway a safer place to drive. In 2012, Caltrans released the Arroyo Seco Corridor Partnership Plan, which among other things included the goal of preserving the parkway’s historical value and usefulness to the surrounding communities while making it safer.
Four years later, safety issues remain, prompting Cedillo to say more needs to be done to figure out “what mitigations can be implemented” to improve safety, and “how it relates to the important arteries that bring people into the city.”
He points out, however, that design changes alone to make the Arroyo Seco Parkway more suited to handle modern day traffic will not make the parkway accident free; motorists also need to take it upon themselves to be safe.
“Driving a two-ton vehicle is inherently dangerous. That’s why there’s rules and regulations like seatbelts and not driving under the influence,” Cedillo said.
“We have a very skilled department of transportation that works with Caltrans and the LAPD, but so much of the safety is dependent on the people. We can make all the rules and regulations, but if people don’t comply, particularly when it’s raining and people don’t pay attention to what they’re doing, that’s where accidents happen.”
“I was talking about this with the LAPD [Los Angeles Police Department],” he said, “when people use their cellphones it takes their focus away from the road.”
The councilman recommends people try to drive less in rainy weather and not rely so heavily on cellphone and navigation apps to get them where they are going.
“We have bad cultural practices in our community that makes us lazier and we need to exercise more self help and responsibility,” he said. He noted that many accidents can be attributed to “poor decision making” by motorists and pedestrians, and cited crossing the street in the middle of the block instead of at a crosswalk that might just be a few feet away, or texting or talking on a cellphone while driving as examples of bad behavior.
So while many of the problems experienced on the Arroyo Seco Parkway can be blamed on its outdated design, which many residents argue must change, the effort to make the Arroyo Seco Parkway a safer place for everyone will require cooperation from both residents, the city, and the state to make a real difference.
Martin Baeza is a senior at Academia Avance Charter School in Highland Park, He is interning at Eastern Group Publications as part of the school’s “Work Educational Experience Project.”
Highland Park resident Jose Luis Osuna installed extra protection to keep his windows from being broken if someone were to throw a rock at his house. Never did he think that a rock thrown from a freeway overpass would one day leaving him paralyzed and unable to speak.
On Jan. 17 at around 11:30pm, Osuna, 56, was driving home from work on the 110 Arroyo Seco Parkway North when a medium sized rock thrown from the Avenue 43 overpass shattered his windshield and hit him in the face and neck, dislocating his jaw, according to his sister Rosario Osuna.
Osuna lost control of his car and crashed into the freeway retaining wall.
Lea este artículo en Español: Una Roca Aventada de un Puente Causa Choque Severo
Rosario said she was in shock when she saw her brother who had been taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital. He was “unrecognizable,” she told EGP in Spanish, still shaken by his injuries.
“His head was big, his face was very swollen, bruised almost black, his teeth fell out and his vocal cords were destroyed,” Rosario recalled. “He can’t speak, and the right side of his body is paralyzed,” because someone decided to throw a rock at his car, she said Monday in disgust.
For months, motorists have had to deal with objects being thrown at them from a hole in the wire mesh on the bridge.
Montecito Heights resident Erin Scott-Walsh told EGP she was driving north on the parkway in the left lane with her sister about a week ago and as they approached Avenue 43 they saw “what appeared to be a younger male” tossing a water bottle through the hole of the fence, hitting a truck traveling in the same direction.
After learning about Osuna’s incident via social media, Scott-Walsh said she became more concerned.
“The truck didn’t react to the bottle, that’s why I thought it might have been empty, but the possibility [of another accident] was there and it scared me,” she said.
Following up on the rock throwing complaints, EGP found there seems to be confusion at the Los Angeles Police Department about which police division covers the area by the Avenue 43 overpass. Local residents told EGP calls to police sometimes go unanswered due to the confusion over jurisdiction.
Hollenbeck Division Capt. Martin Baeza told EGP his staff is not handling “nor do we have any reports of rock throwing.”
Likewise, Northeast Division Capt. Arturo Sandoval said he contacted his “aggravated assault detectives,” however, “I don’t recall us handling any” related incident either.
Osuna’s case is being investigated by California Highway Patrol, which has jurisdiction over freeways. CHP Officer Robin Hines told EGP they haven’t arrested anyone, but have a suspect and they are following some leads.
“We are waiting for lab results of DNA testing” on the rock, said Hines explaining the results could take “from a few weeks up to a month to arrive.”
In order to maintain a more secured area, Hines said extra patrols have been placed near the area of the incident.
The hole in the fence, however, is the city’s responsibility as is the crime on adjacent streets.
Several people living near Avenue 43 said they believe the rock thrower to be a homeless man living in an encampment near the bridge.
A resident, who out of fear for her family’s safety asked to not use her name, said she and her husband have called the police several times to report the man — who appeared to have mental issues and “goes into rages and becomes disruptive.”
The woman didn’t witness Osuna’s accident, but did hear “a big explosion.” It wasn’t until the next morning that learned what happened.
“Shortly after is when [the homeless] encampment disappeared,” she said.
Other residents in the area said they too fear the man described as a Latino in his 30s. They claim he kicks over their trashcans and breaks car windows.
“Unless you see him and serve as a witness police won’t arrest him,” complained the woman who spoke to EGP on condition of anonymity.
Hollenbeck Division redirects her to the Northeast division and vice-versa when she calls to report him, she complained.
“We have to call multiple times and when they finally come they only give him a warrant,” she said.
Osuna spent two weeks in a coma before being moved to a skilled nursing home, according to his sister Rosario.
On Wednesday, following EGP’s inquiries to the city, the public works department repaired the hole in the fence that had made it easier for vandals to throw rocks at cars passing by. A spokesperson for public works, Elena Stern, told EGP the department encourages residents who find similar issues to report them by calling 311 or downloading the MyLA311 app for mobile devices.
Doctors don’t know if Osuna will ever speak or move again, said Rosario, who hopes an arrest is made soon to keep others from being harmed.
Jose Luis Osuna’s friends have created a gofundme page to help with his hospital expenses. To donate visit: https://www.gofundme.com/x2qz2bac.
Outraged community members are organizing to demand answers from local authorities after some Recreational Vehicles parked along Figueroa Street in Highland Park were impounded on Friday.
Rebecca Prine, volunteer director with Recycled Resources for the Homeless—a nonprofit helping homeless—said via email the organization wasn’t notified about the sweep in front of the Sycamore Grove Park and blames local Councilman Gil Cedillo for leaving people in need without a home and with the possibility of increasing park and street homelessness.
Witness of the towing, Jaime Kate told EGP “two or three” RVs were towed “and at least one car.”
During the homeless count organized last month by the Los Angeles Homeless Authority—the agency in charge of providing services to homeless—over 30 Recreational Vehicles (RVs) were counted as permanent homes for people living in the northeast, according to Recycled Resources.
Prine said many of the RV residents are people displaced from their homes in the northeast as they were given rental increases they were unable to afford.
“Had Recycled Resources for the Homeless been made aware of this action we would have used funding we have collected to assist our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” said Prine.
Fredy Ceja, communications director with the councilman told EGP there was no sweep. “There are parking restrictions on Figueroa, which if not adhered to, result in fines.”
He explained that some of the RVs have been in the same location for over a year and Recycled Resources is aware of it.
“You can’t leave your car for a long period of time in the same spot.”
Constituents of the area have been complaining with the police and the councilman’s office due to “loitering and illicit activities,” said Ceja.
He said parking enforcement advised the owners to move their vehicles, and while some of the RVs moved across the street, others stayed in the same spot, which led to their towing.
Wednesday night community members reunited at the All Episcopal Church in Highland Park—which currently serves as shelter for over 30 homeless people—to talk about the issue and find solutions to assist people in getting their RVs back as well as to work in a solution to help the owners.
Recycled Resources stated that “this community belongs to everyone, not just those who can afford to live here,” and they would like to see resources for every social economic level in the community.
“We would like to work toward establishing a safe place for people to park RVs, with resources for bathrooms and waste disposal here in the community they call home,” said Prine.
Ceja said Cedillo’s office is looking for places to park the RVs without problems. In the mean time, he said it would be good if the church provides space to park some RVs on its parking lot.
City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Wednesday the filing of a lawsuit against the operators of an alleged ring of brothels fronted by massage parlors in Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Wilmington and North Hollywood.
The nuisance abatement lawsuit targets Helen Haihong Huang and Mark Richard Vitatern, who operate MHWI Int’l Inc., and others believed to be associated with a ring made up of at least four businesses.
One parlor is located at 6630 N. Figueroa St in Eagle Rock and another at 5740 York Blvd. in Highland Park, near the We Tell Stories art school and the Highland Park Foursquare Church, according to the city attorney.
The other businesses in Wilmington, at 1037 Avalon Blvd., and North Hollywood, at 3214 De Witt Drive, are also near churches, he said.
The lawsuit seeks orders prohibiting the operators from running similar businesses and the property owners from allowing such activity.
The lawsuit alleges the massage parlors were covers for prostitution businesses that advertised their services on the Internet and used text messages to set up appointments.
Searches by Los Angeles Police Department officers on Jan. 7 turned up a condom bin at one business and about $80,000 in cash at the home of one of the operators, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
The alleged ringleaders operated four other businesses in Los Angeles that have since shut down, following several prostitution arrests, according to Feuer.