Citing public safety concerns, Vernon health and environment officials ordered a local manufacturer and chemical blender to immediately cleanup improperly stored drums filled with flammable hazardous waste, the city announced last June 14 in a written statement.
The order comes following a two-month investigation by Vernon’s Health and Environmental Control Department (VHEC) into allegations that Four Star Chemical had failed to safely handle, manage and dispose of the materials, creating an “imminent and substantial endangerment to public health and safety.”
“Serious violations” of California’s hazardous materials monitoring and control statutes were found during an onsite code enforcement inspection of the facility on 26th Street, officials said.
The discovery that hazardous substance was being improperly stored in drums on the property prompted VHEC officials, in cooperation with Vernon’s Fire Marshal, to take enforcement action against Four Star Chemical, ordering the company to immediately safely remove and properly dispose of hazardous substances found at the site.
Calls to Four Star Chemical were not returned.
The enforcement action comes on the heels of the closure by state toxic substance control officials of another Vernon company accused of creating a public health hazard. Battery manufacturer and recycler Exide Technologies was shut down when it was found to be releasing higher than allowed levels of lead and arsenic into the air and soil, potentially raising the cancer risk to people living and working in Vernon and several nearby communities, including Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood and Huntington Park. In that case, Vernon officials called on state regulators to step in and take action against Exide, which has operated for more than three decades in the industrial city on an interim permit.
On Monday, Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin lifted the state’s toxics management agency suspension of operations order pending an upcoming hearing.
Four Star Chemical must be in compliance by June 28, according to Vernon officials.
Planning officials have approved a project to demolish the former First Street Store in unincorporated East Los Angeles, making way for a new charter high school. Fears that the demolition would destroy a massive mural on the building can be laid to rest, since all parties involved in the project have agreed to conserve and reinstall the panels on the building’s reconstructed façade once it is complete.
According to Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools President and CEO Judy Burton, demolition and construction are not expected to in early 2014.
In the meantime, efforts are now underway to explore the best possible way to remove and store “The History of Our Struggle,” an 18-panel tile mural created in 1974 that sequentially depicts events in Chicano history.
The murals could be removed in about six months, according to Eli Kennedy, the project developer, president and CEO of Pacific Charter School Development (PCSD), and Alliance’s vice president of real estate, Megan Hadden.
The former department store site will house the Alliance Media Arts and Entertainment Design High School, currently located on Whittier and Atlantic Boulevards in East Los Angeles where it operates out of a collection of portable classrooms.
Construction of a new Alliance middle school on an adjacent lot on East 1st Street, where a market was demolished earlier this year, should be completed by August, Hadden told EGP on Tuesday.
Efforts to “Save the First Street Store” mural, which began with the collection of thousands of signatures on a petition, concluded when the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning approved plans for the high school that included preservation of the mural in May.
At the meeting, artists who had fought vehemently to protect the mural, expressed joy and gratitude that it would be preserved for new generations to see and explore.
David Botello, who with two other artists helped design the mural, called the school site project “a life-long dream come true.” He said he would love to pass his knowledge on to students at the school if given the opportunity.
The mural’s architectural designer, Johnny D. González, also known as “Don Juan,” told the commission he thinks its “fantastic” that Alliance high school students would be exposed to the mural, Chicano history and the potential rebirth of the First Street corridor.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of the businesses on First Street and the businesses are really hurting in the area. They’re just really anxious to get going with this because they feel this is going to bring a chance and motivation to the other businesses to enhance the area,” said González, one of the most vocal proponents of saving the mural in it’s current execution. Plans originally called for removing the mural panels and erecting them out of order across the campus.
González says during the 1970s he envisioned a cultural heritage tourism initiative that would bring visitors to the stretch of East LA where the First Street Store, then the only department store in the area, was bustling with business.
Numerous artists are lauding the mural preservation as a nod to East Los Angeles’ Chicano/Jewish legacy. While Jewish individuals who grew up in the area supported the conservation campaign, no Jewish organizations, per se, were involved in the effort, despite the original mural wall being the result of a Jewish/Chicano collaboration.
More than four decades ago González approached the First Street Store’s Jewish owner, Bob Kemp, with his designs for the mural. Soon after the Chicano Moratoriums and the death of L.A. Times reporter Ruben Salazar in 1970, Kemp gave the go ahead to create the mural, which González said “may be the largest monument honoring the Chicano/Mexican/Latino culture and community.”
“The Story of Our Struggle” was completed in 1974, completely transforming the store, according to González, who credits the mural for launching Los Angeles into becoming the mural capital of the world.
The importance and beauty of the mural has been recognized in recent years by UCLA, the Fowler Museum during the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time, and in a Time Magazine article about the Chicano Art Culture renaissance, according to the Save the First Street Store Building coalition spokesperson, Irma Beserra Núñez.
González, Botello and Robert Arenivar designed the mural, which has both artistic and sentimental value to many artists and others, but is not listed in any federal, state or local historical registry.
Botello confessed to EGP that he is not looking forward to demolition of the building, where he has many fond memories of shopping with his grandfather and family, but expressed hope that future generations will be able to enjoy the mural.
In compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a study was conducted and concluded that the project could have significant impact to the cultural resources of the area, but with mitigation, the impact would be less than significant. A notice of intent to adopt a mitigated negative declaration and the notice of public hearing was publicized on April 22, but no public comments were received during the 30-day period, according to County Planner Alice Wong.
On the exterior, the new state-of-the-art high school will resemble the former First Street Store in its California Mission architectural design. The murals, however, will be elevated and set back about 10 feet from their current position on the sidewalk so visitors can admire it without straining their necks. Gone will be the glass windows and doors, planters will be placed along the exterior. The new school design will also include a large educational plaza with seating and an Aztec pyramid fountain designed by Gonzalez. Bilingual plaques and lighting will also enhance the mural.
The twenty-two-classroom school will serve up to 600 high school students and employ 30 faculty members, according to the May 22 commission meeting transcripts. The middle school and high school will share an off-site parking lot, satisfying parking requirements. Measures to reduce traffic that will potentially be caused by the opening of the new high school were also approved.
County Regional Planning Director Richard Bruckner told EGP the project’s approval was one of those “rare instances when everyone wins.”
“The project will result in a new high quality educational institution for the families of the neighborhood, it will result in the art work being preserved and a space that in my estimation will be much improved from what is there today,” Bruckner told EGP, explaining the building will be structurally safe and visitors will have better access to the murals.
Alliance is charged with documenting and moving the murals and has engaged professional mural conservationists to evaluate the best practices for removing, storing and reinstalling the mural, Bruckner said. The charter school operator was very gracious in their negotiations and the outcome, and the artists equally forthcoming, he added.
Alliance’s Burton said the nine months of negotiations worked out an arrangement that met everyone’s needs: “We are very happy to be able to reach an agreement that everyone is happy with.”
It is unclear how long the mural removal will take, but demolition of the building will begin soon after, Hadden said.
Kennedy told EGP that everyone sacrificed a lot due to scarce resources. Kennedy reiterated that the original intention all along was to save the murals, and said the building’s design changed a lot during the negotiations. “We are extremely happy and looking forward to getting it started,” he said, referring to the construction.
Members of the coalition also expressed gratitude for the cooperation of Supervisor Gloria Molina’s office, as well as the LA Conservancy and Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.
It wasn’t along ago that the Linda Vista community hospital was the center of paranormal tours that at times had Angelenos wanting to rush away from the abandoned building.
Things have changed at the site, and a celebration was held June 13 to mark the opening of the newly renovated Linda Vista Senior Apartments, a friendly affordable housing development where seniors can live independently while enjoying amenities that include a community room with a kitchen, a community center, courtyard with BBQ, and a wealth of planned activities and programs with the goal of improving health and prolonging independence.
Rehabilitation of the facilities, located at 630 S. St Louis Street in Boyle Heights, generated over 420 jobs during the construction which was done in two phases: phase one revitalized the former nurses’ dormitory into 23 apartment units; phase two created 120 affordable rental units.
For more information on the apartments, visit http://www.lindavistaseniorapts.com/
Low-income parents who have children with autism are angry that state lawmakers have passed a budget that will deprive their offspring of vital services to treat their condition.
“Unfortunately, the autism community got left out in the cold,” asserted Kristin Jacobson, president and co-founder of Autism Deserves Equal Coverage.
At least 500 young children on Medi-Cal, the federal and state funded program for low-income children, will no longer get the vital Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services, crucial for autistic children because it improves their socialization and learning ability skills and could even allow some of them to be mainstreamed in schools.
Even as it is, autistic children who had transitioned from the Healthy Families Program (HFP) into Medi-Cal earlier this year because of a budget decision were hurt by the move because Medi-Cal does not provide ABA services, but instead pays for the service through regional centers.
Sadly, nearly two-thirds of former Healthy Families patients could not access those services because of the “stringent criteria” set by the regional centers, noted Karen Fessel, executive director and co-founder of the Autism Health Insurance Project. Those patients lost the ground they had gained, she said.
“It’s been incredibly difficult for the parents,” Jacobson said, noting that one “desperate mother” asked her if she could learn the therapy so she could provide her son care.
Children’s health care advocates had asked lawmakers to set aside $50 million in the budget so regional centers that had been providing those service, could continue doing so.
But lawmakers instead embraced Gov. Jerry Brown’s argument that the state could no longer afford to fund regional centers.
Jacobson said that the governor was being shortsighted in de-funding regional services because every child who receives ABA services could save the state some $1 million over his or her lifetime.
Children who don’t receive the service could end up being institutionalized, she warned.
OXNARD, Calif. – For years, DREAMer Rodrigo Perea, 18, lived under a threatening cloud of deportation. Now, Perea has legal permission to live and work in the U.S.—but until recently he was still in the dark about the low-income health programs he qualifies for.
He’s not alone. Thousands of immigrants, and even many health care advocates in California who work with young immigrants, are unaware that recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may qualify for state-funded only Medi-Cal, identical in every way to the full scope federal and state funded program that shares the name.
Last August, the Obama administration initiated DACA, giving certain undocumented youth who have grown up in the United States permission to live and work in the country for two-year renewable periods.
Two months later, the administration announced that DACA recipients would not be eligible to receive federal benefits, including health insurance programs – an obvious attempt on the administration’s part to prove to its foes that DACA would not renege on the administration’s promise that undocumented individuals would not benefit from the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The announcement enraged immigrant rights activists, who lamented the fact that DACA beneficiaries were being treated no differently than undocumented immigrants when it comes to health care, despite the Department of Homeland Security itself confirming that DACA grantees are lawfully present in the United States.
The administration’s decision effectively denies DACA recipients access to affordable health care because they will not be able to participate in the health care exchanges set up under federal health care reform, will not be covered by the federal and state funded Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California), and will not be covered for pre-existing health conditions.
But Perea and others like him are lucky to live in California. It’s one of only a handful of states that run a parallel Medicaid program, solely funded with state dollars. Medi-Cal was launched in 1996, soon after Washington passed the Welfare Reform Act. Under it, Congress banned some lawfully present immigrants from receiving Medicaid indefinitely and slapped a five-year waiting period on newly documented immigrants – both children and adults – before they could sign up for Medicaid.
California was among a number of states with large immigrant populations that disagreed with the ban and opted to continue financing the health insurance program for low-income immigrants regardless of how long they had resided in the United States, provided they met all the eligibility criteria for regular Medi-Cal, said Tanya Broder, a senior attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. The only difference being, the program would be supported exclusively with state dollars.
“California has long recognized the need to provide health insurance to people who are here lawfully because it believes it’s a good idea to invest in preventive care,” said Broder.
Los Angeles DREAMer Hyun Kyu (Kevin) Lee, 21, also a DACA beneficiary and a recent college graduate, unfortunately is a little too old to enroll in Medi-Cal, even though he would like the security of having health insurance. Under current Medi-Cal eligibility requirements, adults over the age of twenty must have a child to qualify.
Since its implementation, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has received nearly 500,000 DACA applications, of which half have been approved. That number represents only about 30 percent of the estimated 1.76 million DREAMers nationwide who possibly qualify for DACA, according to the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
In California, 73,104 youngsters have been given DACA status out of a pool of 134,167 applicants, as of the end of last March.
Perea is currently in possession of an Emergency Medi-Cal card, which has limited use. The card is given to any immigrant who is “not a lawful permanent resident or Permanently Residing in the United States Under Color of Law (PRUCOL).” Aside from emergency medical care and pre-natal care, the cardholder is eligible for organ transplant procedures and renal dialysis services. It will not cover regular outpatient care or pay for prescription drugs.
Until recently, Arcenio Lopez, associate director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) in Oxnard, said he was not aware that DREAMers like Perea, who is his client, might qualify for state-funded low-income health care. Now that he does, he said, he would put the word out through the MICOP promotoras – women from the indigenous migrant community who promote health through educational workshops.
“Many youth here never go to see a doctor or a dentist when they need to, and so many of them have dental problems,” Lopez said. “They need to have physicals and get preventative care… Having access to Medi-Cal will make a big difference to them and their families.”
This story was first published on Monday, June 17, at http://newamericamedia.org
Despite efforts by parents and staff to generate support for El Sereno-based Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory High School, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board on Tuesday overwhelming voted to deny the high school’s charter renewal.
The school board voted 6 to 1, with Board President Mónica García casting the lone dissenting vote, according to LAUSD’s Office of Communications. García represents the 2nd District where Anahuacalmecac, commonly referred to as Semillas del Pueblo or just Semillas, is located.
Staff in LAUSD’s Charter Schools Division recommended in a detailed report that school board members deny renewal of the school’s charter and an amendment to expand the school to grades K-8. Anahuacalmecac’s academics, finances, and operation were considered in reevaluating the school’s likelihood for future success, according to the June 18 agenda report.
According to the report, staff was not able to fully evaluate some areas of the school because the charter school failed to provide information in a timely matter, or within deadline extensions. It further said Anahuacalmecac was unlikely to achieve objectives, many of them vague or unsubstantiated, set forth in the renewal petition submitted by the charter school.
Supporters of the school, however, in a recent media advisory claim that “LAUSD’s Charter School Division has campaigned aggressively to take away the school’s charter in spite of rising test scores and a growing community campaign to save the schools.”
On the school’s website, Anahuacalmecac is described as “the only successful Indigenous charter high school in Los Angeles.” The website claims LAUSD “is on the verge of closing Anahuacalmecac due to a “Papers Please” policy against Mexican Indigenous charter school petitioners and parents.”
Likewise, in an opinion piece published on the progressive Truthout website, Roberto Rodriguez, an assistant professor in Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona, wrote that LAUSD “is threatening to not renew its charter unless Anahuacalmecac turns over the lead petitioners’ including parents’ social security numbers. This is but the latest salvo in a long war against Semillas,” Rodriguez writes.
However, the Charter School Division’s report details concerns about the school’s finances and uneven academic progress. Enrollment numbers have continued to decline and now fall far below expectations, putting a financial strain on school operations.
The school had projected that enrollment would grow to 495 students by this year, but currently there are only 69 students enrolled in grades 9-12. It had been approved for 600 students.
“As enrollment is a key indicator of operational, fiscal, and academic health of any school, this raises significant concerns about the role of the governing board in holding staff accountable of fulfilling the terms of the charter,” the report states.
The school was operating with a negative net assets of $695,336 and a negative net income of $584,701, which called into question whether the governing board is adequately “exercising its fiduciary duty” to oversee and manage the school’s finances, the report states.
The selling-off of future average daily attendance (ADA) revenues by school leadership to provide ongoing cash flow to the school has also raised red flags at the school district. That practice, in combination with the low enrollment, “presents serious concerns about the current and ongoing fiscal and operational viability of the organization,” the report states.
The school’s academic performance, while showing some signs of improvement, has been inconsistent. In 2010-2011 its API (Academic Performance Index) dropped 154 points from the year prior, but “rebounded” by 106 points in 2011-2012. The school’s overall 683 API score is below that of comparison schools, which average 713, the report states. 800 points is the goal under the No Child Left Behind Act.
While 13 percent of the students scored proficient and advanced in Math—higher than comparison schools where only 9 percent earned that score—Anahuacalmecac and the comparison schools are “significantly lower than the targets.” Statewide API ranking for this school is in the bottom 10 percent, the report states.
The charter school division report also cites as problematic financial conflicts of interest, bylaws provisions that are contrary to requirements in the Brown Act, a law that governs how public meetings are conducted.
School administrators say LAUSD does not have the tools to evaluate the full spectrum of benefits that come from attending a non-traditional cultural school like Semillas.
“Our primary goal is our student’s academic success,” said Marcos Aguilar, executive director of Semillas schools in a media advisory. “But we do it differently than other LAUSD schools and charters and because of that we believe the district is confused about us.”
Aguilar said the school has actually achieved “dramatic improvement in recent test scores,” adding that he hoped a “new fiscal plan they developed in partnership with EdTech” would “convince the board to give the small schools a chance to continue their work.”
But in the end, the LAUSD staff report that referenced numerous areas where it found Anahuacalmecac’s renewal petition to be lacking in sufficient detail, particularly in the areas referring to the school’s curriculum, academic goals, staffing, financing, and growth potential, won over board members, who voted against the charter school’s renewal.
Tuesday’s vote prevents Anahuacalmecac from continuing to operate past July 1, unless the LA County Office of Education or the California State Board of Education grants an appeal.
Last year, Xinaxcalmecac Academia Semillas del Pueblo, which enrolls K-8th grade, had its charter renewed with a split 4 to 3 vote; the approval came with a condition that the school undergoes another review in two years.
Some low- to moderate-income consumers who don’t use conventional bank accounts because they are “too expensive or too confusing,” could find a new account being offered by Union Bank to be the answer to their banking needs, according to banking policy experts at the Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit group that says its mission is to “close the growing racial wealth gap.”
Greenling is applauding Union Bank’s creation of the “Access Account,” which does not offer checks or online bill pay, but does provide ATM access, online and mobile banking, direct deposit, and discounted money orders, with no overdraft fees.
“We’ve long been concerned about the 34 million U.S. households – disproportionately people of color – who are unbanked or underbanked, and who often end up paying much higher fees at check cashing stores or other alternative services,” said Greenlining Institute Economic Equity Director Sasha Werblin. “Most of the unbanked are low and moderate income families,” he noted, adding that Greenlining and other community groups have been urging banks meet the needs of this population.
“We’re glad Union Bank has moved closer toward meeting the needs of these families, and expect other banks to do the same.”
The Access Account can be opened with $25, and will stay open as long as the balance stays above $0, according to Greenling.
“This new account won’t work for everyone, but we think it will be useful for a meaningful number, including customers who have trouble maintaining a high minimum balance,” Werblin said.
The Access Account is available in California, Oregon and Washington.
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down part of a program aimed at cutting pollution generated by trucks at the Los Angeles port.
Port officials can still ban dirty trucks, forcing trucking companies to switch to cleaner vehicles, as part of their 2008 clean truck program, but according to the June 13 ruling, they cannot make the companies display “how am I doing?” placards in their trucks and to provide a list of places they park vehicles that are not in service.
The justices ruled that federal law pre-empts the port from enforcing those two requirements, part of a host of “concession agreements” under the 2008 program.
Marine terminal operators face misdemeanor charges and could be fined up to $500 or sentenced to six months in prison if they let in trucks from companies that fail to comply with those agreements. Truck companies could also lose their license to operate at the port if they do not take “corrective action.”
Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations, the group that challenged the two requirements with the Supreme Court, hailed the decision, saying it will “send a signal to any other cities” wanting to start “similar programs which would impermissibly regulate the port trucking industry.”
ATA representatives added their goal was never to get out of phasing out older, polluting trucks.
“We didn’t challenge air quality efforts. We challenged the ports overstepping its proper role,” association attorney Rich Pianka said.
Port representatives declined to talk specifically about what the ruling could mean for the clean truck program, which was championed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
“We are reviewing the Supreme Court ruling in order to determine how it affects our current ability to provide a clean, safe and secure trucking system consistent with the Court’s guidance,” said Phillip Sanfield, a spokesman for the Los Angeles port.
Villaraigosa, who has a week left in his term, also said he is studying the decision, but pointed to a 91 percent reduction in “harmful truck emissions” during the last five years of the truck program.
An attorney for environmental groups involved with the case said the ruling was “narrow” and pertained to two “minor contract terms.”
“The heart of the clean trucks program is intact and the port’s day-to-day operations do not need to change,” said David Pettit, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which worked with the port’s legal team to defend the concession agreements on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Coalition for Clean Air.
The port had not been enforcing the two requirements struck down, he said.
Another NRDC senior attorney, Melissa Lin Perrella, said reports on where the trucking companies are parking would have addressed concerns “about dirty polluting trucks idling” on residential streets near the port, and the placards would have encouraged residents to alert the port about environmental and safety violations.
The two requirements the Supreme Court overturned were part of five concession agreements originally challenged by the truck association.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had agreed with ATA that trucking companies should be able to hire truck drivers as independent contracts rather than as employees, but struck down challenges to two other requirements that the companies show their financial ability to comply with the clean truck program and submit clean truck maintenance plans.
The port decided not to pursue keeping the driver employment requirement, which environmental and labor groups had argued was necessary because drivers operating as independent contractors were not paid enough by trucking companies to upgrade and maintain their vehicles on their own.
The Supreme Court decided the other two issues – the financial capacity and maintenance plan requirements – were not relevant.
The free ride ended for patrons of the Metro Red and Purple subway lines Wednesday when gates were latched at Union Station, requiring riders to have train fare loaded on a TAP card.
The Metro train system has been operating primarily on the honor system. Riders of the subway and light rail lines are required to have a TAP — or Transit Access Pass — card loaded with the appropriate fare, but there have been no latched gates for passengers to pass through.
With gates being latched Wednesday, riders who board the Red and Purple line trains at Union Station will have to “tap” the cards at the gate to gain access to the subways.
Riders could face fines of up to $250 if they’re caught on a train without proof of fare payment.
A host of local officials, including County Supervisor and Metro board Chairman Mike Antonovich, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Metro CEO Art Leahy, took part in a news conference at Union Station to spread word of the change.
Gates at the 15 other Red and Purple line stations will be latched over the course of the summer. Gates at Gold, Green and Blue line stations could be latched beginning in the fall, according to Metro.
Eventually, 41 of Metro’s 81 rail stations will have latched gates. Some light rail station are too small to accommodate latching gates, so fare inspectors and sheriff’s deputies will still be on patrol to ensure riders are paying their way, according to the transit agency.
Metro officials said latching the gates will reduce fare evasion to the tune of $6 million to $9 million a year. They also hope the move will encourage people to purchase TAP cards, which cost $1 and can be reloaded. Train fares are $1.50 for a single ride, or $5 for a day pass. Monthly and weekly passes are also available.
TAP cards can also be used for fare on Montebello, Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley, Culver City, Gardena, Norwalk and Foothill Transit systems. Metro officials said 15 more transit agencies – including in Long Beach and Santa Monica – will begin accepting TAP cards over the next year.