Traffic Safety Focus of Union Pacific Neighborhood Study

March 8, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

In the Union Pacific neighborhood of unincorporated East Los Angeles residents are relieved to finally have a blueprint for reducing some the traffic hazards that surround them.

Named for the nearby railroad, the Union Pacific neighborhood is home to numerous warehousing and light manufacturing businesses, a major truck traffic artery, and two freeways. It also has residential homes, an elementary school, a church, a YWCA community recreation center and a park.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Estudio Investiga la Seguridad de Tráfico en la Vecindad Union Pacific

In January, the community got to see a map marked with various traffic safety measure recommendations for their neighborhood during a meeting with private consultants hired by the L.A. County Department of Public Works.

A final report on the study and set of recommendations is due out in April.

Union Pacific residents took matters into their own hands, posting up their own signs to slow traffic in their neighborhood. (EGP File Photo)

Next up for the project is the design and engineering phase, which will not only determine costs, but also look at how the recommendations will actually be translated into reality.

Funding is still being worked out, but officials estimate the first planned phase of the construction could start by 2013, with traffic calming measures in place by May 2013. Additional traffic calming measures are included in a second phase, but would only be considered if measures from the first phase prove inadequate.

The plan, which will be released as part of the Union Pacific Neighborhood Wide Traffic Calming Study, resulted from feedback received during three community meetings at the end of 2011.

The recommendations include speed bumps; spacious, bulb-shaped curbs to narrow the width of the streets; solar-powered speed signs to warn drivers when they are driving too fast; street medians; as well as other measures to calm traffic in the neighborhood’s residential streets.

The study applies to an area bounded by Olympic Blvd in the north, Mariana Ave on the east, Indiana Street on west, and the railyards on the south end. To the north is the I-5 Freeway and unincorporated Los Angeles County, and to the south is the City of Commerce.

The study, which came out of a 2010 resolution introduced by County Supervisor Gloria Molina, looked at “non-traditional” ways to improve traffic safety in the neighborhood.

During the community meetings, residents pointed out areas in the neighborhood where cars do not respect crossing guards guiding children across the street, trucks frequently speed or congregate, and where crosswalks are needed. They also noted places with graffiti, illegal street vending, double parking, and a lack of parking.

The road to get to the proposed traffic calming measures began two years ago with a group of residents meeting in a local living room They were fed up with the frequency of traffic accidents in their neighborhood, including one in which a beloved community matriarch was struck and killed by a car while she walked to church. Another traffic accident that occurred while people were out celebrating the July 4th holiday also left an impression.

Residents faced roadblocks early on, with the county’s highway safety commission denying their applications and requests to put in more stop signs and speed bumps, saying their studies did not show a need for them.

Undeterred, residents walked their neighborhood, got petitions signed, and passed out yellow homemade signs that directed drivers to “please slow down.”

Then the Commerce-based advocacy group East Yard Communities for Environmental Group, EYCEJ, got involved, and found a grant to help fund the residents’ campaign.

The YWCA Union Pacific Empowerment Center, along with the nearby Eastman Elementary School also joined the residents to attract more attention to their neighborhood’s safety issues.

The residents also appealed to County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who at the time seemed to be trying to increase the livability of the neighborhood with a newly opened YWCA community center and a public park.

Most studies to slow down traffic in residential neighborhoods have looked at smaller areas. “This was a larger study area than one normally does in traffic calming… we looked at the entire community at once,” said Joel Falter, private consultant and the Chief Operating Officer of the Monterey Park-based KOA Corporation.

East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice community organizer Debbie Vongviwat said some of the community’s issued were not adequately addressed in the study. Some residents are dissatisfied with the traffic calming measures near the elementary school, while others said the traffic study area was too limited because it cuts off at Olympic Blvd.

Vongviwat said they will continue to monitor the project. “In general, we are continuing to have the community working to ensure these plans are implemented, and that funding is available to make this plan really happen,” she said.

According to Molina’s field deputy David Vela, there is still time for Union Pacific neighborhood residents to give input before the final report comes out by calling the county at (626) 300-4709.

“We are very invested as a county in traffic safety in our unincorporated communities, and we are working closely with the community, including East Yard Community for Environmental Justice to implement these upgrades to these streets,” said Kerjon Lee, spokesperson for the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works.

Maps showing planned improvements will be on display starting April 21 at the YWCA located at 4315 Union Pacific Ave Los Angeles CA.

Estrada Courts Restores ‘Organic Stimulus’

March 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Residents of a public housing complex in Boyle Heights have a world-class “Open Air Museum” in their backyard, according to Isabel Rojas-Williams, executive director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA), who coined the term referring to public art.

Over 80 murals were painted in Estrada Courts between the 1970s and 1980s, but only about 60 remain today, Rojas-Williams told EGP on Tuesday.

“Los Angeles was once the mural capital of the world, [but] lately murals have been disappearing for different reasons and our history is being whitewashed … we need everyone’s help to bring them back,” said the art historian who has taught at Cal State Los Angeles.

Muralist Ernesto de la Loza (right) with MCLA Exec Director Isabel Rojas-Williams in front of his mural ‘Organic Stimulus.' (Photo courtesy of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles)

It’s the conservancy’s “dream and mission” to restore and conserve the existing murals and to bring back others, she said, noting Estrada Courts is the birthplace of the 1970s Chicano Mural Art Movement.

The restoration of the murals at Estrada Courts is primarily for the residents “because they live there,” but the Mural Conservancy and other organizations have also conducted tours of the murals for museums, colleges and universities, she said.

Financing art projects has its challenges in this economy, but Rojas-Williams says they are hopeful that organizations and art institutions can help sponsor more of Estrada Courts’ original muralists to bring their art a new life.

This Sunday, March 11, muralist Ernesto de la Loza’s restored 1975 “Organic Stimulus” will be unveiled. The mural was faded and covered with graffiti but now boasts vibrant colors in environmentally friendly paints.

The public is invited to attend the short unveiling ceremony that begins at 10 a.m., which will be followed up with a free community art workshop offered by the Mobile Mural Lab.

Speakers will include Muralist Ernesto de la Loza, artist Sandra de la Loza, MCLA President Bill Lasarow and Executive Director Isabel Rojas-Williams, and Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar.
Muralist Richard Haro, whose mural “Outer Space” will soon undergo restoration, will also be in attendance.

The event is open to the public and will take place in front of the mural located at: 3240 Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles 90023.

For more information visit or visit them on Facebook at

Is Bias at the Root of Harsher Treatment of Minority Students?

March 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A U.S. Education Department report released this week says that African American and Hispanic students are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their white peers. They are also likely to receive harsher punishments for the same infractions, the report found. The department, however, says it is not clear why this is happening.

If a report finds that nearly three quarters of the students involved in school related arrests or cases handed over to the police are African American or Hispanic, isn’t it reasonable to question whether there exists a bias among school administrators and teachers that has led them to conclude that these students need greater amounts of discipline than their white or Asian counterparts? Could there be a belief that Hispanic and African American students need tougher discipline to set them straight?

The report also states that a disproportionate number of African American students with disabilities are strapped down or are the recipients of other types of physical restraints.

Let’s face it; different and lower expectations for Hispanic and African American students are more than evident from the data in this report.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that some school officials may not be aware of the inconsistencies in their handing out discipline. Well, they certainly should be aware from now on due to the report.

The Secretary says that he is not alleging overt discrimination, but the report should be an “eye-opener.”

We agree, but recognize that it’s covert actions that too often lead to higher drop rates and higher incarceration rates among African American and Hispanic youth.

So while the report also alleges other possible reasons for the higher numbers, the report lends credence to the fact that there are too many issues that are piled on ethnic and minority students, not the least of which are claims that undocumented students are draining school revenues and therefore less entitled to a good education, or that Hispanic students have lax supervision and therefore should be dealt with more harshly than their white peers.

Why Wouldn’t WRD Tell You the Truth

March 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

During the last few weeks, the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) has started an unjustified and misleading public campaign against a number of cities, notably Downey, Signal Hill, and Cerritos. WRD is trying to convince the public that these cities have arbitrarily chosen to stop paying their bills to WRD. The truth is far from that, and we wanted to clarify these false statements. We believe the public has the right and deserves to know the truth about how WRD for years has operated without any transparency and with outmost arrogance and disregard for the very public that they are supposed to serve.

So, what is the truth and what is the fact? It is a fact that the cities of Downey, Signal Hill and Cerritos, in 2011, stopped paying the bill for the cost of replenishing of groundwater to WRD. It is also a fact that this action was not arbitrary but based on legal and moral authority. The decision to stop paying WRD was based on a court verdict which found that WRD had failed to comply with the requirements of the law referred to as Proposition 218. This law requires cities, counties, schools, community college districts, regional organizations and special districts such as WRD, to follow specific guidelines in setting rates or assessments. The court essentially ruled that the WRD Replenishment Assessment (RA or Assessment), between 2006-2010, had been set illegally and that any future Assessments (including Assessments for fiscal year 2011-2012 and thereafter) must be set in full compliance with the law. They are ignoring these facts. Two separate judges have ruled on this so far. WRD owes the residents of these three cities over $ 15 million. We have stopped paying them $5 million.

In his letter to the local press, WRD’s Board President, Mr. Albert Robles, neglected to mention that non-payment of bills by Downey, Signal Hill and Cerritos started after the court ruled in our favor.
Twice. The other fact that he ignores is that now that the court has also found WRD’s assessments illegal, the cities cannot pay WRD because, if all did, it would be considered as a “gift of public funds,” therefore a violation of law.

It is not a coincidence that Mr. Robles singles out these cities. However, he has forgotten to mention that at least two other cities (Bellflower and Pico Rivera) have stopped paying their WRD bills also for the same reasons. WRD’s forgetfulness has more to do with the possibility that WRD is worried that more and more cities, after discovering the facts and truth, could join the ranks of Downey, Signal Hill, Cerritos, Bellflower and Pico Rivera and stop paying their illegal WRD Bills. It is time that WRD decide to distance itself from the ways of the past, comply with the requirements of the law, acknowledge its mistakes, accept the facts and start running its business the “right way” instead of continually trying to justify why WRD does things the way it chooses to. WRD has huge reserves for unknown purposes. Litigation and intimidation seems to be the one direction they keep pursuing.

In 1999, a State audit of WRD found pervasive mismanagement in its operation. Among other issues, excessive assessments to create unnecessary reserves were cited. These types of actions by WRD coupled with its arrogant behavior in ignoring the legitimate concerns and complaints of its ratepayers has resulted in erosion of its credibility and has created an atmosphere of justified mistrust of its operation. This seems to continue today.

It appears that WRD has not learned from its past mistakes and all it is trying to do is to conduct a publicity stunt. If WRD really meant to restore its credibility instead of selecting a few “friendly partners” as Committee members, it should have reached out to those rate payers that have questioned the unreasonable and unjustified 77% increase in its assessment between 2006 and 2011 and the fact that the ratepayers in Central Basin have to absorb the cost of WRD’s much more expensive replenishment operation in the West Basin. WRD must explain to a resident in the cities of Compton, Bell Gardens, Lynwood, Lakewood, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Downey, Cerritos, Signal Hill or any other city located in the Central Basin why they have to subsidize an estimated 400% in additional costs of water replenishment in the West Basin. This is wrong and they know it.

If WRD really has finally decided to do the right thing, then it could count on us to be its partners in assisting to restore WRD’s lost credibility, a process that will undoubtedly benefit our residents.

But until then, we will fight for the rights of our citizens. Mr. Robles, you are spreading tales that are not true and you know it, or should. In the meantime, please refund the money owed to our communities and stop misleading the public. They deserve the truth.

Mario A. Guerra is a councilman in the City of Downey.

Regulations are Essential Protections for Small Businesses

March 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A guy walks into a bar and says, “ouch.”

Now, you might be thinking that’s a really bad one-liner. Actually, I was just recounting the start of my day.

I walk into the Silver Dollar Saloon – the bar I own in Butte – every day, and I’ve been saying “ouch” a lot lately. My business may be more recession-proof than many others, but we’re still hurting in this down economy.

Small business owners want our communities to flourish once again. We are working to build a thriving local economy that supports a strong middle class, and that can only happen if we have customers who have money they can spend at our businesses.

This isn’t something we can accomplish on our own. Our economy is tied to the national economy, and we need our elected officials to take decisive action to create jobs and put Americans back to work.

As a small business owner, I want to be clear on one thing: if we want a vibrant local economy, we must maintain the rules and standards that protect our employees’ health and our customers’ financial security. Just look at the lessons from our local history.

Here in Butte, we know what happens when you don’t have strong rules protecting workers and local quality of life. We know what happens when one company’s unchecked power overruns basic rights to health and safety.

From the toxic smelter emissions that once gave Butte a higher death rate than New York City and created the largest Superfund site in the country, to the Speculator Mine disaster of 1917 where at least 167 miners were killed, Butte residents have paid for inadequate regulations and enforcement with their lives. And they worked hard – through unions and other organizations – to create lifesaving labor, health, and environmental protections that built the middle class and bolstered the customer base for local small businesses.

Butte’s history of working together to protect our local community and local economy from corporate special interests runs deep. But it’s not just Butte’s story. In thousands of communities across the nation, people have come together to demand rules and safeguards that protect our well-being.

Now, some politicians are siding with big businesses that want to roll back these protections, threatening to take away health, safety, and financial rules that keep our air clean, our workforce healthy, and our customers safe. Big businesses want more profits – no matter how much it costs the public.

You don’t have to be a small business owner to see how high these costs can be. Just look at the 2008 financial crisis. That crisis, which destroyed more than 8 million jobs and left us with this jobless recovery, was caused by decades of deregulation that let Wall Street run wild in pursuit of astronomical profit – at our expense.

It boggles my mind that some legislators are arguing that gutting rules and standards will magically create jobs after the deregulation-fueled financial crisis just destroyed 8 million of them. This is like proposing another drinking binge as the cure for a really bad hangover. It’s utterly insane.

The fact is, regulations create jobs. About 32 jobs are created for each $1 million of restoration funds for the Silver Bow Creek (for which $85 million has been allocated). The workers on that project will be paying customers at Butte businesses. That’s what small businesses need: customers.

I’ve heard politicians say they’re for “liberating” Main Street. I’m for that, too. I’d love to be liberated from the Too-Big-to-Fail banks and from health insurance companies that hike rates by double digits every year. But gutting regulations won’t “liberate” small businesses – it will liberate big banks and insurance companies to crush us.

So, the next time you hear politicians talk about scrapping clean air or financial protections in the name of small business, don’t buy it. Remember that these rules keep communities healthy and level the playing field for small businesses against big special interests. If we let big business use small business as an excuse to rewrite the rules – for their gain and our loss – the joke will be on all of us.

We have seen that happen before. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Brian McGregor owns the Silver Dollar Saloon in Butte, and is a member of the Montana Small Business Alliance and the national Main Street Alliance business network. © American Forum. 2/12.

A Man in the Middle: Salazar’s Words Still Ring True

March 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Ruben Salazar was killed by an L.A. County Sheriff’s tear gas projectile on Aug. 29, 1970 during the Chicano Moratorium, but last Saturday it was the journalist’s writings that took center stage at Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights, with a special photographic exhibit, readings of his articles written during his college and professional career, screening of the trailer for an upcoming PBS documentary, and a panel discussion on the impact of his writings during the 1960s and 70s, and still today. (Pictured left to right) CSUN Chicano Studies professor and author Dr. Rudy Acuna, Sergio Hernandez, painter of the Salazar portrait that served as the backdrop for the event, Salazar daughters Stephanie Salazar Cook and Lisa Salazar Johnson, Actor Richard Yniguez, and PCC instructor Alberto Juarez. (Photo courtesy of Sergio Hernandez)

‘All Communities’ Convened Over SR-710 Gap Closure

March 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Meetings to review the progress on the proposed SR-710 gap closure project, to introduce the current phase and the next steps, were held March 1 and 3 in Highland Park and in East Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) identical “All Communities Convening” meetings were held last Thursday at Ramona Hall in Highland Park, and Saturday at the East Los Angeles Public Library.

The meetings were intended to inform residents and stakeholders regarding the status of the efforts to close the gap between the 710-Long Beach Freeway and the 210 Foothill Freeway, and to solicit comments on the project.

A Tunnel Feasibility Study, Geotechnical Study and Scoping meetings have already been conducted. Last week’s meetings marked the launch of the Alternatives Analysis phase “in preparation of the SR 710 environmental review process, pursuant to the requirements of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” according to Metro.

The Alternative Analysis phase includes review of the transportation alternatives being considered for the study. The end of this phase concludes with the preparation of Draft and Final environmental documents and the issuance of a Record of Decision (ROD)/Notice of Determination (NOD), according to Metro’s website.

A Record of Decision/Notice of Determination could be issued around Fall 2014, according to information relayed during Metro’s overview presentation at the March 1 meeting.

The presentation at Ramona Hall lasted about 20 minutes and was followed by an “open house” style event at which Metro and Caltrans representatives were available to answer individual questions on the various aspects of the project.

While some of those in attendance did take advantage of the opportunity to speak with project team members, others spent time talking among themselves about their concerns.

Public comments — either hand-written, typed on a computer set up in the room or through a videotaped comment session with a camera set up for the event — were also collected. Public comments can also be made online at However, during the “All Communities Convening” meetings, public comments from speakers were not allowed as they are during a public hearing, Janet Dodson of the Highland Park Neighborhood Council pointed out.

Metro is also asking local stakeholders to join “community liaison councils,” which will give Metro input throughout the planning phase, including on route selection.

The community liaison councils will be community-specific groups and will advice Metro and Caltrans as it moves forward. There is no limit to the number of members who can join, Metro’s Executive Officer of Highway Programs Frank Quon and Director of Constituent Program Management Susan Gilmore told EGP. The volunteer commitment is expected to last about two and a half to three years, or until the end of the project, according to Metro.

There is no deadline to sign up for a council, Gilmore said.

“It’s a different format, but what we want to do is engage the community, we want to get their voices because we think this is a very important project and the community voice is very important to this process,” Quon said. “We want to hear every community and we want every community to have their voice.”

Metro emphasized that despite all the speculation, a route to close the gap has not yet been selected and “no build” is an option. They said the project includes the search of multimodal solutions to the traffic congestion in the Los Angeles region, which has expanded the projects’ area of impact beyond the original north/south corridor – from Monterey Park to Pasadena – between the two freeways. As a result, portions of East and Northeast Los Angeles are now included in the overall review.

Gloria Lucio and Don Jones of Eagle Rock were at the Highland Park meeting and carried anti-710 buttons. They are against a surface route and already signed up for a community liaison council, they told EGP.

Paul Bonsell of Highland Park reiterated that many people are against the gap closure project because they believe it will increase truck traffic and pollution in Northeast Los Angeles communities.
Tom Williams, a regular attendee at Metro’s Technical Advisory Committee meetings on the SR-710, criticized the expansion of the study area and says the community liaison councils are an effort to include communities that may be less opposed to the project and, as a result “dilute” the resistance from Northeast LA, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

Residents who did not attend the meetings can watch a tape recording at

For more information visit, call the project hotline at 855-4SR-7100; email, visit or tweet @sr710study.

Montoya Takes Seat on School Board

March 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Paul Montoya on March 1 attended his first meeting of the Montebello Unified School District Board of Educations as a board member.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOLPadre, Egresado de Montebello Nombrado a la Junta Escolar

The thirty-six year old who took over a seat left vacant by the death of board member Marcella Calderon had already been sworn in on Feb. 29, but repeated the rite last week at the district’s regular meeting for the benefit of the public.

Paul Montoya

Montoya opened his term with a speech addressing the district’s various stakeholders. “I look forward to working with the teachers to ensure they have what they need to work to the best of their ability to provide the excellent education that every student deserves… To the students, I want to say I understand … I’ve been through it. Some teachers can be tough, some strict, the world around us can be distracting, but I can tell you from experience that the time and effort you invest in your education now will benefit you your entire life,” he said.

He also told parents, “you can’t do it alone, but neither can the district and the schools. We must build a strong partnership and encourage increased parent and community involvement at all levels. The greatest joy a parent can have is to see their children achieve greater success than they have. I sincerely feel that together we can have our children fulfill all our dreams and aspirations. I am one of you.”

Like fellow board member David Vela, Montoya is a product of MUSD schools. “You are homegrown. This whole board really welcomes you with open arms,” Vela told Montoya at the meeting.

Board President Hector Chacon took the opportunity to impart some advice to the new board member. “I hope that in making your decisions, which will not always be easy decisions, you will find it in your heart and in your conscience to make the right decision, like we all do for the benefit of our kids,” he said.

Montoya beat out 16 other candidates for the appointment. He will serve until Nov. 2013, at which point he is required to run for election if he wants to serve out the remainder of Calderon’s four year term. The public has 30 days from the date of Montoya’s appointment to petition for an election to be held instead.

Wells Fargo to Hold Home Preservation Workshops

March 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Wells Fargo customers facing burdensome mortgages and looming foreclosures are encouraged to attend Wells Fargo’s two-day Home Preservation Workshop next week at the L.A Convention Center.

The free workshop will be held in West Hall B of the L.A Convention Center at 1201 S. Figueroa St., on March 14 and 15, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Wells Fargo representatives will provide attendees with information meant to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure or ease difficult payments during confidential, one-on-one meetings.

Participants will also be reviewed for eligibility of a loan modification under the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, and will be connected with helpful resources, such as online tools and housing counselors that can aid their financial future.

A photo I.D, mortgage statement, a letter explaining financial circumstances, complete tax returns, recent pay stubs, and a list of assets and expenses are required.

If you are self-employed, bring complete tax returns with all schedules, and the most recent quarterly or year-to-date profit and loss (P&L) statement.

Those interested should register by Monday, March 12, and are asked to arrive 30 minutes before the meeting is scheduled to begin, and though walk-ins will be accepted, registration is recommended. If something arises and you have questions about your appointment, call 1-800-405-8067, Mon-Fri 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. CT.

Wells Fargo says people unable to attend either of the two days, should work with their Wells Fargo representative., or reach out to the lender by calling 1-800-678-7986, Monday -Friday 8:00 am – 10:00 pm ET or Sat 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET, and identify yourself as a Wells Fargo customer.

Parking at next’s week’s Home Preservation workshops is free.

To register for the event or for more information, visit

Keep Commerce Beautiful Drawing and Essay Contest Gets Underway

March 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The City of Commerce Library’s essay and drawing contest now underway asks children and teens what should be done to keep the city beautiful.

The submission deadline for both contests is Mar. 31.

The drawing contest is open to kindergarten to 2nd grade aged children, while the essay contest invites entries from youth in grades 3-12. A $50 Target gift card will be awarded to first place winners in their categories. Second and third place winners will get backpacks and school or art supplies.

Drawing contest entrants must submit their artwork on an 8 ½” by 11” sheet of paper, along with a 50 word or less description. The drawing must be solely the work of the child, but the description can be written by an adult in either English or Spanish).

Essay contest entrants will compete against peers in three different age categories, and be judged on spelling, punctuation and grammar. Grades 3 to 5 essays must be no more than 350 words; grade 6 to 8 no more than 450 words, and grades 9 to 12 no more than 600 words. Again, the essay must be solely the work of the entrant.

In both contests, do not write the name of the entrants on the essay or drawing, but put it on the entry form.

For entry forms and more information about the contest, contact the library at (323) 722-6660 or visit

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