One Killed, Two Injured in Huntington Park Shooting

April 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

HUNTINGTON PARK  – A woman who was killed Sunday in a shooting in Huntington Park that left two men wounded was identified Tuesday.

The shooting occurred at 2:10 a.m. in the 6300 block of Pacific Boulevard, said Deputy Kelvin Moody of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

Yancy Alachan-Cruz, 42, of Huntington Park died at a hospital, said coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter.

Alachan-Cruz was riding in the front passenger seat of an SUV traveling near Pacific Boulevard and Clarendon Avenue when somene fired several rounds into the vehicle, Moody said. He could not say if the attack was a vehicle-to-vehicle shooting.

The male driver was struck in the right arm, a male passenger in a rear seat suffered a grazing wound, and Alachan-Cruz was shot in the head, said Deputy Guillermina Saldana. The second back seat passenger was not injured. A motive for the shooting was not immediately known, Saldana said

Sheriff’s homicide detectives asked anyone with any information regarding the crime to call them at (323) 890-5500.
 

Exide: After Long Delay, State Moves to Speed Cleaning of Homes With Highest Levels of Lead

January 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

State environmental regulators issued guidelines Thursday that will allow expedited cleanups of high-risk homes near the shuttered Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant in Vernon even before a full mitigation plan and environmental review are completed.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control released a draft cleanup plan and environmental impact report for public review in December, with cleanup operations to mitigate lead-contaminated soil and properties near the plant anticipated to begin this summer.

That schedule, however, sparked criticism from some residents and area officials who said some properties near the plant are at particularly high risk.

DTSC officials said Thursday they will move forward with cleanups on a “case-by-case basis” at a limited number of properties “with high levels of lead in the soil and the greatest exposures to sensitive populations.”

“We are utilizing all of the resources at our disposal to ensure that we are able to take action to protect the most sensitive populations impacted by the presence of lead in the soil from the Exide operations,” DTSC Director Barbara Lee said.

The agency plans to consider for expedited cleanup properties that have soil with lead levels of 1,000 parts per million or more. The agency will also consider cleanups at properties were a resident
“has a blood-lead level at or above five micrograms per deciliter, which is the level used by the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify children with elevated blood-lead levels.”

The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015. 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.

Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year signed legislation providing $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered plant.

State officials said the funding 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.

Pocos Residentes Asisten a Reunión de Limpieza Residencial de Exide

June 30, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Residentes del este y sureste de Los Ángeles tuvieron la oportunidad el sábado de opinar en el proceso para descontaminar sus casas y otras propiedades contaminadas con plomo procedente de la planta Exide de Vernon, la cual ya se encuentra cerrada, en lo que se espera que sea el esfuerzo de limpieza más grande en la historia de California.

Sin embargo, mientras que más de 100.000 personas pudieron haber estado expuestas al riesgo de sustancias tóxicas, sólo alrededor de una docena se presentaron a la primera reunión en la que sus comentarios acerca de la descontaminación de sus hogares quedaría en los expedientes.

Read this article in English: Few Attend Exide Meeting On Residential Cleanup Plan

Para algunos residentes, la reunión del sábado en el parque Raul R. Pérez en Huntington Park fue la primera reunión relacionada con Exide a la que habían asistido. Para otros, era la primera vez que se enteraban de que sus hogares y familias podrían posiblemente estar en peligro de la exposición al arsénico y plomo causantes de cáncer.

Lucía Kikunaga de Maywood dijo a los funcionarios del Departamento de Control de Sustancias Tóxicas que se sorprendió cuando recibió la nota por correo informándole de la reunión y que, posiblemente, podría haber químicos tóxicos en su casa.

La revelación de Kikunaga fue sorprendente teniendo en cuenta que han habido decenas de reuniones y audiencias en los últimos dos años en relación con el peligro para la salud causado por la planta de reciclaje de baterías en Vernon. Cientos de horas de declaraciones y protestas se han llevado a cabo hasta la fecha.

“La divulgación pública es un componente clave en nuestros esfuerzos para mantener informada a la comunidad sobre la limpieza de Exide”, dijo a EGP el portavoz de DTSC Sandy Nax. “Utilizamos una variedad de métodos para comunicarnos en inglés y en español”.

La agencia estatal ha enviado miles de postales, ha hecho sondeos en los vecindarios, ha creado servicios de información, una línea telefónica y utiliza las redes sociales para llegar a los residentes en las áreas afectadas, añadió.

El sábado se llevó a cabo una reunión de Exide en Huntington Park donde muy pocos residentes asistieron. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

El sábado se llevó a cabo una reunión de Exide en Huntington Park donde muy pocos residentes asistieron. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Sin embargo, Kikunaga no era la única persona en la reunión en decir que no tenían conocimiento de la catástrofe de Exide o los esfuerzos para limpiar las secuelas.

“Siempre supe que había mucha contaminación en nuestras comunidades porque vivimos en una zona industrial, pero esto es muy grave”, dijo con incredulidad Zoila Flores, residente de Maywood desde hace mucho tiempo.

De los pocos residentes que hablaron el sábado una mayoría expresó su preocupación por lo que consideran una falta de alcance a la comunidad.

DTSC planea examinar el suelo de 10.000 propiedades dentro de 1,7 millas de la planta Exide y limpiará las 2.500 viviendas con los más altos niveles de plomo para julio de 2018. Bajo la Ley de Calidad Ambiental de California (CEQA), antes de que pueda comenzar la limpieza DTSC debe preparar un informe de impacto ambiental (EIR) que revelaría los efectos potenciales de los esfuerzos de mitigación tales como la eliminación de la tierra contaminada y el transporte de material contaminado lejos de propiedades en Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, el Este de los Ángeles, Huntington Park y Vernon.

El sábado, estaba claro que residentes como Leonor Casillas todavía necesitan información básica antes de que puedan aportar información de cómo debería ser el proceso.

Casillas le dijo al personal de DTSC que ella no tenía idea de que podría haber plomo en el patio de su casa en Maywood. Está preocupada que pueda haber una correlación con el cáncer de su marido.

“¿Cuáles son los efectos en la salud? ¿Y qué más está pasando en nuestra área?”, preguntó el sábado.

Una segunda reunión para recabar la opinión del público se llevará a cabo hoy, 30 de junio a las 6:30pm en el ayuntamiento de Commerce.

El proceso del EIR que implica revisión pública, reuniones y audiencias, se espera que esté terminado en julio de 2017, una línea de tiempo que los funcionarios estatales llaman “agresiva”. Los EIR tienden a tomar por lo menos un año y medio, dijo Kimberly Hudson de DTSC.

“Es común extender el período de revisión pública”, añadió, es decir, que el proceso podría durar más tiempo si los miembros de la comunidad sienten  que se requiere más información.

Mientras tanto, Flores le dijo a DTSC que no deben olvidarse de las áreas impactadas como Maywood, simplemente porque es el hogar de una gran población latina e indocumentados,

“Con tanto esfuerzo hemos estado pagando nuestros hogares”, dijo sobre el esfuerzo de comprar una casa. “Cuando se trate de vender nuestros hogares, ¿qué va a suceder?”, preguntó, preocupada que la contaminación podría causar que el valor de su vivienda caiga.

“Algunos de nosotros tenemos miedo porque no sabemos que es el proceso de limpieza y no queremos que nos quiten nuestras propiedades”, hizo eco Manuel Borjas, refiriéndose al temor entre algunos residentes de que el proceso podría llevarlos a perder su hogares a través de dominio eminente o que se podrían ver obligados a abandonar sus hogares durante un largo periodo.

Los funcionarios de DTSC aseguraron a Borjas y otros en la reunión que el proceso de limpieza tarda menos de 5 días y las casas no serían dañados o tomadas a través de dominio eminente.

“Bueno, yo no veo nada de eso en su paquete”, respondió Borjas. “Esa es una información muy importante para la gente de mi comunidad que no está aquí porque tiene miedo”, dijo.

Mirando alrededor de la habitación y al ver tan pocos residentes presentes, Kikunaga le dijo a EGP que los residentes deben poner de su parte para hacer responsable al estado.

“Conozco a nuestra raza, traté de animar a mis vecinos a asistir y a algunos simplemente no les importa”.

—-

Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

Huntington Park Police Shoot, Wound Man In Commerce

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Huntington Park police officers on surveillance shot and wounded a man in Commerce when he approached their unmarked car, pulled a handgun from his waistband and pointed it at an officer, authorities said April 15.

The officer involved shooting took place at 9:45 p.m. Friday, in the 2500 block of Leo Avenue, according to Deputy Lisa Jansen.

“Two Huntington Park police officers were conducting a surveillance at the location regarding a past murder that occurred in the city of Huntington Park,” Jansen said.

Both officers were sitting in an unmarked car when a suspect not related to the surveillance “approached the vehicle on the driver’s door and retrieved a handgun from his waistband. The officer on the driver’s side lowered the window as both officers identified themselves as police officers,” she said.

“Both officers fired their weapons at the suspect striking him multiple times in the upper torso,” Jansen said. His handgun was retrieved at the scene.

The suspect was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition, Jansen said.

Sheriff’s homicide detectives were assisting Huntington Park police with the investigation, she added.

Gateway Cities Want ‘Much Needed’ Light Rail

February 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Even though there is no station in Bell Gardens currently proposed for a light rail project that would connect riders from Downtown Los Angeles to Artesia, Mayor Pro Tem Pedro Aceituno recognizes the impact access to regional transit would have for a community that has far too long been isolated from the rest of the county.

His words came last week during a legislative briefing in Paramount where elected officials from across the southeast region pushed for funding a light rail project proposed by Eco-Rapid Transit, a joint powers authority made up of twelve cities and the Bob Hope Airport Authority.

“It is going to open doors,” Aceituno noted, pointing out the economic opportunities for his constituents. “This gives folks an opportunity to apply for jobs further away,” that otherwise they could not reach, he said.
Eco-Rapid’s rail system would run from Union Station to Artesia with stops in Vernon, Huntington Park, Bell, South Gate, Downey, Paramount and Bellflower.

“The current [transit] system has for far too long avoided the southeast,” said Assembly Speaker-Elect Anthony Rendon, whose 63rd district includes many southeast cities.

“The region is desperately in need of a rail service,” Rendon urged.

The communities along the proposed rail route are some of the densest areas in the region and would benefit greatly from the rail line being built, said representatives from the area one after the other.

Edgar Cisneros, who serves as a board member for the Montebello Unified School Board and as city manager for the city of Huntington Park, told EGP even the cities without a station within its borders would benefit. MUSD has schools in the cities of Bell Gardens, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Montebello, Monterey Park and Pico Rivera.

“Many kids aren’t walking to school, they have to rely on school buses,” he said. Regional transit is a “convenient and cheap way that allow parents to ride with their children.”

The southeast has not seen any new transit projects since 1995 when the Green Line opened. After decades on the shelf, Sen. Tony Mendoza said it’s time to make the rail project a reality.

“For many, the bus is the only means of transportation and this project will help families travel to the rest of the county,” Mendoza told EGP.

The proposed rail project would run from Union Station to the city of Artesia. (Eco Rapid Transit)

The proposed rail project would run from Union Station to the city of Artesia. (Eco Rapid Transit)

A recent Metro study found the proposed project would connect 4 million residents to regional transportation and have an estimated daily ridership of up to 80,000 people – more than any current or proposed light rail line in the Los Angeles area. If built, the Eco-Rapid rail project could create thousands of jobs for a region where the unemployment rate is a high as 16 percent in some areas, supporters said.

“The project will create economic development opportunities in and around each station,” Mendoza emphasized.
Diane Dubois, Director of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and councilwoman for the city of Lakewood, however, noted that finding funding could be a problem. With a price tag of $4 billion, it will take a lot more than the $240 million the agency has secured in Measure R funds.

Extending the voter-approved Measure R half-cent sales tax and new sales taxes is key to funding the project, said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. Gov. Brown recently approved a bill allowing Metro to ask voters for a tax increase, which could generate as much as a $120 billion.

On Thursday Metro approved $18 million of Measure R funding for the pre-development and planning of the light rail line.

“This investment of resources brings us closer to ensuring that the necessary funds are available to develop and build the light rail to completion,” Mendoza said in statement.

Mass transit projects ease the number of cars on the road, reducing the amount of road maintenance required over the years, pointed out Sen. James T. Bell, who serves as chair of the California State Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing. He told local elected officials to consider what the direct impact would be to each of the municipality’s general fund.

The longer Los Angeles County residents wait to address mass transit projects, the higher the cost will be, Bell said. “If we don’t act it doesn’t keep things the same, it makes it worse,” he said.

Mendoza asked the city leaders to begin educating their constituents on the need to pass a transit tax.
Using the Gold Line Extension as an example, Rendon described how the rail system helped connect eastside communities along the route to downtown.

As proposed, the southeast rail project would use the abandoned West Santa Ana Branch right-of-way. The goal is to complete the project by 2027, with subsequent links to Santa Clarita and possibly the High Speed Rail lines in Norwalk.

“This project will dramatically change mobility for an area that has waited for decades,” said Dubois.

Update: Feb. 26 11:40 a.m. included new funding approved by Metro; statement from Sen. Tony Mendoza.

‘Active Shooter’ Tests Vernon’s First Responders

January 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Last Friday was not a typical day for Vernon police.

“We have reports of gunshots at city hall.” said the 9-1-1 dispatcher.

Police rush to the scene where they find victims covered in blood on the second floor of Vernon City Hall. Gunshots could be heard nearby.

It was a scene right out of a Hollywood movie.

And just as fake.

What was real that day were the lessons Vernon police and firefighters learned about their capabilities and procedures responding to an active shooter situation.

Police in the highly industrial city are more accustomed to responding to property-related crimes and traffic accidents than violent crime, so the drill was a chance to practice their training.

This time the blood was fake and so were the injuries from the gun shooting blank bullets, but it could be real the next time around.

Vernon firefighters and police offiers secure a “victim” during an active shooter drill Jan. 15. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Vernon firefighters and police offiers secure a “victim” during an active shooter drill Jan. 15. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“No city is immune to these incidents,” police Chief Daniel Calleros told EGP as he observed the four-hour long drill. “This kind of training gets us better prepared.”

Last week’s active shooter drill comes in the wake of numerous tragic shootings across the country, including the terrorist attack in San Bernardino  that claimed 14 lives and injured 22 others. The objective was to test how Vernon’s first responders – police and fire – would respond to a similar incident within city boundaries.

So last Friday morning, minutes after the shots fired call went out, a team of five armed police officers rushed to the second floor of city hall, searching for the shooting suspect and taking note of victims. A second round of shots is heard coming from the third floor and the team responds, where they isolate the suspect.

In comes the second team of responders; it includes firefighters wearing heavy ballistics helmets and vests.

The mentality has changed since the 1999 school shootings in Columbine, Calleros explains. In that mass shooting, fire personnel had to wait hours before being allowed in to treat the injured, prompting criticism that more people could have been saved if they’d gone in sooner.

“Now we’re trained to send people in quicker to treat the injured immediately,” the chief said.

Bryan Woodroof, paramedic coordinator for the Vernon Fire Department, was taking close note of what went down during the drill. He told EGP he noticed areas where communication can be improved and pointed out that the role of the fire department has broadened.

“We are used to going through a list and checking off boxes before sending in people,” said Woodroof. Firefighters are now expected to go even if gunshots can still be heard in the distance, Calleros added.

Vernon Police officers, joined by the Huntington Park Special Emergency Response Team, respond to gunshots during an active shooter drill. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Vernon Police officers, joined by the Huntington Park Special Emergency Response Team, respond to gunshots during an active shooter drill. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“They used to assess and provide first aid and now they are moving bodies,” he explained.
Calleros says the toughest part is mentally preparing for the situation.

“Some officers may encounter armed suspects but may not have to deal with a large number of casualties,” he said.

In 2009, Vernon police were faced with a real active shooter situation in the city. A disgruntled employee shot and killed two fellow co-workers at a Vernon business. A police officer was next door, heard the shots, and called for backup as the suspect fled the scene in a vehicle, which eventually crashed in nearby Huntington Park. Firefighters and paramedics arrived quickly on the scene to treat the injured.

Joining Vernon police and fire personnel for the active shooter drill were members of Huntington Park’s Special Emergency Response Team and officers from the Bell Police Department, which could at some point be called on to work together in a mutual aid situation.

The department expects to hold a similar drill at Vernon Elementary in the near future.

“Traditionally police chase bad guys and firefighters put out fires, now we play in each others backyards,” said Calleros.

Four Charged In Scheme to Embezzle Millions from Huntington Park-Based Luxury Denim Co

January 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Four Southern California men are facing federal charges alleging they embezzled more than $8 million from a laundry owned by high-end jeans company Citizens of Humanity.

Luis Mariano Rodriguez, 48, of East Los Angeles, the one-time president of CM Laundry, and three associates were arrested Tuesday for allegedly causing the laundry to pay fraudulent invoices that contained fictitious and inflated charges, and concealing Rodriguez’s role in the underlying transactions, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Since 2007, CM Laundry has been owned by Citizens of Humanity, a Huntington Park company that manufactures more than 1 million pairs of luxury denim jeans annually.

The other three defendants are: Antonio Anguiano, 48, of Riverside, owner of FI Products, which sold personal protective equipment; Terry Jay Mink, 62, of Rancho Palos Verdes, owner of H&T Industrial Products, a hardware company that serviced CM Laundry; and Rene Exequiel Bautista, 43, of Sylmar, owner of Valley Star Realty, which was allegedly used in the scheme under the fictitious business name K&R Industrial Supplies.

The defendants are free on bond and are expected to be arraigned Feb. 1 in Los Angeles federal court.
The criminal complaint filed last month alleges Rodriguez caused CM Laundry to pay more than $8 million after fraudulent invoices were submitted to the company.

“Mr. Rodriguez allegedly orchestrated a long-running scheme that took millions of dollars from his employer,” said Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. “The scheme involved other defendants who also allegedly stole proceeds generated through fraudulently issued bills. All of these individuals must now face the criminal justice system for their criminal conduct.”

The complaint charges Rodriguez with three counts of mail fraud, while the remaining defendants are each charged with one count of mail fraud.

As a result of civil litigation brought by CM Laundry and Citizens of Humanity, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in November ordered Rodriguez and others to pay over $9 million, according to the criminal complaint.

Pickup Truck Fatally Strikes Motorcyclist

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A motorcyclist was struck and killed by a pickup truck whose driver left the scene in Huntington Park Tuesday, but soon taken into custody.

The collision occurred near the intersection of Soto and 57th streets at 7:18 p.m., Huntington Park Police Department said.

The suspect and vehicle were found nearby soon after, police said.

The suspect was booked for felony charges including DUI and hit-and-run, police said.

The unidentified male victim died at a hospital.

El Consejo de Vernon Guía la Nueva Era en la Ciudad Industrial

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

La reunión del Consejo de la Ciudad de Vernon de la semana pasada fue un cambio notable de las reuniones del año pasado, cuando los concejales acordaban sin cuestionamientos y estampaban recomendaciones de un ex administrador corrupto de la ciudad.

Atrás quedó el consejo tímido, tranquilo y confiado. Ahora está un consejo que exige respuestas y no tiene miedo de poner asuntos en espera si no está satisfecho con las recomendaciones. Es el último indicio de que una nueva era política podría afianzar en Vernon en la estela de años de buenas reformas de este gobierno en fabricación.

Read this article in English: Vernon Council Leads New Era for Industrial City

Espectadores en la reunión del consejo del 6 de octubre probablemente hicieron una doble toma de como concejales desviaron su revisión habitual de no confrontación de temas del programa y pasaron casi una hora preguntando al personal de la ciudad sobre su recomendación de vender propiedades de Vernon localizadas en Huntington Park y elevando rentas en algunas unidades residenciales en Vernon para pagar por las reparaciones necesarias.

Si bien este tipo de discurso es común en otras ciudades, es muy lejos de lo siempre usual en una ciudad cuyo lema es “¡Exclusivamente industrial!” Acertadamente refleja su enfoque desde hace mucho tiempo para el bienestar de las 8,000 empresas que llaman a Vernon su casa, en lugar de su pequeña población residencial que sólo recientemente se duplicó en tamaño y ahora asciende a cerca de 200 residentes.

La mayoría de los residentes de la ciudad—y su electorado—viven en apartamentos y casas de propiedad municipal. Sólo cinco hogares en Vernon no son propiedades de la municipalidad. La perspectiva de elevar la renta no sentó bien con el consejo.

Dos concejales, Luz Martínez y Melissa Ybarra, se excusaron de la discusión citando conflictos de intereses, dejando al alcalde Michael W. McCormick, el alcalde interino Bill Davis y la concejal electa Yvette Woodruff-Pérez cuestionar al personal con más detalles para justificar sus recomendaciones.

“Si estamos recibiendo dinero de la venta de las propiedades de Huntington Park ¿Por qué necesitamos aumentar la renta para los inquilinos?”, Davis preguntó al personal en varias ocasiones.

Solo la mitad de las casas en una calle sin salida, atrás de la municipalidad de Vernon han recibidio las reparaciones necesarias. (Ciudad de Vernon)

Solo la mitad de las casas en una calle sin salida, atrás de la municipalidad de Vernon han recibidio las reparaciones necesarias. (Ciudad de Vernon)

La ciudad posee 31 unidades de vivienda, 26 en Vernon y siete en la ciudad vecina de Huntington Park. Las casas fueron construidas en los años 1940 y 1960. En 2007, la ciudad hizo una importante remodelación en 19 unidades de Vernon pero no hizo reparaciones a las otras siete unidades, debido a un déficit presupuestario de varios millones de dólares.

Con las finanzas de la ciudad fuera de la zona roja, el personal ha propuesto la renovación de las propiedades restantes. Ellos también han recomendado a la ciudad vender tres de las siete casas y condominios unifamiliares que posee en Huntington Park.

El director de Obras Públicas Kevin Wilson dijo que las rentas se elevarían más de $200 al mes para recuperar el costo de las mejoras tales como electrodomésticos nuevos, cocina y remodelación del baño, alfombra nueva, pintura, agua y mejoras del sistema de calefacción y de mitigación del plomo.

“Si vamos a hacer algo tenemos que hacer estas mejoras mínimas” para evitar reparaciones más grandes más adelante, advirtió el consejo.

Los inquilinos también se enfrentan a un ajuste de alquiler a precio de mercado en espera de que tenga lugar a mediados del 2016, según la subadministrador de la ciudad Kristen Enomoto.

La comisión de vivienda de la ciudad, sin embargo, dice que es poco probable que los actuales inquilinos puedan permitirse un aumento de más de $250.

Las cifras alarmaron al consejo.

“Al aumentar la renta pondría una carga para los residentes de Vernon” que ya tienen que lidiar con los inconvenientes que vienen con vivir en una ciudad muy industrial, dijo Davis.

Por ejemplo, en Vernon “No podemos simplemente caminar para conseguir algunos comestibles”, señaló.

El enfoque en las tasas de alquiler es nuevo en la ciudad, donde por décadas los costos de vivienda se mantuvieron artificialmente bajos para mantener el control del número de votantes de la ciudad. Durante los últimos cinco años, sin embargo, en respuesta a las denuncias de corrupción política, la ciudad ha aprobado una serie de reformas y de los alquileres que una vez fueron tan bajos como $200 al mes que se han incrementado para conseguir que estén más cerca de la tasa de mercado, de acuerdo al administrador de la ciudad Mark Whitworth.

Los ajustes han traído rentas de entre $696 a $ 1,700 para los apartamentos de una y dos recamaras y casas de dos y tres recamaras. El precio del alquiler incluye un descuento del 30 por ciento de la adversidad reflejando la singularidad de vivir en una ciudad que no tiene un parque, biblioteca o los servicios comunes en otras ciudades.

“No queremos aumentar el precio de la vivienda de la gente”, advirtió Stewart Leibowitz, asesor legal de la Comisión de Vivienda de Vernon. “La mayoría de los residentes han estado aquí mucho tiempo y somos especialmente sensibles a eso”, dijo.

Si la ciudad es propietaria de las unidades de vivienda libre y claramente, ¿por qué tenemos que aumentar las rentas para pagar por la remodelación? cuestionó Whitworth.

“¿Dónde van esos $700 a $1,300 de alquiler? añadió McCormick.

Aunque los costos varían por año, el costo de mantenimiento general 2014-2015 de propiedades de vivienda de Vernon fue de aproximadamente $197,000 de acuerdo con personal de la ciudad.

“Estamos tratando de estandarizar y conseguir el alquiler y viviendas” a un precio uniforme, respondió Enomoto, explicando que los inquilinos de las unidades previamente remodeladas pagan alquileres más altos por sus unidades.

“No queremos ser ‘dueños de pocilgas’ pero tampoco queremos gastar de más”, dijo el director de Obras Públicas de la ciudad.

Wilson sostuvo que debe haber un ajuste de alquiler para los inquilinos cuyas rentas no se han elevado para reflejar la mejora de la calidad de las viviendas.

“Están en buena forma, pero hay dos normas distintas”, dijo. “Algunas claramente han sido remodeladas y otras no y la renta refleja eso”, señaló.

El alcalde cree que el dinero obtenido de la venta de las propiedades en Huntington Park enlistadas en $398,000 debe ser utilizado para pagar por la remodelación de propiedades residenciales en Vernon, que costaría de $37,000 a $100,000 por unidad, dependiendo de la magnitud de las mejoras necesarias.

“Si haces reparaciones mínimas los residentes lo podrían pensar que ‘la ciudad no se preocupa por nosotros’”, advirtió.

McCormick estuvo de acuerdo, sin embargo, acuerda que las rentas deben ser en línea con otras propiedades de la municipalidad una vez que se hagan las reparaciones.

Leibowitz recordó al consejo que las nuevas políticas de la ciudad requieren que las rentas se ajusten al tipo de mercado. “Estamos tratando con un conjunto diferente de reglas, para ser sincero”, dijo.

El consejo decidió aplazar la decisión hasta que consiguen más información y la opinión del público. Davis dirigió al personal de la ciudad hacer más difusión para informar al público sobre el posible aumento de renta antes que el consejo tome una decisión.

Woodruff-Pérez dijo al personal de la ciudad que quiere ver cualquier proyecto de comunicación haciendo referencia a la cuestión antes de que sea enviado a los residentes.

“Cuanto más lo discutamos, más cosas salen a la luz que necesitan respuestas”, dijo.

 —-
Twitter @nancyreporting
nmartinez@egpnews.com

Vernon Council Leads New Era for Industrial City

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Vernon City Council’s meeting last week was a marked change from meetings of years past when councilmembers unquestioningly took direction and rubber stamped recommendations from a corrupt former city administrator.

Gone was the once shy, quiet and trusting council. Taking its place last week was a council that now demands answers from staff and is not afraid to put items on hold if not satisfied with the responses. It’s the latest indication that a new political era could be taking hold in Vernon in the wake of good governance reforms years in the making.

Mayor W. Michael McCormick

Mayor W. Michael McCormick

Spectators at the Oct. 6 council meeting likely did a double take as councilmembers diverted from their usual non-confrontational review of agenda items and spent nearly an hour grilling city staff about their recommendation to sell off city-owned housing in Huntington Park and to raise rents on some residential units in Vernon to pay for needed repairs.

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Davis

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Davis

While this type of discourse is common in other cities, it’s a far cry from business as usual in a city whose motto “Exclusively Industrial!” aptly reflects its long held focus on what’s best for the 8,000 businesses that call Vernon home, rather than its small residential population that only recently doubled in size and now totals about 200 people.

Most of the city’s residents – and its electorate – live in city-owned apartments and houses. Only five homes in Vernon are not city-owned properties. The prospect of raising rents did not sit well with the council.

Councilwoman Luz Martinez

Councilwoman Luz Martinez

Two councilmembers, Luz Martinez and Melissa Ybarra,  excused themselves from the discussion citing conflict of interest, leaving Mayor W. Michael McCormick, Mayor Pro Tem Bill Davis and newly elected Councilwoman Yvette Woodruff-Perez to push staff for more details and to justify their recommendations.

“If we’re getting money from selling the Huntington Park properties why do we need to increase the rent for tenants,” Davis asked staff repeatedly.

Councilwoman Melissa Ybarra

Councilwoman Melissa Ybarra

The city owns 31 housing units, 26 in Vernon and 7 in the neighboring city of Huntington Park. The homes were built in the 1940s and 1960s. In 2007, the city did a major remodel of 19 of the Vernon units but did not make repairs to the other 7 units due to a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

With city finances out of the red, staff has proposed renovating the remaining properties. They also have recommended the city sell 3 of the 7 single-family homes and condominiums it owns in Huntington Park.

Councilwoman Yvette Woodruff-Perez

Councilwoman Yvette Woodruff-Perez

Public Works Director Kevin Wilson said rents would be raised over $200 a month to recover the cost of improvements such as new appliances, kitchen and bathroom remodeling, new carpet, painting, water and heating system upgrades and lead abatement.

“If we’re going to do anything we need to do these minimal improvements” to avoid larger repairs down road, he cautioned the council.

Tenants are also facing a market-rate rent adjustment expected to take place in mid-2016, according to Deputy City Administrator Kristen Enomoto.

The city’s housing commission, however, says it’s unlikely current tenants can afford an increase over $250.

The figures alarmed the council.

“To increase rent would put a burden on the residents of Vernon” who already have to deal with the disadvantages that come with living in a heavily industrial city, Davis said.

For example, in Vernon “We can’t just walk to get some groceries,” he pointed out.

Only half the homes on a cul-de-sac behind Vernon City Hall have received needed repairs. The city is debating how to pay for the rest. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Only half the homes on a cul-de-sac behind Vernon City Hall have received needed repairs. The city is debating how to pay for the rest. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The focus on rental rates is new in the city, where for decades housing costs were kept artificially low to keep control of the city’s voter pool. During the last five years, however, in response to allegations of political corruption the city has adopted a number of reforms and rents that once were as little as $200 a month have been increased to get them closer to market rate, according to City Administrator Mark Whitworth.

The rate adjustments have brought rents to between $696 to $1,700 for 1 and 2 bedroom apartments and 2 and 3 bedroom single-family homes. The rental fee includes a 30 percent adversity discount to reflect the uniqueness of living in a city that does not have a park, library or amenities common in other cities.

“We don’t want to price people out of housing,” cautioned Stewart Leibowitz, legal counsel to the Vernon Housing Commission. “Most residents have been here a long time and we are uniquely sensitive to that,” he said.

If the city owns the housing units free and clear, why do we need to increase rents to pay for the rehab, Whitworth questioned.

“Where is that $700 to $1300 in rent going?” pushed McCormick.

Funds accrued from rent are used to maintain the properties and deal with issues that may arise, according to Whitworth. Though the costs vary per year, the 2014-2015 general maintenace cost of Vernon-owned housing was approximately $197,000 according to city staff.

“We’re trying to standardize and get the rent and homes” to uniform pricing, responded Enomoto, explaining that tenants in previously remodeled units pay higher rents for their units.

“We don’t want to be slumlords but we don’t want to overspend either,” said the city’s public works director.

Wilson argued that there should be a rent adjustment for tenants whose rents have not been raised to reflect the improved quality of the homes.

“They’re in good shape, but there are two distinct standards,” he said. “Some have clearly been remodeled and others haven’t and the rent reflects that,” he noted.

The mayor thinks money earned from selling off the properties in Huntington Park listed at $398,000 should be used to pay for remodeling residential properties in Vernon, which would cost $37,000 to $100,000 per unit depending on the extent of improvements needed.

“If you do minimal repairs residents might feel ‘the city doesn’t care about us,’” he warned.

McCormick did agree, however, that rents should be inline with other city-owned properties once repairs are made.

Leibowitz reminded the council that new city policies require rents be set at market rate. “We’re dealing with a different set of rules, to be perfectly candid,” he said.

The council decided to table the decision until they get more information and input from the public. Davis directed city staff to do more outreach to inform the public about potential rent increases before the council makes a decision.

Woodruff-Perez told city staff she wants to see a draft of any communication referencing the issue before it’s sent to residents.

“The more we discuss it, the more things come to light that need answers,” she said.

 

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