Juez Disuelve Organización, Ordena de la Transferencia ‘La Casa del Mexicano’

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Un famoso hito de Boyle Heights que una vez fue una institución sin fines de lucro que ofrecía actividades culturales y cívicas a los inmigrantes mexicanos, ahora esta en las manos de un desarrollador comunitario sin fines de lucro, bajo una transferencia ordenada por un juez de la Corte Superior del Condado de Los Ángeles.

Read this story IN ENGLISH: Judge Orders Transfer of Cultural Center

Como los nuevos administradores de La Casa del Mexicano, East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC por sus siglas) planea hacer renovaciones al edificio gastado y volver a abrirlo como centro cultural para la comunidad.

ELACC obtuvo las llaves de La Casa el 1 de enero después de ser seleccionada por la oficina de la Fiscal General de California Kamala Harris para preservar y gestionar el edificio, de acuerdo con Isela Gracián de ELACC.

El edificio, que trae una deuda de medio millón de dólares, será evaluado para su restauración. Foto archivo de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo.

La transferencia es el resultado de una demanda presentada el año pasado por la oficina de la fiscal en contra de Rubén y Martha Soriano, marido y mujer, y Martha Velásquez. La demanda los acusaba de ejecutar la organización cultural sin ánimo de lucro, para su propio beneficio. Llegando incluso a transferir ilegalmente La Casa del Mexicano, del Comité de Beneficencia Mexicana de Los Ángeles, Inc. a Mexican Benefit Corporation (MB Corp.), esencialmente funcionando la segunda organización como su entidad privada.

Como se informó anteriormente por EGP, varios activistas de la comunidad se habían comenzado a preocupar que el centro se había alejado de su misión y obligación de servir como un centro de actividades culturales y cívicas para los mexicanos.

Javier Rodríguez, director de la Coalición del 25 de Marzo e integrante del Comité del Rescate de la Casa del Mexicano, dijo a EGP que los Sorianos estaban usando la organización para su ganancia financiera personal. En vez de ofrecer actividades culturales y cívicas legítimas, La Casa se había convertido en un lugar para los combates de Lucha Libre y tianguis, con las ganancias embolsadas por los Sorianos, Rodríguez alegó.

En 2006, los Sorianos sacaron un préstamo de $175.000 contra la propiedad, que los activistas alegaban fue una transacción ilegal porque fue sin la aprobación de la mesa directiva de la organización, como lo requiere la ley. Después de no poder hacer los pagos del préstamo, la propiedad cayó en ejecución hipotecaria.

Con la esperanza de detener la subasta de La Casa, los activistas trajeron sus preocupaciones a los funcionarios electos exigiendo una investigación. Con el apoyo de varios funcionarios—incluyendo el Concejal de Los Ángeles José Huizar y el Senador Estatal Kevin De León—se abrió una investigación por la oficina del procuradora general, que presentó la demanda civil en contra de los Sorianos.

El 19 de diciembre de 2012, el juez del Tribunal Superior de Los Ángeles Michael Johnson ordenó la transferencia de la propiedad a ELACC y encontró a los acusados responsables de daños monetarios, multas civiles y honorarios de abogados del estado.

El juez también ordenó que Comité y MB Corp sean disueltos.

Además, los Sorianos, ex directivos de MB Corp., fueron ordenados a pagar más de $177.000 a ELACC como adjudicatario final de MB Corp. Esta cantidad fue por “gastos inexplicables y sin documentación” incurridos por los Sorianos en nombre de MB Corp, según la oficina de prensa de la Procuraduría General.

“Los Sorianos, como fiduciarios de MB Corp tienen la carga de presentar la contabilidad de los gastos de la organización no lucrativa. Les dimos la oportunidad de hacerlo y no lo hicieron”, dijo la oficina de prensa de la Procuraduría General a EGP por correo electrónico.

Los Sorianos y la ex tesorera Velásquez también deben pagar $27.534 a ELACC. Estos son más “gastos sin explicación y sin apoyo” incurridos por los Sorianos y Velásquez, según la oficina de prensa de la procuraduría.

Además, los Sorianos y Velásquez también deben pagar más de $217.000 en honorarios de abogados y sanciones civiles.

Los Sorianos se declararon en bancarrota dos veces, lo que resultó en posponer la subasta de La Casa, pero los casos fueron despedidos. El fallo del juez, sin embargo, no exime la responsabilidad por Comite, Corp MB, los Sorianos o Velásquez a los prestamistas.

Rodríguez dijo estar muy satisfecho con la decisión del juez. “Esta una noticia maravillosa, estamos vindicados”, dijo al enterarse de la conclusión de la demanda.

El siguiente paso será asegurar que se levanten acusaciones penales contra el trío, dijo Rodríguez.

Mientras tanto ELACC está estudiando como gestionar la propiedad ubicada en 2900 San Pedro Infante—que en realidad está compuesto de dos lotes en 529 Euclid Avenue y 2901 East 6th St., con la calle Pedro Infante como una vía de acceso privada.

Pero primero, la organización quiere pagar el gravamen de Brownstone Mortgage Fund I Limited Partnership de cerca de $500.000, que se produjo después que MB Corp. no cumplió con los pagos del préstamo, dijo Gracián.

“Hay muchos desafíos por delante, incluso décadas de mantenimiento diferido y una deuda de casi medio millón de dólares contraído por el anterior propietario sin fines de lucro”, dijo la presidente de ELACC Maria Cabildo en un comunicado de prensa. “Por ahora, ELACC se centrará en obtener los fondos para pagar la deuda existente y evaluar la viabilidad de los sistemas del edificio. Estamos muy contentos de empezar y tener este tesoro cultural operativo en el barrio de Boyle Heights.”

La antigua mezquita tiene un sótano en la primera planta, un escenario y oficinas en el segundo piso que también es la planta principal, y más oficinas en el tercer piso. El edificio cuenta con dos baños y una cocina, también hay un estacionamiento en el terreno.

ELACC buscará organizaciones asociadas para llevar a cabo la misión original de La Casa del Mexicano lo cual era estimular la participación cívica y social de la comunidad inmigrante mexicana. Este proceso incluirá la participación de la comunidad, dijo Gracián.

Se hicieron varios esfuerzos para entrevistar a Velásquez y los Sorianos. Velásquez se había negado comentar, pero volvió a llamar a EGP para preguntar cómo EGP obtuvo su número de teléfono y cuando se le preguntó si quería decir algo en su defensa, dijo “Siempre se habló de la verdad y yo no le puedo decir nada, los Sorianos manejaban todo esto.”

La semana pasada Martha Soriano contestó una llamada de EGP pero dijo que regresaría la llamada ya que viajaba a través de una zona montañosa y temía que la llamada se cortaría. Sin embargo, ella no volvió a llamar a pesar otros intentos por EGP de obtener comentarios.

El verano pasado, Rubén Soriano dijo a EGP que sentía que él y su esposa fueron víctimas de difamación, y subrayó que son personas trabajadoras. También acusó a Rodríguez de difundir mentiras y de no estar en todos sus sentidos.

Metro Publica Informe Sobre el Análisis de Alternativas del Estudio del 710

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Metro ha dado a conocer los resultados de su Informe de Análisis de Alternativas que se utilizó para reducir la lista de rutas destinadas a mejorar la movilidad y aliviar la congestión a través de la brecha de la autopista estatal SR-710 entre el Este/Noreste de Los Ángeles y el Valle de San Gabriel.

La semana pasada, miembros de la comunidad asistieron reuniones presentadas por Metro y Caltrans para aprender como 12 alternativas—para aliviar el embotellamiento en las zonas rodeadas por las autopistas SR-2, I-10, I-120 e I-605—fueron reducidas a 5 opciones.

Miembros de la comunidad asistieron la reunión, estilo casa abierta, de Metro para aprender acerca de las conclusiones del Informe de Análisis de Alternativas. Foto de EGP por Nancy Martínez

A través del Informe de Análisis de Alternativas cada opción fue calificada por lo bien que se cumplan los siguientes objetivos: minimizar el tiempo de viaje; mejorar la conectividad y la movilidad; reducir la congestión en el sistema de autopistas; reducir la congestión en el sistema local de la calle; aumentar el uso del transporte; hacer menor impacto negativo al medioambiente y las comunidades; ser consistente con planes y estrategias regionales; y maximizar la rentabilidad de las inversiones públicas.

De acuerdo con Deborah Pracilio, asesora de LSA Associates, las cinco alternativas que serán investigadas en el Informe de Impacto Ambiental y la Declaración de Impacto Ambiental (EIR /EIS), que se anticipa serán completadas en 2014, también serán sometidas a un análisis ambiental, social y económico para un posible proyecto que busca conectar la brecha entre Alhambra y Pasadena.

“Haremos ingeniería mucho más detallada sobre cada una de las alternativas, y en realidad estamos buscando incorporar algunos de los modos en conjunto por lo que estamos buscando refinamiento”, dijo Pracilio.

Las cinco alternativas que se estudiarán en el EIR /EIS del SR-710 incluirá la opción de no construir nada, implantar un sistema de gestión de transporte / manejo de transporte de demanda (TSM / TDM), un alternativo de tren ligero (LRT-4X), el alternativo de autobuses (BRT-6X) y la alternativa del autopista túnel (F-7X).

“Tratamos de elegir la mejor [versión] de autobús ‘rapid’, tren ligero, autopista y carretera y realmente la carretera fue eliminada porque no estaba cumpliendo el propósito y la necesidad”, dijo Pracilio.

Según Metro, el tráfico de camiones que cargan mercancías también se incluirá dentro del EIR para determinar los efectos de los viajes de camiones hacia y desde los puertos a los centros de distribución y almacenes.

Charles Miller, un miembro de la coalición “No a la 710” dijo a EGP que él estaba feliz que Metro incluirá el transporte de mercancías en el estudio, ya que la comunidad lo estaba pidiendo.

Controversias acerca del estudio para cerrar la brecha de las autopistas continúan, con algunos alegando que Metro ya sabe que construirá el túnel—lo cual Metro niega.

El estudio fue financiado por la Medida R, que fue aprobado por los votantes en 2008 para aumentar los impuestos por medio centavo para financiar proyectos de transporte en el Condado de Los Ángeles. Los votantes recientemente extendieron este impuesto hasta el año fiscal 2040, lo cual recaudará $40 mil millones para proyectos de transporte con $780 millones para el estudio del SR-710 y las mejoras.

Metro anticipa que el Informe de Impacto Ambiental y la Declaración de Impacto Ambiental estarán disponibles en la primavera de 2014 y una última alternativa preferida será seleccionada para la primavera de 2015.

Para obtener más información acera del estudio SR-710 visite www.metro.net/sr710study.

Molina Accuses Sheriff of Shortchanging Unincorporated Areas

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed the county’s  chief executive officer to work with staff to determine the feasibility of allowing unincorporated areas to establish Community Service Districts as a way to hold the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department accountable for law enforcement service levels.

Supervisor Gloria Molina is angry Sheriff’s services, like those pictured above, were reduced more in unincorporated areas compared to cities which have contract services with the department.(2003 EGP Archive)

The motion by Supervisor Gloria Molina comes shortly after the board learned that since Jan.13, the number of patrol cars in unincorporated areas were reduced because station captains were ordered not to use overtime. Last week, Molina accused Sheriff Lee Baca of “stealing” police resources from residents in unincorporated areas, providing better service to contract cities than to unincorporated areas.

Molina’s motion also coincides with an audit by the county’s auditor-controller which found that the response time to emergency calls in unincorporated areas were on average one minute longer than in cities that contract for law enforcement services from the sheriff’s department.

The supervisor authored the motion to demand sheriff patrol equity, something the county already pays for but is not getting, Molina’s spokesperson Roxane Marquez told EGP. Contracts with independent cities require the sheriff to maintain certain patrol levels, but no such contracts exist for the county’s unincorporated areas since the sheriff cannot contract with himself, Marquez explained.

Community Service Districts would give unincorporated communities, such as East Los Angeles, the power to secure law enforcement contracts in much the same way independent municipalities do, Marquez said.

Unincorporated East LA lost one patrol car for each of the three daily shifts, as did Azusa, Claremont and Pomona. Some areas were harder hit; patrols in unincorporated South and West Whittier were cut from 12 patrol cars to six, and unincorporated Basset and the Valinda Corridor went from five cars to two. In addition, in most every case, two-person patrol cars were reduced to one-person cars, according to Molina’s office.

“When you take a car out in the P.M. shift – when you take two-man cars and make them one-man cars – these are service cuts that are fairly dramatic,” Molina said in a written statement.  “The Sheriff points to low crime rates as justification for why he can reduce patrol in unincorporated areas but crime rates are low precisely because we have a consistent level of patrol.  His temporary solution has been to take deputies assigned to anti-gang units and put them on street patrol – which is not a solution at all.  It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The board voted last week to hire a company to do a forensic audit of the sheriff’s $2.8 billion department budget.

An angry Molina has also accused Baca of mismanaging his department, saying that over the last three years alone, the board has authorized judgments, settlements, attorney’s fees, and other legal costs totaling over $100 million due to use of force lawsuits against the sheriff’s department. Supervisors have also paid $18 million in liability costs to the contract cities trust fund, she said.

“Already, Sheriff Baca’s mismanagement of deputies is costing us millions of dollars,” Molina said.  “Now we’re encountering mismanagement of patrol hours – the most basic function of law enforcement.  Sheriff Baca’s excuse is that budget cuts are to blame but unincorporated patrol comprises less than 19 percent of his $2.6 billion annual budget. He continually makes good on his promises to contract cities. But he has broken his word to residents of unincorporated areas – and he’s done so for the last time. Unincorporated areas are being shortchanged by the Sheriff, and it’s got to stop.”

Another recent audit found that Baca had provided 99 percent of the patrols promised to cities and agencies that contract with his department, but only 91 percent of patrol hours promised to unincorporated neighborhoods, despite receiving funding from supervisors.

According to the audit, supervisors allocated $457.5 for sheriff’s services in unincorporated communities, but only $402.5 was accounted for, Marquez told EGP.

Supervisor Molina wants to know where the other $44 million is and why it’s not being spent in unincorporated areas as allocated, Marquez said.

Given that $44 million remains to be spent, unincorporated area patrols should not be suffering cuts, she said.

Baca has defended patrol reductions in unincorporated areas by citing a big drop in the crime rate. “We’re not out of our recession as a county,” Baca told the board last week. “We have the lowest crime rate we’ve had in 40 years.”

Sheriff’s officials also blamed deep budget cuts imposed by the board, causing the department to leave dozens of deputy positions unfilled. Adjusted for those cuts, the department was much closer to its goal, averaging 98.5 percent fulfillment of its pledged patrol hours, according to the audit, though unincorporated areas near Palmdale had a significantly lower 85.8 percent level.

Based on Molina’s recommendation, the board asked their lawyers to explore alternatives for providing services to the unincorporated areas, from private patrols to special service districts.

“We need to create accountability and I’m not so sure that the sheriff is listening to us,” Molina said.

Information from City News Service was used in this report.

Breves de la Comunidad

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Este Los Ángeles

Un hombre sospechado de robo el 25 de enero trató de eludir a fiadores al subirse al techo de una casa en el Este de Los Ángeles y se negó a bajar durante varias horas antes de rendirse sin incidente. Michael Vargas, de 37 años de edad, fue arrestado cerca de las 11:30 a.m., el incidente se inició cerca de las 7 a.m. en la cuadra 5300 de Grace Place, informó el Departamento del Alguacil del Condado Los Ángeles. Vargas eventualmente se bajó por una escalera que asistentes del alguacil pusieron contra la casa.

Este de Los Ángeles

Las autoridades han publicado la foto de un joven de 16 o 17 años de edad que buscan por supuestamente asaltar la tienda Extra Discount Store ubicada en 3649 E. First St., cerca de la calle Eastman Avenue. El asalto fue el día de navidad a las 2:50 p.m. cuando un empleado de la tienda vio que el joven trataba de ocultar algo en su persona. Al ser confrontado, el sospechoso empujó al empleado y huyó a pie hacia la calle Rowan Ave. El sospechoso mide 5 pies y 6 pulgadas de estatura, tiene pelo negro, ojos cafés, y traía aretes negros. Personas con información pueden llamar a los detectives al (323) 981-5035.

California

Dolores Huerta, activista defensora de los trabajadores campesinos, la semana pasada fue elegida por el gobernador de California, Jerry Brown, y la primera dama, Anne Gust Brown, para entrar al Salón de la Fama del estado. Huerta fundó junto con César Chávez la Asociación Nacional Trabajadores Agrarios, que se convirtió posteriormente en la coalición de Trabajadores del Campo Unidos (UFW, en inglés), el primer sindicato exitoso de trabajadores agrarios de EE.UU. Huerta recibirá la medalla distintiva y será incluida en el Salón de la Fama en una ceremonia a celebrarse el próximo 20 marzo en el Museo de California, en Sacramento, informó EFE.

Ciudad de Los Ángeles

El Concejo de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles el martes dio su aprobación final para permitir que iniciativas acerca de la regulación de marihuana para uso medicinal, sean colocadas en la boleta electoral para la elección del 21 de mayo. El Concejal José Huizar ha opuesto sistemáticamente las propuestas de marihuana medial, diciendo que cualquier nueva ordenanza sería prematura hasta que la Corte Suprema del estado tome una decisión acerca de demandas pendientes acerca la ley de California que regula la distribución de la marihuana medicinal.

Obama Supports Pathway to Citizenship

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Major immigrant rights organizations and labor unions on Tuesday welcomed President Barack Obama’s speech on immigration reform, particularly praising his strong support for a plan that includes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 undocumented immigrants in the country.

In his speech in Las Vegas Tuesday, Obama said that if Congress does not act soon, he will send his own proposal to ensure “a fair process” that allows undocumented immigrants to “earn” the right to legalize their status and eventual citizenship.

“We applaud the eloquent and thoughtful support of President Obama to create a reform that includes a viable path to citizenship for those who are American in every way except on paper,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor federation.

Following Obama’s speech, Trumka said he was pleased that the president seemed to “understand” immigrants and that “a victory for immigrant workers is a victory for all U.S. workers.”

“Obama’s leadership and the bipartisan Senate agreement gives us hope, and they suggest that 2013 will be the year when America finally builds a functional immigration system,” said the labor leader.

Meanwhile, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a coallition of some of the largest immigrant rights organizations, issued a statement thanking the president for putting on the table some viable solutions, which in its judgment, “would create a more humane and just immigration system.”

“We applaud Obama for making [immigration] reform a priority and we hope the bipartisan plan will be passed by Congress,” stated FIRM.

However, immigrant rights groups will not accept “any plan that does not include a path to citizenship and ensures that families will remain united,” warned FIRM spokesman Kica Matos.

The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA-34), in a statement released Tuesday, said, “In the twenty years that I’ve served in the U.S. House of Representatives, the landscape for reforming our long-broken immigration system has never been as promising as it is today. President Obama’s principles for immigration reform complement the work that is being done in Congress.

“As the details of a reform package become clearer over the next weeks, the one necessity is that it must be done.”

Publicitan Programa de Servicio de Preparación de Impuestos Sin Costo

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Este sábado, 2 de febrero, East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) llevará a cabo un lanzamiento “mega” de preparación gratuito de impuestos para más de 100 familias y residentes a través del programa Asistencia Voluntaria de Preparación de Impuesto (VITA por sus siglas en inglés).

El martes por la mañana, ELACC anunció que este es el segundo año consecutivo que se asocia con VITA para ofrecer el programa que cuenta con voluntarios entrenados por el IRS para ofrecer gratuitamente la preparación de impuesto a las ganancias.

El programa VITA está dirigido a ayudar a los residentes que ganan menos de $51.000 al año, para que el dinero que ahorren por el servicio lo puedan utilizar para otras necesidades.

En el Este de LA, más del 70 por ciento de los residentes son elegibles para participar en el programa VITA, de acuerdo con ELACC.

VITA tomará citas hasta el fin de la temporada de impuestos en abril. Para obtener más información sobre la asistencia y los sitios de VITA, llame al 1-800-906-9887 o visite http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-Programs.

Para comunicarse con ELACC llame al (323) 269-4214.

Consideran sistema para Alertar Acerca de Sismos

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El senador demócrata en California Alex Padilla anunció el lunes la presentación de un proyecto de ley que permitiría crear un sistema de alarma que anticipe en cerca de un minuto un movimiento telúrico, lo que permitiría salvar miles de vidas.

Este sistema de sensores y comunicación, con un costo cercano a los 80 millones de dólares, permitiría detectar entre 30 y 60 segundos antes de que comience a sentirse un temblor en la superficie.

Este tiempo serviría para tomar acciones inmediatas como detener un tren o apagar una planta eléctrica, informaron expertos que acompañaron al senador de Pacoima, al noroeste de Los Ángeles, en el anuncio de su propuesta.

“Un sistema de alerta anticipada de temblores completamente desarrollado ofrecería a los californianos segundos críticos para buscar protección, ayudar a los familiares, orillarse en una autopista o salir de un edificio”, argumentó Padilla en su presentación en el Laboratorio Sismológico del Instituto de Tecnología de California.

Igualmente se destacó que el tiempo de anticipación permitiría una respuesta más efectiva a los cuerpos de bomberos, policía y otros organismos de socorro, identificando las áreas más afectadas por el movimiento telúrico.

El senador estuvo acompañado de un panel de expertos representantes de Caltech, la Encuesta Geológica de EE.UU., la Fundación Gordon y Betty Moore y la Universidad de California Berkeley.

Estos especialistas afirmaron además que existe un peligro real de que un terremoto afecte simultáneamente las áreas de San Francisco y Los Ángeles.

Metro Releases Alternative Analysis Report On 710 Study

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Metro released the findings from its Alternative Analysis Report that was used to narrow down its list of routes meant to improve mobility and relieve congestion through the SR-710 gap between East/Northeast Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

Last week community members attended an open house hosted by Metro and Caltrans to review the results obtained by the recently completed report, which compared 12 alternatives that were meant to relieve congestion in the study area bordered by the SR-2, I-10, I-210 and the 1-605 freeways.

Metro’s Executive Officer for the Highway Program, Frank Quoun, told EGP that after years of scoping efforts and feedback from the community Metro is ready to move forward to the next phase in the project.

‘We’ve been able to identify five that we think are good alternatives to move forward into the environmental document,” Quon said. “We want to make sure that [the public] understands there’s no decision made yet but what we want them to see is the five alternatives that will be considered.”

Through the Alternative Analysis Report each alternative was rated on how well it would fulfill the following objectives:

—Minimize travel time

—Improve connectivity and mobility

—Reduce congestion on the freeway system

—Reduce congestion on local street system

—Increase transit ridership

—Least impact on the environment and communities

—Consistency with regional plans and strategies

—Maximize cost-efficiency of public investments

Deborah Pracilio, a LSA consultant, told EGP the alternatives were rated based on how well they met each objective.

The 12 alternatives where then narrowed down to five that will continue on to a detailed Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), to further determine the environmental, social and economical impact each route would have as it tries to connect the SR-710 gap between Alhambra and Pasadena.

“Were going to do much more detailed engineering on each of the alternatives, were actually looking at incorporating some of the modes together so they are looking at some refinement,” said Pracilio.

The five alternatives that will be studied in the SR-710 EIR/EIS will include the no build option, the transportation system management/transportation demand management (TSM/TDM), the light rail transit alternative (LRT-4X), the bus rapid transit alternative (BRT-6X) and the freeway tunnel alternative (F-7X).

“We tried to pick the best bus rapid, the best light rail, the best freeway and the best highway and really the highway fell out because it wasn’t fulfilling the purpose and need,” said Pracilio.

According to Metro, freight traffic will be considered within the SR-710 EIR to determine the effects of truck travel to and from the ports to distribution centers and warehouses.

Rob McCann, President of LSA Associates Inc, a consulting firm hired by Metro that specializes in environmental, transportation, and planning services, told EGP that the firm was asked to gather information because there was so much public interest in the question of goods movement.

“There will be a discussion of truck traffic in each [alternative] and how it changes and will compare with one another,” McCann said. “There’s always going to be some trucks on any highway but on this project it’s not a high percentage.”

Charles Miller, a member of the No on 710 coalition told EGP he was happy to see Metro include the study on goods movement.

“That’s something that had been omitted from their public commentary but something we had really pressed hard with,” said Miller.

Loren Bloomberg, a traffic engineer, told EGP that a computer model used to predict traffic in Southern California through 2035 was used to analyze the alternatives to see how they hurt or helped traffic on surface streets and freeways. That same model will be used to analyze the five alternatives including their variations like tow versus non-tow or truck restrictions versus allowing trucks.

“As we refine it we get more details on it,” Bloomberg said. “The other refinement is we look into details of individual intersections.”

Supporters of the 710-freeway expansion like Harry Baldwin attended the open house to better understand the alternatives that Metro is looking at but also to help dispel rumors caused by this controversial expansion.

“There’s a lot of people that are hearing rumors in the neighborhood, some people have been here today and have found out these rumors are not true,” Baldwin told EGP. “We need to be able to move our traffic through the system as efficiently as possible and I think this is one of the major links in doing that.”

Baldwin told EGP some residents had heard rumors that their homes could be taken away, but after checking the routes that Metro is looking at for the five alternatives, some people discovered their homes would be safe from the construction.

Some of the attendees, however, were not reassured by the presentation when it comes to the cost of the project, which some claim will be billions of dollars more than Metro has claimed.

Miller, a resident of Los Angeles, told EGP that some questions and concerns have yet to be addressed by Metro.

“There are a number of reasons why I’m opposed, there are a number of concerns over inducing traffic into this area, there are health concerns but probably the number one concern I have is for L.A County taxpayers,” Miller said.

Some residents also felt that Metro has already set their mind on the tunnel route, one that Miller says would take away funds from other transportation services.

“It’s not just a financial risk for us being able to pay for it, but also for bus and transit that will just suck the money out of all of those [services] and deplete service in the area rather than enhance it,” he said.

The study has been funded by Measure R, which was approved by voters in 2008 to increase taxes by a half-cent to fund Los Angeles County transportation projects. Voters recently extended the tax trough 2040 that will provide $40 billion for transportation projects with $780 million for the SR-710 study and improvements.

Metro projects the release of the Draft EIR/EIS will be available by Spring 2014 and a final preferred alternative to be selected by Spring 2015.

For more information about the SR-710 Study visit www.metro.net/sr710study.


Judge Orders Transfer of Cultural Center

January 31, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

A famed Boyle Heights community landmark that once served as a non-profit cultural and civic institution for Mexican immigrants is now in the hands of a community-based non-profit developer, a transfer ordered by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.

Photo of past swatmeet from La Casa del Mexicano Facebook page

As the new stewards of La Casa del Mexicano, the East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) plans to assess the building’s integrity, and then restore it so it can eventually reopen as a community cultural center.

The community corporation obtained the keys to La Casa on Jan. 1st, according to the ELACC’s Isela Gracian.

ELACC was selected by the State Attorney General’s office to preserve and operate the building, the Mexican American Opportunity Fund (MAOF) had also previously been considered.

The transfer is the result of a lawsuit filed late last spring by the state attorney general’s office against husband and wife Martha and Ruben Soriano, and Martha Velasquez, which claimed they were running the non-profit cultural institute for their own person benefit, going so far as to illegally transfer La Casa del Mexicano’s deed from the non-profit Comité de Beneficencia Mexicana de Los Angeles, Inc. to Mexican Benefit Corp. (MB Corp.), essentially running it as their private entity.

Lea esta nota en ESPAÑOL: Juez Disuelve Organización, Ordena de la Transferencia ‘La Casa del Mexicano’

As previously reported by EGP, at about the same time those actions were taking place, a number of community activists were growing concerned that the center had moved away from its non-profit charter and mission to serve as center for Mexican cultural and civic activities. Javier Rodriguez, director of the March 25th Coalition and the Committee to Rescue la Casa del Mexicano, told EGP the Sorianos were using the non-profit for personal financial gain. Rather than putting on legitimate cultural and civic events, LA Casa had become a rundown venue where Lucha Libre matches and swap meets were held, with proceeds going to the Sorianos, he alleged.

In 2006, the Sorianos took out a $175,000 loan against the property, which community activists also claimed was illegal since it was done without the approval of the nonprofit’s board of directors, as required by law. After failing to make payments, the property fell into foreclosure.

In hopes of stopping a planned auctioning off the landmark, community activists brought La Casa’s precarious financial and management situation to the attention of elected officials demanding an investigation. With backing from several local elected officials—including Los Angeles Councilmember José Huizar and State Senator Kevin De León—an investigation was opened by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris’ office, which brought the civil lawsuit against the Sorianos.

On Dec. 19, 2012, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson ordered the property to be transferred to ELACC and found the defendants liable for monetary damages, civil penalties and the state’s legal fees.

In addition to declaring the Soriano’s deed transfer “null and void,” and the “title to La Casa is quieted to Comite,” the judge also ordered that Comite and MB Corp be dissolved.

The Mexican Consul General of Los Angeles established Comité de Beneficencia Mexicana and registered the property under the non-profit in 1931.

The judgment also ordered Martha and Ruben Soriano—the former directors of MB Corp.—to pay ELACC over $177,000 as MB Corp.’s final distributee. This quantity is for “unexplained and unsupported expenses” incurred by the Sorianos on behalf of MB Corp, according to the Attorney General’s press office.

“The Sorianos, as fiduciaries of MB Corp have the burden of accounting for the expenses of the charitable organization. We gave them an opportunity to do so and they did not,” the attorney general’s press office told EGP via email.

The Sorianos and Martha Velasquez, also a former MB Corp. officer, must also pay another $27,534 to ELACC, for other “unexplained and unsupported expenses” incurred by the Sorianos and Velasquez.

“We did not have any evidence that Velasquez was an officer or director when disbursements were made from one of MB Corp’s bank accounts that we reviewed, so she is liable for less damages than the Sorianos,” the email explains.

In addition, the Sorianos and Velasquez were also ordered to pay over $217,000 in attorney fees and civil penalties.

The Sorianos had previously filed for bankruptcy, not once but twice, which resulted in La Casa’s auction being postponed. Both bankruptcy cases were dismissed, according to the Attorney General’s press office. The judgment, however, does not discharge any liability by Comite, MB Corp, the Sorianos or Velasquez to creditors.

Community activists said they are elated by the judge’s ruling.

“This is wonderful news, we are vindicated,” Rodriguez of the Committee to Save La Casa told EGP upon hearing about the judgment.

He said his group’s next step would be to make sure that criminal charges are brought against the trio, adding they will hold a press conference sometime in the next few days.

In the meantime, ELACC is putting together plans for operating the facility located at 2900 Pedro Infante St., — which is actually comprised of two lots at 529 Euclid Ave. and 2901 East 6th St. LA 90063, with Pedro Infante Street being a private driveway. First, however, the nonprofit must come up with a plan for paying off the nearly $500,000 lien on the building held by Brownstone Mortgage Fund I Limited Partnership, which resulted after MB Corp. defaulted on a $175,000 loan, Gracian said.

“There are many challenges ahead, including decades of deferred maintenance and a nearly half-million dollar debt incurred by the previous non-profit owner,” said ELACC President Maria Cabildo in a written statement. “For now, ELACC will be focused on securing funding to pay off the existing debt and assessing the viability of the building’s systems. We are excited to get started and have this cultural treasure operational in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights.”

The former mosque is composed of a basement on the first floor, a performance space (theatre) and offices on the second floor/main level, and more offices on the third floor with a mezzanine. The building has two restrooms, and a kitchen in the basement. The property also has a parking lot.

According to Gracian, ELACC needs to pay off the building and is looking for private and public entities that would be interested in funding the renovations of the nearly 90-year-old building, which has not received proper maintenance over the years.

ELACC will also seek partnering organizations to carry out La Casa’s original mission to stimulate civic and social engagement in the Mexican immigrant community. This process will include community engagement, in order to bring the building back to its original “splendor” and have it serve as a cultural resource once more, said Gracian.

Several attempt were made to contact Velasquez and the Sorianos. At first, Velasquez declined to comment but on Tuesday evening she called EGP and speaking in Spanish said, “I always spoke the truth and I really have nothing to say, it was the Sorianos who managed all this.”

EGP reached Martha Soriano by phone last week, but said she had a bad connection and would call back. Neither she nor her husband have returned EGP’s request for comment.

Last summer, Ruben Soriano told EGP he felt he and his wife were victims of defamation. He underscored that they are hardworking people and accused Rodriguez of spreading lies and questioning his mental health.

Read previous EGP stories on La Casa del Mexicano at www.EGPnews.com .

Bell Gardens High School Receives Grant For Health Center

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Parents with teenagers attending Bell Gardens High School may no longer have to get out of work early to take their child to a doctor’s appointment. The school will soon be home to a school-based health center that will focus on the needs of adolescents and families, which will be easily assessable to students on campus.

The Family Health Care Center of Greater Los Angeles (FHCCGLA), a non-profit organization that offers affordable medical services in the Los Angeles area, received a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to establish a school based health center at Bell Gardens High School with cooperation from the Montebello Unified School District.

Chief Executive Officer for the health care center, Dr. Albert Pacheco, told EGP that the campus location would make it easier for working parents, and reduce the time students may miss in the classroom.

Once built, parents will only need to sign a consent form allowing their child be seen at the clinic so the student can go to their appointment right after school, Pacheco told EGP.

“We are bringing the services to that particular community of school-aged children,” Pacheco said. “This way we’re making it a lot easier for those families and not creating any more barriers to access health care.”

Pacheco told EGP that the location of the health center will be in an area where there is a high need.

“In this particular area of Los Angeles there’s a big uninsured, low-income population so there’s a big need, and from what I understand, there was a high teen pregnancy rate in Bell Gardens so that presents a dual challenge,” he said.

The health center will help insure teen moms in the area get prenatal care and their newborns get initial care. But the clinic will also be providing preventative measures as well, added Pacheco.

“We’ll offer health-ed that will revolve around family planning and we’ll make [condoms and pregnancy test] available to them if that’s what the teenager seeks,” Pacheco said.

Fees at the clinic will be based on the household income but according to Pacheco, most kids in the area will qualify for Medicaid eligible based programs based on their income.

The campus health center will be located not far from FHCCGLA’s health care center located on 6501 S. Garfield. Although the two clinics will be blocks a part, Pacheco says the campus center will not negatively affect the health care center already located in Bell Gardens.

“There is such an unmet need that even if we didn’t see teenagers or adolescents because we’re seeing them at the school, there’s more people out there,” Pacheco said. “With the school based health center we’re kind of bringing the services there at the school and having it accessible.”

For more information about the health center visit www.fhccgla.org.


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