Maywood Fire Displaces Families: Triggers Emergency Declaration

June 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency Tuesday in the wake of last week’s explosive fire at a Maywood warehouse, saying hazardous levels of magnesium were found in the fire ash.

Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended the declaration and proposed reaching out to Gov. Jerry Brown to ask that he declare a state emergency. Both motions were unanimously approved.

“Over 300 residents were impacted,” Solis said. “Many were not able to go back to their homes” because of magnesium levels.

It took three days for the blaze, which broke out June 14, to be fully extinguished.
Families living on the south side of 52nd Street were cleared to go back into their homes last Wednesday evening, but those on the other side of the street, closer to the fire, sheltered at the local YMCA.

The Maywood YMCA doesn’t have air-conditioning, so when temperatures soared this weekend, county officials helped residents move into area hotels.

On Friday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District announced that samples from areas around the fire scene had been tested, and a preliminary analysis “showed ambient metal concentrations did not exceed short-term, health-based thresholds.

“The information … only pertains to the results from preliminary metals sampling near the incident,” the SCAQMD said in a statement.

“Additional laboratory analysis is still underway for other pollutants and from other sampling locations. Updates will be provided as results become available.”

The three-alarm fire — reported at 2:30 a.m. June 14 — in the 3500 block of Fruitland Avenue ripped through a pair of commercial buildings early the first morning, sparking a series of strong explosions and sending a thick plume of noxious smoke over the region.

Firefighters found flames shooting through the roofs of two structures, a warehouse serving Gemini Plastic Enterprises and a metal-recycling plant.

Crews began pouring water on the flames, but the oxygen from the water created a chemical reaction with the burning magnesium, one of the metals being stored at the facility and awaiting recycling, producing what one fire official described as “fireballs” and setting off strong explosions.

In addition to magnesium, other metals such as coppers, zinc and lead were present at the metal-recycling plant, along with chemicals and propane, according to County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.

Crews were able to prevent the blaze from spreading from the two commercial structures that were destroyed to other businesses and nearby homes.

Da Xiong Pan, the owner of the recycling facility, was recently charged with multiple felonies for alleged improper storage and disposal of hazardous materials at the site, according to media reports, which also stated that Pan, who owns Panda International Trading Co. at 3570 Fruitland Ave., pleaded not guilty to five felony charges last month.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Public Blasts DTSC at State Committee Hearing

June 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

When the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials first held a hearing on the decontamination of the now shuttered Exide Technologies facility, eastside residents made a turnaround trip to the Capitol where they demanded state legislators step up and push for funds needed to address the cleanup. Five months later, with $176.6 million now set aside by Gov. Brown for the cleanup effort, it was the Committee’s turn to pay residents, which they did last week, holding their meeting not far from the Vernon plant.

As is customary, officials from the state, county and city of Los Angeles updated the committee on their respective cleanup efforts and community outreach. But residents who live in East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, Vernon and Huntington Park – areas believed to be contaminated with lead and arsenic – told the committee that those reports were not giving legislators a full picture of what’s really going on.

Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council President Vera Del Pozo said she was tired of hearing officials and DTSC go talk about things the community has heard repeatedly.

“Stop telling us what you’ve done and just clean this up now,” she said, prompting applause from the audience.

One after another, residents renewed their calls for a quicker, more efficient remediation process, starting with a cleanup plan they said should have already been completed.

“There are many ongoing and serious problems that need to be addressed,” said Gladys Limon, staff attorney at Communities for a Better Environment during the assembly committee’s meeting at Roosevelt High School.

Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) must prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the approval of the cleanup plan. The agency, charged with overseeing the investigation and remediation of the 1.7-mile preliminary investigation area, is soliciting input from the public before drafting the cleanup plan.

The public comment period begins June 16 and will continue for 30 days, ending July 18. Once the draft impact report is completed the public will have 45 days to review the document and provide comments that will be used to prepare the final report. Two scoping meetings to gather public comment are planned for June 25 at Perez Park in Huntington Park and June 30 at Commerce City Hall.

 Students from Bell Gardens High School attend a public hearing held June 9 at Roosevelt High School, where dozens of residents called for greater oversight of the Exide cleanup. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Students from Bell Gardens High School attend a public hearing held June 9 at Roosevelt High School, where dozens of residents called for greater oversight of the Exide cleanup. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

DTSC Director Barbara Lee explained that under the current CEQA timeline, cleanup, which could end up being the largest in the state’s history, would not begin until June 2017.

Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics, urged legislators to force DTSC to expand the investigation area to 4.5 miles, a demand repeated by dozens of residents living just outside the zone.

“We’re leaving people behind,” Williams stressed.

Roosevelt student Michael Valencia said he lives two blocks from the meeting site, yet his home and the school itself are outside the preliminary cleanup area.

Dr. Brian Johnston, chair of emergency medicine at White Memorial, asked that the agency do more soil sampling beyond the 1.7 miles. He cited a 2010 study conducted by the Air Quality Management District that stated Exide’s cloud of toxins could reach as far as Altadena and Palos Verdes.

Lee explained that results from soil samples collected as far as 4.5 miles from the Vernon plant led the agency to conclude lead emissions could have traveled 1.7 miles from the facility. She reminded the committee that the state’s multi-million loan can only be used to address remediation in that area.

Many residents, however, complained that the agency’s report was a repeat of an “infomercial” they’ve heard many times before, and even argued that DTSC lacks the expertise to carry out the cleanup.

“[The problem] is bigger than what they’re trying to paint,” said a frustrated Joe Gonzalez.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who sat in for committee members unable to attend, said that many of the community’s complaints are valid.

“We need to expand the area,” she told EGP. “We definitely need to do that.”

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, who also sat in on the committee, told EGP he expects the committee to include what was discussed at last week’s meeting in an end of the year report on all the hearings.

“This is one more example of us being more inclusive,” Santiago said. “It demonstrates legislators are taking this seriously, putting pressure and holding DTSC accountable.”

Garcia told EGP she plans to use the public testimony to ask the agency better questions.

“We get regular updates from DTSC but it is through their eyes and their perspective,” she said.

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis reminded legislators that more funds would be required to not only decontaminate the area but to also educate the community about the dangers of lead exposure, known to cause neurological diseases, learning disabilities, cancer and other serious health problems.

“This can’t happen again,” Solis said of the contamination. “There needs to be an investigation.”

Lee defended herself and the agency, reminding the committee and the public that in April 2013 Exide was ordered to suspend operations and in March 2015, months after she took over as director, the plant was forced to close permanently.

Since then, 1,800 homes have been sampled, 3,400 access agreements have been signed and over 200 homes have been decontaminated, she said, adding DTSC currently samples 135 properties a week but expects to increase to 200 per week in the coming month.

“We have much to do but we have made progress,” said Lee.

In the minority, one resident thanked the agency for cleaning her East Los Angeles home. But most residents felt their demands and frustration were justified.

“Just because we are asking for more doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge what you have already done,” said Boyle Heights resident Irene Peña.

Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, told EGP the group encountered problems while working with the agency to gather access agreements, an effort they do not plan to continue.

“We have had to push every step of the way to get to the point we are at now,” he said. “It is time for DTSC to step up and accept the challenge to do better.”

County Sups. React to Orlando Shooting

June 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors observed a moment of silence Tuesday for victims of the Orlando shooting and their families, and urged county residents to continue to fight prejudice against LGBTQ people.

Supervisor Don Knabe opened the meeting with a prayer.

“We come with heavy hearts,” Knabe said, extending the county’s sympathy and condolences to those who lost loved ones in the “horrible and horrific Orlando situation.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis called the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history “an outrageous act of violence.”

The 49 people killed and another 53 wounded by gunman Omar Mateen at the gay nightclub Pulse were mostly Latino, Solis noted.

“This tragedy is a harsh and sobering reminder of the continuing need for committing resources to educate and prevent prejudice and violence in all of its forms,” Solis said.

“The mass shooting in Orlando is an extreme expression of an all-too-common, everyday homophobic, transphobic, sexist and racist violence facing gender non-conforming people, especially of color, in the United States and around the world,” Solis said before extending “heartfelt condolences and compassion to the families … and loved ones of those who were killed” and asking for prayers for those still healing.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was joined on the dais by more than a dozen senior county employees who identify as members of the LGBTQ community, including Department of Health Services Director Mitchell Katz, Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald and Assessor Jeffrey Prang.

“I’m kind of sick of moments of silence … I’m ready for moments of screaming and moments of rage and moments of weeping and moments of keening and moments of decision and moments of commitment and all of the things that we talk about after each of these tragedies,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl, a longtime advocate for gay rights, said she was proud of the work the county, California and the country had done to try to eliminate “inherited hatreds” and called on residents to rededicate themselves to working against prejudice and violence.

“There will never be enough grief, there will never be enough words, there will never be enough that we can do,” Kuehl said, holding back tears.

The county’s Commission on Human Relations also issued a statement expressing “our most profound sympathies and condolences to the people, their families, friends and communities, whose lives were so brutally ravaged by the recent violence in Orlando.”

The commission’s preliminary analysis for 2015 found that anti-gay/lesbian hate crimes in the county had reached their highest level in more than a decade.

“However, we know that, together, with deliberate, persistent effort, we can transform prejudice into acceptance, inequity into justice, and hostility into peace,” the statement continued.

The commission also cautioned against other forms of prejudice.

“We must not allow the violence in Orlando to lead to increased Islamophobia and further tragedy and loss of innocent life,” the statement continued. “We must remind ourselves and those around us that the actions of one person do not in any way represent the beliefs of the thousands of Muslims who we live and work with each day, and that we need to defend them against those who would act out of anger and ignorance or political convenience to do them harm or deny them basic rights.”

County to Push for Tax on the ‘Rich’

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to press for a change to state law that would allow the county to put a “millionaire’s tax” on the November ballot to fund the fight against homelessness.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl proposed the legislative push last week, but were denied the three votes needed for passage when Supervisor Hilda Solis chose to abstain.

On Tuesday, Solis opened the board’s meeting by saying, “We have resolved our differences and we have agreed to move ahead.”

The board also approved a related proposal by Solis and Supervisor Don Knabe, directing the CEO’s office to take a harder look at spending on homelessness, with an emphasis on how to more effectively serve single homeless adults.

A 34-page study by the CEO’s office in January found that the county spent nearly $1 billion on roughly 150,000 people who were homeless at one point or another between July 2014 and June 2015.

Services provided included health care, mental health care, welfare, law enforcement and probation services, with the study estimating that about 40 percent of those dollars were spent on just 5 percent of homeless single adults.

“The vast majority of these services are mainstream services,” said Phil Ansell, director of the county’s Homeless Initiative, meaning that the services are not designed specifically for homeless people or to directly combat homelessness.

However, homeless individuals end up using a disproportionate share of those services and the chronically homeless use even more, with the county spending an average of more than $50,000 per person on the most costly 5 percent.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich argued that the problem of homelessness cannot be solved “until the state changes the law that limits 72-hour holds” for mentally ill individuals and treatment for mental health problems is mandated.

Tuesday’s vote clears the way for the county to submit a trailer budget bill to state legislators asking for the authority to put the so-called “millionaire’s tax” on the November ballot.

If a majority of legislators support the bill by June 15 and if Gov. Jerry Brown signs it into law by June 30, then the board will have to decide whether to actually back a ballot measure that would require two-thirds voter approval for passage.

Pollsters commissioned by the county were confident about voters’ positive response to such a measure. A preliminary poll showed 76 percent support for such a tax, even in light of several other potential ballot proposals for new taxes or fees.

Ridley-Thomas said the board should pursue every option to fund its fight against increasing levels of homelessness, with more and more people living on the street in makeshift encampments.

“It is the most compelling issue confronting us at this time,” Ridley-Thomas said. “It is a crisis, no one can deny that.”

More than 100 community leaders and activists spoke out about the issue, most advocating for those who are homeless and many applauding the effort to review current spending.

“Some areas of Los Angeles County look like a bomb has hit,” community activist Glenna Wilson told the board.
County CEO Sachi Hamai has estimated that the county needs to raise about $500 million in ongoing revenue to effectively address the problem.

County staffers and pollsters considered several ways of raising that money, including a half-percent increase in sales tax, a parcel tax, redirection of Measure B revenues — designed to support trauma centers — and a marijuana tax.

The idea of a half-percent tax on personal income in excess of $1 million garnered the highest support, with 76 percent of voters polled in favor.

The board has the ability to raise local sales taxes on its own, but needs the state to give it the authority to place the “millionaire’s tax” on the ballot.

A half-percent bump in the sales tax would raise three times as much money — an estimated $746 million versus $243 million according to board documents — than the so-called millionaire’s tax. However, support for a sales tax increase polled at 68 percent — within the margin of error of the two-thirds of voters needed to pass any such measure.

Antonovich warned that a county millionaire’s tax would drive businesses away.

“Making the tax higher is taking those dollars from the job creators,” he said.

Solis said she wanted to increase funding options that didn’t rely on a tax increase, leaving open the question of whether she would ultimately support putting the millionaire’s tax on the ballot.

California millionaires are already paying a 1 percent tax on income in excess of $1 million, as mandated by Proposition 63, passed in 2004 as the Mental Health Services Act.

Last week, Brown endorsed a plan to issue $2 billion in bonds to finance the construction of housing for homeless individuals. paid for with Prop. 63 funds. The governor’s May Revision to the budget proposed $267 million in first-year funding statewide, which would fall far short of either a new local millionaire’s tax or a sales tax increase in terms of Los Angeles County revenues.

LASD Scandal Prompts New Policy

May 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who is suffering his first major embarrassment as sheriff over the departure of his chief of staff because of racially insensitive emails, says he will turn the episode into a teaching moment for his department.

The department announced Sunday that Tom Angel has resigned over the emails, which were obtained from the city of Burbank by the Los Angeles Times under California’s open records act and reported on last week. No details about the search for a replacement were immediately announced.

The emails, sent in 2012 and 2013 when Angel was the No. 2 police official in Burbank, contained derogatory stereotypes of blacks, Latinos, Muslims and others. Some contained jokes that Angel had received and then forwarded.

McDonnell initially said he had no plans to discipline Angel but appears to have changed his mind about the viability of his chief of staff amid calls for Angel’s departure from black and Muslim community activists.

“This incident is one that I find deeply troubling,’ McDonnell said in a statement Sunday. “Chief Angel has offered his resignation, and I have accepted it. I thank him for his many years of service, and wish him and his family well.”

McDonnell said that despite the department’s recent effort to strengthen public trust and improve internal and external accountability and transparency, the incident “reminds us that we and other law enforcement agencies still have work to do. I intend to turn this situation into a learning opportunity for all LASD personnel.”

He said the department will also be assessing existing policies and systems to ensure “accountability and enhancing cultural and ethnic sensitivity and professionalism among our personnel.” This will include a new system of random audits of the e-mail accounts of department personnel.

“The law enforcement profession must and can demand the highest standards of professionalism, fairness and constitutional policing individually and collectively from its personnel,” McConnell said. “We are only as effective as the relationships, credibility and trust we have with our community; this is a fundamental point that I and LASD personnel take very seriously.”
Hilda Solis, the chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, praised the sheriff’s department.

“Sheriff McDonnell has done an admirable job of steering the department in the right directions with necessary reforms,” Solis said in a statement.

“We must move forward and strive for a law enforcement work culture that values diversity and promotes tolerance.”

Angel has told The Times that he did not mean to embarrass or demean anyone. He said it was unfortunate that his work emails could be obtained by the public under the state’s records laws.

“I took my Biology exam last Friday,” said one of the emails. “I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently `Blacks’ and ‘Mexicans’ were NOT the correct answers.”

In Burbank, Angel had been brought in to reform an agency reeling from misconduct in its ranks, including allegations of brutality, racism and sexual harassment.

Jóvenes de YouthBuild Piden Apoyo al Condado de Los Ángeles

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Alrededor de 200 adultos jóvenes se reunieron afuera de la Junta de Supervisores el martes, con la esperanza de convencer al condado para apoyar un programa de trabajo y desarrollo para jóvenes.

Ondeando pancartas que decían “Trabajos no cárceles” y con camisetas con la palabra “imparable”, la exuberante multitud marchó desde la plaza Pershing Square como parte del Día Mundial de YouthBuild.

YouthBuild es un programa nacional de desarrollo de jóvenes basado en la comunidad que ofrece a personas de bajos ingresos de 16-24 años de edad la oportunidad de terminar la preparatoria y obtener un diploma, entrenamiento para trabajos—usualmente en la construcción—y eventualmente convirtiéndose en líderes comunitarios.

La organización recibe fondos federales y la supervisora Hilda Solís, quien supervisó el programa durante su mandato como secretaria del Trabajo bajo la administración Obama salió de la reunión de la junta para mostrar su apoyo.

“Es muy bueno ver a un grupo tan grande y comprometido llamar la atención de la necesidad urgente en Estados Unidos para la oportunidad para nuestros jóvenes”, dijo Solís después.

“He visto de primera mano cómo YouthBuild ha ayudado a crear vías de oportunidad”.

Los organizadores del grupo dicen que es tiempo para que el condado intervenga con apoyo financiero. Están pidiendo $15 millones para ayudar a financiar 21 programas en todo el condado.

“Podemos ayudar al condado a reconstruir la comunidad”, Rossie Johnson, presidenta del Colaborativo YouthBuild Región de Los Ángeles, le dijo a City News Service en los escalones del Hall of Administration.

Johnson dijo que los programas de YouthBuild pueden proporcionar soluciones a los múltiples problemas del condado, incluyendo la necesidad de vivienda asequible. En un momento en que el condado está reevaluando sus esfuerzos de justicia juvenil, YouthBuild también da a jóvenes adultos que salen de la cárcel o detención de menores las habilidades que necesitan para tener éxito en la comunidad.

“Estamos muy bien con las poblaciones de reentrada”, dijo Johnson, haciendo alarde de una tasa de reincidencia del 1 por ciento bajo un programa reciente de subvención.

Más tarde, dentro de la sala de audiencia de la junta, uno de los estudiantes de YouthBuild llamó a la organización “un hogar para la redención”, diciendo a los supervisores que al pasar por los campamentos de los desamparados por la tarde fue un recordatorio de lo que pudo ser.

Otro joven, Marco Antonio Vivar, dijo que sin YouthBuild él “estaría en una celda de cárcel o estaría en un ataúd”, pero en cambio es parte del liderazgo de la organización y se graduará con una licenciatura en ciencias de la computación e ingeniería.

A nivel estatal, el 13,8 por ciento de los jóvenes de 16 a 24 años de edad están fuera de la escuela y sin trabajo, de acuerdo a YouthBuild, pero Johnson dice que las cosas están mejorando en la industria de la construcción.

“Queremos que nuestros jóvenes tengan esos puestos de trabajo” y terminen como “ciudadanos productivos que pagan impuestos”, dijo.

A nivel nacional, YouthBuild informa que el 77 por ciento de los inscritos obtiene un diploma o certificado reconocido por la industria y el 61 por ciento consiguen un trabajo o van a la universidad.

Youth Group Call for ‘Jobs Not Jail’ Spending

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

About 200 young adults rallied outside the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, hoping to convince the county to support a youth jobs and development program.

Waving signs reading “Jobs Not Jails” and wearing T-shirts with the word “Unstoppable,” the exuberant crowd marched from Pershing Square as part of Global YouthBuild Day.

YouthBuild is a national community-based youth development program that offers low-income 16- 24-year-olds the chance to finish their high school diploma, train for jobs — often in construction — and ultimately become community leaders.

The organization gets federal funding and Supervisor Hilda Solis, who oversaw the program during her tenure as labor secretary for the Obama administration, stepped out of the board’s meeting to show her support.

“It’s great to see such a large and engaged group drawing attention to the urgent need in America for opportunity for our youth,” Solis said later. “I have seen firsthand how YouthBuild has helped create pathways to opportunity.”

The group’s organizers say it’s time for the county to step up with financial support. They are asking for $15 million to help fund 21 programs countywide.

“We can help the county rebuild the community,” Rossie Johnson, chair of the Los Angeles Region YouthBuild Collaborative, told City News Service on the steps of the Hall of Administration.

Johnson said YouthBuild’s programs can provide solutions to multiple county problems, including the need for affordable housing. At a time when the county is re-evaluating its youth justice efforts, YouthBuild also gives young adults leaving jail or juvenile detention the skills they need to succeed in the community.

“We’re very good with re-entry populations,” Johnson said, boasting of a 1 percent recidivism rate on a recent grant program.

Later, inside the board’s hearing room, one of the YouthBuild enrollees called the organization “a home for redemption,” telling the supervisors that walking past homeless encampments this afternoon was a reminder of what might have been.

Another, Marco Antonio Vivar, said that without YouthBuild he would have “been in a jail cell or I would have been in a casket,” but instead is part of the organization’s leadership and set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering.

Statewide, 13.8 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds are out of school and out of work, according to YouthBuild, but Johnson says things are picking up in the construction trade.

“We want our young folks to be in those jobs” and end up as “productive, tax-paying citizens,” he said.

Nationally, YouthBuild reports that 77 percent of enrollees attain a diploma or industry-recognized certificate and 61 percent get a job placement or go on to college.

L.A. County Supervisors Frustrated By Pace of Exide Cleanup

April 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

County workers have moved quickly to assess soil, arrange cleanup and reach out to 500 families living near the now-shuttered Exide Technologies battery recycling plant, where a recent study found children have higher levels of lead in their blood, a public health official told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Staffers have focused on homes in East Los Angeles, Commerce and Maywood, sending out a dozen three-person teams to sample and test for lead, Department of Public Health Interim Director Cynthia Harding told the supervisors.

The board, frustrated by the pace of the response from state regulators, recently asked DPH to intervene.

Harding said her department sampled and tested 500 properties in less than three weeks.

A contractor for Exide took about 2 1/2 months to assess 50 homes, while the state Department of Toxic Substances Control managed to get to the same number of homes in two weeks, according to Harding.

“We did 50 homes a day,” Harding told the board.

DTSC is also working on cleanup, and Harding said the agencies were coordinating, via weekly meetings, to “make sure we’re not stepping on one another’s toes.”

Harding said 83 percent of residents received results of county soil tests the next day, along with information on available health resources. The balance of the residents weren’t home when county employees stopped by multiple times.

Public health nurses were sent to visit the 45 homes where lead levels were found to be at hazardous waste levels, above 1000 parts per million.

All but eight of the 500 homes, four of which had no soil at all, had levels at least in excess of the DTSC threshold for remediation, Harding said.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said state staffers failed in their outreach to residents. They didn’t explain how residents should protect themselves from potentially contaminated soil and didn’t bother to tell families who had to vacate their homes during cleanup about vouchers for temporary housing, she said.

“DTSC really has to pay attention to what the needs are of this community,” Solis said.

“There are many people who have already suffered enough.”

In addition to continuing community outreach on soil testing and health education, county officials continue to press for faster action by the state and have thrown their support behind bills which call for $176.6 million in funding for cleanup.

Solis characterized it as a David and Goliath-like fight.

“We’re David and we’re up against some very big lobbying guns up there,” Solis said.

The $176.6 million in funding for further testing and environmental cleanup has been approved by the state Senate and is pending a vote by the Assembly.

State officials said the money would pay for testing of residential properties, schools, day care centers and parks within a 1.7-mile radius of the plant, and fund cleaning of as many as 2,500 properties with the highest lead levels.

The study performed by the state Department of Public Health at the request of DTSC found that children under age 6 who lived near the plant ¬– which was permanently closed in March 2015 – were likely to have more lead in their blood than children in Los Angeles County overall.

According to the study, 3.58 percent of young children who live within a mile of the plant had levels of 4.5 micrograms of lead or more per deciliter of blood. Among children who lived between one and 4.5 miles of the plant, 2.41 percent had 4.5 micrograms or more.

According to DTSC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers 5 micrograms or greater to be an indicator of significantly high lead levels requiring public health action. California’s baseline, however, is 4.5 micrograms.

Although the study focused on proximity to the plant, researchers found that the age of housing was a contributing factor to lead levels, noting that homes closer to the facility tend to be older. The age of housing is significant, since lead levels in paint were not regulated until 1978.

When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.

As of last August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million was due to be paid by March 2020, according to state officials.

Se Extiende Financiación para Ruta de DASH Boyle Heights/Este de Los Ángeles

April 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

La Junta de Supervisores del condado de Los Ángeles aprobó el martes una recomendación de la presidenta de la Junta, la supervisora Hilda L. Solis para ejecutar un acuerdo de financiación por tres años con la ciudad de Los Ángeles para el servicio de transporte público DASH Boyle Heights/Este de Los Ángeles.

Desde 2007, el condado, en cooperación con la ciudad de Los Ángeles, ha co-financiado el servicio de autobuses DASH de la ruta Boyle Heights/Este de Los Ángeles, que sustituyó a la línea de metro bus 255.

La ruta Boyle Heights / East LA DASH asegura que los residentes en el Este de Los Ángeles seguirán teniendo acceso directo al hospital del condado Medical Center (LAC + USC) y el Hospital del Doctor Este de Los Ángeles.

County Moves Forward On Water Conservation Plan

April 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors moved forward Tuesday on two plans aimed at increasing local water supplies in a time of sustained drought and pressure from federal regulators.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl authored two motions, one seeking to coordinate the capture of stormwater runoff countywide and the other calling for a netzero water ordinance for unincorporated areas of the county.

Federal and state regulators are tired of waiting for the county and its 88 cities to comply with the Federal Clean Water Act, Kuehl said, adding that penalties could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We’re required to do it,” Kuehl said, proposing a Drought Resiliency Work Plan focused on capturing rainfall and preventing runoff of trash and toxic substances.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich said water conservation efforts should focus on building new reservoirs funded with state water bonds already approved by voters.

Kuehl said a broader approach was needed and she was “trying to find the fairest way to pick up this tab because we’re not going to avoid it.”

Antonovich was concerned that the drought plan would look too much like a 2013 effort to fund stormwater projects through a fee on property owners, despite protests to the contrary.

“The property owners will still have to pay,” Antonovich said, adding that would hurt seniors on fixed incomes.

In March 2013, the Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure, championed by former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky as a way to pay for stormwater runoff projects, was defeated on a 4-1 board vote.

The failed measure proposed an annual fee — estimated at $54 for a typical single-family home — to pay for green infrastructure.

Opponents objected to the fee, calling it a tax on rain, as well as to the allocation of funding, selection of projects and the process for approving the measure.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said, “It wasn’t a pretty picture … three years ago … We’re trying to get it right now.”

The board directed the Department of Public Works to report back in 45 days with a plan and to submit a recommendation for funding the plan 90 days out.

No details of any plan or funding mechanism were outlined in Kuehl’s motion, co-authored by Supervisor Hilda Solis. However, the board vote anticipates submitting the plan to voters in November if adopted by the board.

Kuehl also proposed requiring new housing and commercial developments to show no net increase in total water consumption.

A net-zero water ordinance or water-neutral development could be achieved with drought-tolerant landscaping, low-flow plumbing fixtures and water recycling, Kuehl said.

If projects can’t get to zero on their own, developers could achieve the goal by subsidizing projects to retrofit water use at schools or hospitals.

Supervisor Don Knabe expressed concern about the ordinance’s impact on the county’s efforts to expand the supply of affordable housing and solve a crisis of homelessness.

Developers agreed, saying the ordinance would slow new construction and hike home prices.

Several business advocates urged the board to slow down and do additional studies on the economic impact of a net-zero ordinance.

“This appears to be another attempt to ram through legislation in a rush,” said Dustan Batton of the Los Angeles County Business Federation or BizFed.

Kuehl objected to the suggestion that more research should be done before moving forward with an ordinance.

Environmental activists agreed, with a Heal the Bay representative saying it was unfair for residents to have to severely cut back water use to meet state goals while major construction projects move forward “without any clear accounting” for their drain on local water supplies.

The board’s vote was 4-0 to proceed in crafting an ordinance over the next year, with Antonovich abstaining.

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